Captain Jack Harkness voted modern Doctor Who character that should return to series

Actor John Barrowman tells us how the role changed his life – and how the Torchwood boss could come back in a Doctor Who movie

John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness using the vortex manipulator

Captain Jack Harkness: a charming companion to The Ninth and Tenth Doctors, the immortal leader of the Torchwood team and now the man voted as the modern Doctor Who character fans most want to see return to the sci-fi series.

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In a poll of 1,900 RadioTimes.com readers, the former time agent played by John Barrowman was by far the character Whovians most want to see making a comeback, with Jack taking 38% of the vote, well ahead of runner-up Catherine Tate’s Donna Noble (14%).

The Doctor’s wife River Song, played by Alex Kingston, came in third (with 13% of the vote) and Billie Piper’s Rose Tyler fourth (9%).

“Wow! I knew he was popular, but I didn’t think he was that popular,” Barrowman told RadioTimes.com after hearing about Captain Jack’s victory.

Asked about the importance of the dashing captain who became the show’s first openly non-heterosexual character in 2005, Barrowman said: “I don’t want to make it sound like I’m boosting my ego, but there have been young people who have said to me: ‘Captain Jack made me realise I don’t have to apologise for being who I am, for being pan or being bi or being trans.’”

As for the role’s impact on Barrowman’s own life, he said: “Captain Jack was one of those characters that came out of the blue unexpectedly and I never thought I would ever be part of Doctor Who.

“Captain Jack didn’t only change my perception of what I could do as an actor, but he also changed my life. Because of his popularity worldwide, it led me to other roles, like in Desperate Housewives and Arrow.

“And I have Captain Jack to thank for changing my life financially – I’m going to be honest here!” he laughed. “But Captain Jack, for me, is somebody who I’ll always love. And I’ve said that if I’m ever asked to come back and play him, I will do it at the drop of a hat!”

Torchwood Believe image
Barrowman and the cast of Torchwood

But just how likely is it that Barrowman will reprise a character that hasn’t appeared in Doctor Who in nearly 10 years – or Torchwood since 2011? At the moment, it doesn’t look too promising.

Although current Who showrunner Chris Chibnall appears willing to see familiar faces from modern Who make a comeback – for instance, the rhino-resembling Judoon are expected to cross Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor in series 12 – Jack isn’t due a return anytime soon. Barrowman says he hasn’t been approached to reprise the role of Captain Jack or the Face of Boe, the giant alien head that Harkness eventually evolves into. (“But if they did bring back Boe, I’d love to voice him and have my voiced augmented!” Barrowman says.)

However, although Barrowman says he last spoke to Chibnall before the latter became head of Who, the actor has had some interesting discussions with former showrunner Russell T Davies.

“I can’t remember what ceremony it was, but I was speaking to Russell T Davies – he’d picked up an award for A Very English Scandal – and we said: ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we could do a Torchwood or Doctor Who movie with [Captain] Jack, David [Tennant] and Billie [Piper]?”

But even if a Doctor Who movie doesn’t materialise on the big screen (Russell T Davies recently told us he would never return to Who), there’s always the possibility Torchwood – just like Captain Jack – could rise from the dead once more. However, despite years of trying to kickstart a revival, Barrowman suggests it’s no longer down to him to lead the charge.

“I’m a big advocate for [a Torchwood revival], but I always seem to hit brick walls sometimes when I come up against stuff. Somebody needs to ask [broadcasters] about it. I don’t want to ask myself as it will look desperate!” he chuckled.

“I’ve been shut down many in the past. There comes a point where one just sits back and waits to see what happens. We’ll have to wait and see!” He continued, before pausing and adding: “But I’ve always said this to fans: the more you speak up and the more you let it be known that you want this kind of stuff then you have to let it be known.

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