River Song & Captain Jack: Five Favourites
K-Ci Williams picks out five favourites from the birthday sweeties.
The two of them are the in-and-out fleeters of the modern era of Doctor Who, respectively from Russell T Davies time and Matt Smith’s recently ended era, and they share the same birthday. Give a welcoming Happy Birthday “BARROWMAN” fist to our wonderful Captain, John Barrowman and a mysterious, spoilery Happy Birthday to the seductress, Alex Kingston. While the Five Favourites concept is generally for each Doctor, on this very special occasion I’ve been asked to compile a couple of stories from each character to celebrate this wonderful double birthday. You may have already realised that five stories divided by two characters splits the ratio at two and a half. (I’m totally biased towards River; a majority of my articles have been about her). To keep things fair, each will have two, with a set of honourable mentions as the fifth favourite. Consequentially, I present the five favourites for two characters who are portrayed by a pair of the best actors to grace our modern screens.
Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead
The essence of this two part golden story is firmly imprinted in my brain; just as fresh as the day I first viewed it. It was odd witnessing the future of a character I’d only just met in the Matt Smith era, in a story that was made years before. It was all confusing then, but I’ve adapted to survive (seriously, who could survive River’s complicated timeline without an adaptation?). Everything about this story screams Moffat; a mix of timey wimey concepts, emotional drama, a highly successful monster, and another painful yet unfortunately brilliant catchphrase. Alex Kingston is truly elegant as the Professor; playing off David Tennant so well and bringing a sense of sophistication and maturity to the story. This works well given the darker contrasts of the story and the shadowy plot. Silence in the Library has one of those ideas that evoke goosebumps. The resolution itself is pure Moffat; the repeated words of lives “saved” meaning backed-up and restored as opposed to the implied “safe.” The trickster antics of the Moff served the show well – something I wish we had more of nowadays.
The Time of Angels/Flesh and Stone
Widely considered the story which served the Weeping Angels little justice, I found it to be quite the opposite. The Angels aren’t the centrepiece of this hidden gem, River Song is – well, to me anyway. It’s interesting to note that the Doctor-companion pair Matt Smith and Karen Gillan bonded while filming this story as the first of their original block, and shared part of this experience with the beguiling Alex Kingston. In terms of characterisation, Moffat develops the more mysterious sides of her, with small teases and explicitly stated foreshadowing of future episodes. Plot wise, it’s an underrated masterpiece in my eyes! This is where I feel River became an enigma; the pre credit scene in which she basically manipulates the Doctor through time travel technology and also investigates a Weeping Angel…while in heels – she’s Doctor Who’s greatest and quite frankly, (in my humble opinion) only credible seductress of the show’s fifty year history.
Captain Jack Harkness
The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances
Wow! Just, wow! Barrowman is a-m-a-z-i-n-g! What a story! While I gather my thoughts from my rewatch (this is the only one I have recently seen), I look back on the epic ninety or so minutes I’ve just been through. Firstly, there’s the inescapable groan “Mummy, are you my mummy?” But then we meet Captain Jack for the first time, a character who brings with him mystery. A Time Agent, Jack has all number of gadgets – my favourite technology being the nano-genes’ including a craft which can park up next to Big Ben. Classic Jack uses this to capture the interest of Rose, which marked the birth of his sexual antics. John Barrowman contributes an enigmatic performance to this story, and a character portrayal which will go down as one of Doctor Who’s finest of the last fifty years.
Utopia/The Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords
Captain Jack is sublime in this story. In what is technically a three part finale, Russell T Davies manages to establish a magnificent story with different atmospheres united by a threeway TARDIS team: The Doctor, Martha Jones, and the one and only Captain Jack Harkness. With his regenerative ability to come back from the dead, Captain Jack is expanded upon as a plot device to survive radiation into a more fully fleshed character of the parent show. The concept of seeing old things through the new eyes of the companion is once again true, as with Martha’s perspective we are amazed at Jack’s ability. When he’s not dazzling or being his generally normal self, we are afforded the opportunity to learn an interesting tidbit about Jack: he’s the Face of Boe (which was coincidentally why Steven Moffat wanted him in A Good Man Goes to War. Think about it, the Headless Monks behead him. This head in question survives to become the Face of Boe). On the behind the scenes side, John Barrowman is just exquisite. His vibrancy and energy is just as much a smile maker than Jack’s copious sexual implications. There’s too much spread over these three episodes to fully justify in one article, but this will have to do. Another masterpiece.
Honourable Mentions (also known as…the Fifth Favourite)
Okay, so I’ll be cheating here again. Here are my reasons why I love each story of River Song and Captain Jack.
- The Pandorica Opens/The Big Bang – she shoots a fez, and coaxes a cry for mercy from a Dalek. Translation: badass!
- The Impossible Astronaut/Day of the Moon – Alex Kingston dives off a building into the TARDIS swimming pool. Is there anything this woman can’t do?
- A Good Man Goes to War – She’s Amy and Rory’s daughter! Big shock. Don’t think I’ll need a huge mid-series break to recover though. Oh wait…
- Let’s Kill Hitler – River’s regeneration? I’m sold. Generally regarded as a terrible episode, it’s one of the highest in my books.
- The Wedding of River Song – Again, another hidden gem. I love how fast paced this is, how it flicks between time zones. Classic Doctor Who for me (I love it for the reasons many hate it).
- The Angels Take Manhattan – Well, it’s always nice to have River back, I adore Alex Kingston. It was also nice that she came back for Amy and Rory’s demise.
- The Name of the Doctor – that scene! That scene! Chills, goosebumps, feels! Beware the feels, it should be called. Or The Feels of the Doctor. Alex and Matt were astonishingly amazing! Translation: indescribable.
- Bad Wolf/Parting of the Ways – Jack is given the ability to come back to life, automatic badass.
- The Stolen Earth/Journey’s End – the whole crowded finale, with all modern companions, even Sarah Jane (RIP Elisabeth Sladen – I’ll never let it go), and with an added Davros, it’s perfect.
- Torchwood – spin off show with even more Captain Jack, perfect!
- Innuendos in Space – Spoilers……
As you can see, it really is difficult to go wrong with these two characters for me. I love them and their actors to bits. Happy Birthday sweeties!