James Marsters makes his (hopefully) first Big Finish appearance in the part of Captain John, erstwhile colleague, lover and foe of Captain Jack. With the title of David Llewellyn’s story being The Death of Captain Jack, we know something is up. Things haven’t happened the way we thought they did, and King John has come to fill a dying man in on events in the life he should have had. Enter a vast cast of characters familiar (Ianto Jones, Gwen Cooper, Norton Folgate, Sgt Andy, Rhys Williams, Queen Victoria) and new (Catherine the Great, Alexander the Great, Christopher Marlowe).
While having some elements of the classic ‘what if life had taken a different path’ trope, this story isn’t as sour searching as Wonderful Life, as intricate as the Doctor Who story Turn Left, nor even the two-part Dallas story Conundrum. Instead, we see how a self-obsessed hedonist with no scruples behaves when given carte blanche. With no respect for such trifles as established history, it’s a study in indulgence, and as every extreme is explored, the listener wonders just how much further he can go in his outrageousness. The answer is very far indeed.
It’s interesting the Jack is always described as a fixed point in time, yet here it’s Captain John who is fixed, unable to learn from or be changed by events. Jack may not be present for the whole story, but we get a sense of how he must have been just like John when they first met, but already had started to grow a conscience, even before the events of Parting of the Ways. Even if John has no development in this story, we get more insight into Jack, and this lifts the story from being simply a comic strip episode of big bold moments and a chance for the regulars to take their characters somewhere new.
The cast list is vast, but most characters have short cameos, presumably recorder around the studio time of other releases. This adds to the sense of time passing and gives a chance to take another shot at several events in established Torchwood continuity. In this case, it works very well, with Captain John the common thread throughout. It’s another rock-solid release in the ever-intriguing Torchwood range.
While being a hugely enjoyable romp, The Death of Captain Jack focuses on entertainment over clever plot and character development. That said it’s a worthy addition to the list of Torchwood favourites.
TORCHWOOD: THE DEATH OF CAPTAIN JACK / AUTHOR: DAVID LLEWELYN / PUBLISHER: BIG FINISH / STARRING: JOHN BARROWMAN, JAMES MARSTERS / RELEASE DATE: MAY 31ST