Cult TV legend James Marsters makes his Big Finish debut as Captain John Hart returns to Torchwood.
King of the British Empire, Galactic Hero, Alien Hunter Extraordinaire, His Royal Highness Captain John Hart goes to visit an old friend. A very old friend. So old, in fact, he’s on the verge of death. Captain Jack Harkness – the man who can never die – is about to run down the curtain and join the show-choir invisible. But John can’t resist one last chance to taunt him about the life he stole from the former head of Torchwood.
Marsters and Commander
As a refresher, James Marsters – of Buffy fame – joined Torchwood in its second series opener, ‘Kiss Kiss Bang Bang’. As Jack’s former partner (in every sense), Captain John Hart sent the team on a deadly treasure hunt around Cardiff. Only for his scheme to backfire and be sent packing. John would return for the series finale with Jack’s estranged brother Gray in tow. Speaking of, I wonder if Big Finish will ever address that little plot twist…
Breakin’ Up Is Hart To Do
David Llewellyn’s opener for Torchwood’s fourth monthly series is a ferociously fun story. The first act is a great insight into John and Jack’s relationship before the former’s greed and the latter’s burgeoning conscience came between them. We see their break up, in the midst of one of history’s great unanswered questions, and the fallout. LLewellyn crafts a set of scenes that works perfectly with these characters and lets the talents of Marsters and Barrowman do the rest. If this is the only time we have with Captain John Hart on audio, I’m glad we got a chance to hear this part of his life.
John & Vicky
Once we’ve see how it ended, we go back to the beginning. The opening scene established a very different world to the one we’re used to. Hart’s machinations have placed him as the immortal time-travelling superhero instead of Jack. We see turning points in history (both real and in the Doctor Who universe) play out very differently with an even hornier maniac at the helm. A healthy slate of well-placed cameos do an excellent job of recreating points in Torchwood history. Rowena Cooper in particular sounds like she’s having a ball reprising Queen Victoria in a very different position than usual.
Three Lefts and a Right
The plot synopsis will inevitably draw comparisons with ‘Turn Left‘ but these stories are incredibly different tonally. Captain John Hart is an irresistibly likeable presence and, even knowing the human cost, you can’t help but enjoy the ride. Naturally, a lot of jokes crop up at Torchwood’s expense, including a hilarious jab at series four. But Llewellyn has kept the meta humour to a minimum and the jokes flow naturally from John’s characterization. The performance from Marsters, slipping back into the role, is so effortless that it would be a real shame if Big Finish didn’t hire him again. However, I can imagine that the character would start to grate after too many outings.
Admittedly, the plot is all over the place in terms of pacing. A lot of the more bombastic feats John gets up to is usually followed by an immediate quiet scene that feels somewhat disjointed. Luckily, Llewelyn’s dialogue nips along well enough to make up for it and there’s no lack of humour in these moments. The resolution comes a bit too quick and clean for my liking. But since it means we get to spend more time in this crazy alt-version of Torchwood, I can dig it.
‘The Death of Captain Jack’ is totally bonkers and utterly hilarious. What better way to reintroduction Captain John Hart than to show us the world he would create given half a chance? James Marsters’ enthusiasm in the part is infectious and Llewellyn’s script really plays to his strengths. As a light, funny but nevertheless exciting story with great dialogue and standout moments, this comes highly recommended.
Captain Jack is finally dying, and it’s time for his oldest friend to visit his deathbed. King John has come to tell him a story. The story of the life he should have had.
It’s the story of Alexander the Great, sinking ships, falling empires, robot dinosaurs, and alien invasions. It’s a story of love, royal weddings, murder, mass murder, genocide, and very tight trousers.
It’s the story of the life of Captain John and it’s the story of Torchwood. Be careful what you wish for.
Torchwood contains adult material and may not be suitable for younger listeners
Written By: David Llewellyn
Directed By: Scott Handcock
John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness), James Marsters (Captain John Hart), Eve Myles (Gwen Cooper), Gareth David-Lloyd (Ianto Jones), Kai Owen (Rhys Williams), Tom Price (Sgt Andy), Samuel Barnett (Norton Folgate), Rowena Cooper (Queen Victoria), Rick Yale (Christopher Marlowe), Aly Cruickshank (Alexander the Great), Marilyn Le Conte (Catherine the Great), Luke Williams (Hephaeston), Richard Elfyn (Field Marshal), Kerry Joy Stewart (Flat Holm Doctor), Kristy Philipps (Royal Servant)
Producer James Goss
Script Editor David Llewellyn
Executive Producers Jason Haigh-Ellery and Nicholas Briggs