Doctor Who: The Lives of Captain Jack: Volume Two – Starring John Barrowman, Colin Baker, Attila Akinci, Hannah Arterton, Vikash Bhai, Timothy Blore, Lachele Carl, Judith Chander, Laura Dalgleish, Jacob Dudman & More. Written by Guy Adams & James Goss & Directed by Scott Handcock – 3xCD / Download (Big Finish)
I came to this review with a touch of trepidation. You see, I’m not a huge fan of Captain Jack Harkness historically. He’s certainly never been someone for whom I would go out of my way to listen to a box set of stories of. But we all know Big Finish have a good track record of making characters who people have previously not been overly affectionate towards far more beloved, so there was a glimmer of hope.
One of the characters for whom Big Finish have added a real shine of course is old Sixie himself, the sixth incarnation of the Doctor, played by Colin Baker, and in the first story of the set it is in his very coat in which Jack must step and try to be the Doctor when the Doctor can’t.
Piece of Mind is, for want of a better word, a real romp. It has the feel of an eighties Who story but with Captain Jack providing some remarkably un-Doctorish solutions to the kind of situations in which the Doctor often found himself. This is a fun and funny story from James Goss that allows John Barrowman and Colin Baker to do what they do best, and the rapport is a delight. The Captain gets himself a companion, a villain and some beautiful androids and even a new vocabulary.
A sparkling supportive cast in Sophie Hopkins, Hannah Arterton and Prasanna Puwanarajah only add to the joy.
The second story in the set is a real shift in tone. What Have I Done? by Guy Adams is a gripping and heartfelt two-hander. Set in the hell of Gallipoli during the First World War this story, starring John Barrowman and Atila Akinci, may have done more to warm me to Captain Jack Harkness than all of his television appearances combined.
Jack fights to preserve the life of the wounded soldier Ata as they make their way through the no man’s land of trench warfare in what is considered to be one of the most torturous conflicts of WW1. Ata has a multitude of fights on his hands too. From his infected wound, to his own fears and torments. All the while Jack must keep them safe from the bullets and shells from both lines while being stalked by…. Something in the dark.
Both performers clearly gave their all in the making of this story, it comes through and puts you there in the mud and the rain alongside them. You can feel their character’s pain, exhaustion and fear.
We then come to the third and final story of the set, Driving Miss Wells. Once again we have a tonal shift and another completely different type of story from James Goss. We also have the return of a character from T.V, newsreader extraordinaire Trinity Wells, played by Lachele Carl.
What does a newsreader do when she no longer believes the news she is reading? Well, she quits, writes a book about it and goes on a book tour of course. So, Jack gives up the Captain’s hat and dons the Chauffeur’s cap instead as he and Trinity become embroiled in an action-packed world of corporate espionage and at times chilling psychological horror. For the third time a fantastic supporting cast bring the world to vivid life and make the story complete.
It’s safe to say after listening to this set I am now a lot fonder of Captain Jack Harkness than ever before, a lot of that is down to the writing of James Goss and Guy Adams, who clearly understand the character, his depths and his sheer scope and Big Finish, with their wonderful casting, beautiful and immersive sound design and limitless visual budget. The real credit however should lie square at the feet of John Barrowman. His passion for the character, for the worlds of Doctor Who and his never less than 100% consistent performance made this set an utter joy to listen to, whether you are a long-term fan or not. A must for all! Jeff Goddard.