Here are the roles John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness could potentially take in the forthcoming Doctor Who Christmas special episode. Barrowman shot to fame in 2005 while Christopher Eccleston was still propping up the TARDIS. A flirtatious and flamboyant Time Agent, Captain Jack was a good-natured rogue who immediately came to respect The Doctor’s virtuous determination, soon earning himself a semi-permanent position among the cast during Russell T. Davies’ Doctor Who era. Barrowman’s free-loving hero went on to star in his own spin-off series (the slightly more adult-orientated Torchwood), and has continued to dabble in time and space ever since.
Jack Harkness made his long-awaited return to Doctor Who TV in season 12’s monumental “Fugitive of the Judoon” two-parter, but a proper reunion with The Doctor herself failed to materialize. Harkness sought to warn his friend of the Lone Cyberman – don’t give the robotic loner what it wants, or the Cyber Empire will rise again. Instead, Captain Jack could only summon The Doctor’s trio of companions to his ship, and was forced to pass the message onto Graham, Yaz and Ryan. Predictably, The Doctor ignored Captain Jack’s words of caution and defeated the Cybermen in her own way, while Captain Jack promised he’d be there for Whittaker’s Doctor if she needed him.
That moment has seemingly arrived, as the BBC has announced John Barrowman’s comeback in the upcoming “Revolution of the Daleks” Christmas special. The news has been met with excitement from Doctor Who fans, and the episode looks set to finally pay off the season 12 tease, bringing The Doctor and Captain Jack face-to-face after their recent near-miss. But what might Harkness be getting up to when Doctor Who returns?
Jack’s immediate priority in “Revolution of the Daleks,” as well as the most likely in-universe reason for his return, is breaking The Doctor out of jail. Doctor Who season 12 ended on a massive cliffhanger, whereby Jodie Whittaker was transported into a secure intergalactic prison facility by the Judoon, seemingly with no way of escaping. Meanwhile, Graham, Yaz and Ryan returned to Earth none the wiser. Official images from Doctor Who‘s 2020 Christmas special prove that the Time Lord progenitor is still incarcerated, counting down the days and looking somewhat worse for wear. The Doctor’s companions are the only ones who can save her – and that’s bad news for The Doctor. Graham, Yaz and Ryan might’ve earned The Doctor’s friendship, but they’re hardly a crack trio capable of locating an abducted time-traveler and rescuing her from powerful rhinoceros-like adversaries.
This is where Captain Jack Harkness could step in. Given his… flexible relationship with the space-time continuum, Jack would’ve heard about The Doctor’s imprisonment, and already started planning a jailbreak. And since Jack has already encountered Graham, Yaz and Ryan, it makes sense that he’d recruit them for the mission also. This solves two narrative problems in Doctor Who‘s next Christmas special – how do The Doctor’s companions learn about their friend’s predicament, and how can they help, despite being relatively useless? Under Captain Jack’s leadership, the “fam” could track down The Doctor and break her out of jail in time for Christmas dinner.
Is Captain Jack Harkness staying with Doctor Who for the holiday period, or renting out his own room in the TARDIS? Upon completion of Doctor Who season 12, rumors began to circulate claiming that Tosin Cole would depart his role as Ryan Sinclair ahead of season 13, having landed a major part in AMC’s 61st Street. Ryan’s future in Doctor Who remains unconfirmed, but if the character is to be written out, “Revolution of the Daleks” provides the golden opportunity to do so. Reports have also suggested that Bradley Walsh will bow out as Graham this Christmas – a logical deduction since his character has no reason to travel with The Doctor without Ryan. Potentially, Doctor Who could be two companions down by the time 2021 begins.
Rather than introducing a new character or leaving The Doctor and Yaz in the TARDIS alone, Captain Jack could join Doctor Who on a more permanent basis in season 13, effectively acting as a secondary companion, similar to Matt Lucas’ Nardole during the Peter Capaldi era. The console room has become a little crowded since the TARDIS keys fell to Jodie Whittaker. The crowd of companions has, at times, resulted in cluttered storytelling, with some episodes unable to accommodate all four main characters. Doctor Who season 13 could streamline the cast, with Yaz as the Thirteenth Doctor’s conventional companion, and Captain Jack playing the franchise veteran returning to lend a hand. The reduced episode count in Doctor Who season 13 will surely help towards working around Barrowman’s packed schedule.
“Revolution of the Daleks” finds The Doctor in the midst of an existential identity crisis after Doctor Who‘s season 12 finale made a series of controversial, game-changing reveals while wrapping up the Timeless Child storyline. Rewriting franchise canon, The Doctor does not hail from Gallifrey, but from an unknown dimension somewhere else entirely. Possessing seemingly endless regenerations, The Doctor served as the source of the Time Lords’ power and joined a shady organization known as The Division during her pre-William Hartnell years. Learning all of this in a single hit will undoubtedly prove traumatic for The Doctor, as she grapples with the authenticity of her memories and the mystery of her origins. What The Doctor needs is a familiar face who has stuck by her through multiple regenerations.
Once again, this is where Captain Jack Harkness could stride confidently into the picture. The Thirteenth Doctor requires an anchor – someone to remind her who she is and what she stands for, while reaffirming that her enigmatic past doesn’t necessarily need to define the future. Compared to The Doctor’s current companions (who have only been around during her current regeneration) Captain Jack is perfectly placed to provide this emotional reassurance. The Doctor may no longer know who she is, but Captain Jack most certainly does, and his guiding hand can provide vital support ahead of Doctor Who season 13, preventing The Doctor from unraveling completely after learning the truth of the Timeless Child.
It’s not clear exactly what the “Revolution of the Daleks” title refers to. While it’s safe to assume the pepper pot villains won’t be striking over workers’ rights or marching against capitalism on Skaro, the nature of the impending Dalek revolution is yet to be revealed. However, Captain Jack could find himself at the very heart of the plot. During his adventures with the Ninth Doctor, Harkness was killed by Daleks before a TARDIS-powered Rose Tyler revived him. Since then, Jack has effectively become immortal and ageless, boasting regenerative powers that would put Wolverine to shame. Traveling to the far future, the Tenth Doctor discovered that Captain Jack would eventually become the Face of Boe and die, but the cause of this transformation has never been revealed. Would anyone who lived for millions of years turn into a big ol’ face, or did something happen to Captain Jack specifically?
This question could be finally answered by Doctor Who‘s upcoming Christmas episode. The Daleks know Captain Jack should be dead, and they also know he somehow survived. Capturing Jack Harkness and harnessing his immortality to make themselves immortal would be a very “Dalek” thing to do, and could explain the Dalek “revolution” of the story’s title. Whatever twisted experiments the Daleks carry out on Captain Jack might then instigate his gradual metamorphosis into the Face of Boe.