The news that John Barrowman was returning to Doctor Who was greeted ecstatically by many earlier this year, with his fan favourite character Captain Jack Harkness making a full comeback for the 2021 New Year’s Day special Revolution of the Daleks.
And for those who had hoped that Jack’s homecoming was just the start, the episode gave the strongest hint yet that we could see some sort of revival for Barrowman’s Doctor Who spin-off series Torchwood, which ended in 2011 after four series and maintains a dedicated fanbase.
Warning: spoilers for Revolution of the Daleks appear after the jump.
In the New Year’s special, once the Daleks are defeated and the Earth is saved Jack leaves the TARDIS behind, bidding the Doctor farewell over the phone while reuniting with an old friend.
“Sorry, lost track of time!” Jack tells her. “Gwen Cooper sends her love by the way – says she took out a Dalek with a moped and her son’s boxing gloves!”
Of course, this quick reference will mean a lot to fans of Torchwood. Eve Myles’ Gwen Cooper is the only character to appear alongside Barrowman in every iteration of Torchwood, with the pair’s core partnership fuelling the BBC Three series throughout its run on TV and beyond. And now, it seems these two are teaming up once again…
“Anyway, I’m gonna stick around on Earth and catch up with her,” Jack continues. “I’ll call you.”
“Send my love to Gwen!” the Doctor replies.
Of course, it could be that this is just a fun little reference for Torchwood fans, and a nod to a series that Doctor Who showrunner Chris Chibnall had a long creative involvement with (for a number of years, Chibnall was Torchwood’s head writer). But it’s also possible that parking Jack on Earth with his old colleague is no accident.
Who knows? Maybe Jack and Gwen could decide to revive or continue their work as Torchwood – the Rift is presumably still active, right? – and even if the series itself didn’t return as a spin-off, the characters could play a role in upcoming Doctor Who episodes (including the now-filming season 13).
Though with that said, maybe a Torchwood return to TV isn’t such a crazy idea anyway. Once upon a time it would have seemed unlikely that you’d have John Barrowman back in an on-screen Doctor Who story, but now we’ve had it twice in a year. After that, Torchwood Three’s revival doesn’t seem quite so farfetched.
Certainly, we think John Barrowman would be open to the series returning – and he might even have a few ideas for how it could continue, including time travel.
"That’s the one thing that we could do with Torchwood – you’re never restricted to always what happens in the present or the future, you can go back," Barrowman told RadioTimes.com earlier this year.
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"What we’d love to do is something that is an episode that goes back, so we have everybody from the original [series], but also because I know how dramas work and we also know there has to be a change, it’d be good if they could mash up a new team.
"I wouldn’t say [I want] any specific thing – I’d just be happy if it was made again," he concluded.
Maybe, after this first triumphant return he’ll get his wish – after all, by this point stranger things have happened.
Doctor Who will return to BBC One. Want something else to watch? Check out our full TV Guide.