After the smashing success of the previous set, it didn’t take Big Finish long too commission a second outing for Captain Jack. As with Volume 1, this set shows us some more moments and adventures in Jack’s long life. This time, we go from 100 years after The Parting of the Ways, to the trenches of WW1 and then meet up with another old friend of the Davies era!
PIECE OF MIND
The story that kicks off the set is Piece of Mind from James Goss sees Jack reunited with the Doctor, just not the one he was expecting.
With the Ninth Doctor and Rose having left Jack for dead at the end of The Parting of the Ways, Piece of Mind is set 100 years after that. Jack, on another planet finally sees the TARDIS arrive only for the Sixth Doctor to stumble out and die in his arms.
The set was publicised with the striking cover of John Barrowman in Colin Baker’s costume and it is a truly brilliant pairing. Goss has a lot of fun showing us what Jack really made of the Doctor and Barrowman says in the extras that this is Jack’s interpretation of both the Doctor he knew and the one he has just met. Indeed there are strong hints of Eccleston’s Doctor littered throughout Barrowman’s performance. But Jack isn’t demeaning to the Doctor’s character which was a nice touch as he had been abandoned! He gets the mindset right, helping the oppressed, even if he does blunder in and get it completely wrong!
Goss gets the characters right too, Jack is the same fun-loving character he was in Doctor Who before the darker character took over in Torchwood and The Sixth Doctor is at his best here, his sarcasm working as a perfect foil for Jacks’. It isn’t hard to see this story fitting into the Sixth Doctor’s later timeline, this is a slightly more serious version of the character, with shades of the Seventh Doctor but the final act is hilarious with The Doctor pretending to be Jack, with Southern American accent too! It’s a hilarious punch-the-air moment that only Colin Baker could have delivered! He’s a comic genius, why he and Peter Davison never had a television series I’ll never know!
We get a nice moment at the end where the Sixth Doctor works out that Jack is one of his future companions that he has abandoned whether intentionally or accidentally and for a moment, I thought the story was going to end with Jack going off to have new adventures with the Sixth Doctor. While it doesn’t, one does wonder with this excellent pairing if that was a mistake!
It’s clear how much fun everyone had making this episode when you listen to the episode and as a result, it is a resounding success and a fantastic way to kick off this new volume!
WHAT HAVE I DONE
The second story in this set is, What Have I Done by Guy Adams takes us from the far-flung future to the claustrophobic trenches of World-War-One. For me, this is the best episode of the piece, though all the entries are brilliant, this two-hander was a great way to spend the listening time.
Guy Adams does something very clever here and explores the emotions of war and what people are forced to do in wars and with the recent celebrations this year, it is an interesting time for this episode to come out. But I think it was a good idea, people need to remember that war isn’t fun, it isn’t all parades and celebrations, it’s gruesome, its mud, and blood and scary. And Adams does a great reminder of that, the monster, complete with guttural grunting and shuffling is a brilliant representation of that fear, while Adams never going too far in the other direction and taking away the dignity of those who did fight and die. It’s all expertly done.
The other brilliant thing about this story is the performances from John Barrowman and the guest star, Atila Akinci as the Turkish soldier, Ata, who keeps mumbling the titular line, which comes into play towards the end. While the main twist in Ata’s story isn’t that hard to work out if you have been listening to what he says, it’s still a nicely performed moment between the pair as Jack can’t act shocked or indignant because of all the things he’s done in the past and the future. Like Piece of Mind with Jack and the Sixth Doctor, Jack and Ata are a brilliant pairing and work in much the same way as Jack did with Angelo in the flashback episodes of Miracle Day.
And with this intimate character piece, the sound design from Blair Mowat becomes a third character, working nicely in conjunction with the monster to remind the listener that even in the quiet scenes, the characters are in constant danger, we’ve got explosions and gunshots and screaming. You can hear the characters trudging through the mud the whole thing feels very claustrophobic as a result. While this is a brilliant episode, it isn’t one I’d listen to on a whim, maybe if I were listening to the set again, just because the subject matter is so strong. But this isn’t one to be missed.
DRIVING MISS WELLS
The third and final episode in this set from James Goss sees the return of newsreader, Trinity Wells, who featured all throughout the Davies era of the show to show the international repercussions of many alien invasions. What was brilliant about this story though was that it showed that Trinity didn’t believe a word of it. She’s written a book about her time as a newsreader and now she is thrown into the world of aliens again, thanks to her mysterious new driver, one Jack Harkness.
While there is an alien to be fought and something of a conspiracy to be uncovered, what’s really brilliant is that Goss takes the time to incorporate commentary on how powerful media companies can influence events and how they will be remembered. Trinity points out at one point that while people will rise and fall, the media will always remain virtually silent and yet all-encompassing, no matter if its the truth or ‘fake news’ people will always be there to lap it up.
We get some nice throwbacks in the beginning to some of the news-pieces from the Davies era, including mentions of a mysterious Mr Saxon. Trinity was one of a few characters who ever appeared in Doctor Who, Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures so anyone who has watched all of the above will no doubt get a lot out of those little nuggets. Actress, Lachele Carl does a brilliant job here and is instantly likeable, even if it is a little weird to hear her character out of the newsroom.
I was a little disappointed in the villain for this story though. Fans of the Tenth Doctor would be forgiven for thinking the monster was the Vespiform’s, the giant Wasp from The Unicorn and the Wasp but it isn’t unfortunately, even though we get moments that highly imply this. But if you take the monster out, it would make a great conspiracy episode, something akin to The X-Files, maybe this episode was an example of less is more.
But on the whole, Driving Miss Wells is a great listen, with shades of The Bodyguard, the main pair, John Barrowman and Lachele Carl are a brilliant double act, especially in scenes where Trinity kidnaps someone. Jack is pretending to be shocked about it and it was a funny scene between the pair. We get some other funny moments too, like a chat about Strictly Come Dancing which had me chuckling! But it is fun to have Trinity Wells back, maybe Big Finish can now roll her over into some of the Tennant era dramas for some more little cameos or maybe a greater role? Please!
The Lives of Captain Jack: Volume 2 is another solid entry into the world of Jack and Torchwood, with three strong stories and some brilliant direction, as always, from Scott Handcock who clearly loves the Torchwood franchise. John Barrowman does a brilliant job here too, clearly having settled into the world of Big Finish since his return in 2015 and he works brilliantly alongside the guest cast, all of whom put in tremendous performances.
These are three stand-alone stories so no viewing or previous listening is needed. For newcomers to the worlds of Big Finish, these three stories would be the perfect place to start if you love Captain Jack. And for the cover alone, it is more than worth the money! Well done guys!