Captain Jack Harkness is back! This time though, he’s without the Doctor and without Torchwood. Captain Jack does have a life y’know? In this new box set, The Lives of Captain Jack, we’re going to hear what our favourite Time Agent gets up to when we’re not normally there. Today, I’ll be reviewing the first story in the set, The Year After I Died.
Set in the year 200,101, on an Earth ravaged by the Daleks, Jack struggles to save humanity from its oldest enemy.
Captain Jack Harkness died, remember? Actually, properly, completely died. He was exterminated by the Daleks; a nasty way to go, but at least it’s quick. Then he woke up. Thanks to the bravery and/or stupidity of Rose Tyler. Captain Jack was back, but the Ninth Doctor, on the verge of death himself, didn’t wait around for him. If, like me, you wondered what happened to Jack, we may finally get an answer. Twelve years after the event. Luckily, we’re in the hands of one of my favourite writers, Guy Adams. So god help us all.
It seems that Guy Adams has a thing for reporters. We kicked off his War Doctor story, Pretty Lies, in a similar fashion; with our dashing male lead being hounded by a reporter despite their best efforts to dissuade them. I don’t know whether Guy uses reporters in scripts because they’re always going to be relevant, especially nowadays with the whole phenomenon of ‘fake news’, or whether he holds a grudge. Who knows?
Like this synopsis suggests, we find Jack and his reporter “friend”, Silo Crook, trapped on Earth after the Daleks waged war on the Game Station, and, in turn, on Earth. You can’t get more apocalyptic than this.
Now, I’m no expert in the slightest, but it feels to me that in The Year After I Died, that Jack might be dealing with a form of PTSD or survivors guilt; Silo constantly tells him that he could be heralded as a hero, but Jack is uncharacteristically not wanting to be in the limelight. Whilst some might think this uncharacteristic attitude is jarring, I think that in the circumstances, it’s totally acceptable and makes Jack a more well rounded character. This is a man who has recently died, a man who has seen hell itself in the form of a bronze pepper pot and has lost the most amazing man, the most amazing woman and the most amazing box. If that was me, I wouldn’t want to socialise much either.
For a large chunk of the story, we stick with Silo and her new acquaintance, Malfi, as they attempt to leave Earth for somewhere, anywhere that’s better. There’s an underlying sense of foreboding though, as if something’s not quite right, but you can’t put your finger on it. Mainly because it’s audio, it’s not tangible.
Once we learn about what’s really going on with Silo and Malfi, and the horrors that are going on, you’ll realise that there’s a small chance that you could, quite literally, put your finger on it. Then you’ll feel queasy. This is classic Guy Adams. Gruesome, barbaric and sarcastic. It’s fantastic.
It’s the quality of a great actor, a great script and great direction that a character can have as much development as Jack Harkness did in the first forty five minutes of The Year After I Died. We start with a broken man and, within one story, we see him become the leader of a revolution.
Near the end of the story, when all hope appears to be lost, and the Captain Jack Harkness we know and love seems to have fully metamorphosed, we get a brilliant and beautifully familiar musical motif to tell us exactly what his mindset it. I never thought of it in this way, but that music may be Jack’s after all.
The conclusion of The Year After I Died is a rather happy ending, especially by Guy Adams standards. It seems almost fairytale like, with the promise of a happily ever after and the comeuppance that the villain deserves.
Overall, The Year After I Died is an incredibly strong start to The Lives of Captain Jack box set; we get to hear a very different Jack to the one we’ve seen on TV, whether that be in Doctor Who or Torchwood, and it’s thrilling. There’s an underlying political theme running through this story too, especially if you keep up with UK politics. I’ve not mentioned the character by name in my review, but there’s a rather ‘strong and stable’ woman whom Jack meets. All in all, I think it’s safe to say that you don’t get many openings stronger than this one.
Should you want to purchase The Lives of Captain Jack, it’s currently available from Big Finish here for £25 on CD and £20 for a digital download for a limited time.