Will Captain Jack Harkness be back for the Doctor Who festive special?

Clues are pointing towards John Barrowman’s return to the BBC sci-fi drama...

John Barrowman as Captain Jack Harkness in Doctor Who series 12 (BBC)

Doctor Who’s series 12 finale seemed to have it all – explosions, twists, turns, the Morbius Doctors – but for some fans, it was sorely lacking in one regard. Where was John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness?

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After the shock return of the fan-favourite Who character (who previously appeared in the 2005-2010 run of the series and in spin-off Torchwood) in series 12’s fifth episode, fans had hoped to see immortal Time Agent Jack back in the finale, but as the credits rolled on The Timeless Children there was no sign of him.

Still, Who and Torchwood fans shouldn’t lose too much hope – because a fair bit of evidence points to the fact that Jack will be back soon in upcoming festive episode Revolution of the Daleks.

First, there’s the official statement. In a post-episode five interview, series boss Chris Chibnall emphasised that Jack wouldn’t be back in series 12 (which in hindsight, we probably should have all believed instead of hoping he’d magically appear in episode 10).

“You won’t see him again this series, I can categorically tell you that,” he told the Mirror – but fans were quick to note that this didn’t rule out Barrowman’s appearance in the special, which is technically not part of series 12.

And if this seems like a stretch, Chibnall actually has form for this sort of subtle misdirection, telling fans in 2018 that they wouldn’t see any classic monsters in Jodie Whittaker’s first series before adding a Dalek to the New Year’s special that followed. Back then, he wasn’t lying because the Dalek technically wasn’t part of the series. So who’s to say he’s not trying a bit more clever wordplay again?

In terms of what we know about the filming of the special, there are also a few clues to Barrowman and Jack’s return. It’s a point of fact that the Dalek festive special was filming in October 2019, the same month that Barrowman apparently returned to the UK to film his brief scenes for Fugitive of the Judoon based on his Instagram (in a RadioTimes.com interview, Barrowman admitted that various posts about re-doing his flat were a cover for Who filming).

Other parts of episode five were filmed much earlier in the year – so why bring Barrowman back later, and during production of a later episode, unless you were using him for more than one story? And why would he stay in Cardiff for as long as he did if it really was just a day’s filming in Bristol?

And then there’s a recent video (above) released by the official Doctor Who YouTube channel, which features a marshmallow-eating challenge between series stars Jodie Whittaker and Mandip Gill, apparently on the Doctor Who set.

In the video the wider Doctor Who crew can be seen – but some fans think they can also briefly glimpse John Barrowman in his distinctive Captain Jack Harkness costume (see the blue shirt?). Later in the video, as the crew cheer on Mandip and Jodie a voice that sounds an awful lot like Barrowman’s can be heard egging them on.

In of itself, this wouldn’t necessarily prove anything – if it is him, the video could have been shot while Barrowman was filming his series 12 cameo – but it’s notable that in a recent RadioTimes.com interview the actor denied meeting Jodie Whittaker at all during filming. Why hide such an innocent interaction unless there was something to conceal?

Plus, the costumes in the video worn by Mandip Gill and Tosin Cole didn’t appear in series 12 as far as we can tell, further hinting that the contest may have been shot during festive special filming (possibly even as part of the wrap party).

Altogether, it’s a lot of circumstantial evidence pointing towards Jack’s return – and while it could all add up to nothing, something does just feel right about bringing him back for this episode, especially after Barrowman’s recent comments about what he’d like to get up to on a return to Who.

“If I were asked back to be in an episode with Jodie, I’d love them to go on a big adventure with the team and with Jack,” Barrowman exclusively told RadioTimes.com. “A great adventure together. Because it’s a dynamic I know.

“You know I go around and do the conventions, that’s kind of how I’ve kind of kept the buzz going, and I’ve seen the audiences. They really want to see Jack and Jodie’s Doctor together.

“So who knows? And if it happens, I hope it’s a vast adventure.”

After bringing Jack back but not having him meet the 13nth Doctor, basing an episode around their meeting feels like an easy win for the series and a great way to spice up another Dalek festive special. Maybe the Doctor will encounter Jack in the Judoon prison we left her in at the end of the series 12 finale? Or maybe he’ll find the companions on Earth and reunite them with her? Either way, he seems like he’d slot easily into the story.

Beyond that, if rumours of Bradley Walsh and Tosin Coles exiting the series are to be believed, there could be room for Jack back in the TARDIS more regularly, or it could all set the stage for a Torchwood revival.

Still, whatever the truth of Barrowman’s future involvement and whatever the story of the festive special ends up being, one thing we can almost certainly count on – we haven’t seen the back of Jack.

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Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks comes to BBC One in late 2020/early 2021