Doctor Who secretly planned John Barrowman’s return since early 2019

And Captain Jack Harkness' January cameo was just a spin-off from this festive special return.

Captain Jack Harkness

There will be a significant homecoming in the upcoming Doctor Who Christmas special, with John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness set to step back onto the TARDIS on New Year’s Day for Revolution of the Daleks.

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And now Doctor Who series boss Chris Chibnall has spoken about just how long this comeback has been in the offing, revealing plans were first drawn in the early days of 2019 to have Captain Jack in the festive adventure.

“That’s been cooked up for a long time,” Chibnall told press including RadioTimes.com.

“That was cooked up over lots of phone calls and secret meetings and not-so-secret meetings at John Barrowman concerts and things like that, where you’re just sort of looking around… you’ve got your hood up.

“He smuggled me backstage, and we had a secret conversation, and all that kind of stuff,” he added. “It was at St David’s Hall in Cardiff, back in the days of early 2019.

“So, yeah, I put in a call to John, and I knew I really wanted Captain Jack to meet the Thirteenth Doctor. And it’d been a long time since he’s been on screen in Doctor Who. So, well overdue.”

For his part, Barrowman didn’t need much convincing, noting that the BBC did not have to “twist his arm” to get him back in Captain Jack’s familiar greatcoat.

“I’ve always said from the moment I finished when we did Torchwood and I went off to the States, people continually to this day ask me, ‘When are you going back to Doctor Who? When will Jack meet Jodie’s Doctor?’” Barrowman said.

“And I used to always say to people, ‘If I’m asked, I’ll do it at the drop of a hat. You do not have to convince me.’”

John Barrowman
BBC

But even with Barrowman signed on, the secrecy (and concert-related subterfuge) was only just beginning.

“The irony is I did the costume fitting the day I was doing a concert in Cardiff,” Barrowman said.

“Ray [costume designer] came to the hotel, it was the same hotel I stayed in with my husband, Scott, after we got married and the hotel had put pictures of us up in the room, so we were doing the costume fitting. So I took a picture of me in the room with Cardiff in the background and thought ‘if people only knew…’

“When we were filming, I was being driven to set with hoodies on and I was also able to throw people off the scent because I said I was there to remodel our flat.

“I think because we live in Cardiff, and have a house there, people don’t find it weird when they see me in town. They don’t think I’m there filming. So it’s a very good thing to have a house there because it throws them off the scent.”

Another misdirect? Barrowman’s shock cameo during series 12, which Chibnall admitted was added into the series’ fifth episode to help foreground Jack in fan’s minds ahead of this longer festive return.

Revolution of the Daleks
Jodie Whittaker, Bradley Walsh, Tosin Cole, Mandip Gill, John Barrowman and Daleks in Doctor Who (BBC)

“We knew he’d be coming back for this special,” Chibnall said, “so we kind of back-layered into the previous series, in the Judoon episode, in the middle there.”

Now, though, fans will see a proper return for the former Torchwood commander – and according to Chibnall, it’s just what the Doctor ordered.

“With festive specials, you want them to feel like a treat. There’s no bigger treat than John Barrowman as Captain Jack,” Chibnall said.

“He’s funny. He’s dynamic. He’s a really important part of Doctor Who history, I think. And also I knew we’d need a character who might help the family in the Doctor’s absence. And he has a particular perspective on the Doctor, and being with her, and being without her – or him.

“So he brings a lot of things to the table, really,” he concluded. “And he has a great coat as well.”

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Doctor Who: Revolution of the Daleks comes to BBC One on New Year’s Day. Want something else to watch? Check out our full TV Guide.