We're on the last two episodes of our Doctor/Jack rewatch, and here is Torchwood. Here is Team Torchwood on Doctor Who. Here is the leader of Torchwood Three, being character-assassinated on Doctor Who.

Well, all right, that's a bit harsh, isn't it? Still, consider: There's nothing I can do. I'm sorry - we're dead. Before the first Dalek has even arrived on Earth, Jack's already given up. He's also convinced Martha is dead as soon as she uses Project Indigo, and when there's an incoming transmission he doesn't even want to listen: The whole world's crying out. Just leave it.

What's happened to our hero? When did he become a fatalist? You tell me, because this isn't the Jack I know. He just throws in the towel until the Doctor turns up after all.

Granted, Sarah Jane is suffering from the same sudden passivity. And Harriet Jones's philosophy has become paradoxical: I stand by my actions to this day because I knew that one day the Earth would be in danger and the Doctor would fail to appear - but unlike before, now what she does isn't look for a Doctor-less solution, but pins everything on getting the Doctor there.

And then the Doctor does turn up, and Jack shouts, Where the hell have you been? As if he expected him. Granted, this is before Children of Earth, but really, after Owen, after Tosh? As if it was the Doctor's job to save the Earth, not Jack's own (self-appointed) task.

Still, once the Doctor's in the picture, Jack immediately becomes Jack again, regaining his energy, springing into action. And action it is, for the most part, during these two episodes - there's not much by way of meaningful character interaction between Jack and the Doctor.

The Doctor does appear to have mellowed quite a bit on Torchwood, though - far from the contemptuous, accusing tone he used the last time this came up, he sounds quite fond when he says, That must be Torchwood. The Doctor and Jack seem to have resolved their issues; there's no noticeable conflict left between them. They work together during the crisis, smoothly as ever, and when it's all done with, Jack walks out of the TARDIS without looking back. He's got his own life, his own people to go back to, and this time there's not even a question about it any more. (He's with Martha and Mickey at the end, but his relationship with Ianto and Gwen is established early on. I love that bit where Jack hears the Daleks and just pulls Ianto and Gwen close and kisses both their heads. And unlike last time, he didn't just run towards the Doctor: I'll come back. I'm coming back, he promises, not knowing that Daleks are already converging on the Hub.

What do you think? A few points to conider:
  • There's nothing I can do. I'm sorry - we're dead. What do you think about this? I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with these two sentences - they establish Jack as a hero in his own right ("nothing I can do", not "nothing we can do" - Jack's the one expected to save the day for Torchwood) and undermine him at the same time, having him give up without even trying, as if Daleks had never been defeated before.

  • And who's he? - Captain Jack. Don't - just don't. Now the Doctor's stopping Donna rather than Jack from flirting! In fact, there is a distinctive lack of Jack flirting in these episodes. He doesn't even hug Donna when she asks! What do you think is going on there?

  • He's dying, and you know what happens next. Jack of course knows about regeneration, but the way he acts here makes it sound as if he'd seen a regeneration happen already. Do you think he has? Or has he just heard stories?

  • Once again we get Doctor/Jack/Rose confronting the Daleks, with a nice call-back to the last time they did this, even. But there's no real reunion at all between Jack and Rose, and when Jack gets himself killed in order to escape (complete with secret wink at the Doctor) she clearly doesn't know what's happened to him. Do you think they ever told her, before the Doctor shipped her off back to the parallel world with her consolation prize?

  • How much of a point does Davros have about the Doctor's hypocrisy, fashioning people into weapons while complaining about guns? Much like RTD, maybe, conveniently disposing the Daleks while not allowing his hero to take responsibility for it, instead displacing it onto his double. - Still, one thing the final episode does well, in my opinion, is show the the difference between the Doctor who could blow up all Daleks, and the one who couldn't. The difference between the man who ended the Time War and the man who'd try to save even Davros.

  • Who else is getting annoyed at the Doctor constantly disabling Jack's vortex manipulator? Especially since it's only the teleport this time, not even time travel. Considering how much alien and future-tech is cluttered all over the planet, considering UNIT reverse-engineered a teleport by themselves - WTF is going on in the Doctor's brain? Is there any explanation for this short of "the writers didn't want Jack to have a working vortex manipulator on Torchwood"?

  • Three Doctors. - I can't tell you what I'm thinking right now. - Tell me honestly, now, who wasn't thinking that? :D
Jack: Maybe the Master went back in time and has been living here for decades.

Ten: No.

Jack: Why not? Worked for me.

So... that conversation on Malcassiro? Clearly, it's not over. Not even close. And really, the Sound of Drums is full of half-finished conversations - and they fly thick and fast:

I was the only one who could end it. And I tried. I did. I tried everything.

...perfect to look at, maybe. And it was, it was beautiful.

Oh, the ones that ran away. I never stopped.

The old regime was destroyed at Canary Wharf. I rebuilt it, I changed it. And when I did that, I did it for you, in your honour.

And, of course:

Ten: It’s like—it’s like when you fancy someone and they don’t even know you exist. That’s what it’s like. Come on!

MARTHA looks at JACK.

Jack: You too, hunh?

The Sound of Drums tears through all of it so fast there's hardly time to process. It's not the calm before the storm, it's the last few desperate seconds when you think you might be able to outrun the gale. And in terms of recalibrating Doctor/Jack, it's almost hard to find your footing.

They make it to Martha's flat, and it's Jack who makes the tea while the Doctor starts asking questions. But he has no hesitation, when Martha finally succumbs to her fears about her family, in stepping between her and the Doctor and giving the orders. He's still the one straining for action, when they watch the Jones family herded onto the airport tarmac - and this time, when the Doctor says, Now that sounds like Torchwood, Jack's response, for once, is no joke: Still a good plan.

There's still flashes of the relationship we know - consider when they first see what's been done to the TARDIS, and Jack's reaction when the Doctor says If they stop me . . . you’ve got a key, is so reminiscent of his relationship with Nine in Boomtown to me. All Jack has to say to Ten is Yes, sir.

Then the storm arrives. LotTL isn't Jack's story, it's Martha's, but the thing about the Year That Never Was is that we're only given pieces, and of the little moments we're given, it's a dire snapshot at best. And yet: Jack may be chained and tortured, but he's still joking about new hotel reservations. The Doctor is withered and faded, but he still tries. And when it's time, when the moment comes, the Doctor's there, with a plan, and Jack's charging along behind him to make sure it's carried out.

And at the bitter, bitter end, when the universe is saved but the people who saved it are the ones that hang onto the damage, in that last conversation before they walk away from each other, we get another glimpse of Jack and the Doctor, and it suggests it hasn't all changed - or at the very least, there's hope:

Jack: Hey, I need that!

Doctor: I can't have you walking around with a time-travelling teleport. You could go anywhere — twice. The second time to apologise.

Jack: And what about me? Can you fix that? Will I ever be able to die?

Doctor: Nothing I can do. You're an impossible thing, Jack.

Jack: Been called that before.

And as he walks away, Jack simply says, Hmm, I'll see you.

Nothing's resolved between Ten and Jack. Nothing's fixed. More might be broken - or at least significantly complicated. But it's not over. Not even close.

What do you think?

How bitter is Jack, still, when TSoD begins? When they're all in the car, fleeing, and Jack intervenes between the Doctor and Martha, is he acting as a buffer, to give the Doctor space? Or is he doing what needs to be done to survive? Is he being strong for himself, when he's whistling in the dark when he's chained up on the Valiant? For the Jones family? For the Doctor? Or is it simply Jack - thinking, planning, and refusing to lay down? Knowing what we do about Jack, and Grey, and Jack's childhood, what does Jack make of the Doctor's conversations about two eight-year-old boys on Gallifrey - and what does he see in the Doctor's need to save the Master? How does that change, at the end, when the Doctor's grieving over the man that had Jack killed time after uncountable time? And what is Jack believing in, after all this, when he closes his eyes and thinks, Doctor?

What is it like for the Doctor to spend a year so close to the man he spent ages running away from - and knowing what he led that man into? What does Jack's perpetual death do to the Doctor? What does it feel like to be responsible for that? And where does it figure into the Doctor's own calculus of forgiveness? And what does he make of Jack and Torchwood - and Jack's decision to walk away from the TARDIS and back to a different team?

What are they thinking as they both walk away? And when do they meet next?
21 March 2012 @ 08:46 pm
Doctor. - Captain.

And here we are, almost two years exactly after the events on the Game Station, finally getting some answers. Of course Jack has to work for his answers quite hard, and the Doctor is working equally hard to avoid him. So we start out with Jack chasing the Doctor, and the Doctor deliberately turning away as soon as he sees him. I still remember the shock of that scene, the first time I saw it.

The Doctor's at his most callous through the first part of this ep. You abandoned me. - Did I? Busy life, moving on. And there's an edge to the banter between them that we'd never quite seen before that point. The Doctor keeps censoring Jack (Oh, don't start.), and Jack keeps being unimpressed. The Doctor is almost hostile, and Jack doesn't hold back on the accusations. And the Doctor can't seem to make up his mind whether he wants to run away from Jack again and pretend they're nothing to each other now, or to fall back into old patterns. Jack first calls him on it (He's not my responsibility. - And I am? That makes a change.), but increasingly goes along with it.

And yet, even with all that, Jack still finds himself enjoying the adventure: Oh, I missed this. Jack's had his share of adventures on his own, in all those years in between, but he was stuck on the slow path. It's a different thing, being dropped into a strange adventure on a strange planet.

And for a moment, despite the danger, despite the tensions, everything seems good. The Doctor is happy to find humans surviving: End of the universe and here you are. Indomitable, that's the word! Indomitable! Jack casually flirts with some guy in the corridor, just like he did with Martha, and then Chantho. There's futuretech to geek out over, and even at the end of the universe there's still the dream of Utopia. And Jack and the Doctor fall back into an almost comfortable pattern (You're supposed to say sorry. - Oh, yes. Sorry.)

Of course things go wrong, and then Jack is dead again, and the Doctor's just watching, with that weird expression on his face. And we know we're approaching that crucial moment, the one we've been waiting for.

How long have you known? - Ever since I ran away from you.

It's no secret that this is the scene that made me into a Doctor/Jack shipper. I liked the pairing before that, but this is what turned it into an obsession. This is what I come back to again and again, all the layers of it, all the possible implications. The intimacy of that conversation, despite the barriers. This scene, and the answers we get, and the things that redefine both characters and the way we relate to them.

What do you think? Do you remember watching Utopia for the first time? Were you shocked to discover the Doctor knew exactly what had happened to Jack, and left him behind deliberately? Or was it what you expected?

It's not easy just looking at you, Jack, cause you're wrong. How much do you think Jack's fact-ness truly affects the Doctor, and how much is just avoidance? What does Jack being a fact really mean? (Admittedly I've written approximately ten million fics exploring that myself!) Is Jack right - is the Doctor really just prejudiced? Why do you think the Doctor really ran away? The Doctor, of course, leaves people and places behind all the time. But running from someone? That's something else.

Did Jack truly have a death wish, before this?

The dynamic between Ten and Jack is quite different than it was between Nine and Jack. How much of that is due to what happened on the Game Station, and how much of it is just the different personality of Ten?

And also, Jack recognises the Doctor immediately (The Police Box kinda gives it away.) - just how much does he know about Regeneration at this point? Did he know before the Doctor abandoned him? (Rose certainly didn't.) When/how did he find out?
We were together, we were laughing,...

... and then it all fell apart. Oh, my heart.

Consider the Doctor, waking up without his companions, with complete strangers, meeting the threat head on, analytically, cold and very much the Oncoming Storm. Don't tempt me, he says - and that tone's not so much a warning as a promise. And yet, even then, he can spare kindness. You're sweet, he tells Lynda-with-a-y.

Consider Jack. All of Jack, in glorious, if carefully edited, technicolor. And when you've picked your tongues up off the floor, consider the rest of Jack, who starts right out at Nice to meet you ladies, and proceeds to fondling plastic robot breasts. Only, even naked in front of millions of viewers, Jack's just full of surprises. You really don't want to know, he says, and that tells you almost everything you need to know.

It's never a question that the two of them are going to get free - there's never any real doubt. And when they do find each other - there's no time lost explaining. They know what the next priority is, and Jack hands over that lovely wristband of his without so much as blinking, because that's the necessary next step. They're just entirely in sync.

And even then, even with both of those gorgeous brains working in tandem, they're still too late. And when the Doctor just breaks, it's Jack who's there standing over him, baring his teeth at the world. Just like, when it's time for action, it's the Doctor who gives Jack the order to go that the Captain so desperately needs.

Even once they make it to Floor 500 - even then, they're still in tandem. The Doctor has the room well under control, and Jack - Jack finds the TARDIS. And then he finds hope. And when he gives it back to the Doctor... oh, the joy in their faces. Those are two men who don't necessarily expect the universe to be kind, and to see them delight in it together - that's just such a thing to watch.

These eps - they aren't kind, though, and even though our heroes get to kick off the second part with a daring rescue, it all falls to bits so, so fast. There's barely time to appreciate the revelations - Jack learning the Time War's no myth, that the Doctor was there - all these truths, with so little time to process.

They're soldiers, men at war, and they know what has to be done. They don't look for protection, and they don't expect to live, and that last/first/only kiss - it says so very much. And they're both sending people to their deaths, coolly and calmly. With pain and regret, but without hesitation. And without ever openly telling them that's what's going on.

And then the end, which just always hurts. The Doctor as a coward, in more ways than one. Jack's last stand, and the betrayal when he comes back to life. It's just so hard, and I'm so sorry, because I really do lose coherence at this point. :P

Never doubted him, never will.

Coward, every time.

Oh, my heart.

What do you think? How did Jack get their biometrics into that wristband? What made him decide to do it? How do you read the dynamic in the scene where Jack tells the Doctor to patch the wristband into the system - is the Doctor really angry? Is Jack really chastised? Or is it a friend letting another friend have the outlet he needs?

Jack jumps at the order to go - at this point in their relationship, is there anything he wouldn't do, if the Doctor said go? He doesn't kill the guards, I'd note - and I wonder if he might have, before he joined Team TARDIS. And is "fully functional forcefield" a sign of the Doctor rubbing off on Jack, or is Jack just really a dork at heart?

Was Jack really caught in a blunder when he reveals the extrapolator's limitations? Or is that another moment of banter - or something more calculated, to go along with the Doctor's patter? Why would savvy Jack let something like that slip? Is he just rattled?

When does Jack really grasp that the Doctor was in the Time War - what that must mean about who the Doctor is? Why hasn't the Doctor told Jack before that? What happens, after the door closes on the Emperor Dalek and the Doctor has to pause for breath?

Is the Doctor taking advantage of Jack? What's the message in that fleeting kiss? What does Jack's avowal of utter faith do to the Doctor? How does it factor into his refusal to push the lever? Is the Doctor thinking about it as he runs away? And what, oh what, does Jack go through when he realizes the Doctor's not coming back?
There's that moment of hesitation when Jack grasps the Doctor's plan - when he realizes that this is a Delta Wave they're talking about. But is it hesitation? Certainly we never see it again.

Does Jack guess that the Doctor will send Rose away? At what point does Jack conclude they're not walking away from this? By the time the Emperor Dalek calls the Doctor on it, he's clearly unsurprised. And is it practicality or kindness that makes Jack let the programmers and staff live with the hope that they might live through this? Is it the same thing motivating the Doctor when it comes to Lynda?
What do you mean, who the hell am I? Who the hell are you?

So it goes: Through Mickey's eyes we are re-introduced to Team TARDIS. And quite a few things have changed since last we saw them! The Doctor, Rose, and Jack are finishing each other's sentences, Jack is working on the TARDIS all on his own, and they're all relaxed with each other, the wariness from the end of last episode gone.

Into time and space!

It's the only time we get the Doctor/Rose/Jack team on a normal adventure - well, what passes for normal for them! We have their first (The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances) and their last (Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways), and we know there must have been quite a few in between, but this is the only one we get to see. Jack is flirting with the Doctor, and in one scene (How come I never get any of that?) Doctor/Jack is paralleled and contrasted to Rose/Mickey. The Doctor trusts Jack to work on the TARDIS all on his own while everyone else leaves, and even when things go wrong, the Doctor doesn't just take over; Jack and he keep working on it together. Quite a change.

Also, once again (as usual when Jack is involved) there is so much joy and glee and fun around. Until ...

At last you have consequences.

For some reason, this episode doesn't get much love, perhaps because of that shift in tone. But it's one of my favourites - there's something about it that's quintessential Who to me. We get a fun romp - Jack telling tall tales, silly chase sequences, geeking out over the tribophysical waveform macrokinetic extrapolator, Rose learning how to say "Raxacoricofallapatorius" ... and then - you think you are so clever! - then, it all comes to a screeching halt: They have the death penalty. And what was a silly romp turns serious as Team TARDIS has to face the consequences of what they do. For once, there's no running away. No moving on to the next adventure. For once, they have to look the consequences in the face. And there's no easy way out.

Of course because this is Doctor Who and not Torchwood, we do get the TARDIS-ex-machina at the end, so they don't actually have to make that choice in the end: She's an egg! - But in the mean time, we get a very serious examination of what the Doctor's adventures mean for those not travelling along. This is an episode of outside perspectives, Mickey and Blon showing us the parts we don't normally see: friends and enemies, those left behind, the consequences. Brilliant.

What do you think? Here are a few questions for your consideration, in no particular order:
  • How much time has passed since The Doctor Dances? The Team TARDIS dynamics have changed a lot - they're very clearly a team now. But at the same time, Jack has apparently never asked about the broken chameleon circuit before.

  • How serious is the flirting? At this point the Doctor is very obviously flirting back; does he mean it? Would it have gone anywhere if they'd travelled together longer, if Bad Wolf hadn't already been looming on the horizon?

  • The Doctor gives Jack that weird look when Jack rattles off his plan, but how serious do you think the Doctor really is about being in charge?

  • Blon's insights into the Doctor (I bet you're always the first to leave, Doctor.) are every bit as devastating as his insights into her (That's how you slaughter millions.). This shades into the next episodes a bit, but how much of that do you think Jack is aware of?

  • And here's something else that's not strictly about this episode, but still: What we didn't know back then was that the Torchwood Three Hub is right under the Plass - and that while Team TARDIS are running all over the city, Jack Harkness is there a second time. What do you think older!Jack is doing that day? Watching his own past? Deliberately not looking? How did he stop Torchwood from interfering with Blon's plans before then? They must have noticed, after all.
Captain Jack Harkness. 133 Squadron, Royal Air Force. American volunteer.

And so we meet Jack Harkness. Actually, the first time we meet Jack Harkness, he's complimenting someone's bottom. Multiple someones, come to think of it.

Truthfully, we haven't known Nine all that long at that point, either - we don't have nearly as clear an idea of what exactly happened to him. Mostly, we know there was a war, and they lost. We know he's brusque and funny and closed and damaged, and that he doesn't suffer fools gladly.

Enter Jack, the quintessential trickster. He's a conman. The quintessential Fool, in many respects. He's a pretty face and a great smile, a glib tongue and a lot of Spock. He knows his assets, and he doesn't mind using them. Underneath it all, there's something hard and dangerous - just because you can see teeth doesn't mean it's a grin. And it's hard to laugh when, at bottom, you hate what you've become. I was conning you - that's what I am, I'm a con man.

No lie, I think that's where I first fell for Jack. I wonder if the Doctor doesn't hear it, too. Because while Nine's not impressed - the banana groves at Villengard, anyone? - and he sure as hell doesn't trust Jack - he doesn't write him off, either. More, Jack still manages to slip in under Nine's guard and set him off balance. Consider the sonic screwdriver conversation. Consider further the look on Nine's face when Jack admits to two missing years of memories. And consider the genuine amusement at Jack Harkness, flexible, 51st century flirt.

I'm still not sure where or what, exactly, it is, that lets the Doctor say Do what you've got to do, and trust that Jack's going to do the right thing. I'm not sure either he or Jack are either. I'm not entirely sure I think the Doctor didn't forget about Jack, just briefly, until Rose reminded him. But I think that's part of what I love about these introductory episodes. It's not a meeting of the minds - they're very different, and they're both a little (a LOT) banged up around the edges. Still - there's some sort of recognition, and a dawning sense of respect, amidst the wariness. By the time we move to Boom Town, that dynamic's quite different, and I think that's why I adore post-The Doctor Dances fic as much as I do. There's a bridge to cross at the end of these eps, and I want to know how we get there.

What do you think? Am I giving either of them too much credit? Does Rose act as the bridge between the two? (Me, I am of two minds on this.) What do you think of these eps as Jack's debut? What do you make of the Doctor's reactions? Does Jack earn "companion" status later, after these eps, or do you think the Doctor's made up his mind when he first brings Jack on board?
01 March 2012 @ 06:30 pm
It's March, and time for another special event here at [livejournal.com profile] wintercompanion!

Inspired by the Meta Month of March fest happening over at [livejournal.com profile] month_of_meta, we've decided that March is going to be the month of meta and discussion here as well. Normally this comm is reserved for fanfic only, but this month the comm is open to meta/discussion posts of all kinds.

Over the course of the month, your mods are going to put up a number of episode discussion posts - we're going to rewatch all the Doctor/Jack episodes, and I hope you'll all join us in talking about them! Here's our schedule:
  • 5th March - The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
  • 9th March - Boom Town
  • 14th March - Bad Wolf/The Parting of the Ways
  • 19th March - Utopia
  • 23rd March - The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords
  • 27th March - The Stolen Earth/Journey's End

Feel free to make meta/discussion posts of your own this month - anything Doctor/Jack-related you've always wanted to talk about? Now's your chance! :D

And if all this should inspire you to write fic? Here's a sneak peek - April's challenge is going to be episode-inspired fic! Missing scenes, tag scenes, anything related to a specific episode. :)

Looking forward to talking to all of you!

And don't forget - leave a comment in THIS post and tell us what you think the next challenges should be!