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The global appeal for Doctor Who is probably the strongest it’s ever been, as fans anticipate the show’s 2015 premiere this fall. One would think that the return of one of the series’ most popular characters in the contemporary era, John Barrowman’s Captain Jack Harkness, would be a no-brainer. However, there are still no plans to reunite The Doctor with his former traveling companion, and the fault apparently doesn’t belong to Barrowman.
John Barrowman, who portrayed the enigmatic immortal Captain Jack on Doctor Who and its 2006-2011 spinoff Torchwood, revealed to the UK paper Ipswich Star that despite being a regular on American television’s Arrow on The CW, he’s still game for a return to Doctor Who. However, the prospects of that are still very much in the court of the network overlords at the BBC or ITV. According to Barrowman:
If they asked me I would be more than happy to go back. The Arrow producers said they would allow me to go do it, but I’ve never been asked and I don’t know if I will be.
Captain Jack has not been seen on television since the last Torchwood series, “Miracle Day”, finished its run in 2011. His last appearance on Doctor Who came by way of a quick cameo in the 2010 curtain call episode for David Tennant’s 10th Doctor, “The End of Time.” The precise reason as to why we haven’t seen him for what is now nearly four years remains a mystery. However, such an idea may require complex answers.
The character’s charisma, humor and television-groundbreaking approach to sexuality has made him memorable and popular enough to warrant branching off into his own adventures on Torchwood, where he headed the Who mythology’s governmental organized team tackling extraterrestrial incursions and other supernatural phenomena. We’ve certainly seen Captain Jack go through quite a lot in the last few Torchwood series, relating to loss of family and paramour. Consequently, it could be the case that either the network or the show’s creative forces simply feel that we’ve seen enough of him, for now.
However, it’s still possible to have Captain Jack return in ways that avoid saddling Doctor Who with Jack’s heavier baggage. Rendered immortal after being killed and resurrected by The Doctor’s temporarily power-imbued companion Rose Tyler, Captain Jack has found himself woven through the Who timeline circuitously. (Fans even argue about canonical validity of "Miracle Day.") Thus, there are numerous possibilities within the mythology to bring him into the picture in a non-linear way. In fact, a fun prospect would be a story arc following up on an old clue that the slowly-aging, but undying Captain Jack was destined in the far, far future to become the giant tendril-sporting disembodied head bigshot known as The Face of Boe.
For now, though, Barrowman seems content with his current place in the pop-culture zeitgeist, having also carved out quite the following for his Arrow character, Malcolm Merlyn. The character has at times proven to not only be as enigmatic as Jack, but also walks the line between the role of loving father and pure, heartless evil with disturbingly impressive ease. However, should we ever get a pallet cleanser that sees Captain Jack walk through the big blue doors of the TARDIS again to team with Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor (or maybe a later incarnation), it will be that much sweeter, given how long we will have had to wait.