Who Mysteries: Is Jack the Face of Boe?
Patrick Kavanagh-Sproull investigates.
One of Torchwood and Doctor Who’s greatest mysteries is the true origins of space conman and occasional associate of the Doctor, Captain Jack Harkness. The flagship show’s spinoff Torchwood has occasionally tried to explore Harkness’ background (in episodes such as Adam and Captain Jack Harkness) but we have never had a clear outline of who he really is and where he came from, much like the smoke shrouding the Doctor’s real identity and heritage.
The Series Three episode Gridlock marked the return of the mysterious being known as the Face of Boe and his previous appearance, New Earth foreshadowed the Doctor and his’ final meeting. Viewers anticipated what the Face was going to reveal and we were all shocked when he told the Doctor that he “wasn’t alone” (one of Russell T Davies’ rather heavy-handed clues leading to the Master’s return in the three-part finale).
After the Face of Boe died at the climax of Gridlock, there was still a sense of mystery and intrigue surrounding him and many were a bit disappointed this wasn’t explored until Last of the Time Lords. That was when Captain Jack revealed his childhood nickname on the Boeshane Peninsula was ‘the Face of Boe’. The reaction the Doctor and Martha have when Jack ‘reveals’ this is just one of the moments I live for and love about Doctor Who… it’s just so unforeseen, and surprising:
Since that unexpected revelation there has been some confirmation, but nothing onscreen. Russell T Davies has said that this fact could waver, but that seems like he forced the comment to try and persuade the audience that Jack could die in the latest series of Torchwood, Miracle Day. Former producer, Julie Gardner has been credited as saying Boe is Jack, as David Tennant has too.
It wasn’t exactly planned. I did spend a long time thinking about Jack’s immortality, and one day it occurred to me there was another immortal character on the show. It made me laugh. To be honest, on the screen, it’s couched in terms that are not absolute gospel. There are these spin-off books and comic books, and every now and then I’ll see a script for one where they say definitively that he’s the Face of Boe, and I always stop those from being printed. I have my own personal theories, but the moment it became very true or very false, the joke dies.
- Russell T Davies
It’s obviously very controversial because it was set in stone that Captain Jack couldn’t die, whilst the Face of Boe dies after using his remaining energy to save the drivers of New Earth. This provides those who don’t believe the Captain is the Face with ammunition as, if Jack is immortal and the Face of Boe, how come Boe died? Either Jack is deathless and everlasting or he’s the Face of Boe, an ancient alien from god knows where that perishes in Series Three.
My personal opinion is that Jack is the Face of Boe – it was implied that he was and so I think it is true. Yes, the matter causes a serious amount of célèbre but when it was inserted at the end of Last of the Time Lords it was in good faith. Russell T Davies clearly didn’t conceive the Face of Boe as Jack from the beginning in The End of the World (besides the Captain’s debut into the series was some seven episodes after the Face’s entrance on Platform One) and just thought it would be fun to lodge it in as a gag at the end.
The Boeshane Peninsula, a place said to be Jack’s homeland played a part in the plot of the Torchwood episode, Adam. Adam aired half a year after Last of the Time Lords and so it seems likely that Davies thought up the idea of Jack being the Face of Boe to help fuel Series Two of Torchwood.
The evidence is there to suggest that Captain Jack Harkness was (or is) the Face of Boe while there is also proof to contest this. If you, in my opinion, choose to be pedantic and not accept Jack for his stated true identity then have that judgement, but I think he is Boe because it just seems so very likely. I to this day have faith in Russell T Davies and think that Captain Jack Harkness is the Face of Boe.
So, your thoughts? Is Captain Jack the aged Face of Boe or is this just a piece of contrived nonsense from Russell T Davies? State your opinions in the comments.