News from the TARDIS: John Barrowman Officially Returning to Doctor Who in the Upcoming Revolution of the Daleks

Courtesy: BBC

Today marks the 57th birthday of the beloved sci-fi saga Doctor Who, and BBC spent the day celebrating in style, rolling out a bunch of awesome announcements. First, there were the announcements of two upcoming blu-ray sets: a steelbook repackaging of the specials that commemorated the show's 50th anniversary, and a newly-restored blu-ray presentation of the once-lost 2nd Doctor story arc The Web of Fear, which will include an all-new animated version of the story's still-missing third episode. But BBC's biggest birthday present to Doctor Who fans came this afternoon, when they confirmed - after much speculation - that this winter's special episode, Revolution of the Daleks, will indeed feature the return of John Barrowman (Arrow) as long-time fan-favorite character Captain Jack Harkness.

Courtesy: BBC
It is safe to say that, among the roughly 50 characters who have traveled with The Doctor over the show's nearly 40 seasons, Captain Jack is in the upper tier of fan favorites. A snarky, roguish, pansexual space-adventurer who developed from something of a morally-questionable antihero to a beloved hero in his own right (and became immortal along the way), Jack was introduced in the 2005 first season of Doctor Who's revival, opposite Christopher Eccleston's 9th Doctor, and eventually lead his own spinoff series Torchwood. But despite his fan-favorite status, and despite John Barrowman's very vocal willingness to return if asked, Jack had not appeared on Doctor Who since 10th Doctor David Tennant's farewell episode in 2010, and had been absent from our screens altogether since Torchwood was not renewed (at least not yet - there's always a possibility according to Barrowman) following its fourth season in 2011. That all changed when Barrowman made a surprise return as Captain Jack during Doctor Who's 12th season earlier this year - but that appearance was basically just a cameo, and Barrowman and the BBC both left it deliberately (and infuriatingly) vague whether the return was a one-off, or a warm-up to the character coming back in a bigger way.

Courtesy: BBC
Now we finally know: BBC confirmed Barrowman's starring role in Revolution of the Daleks with a press release and a new teaser for the episode (below), which finds Captain Jack hearing the sound of the TARDIS materializing, and saying "whoahhh, I've missed that sound." There is still no official air date for the episode, beyond that it will air "during the festive season" around Christmas and New Year, though we presumably will know soon. A special episode - often longer and grander in scale - airing at the holidays to hold fans over between seasons has been a Doctor Who tradition since the second season of the 2005 revival. The holiday specials usually involve big events, the addition of key plot points or the introduction of new characters (or new Doctors), and major guest-stars, so the return of a fan-favorite character like Captain Jack is not wholly surprising, and it probably won't be the only big thing about the episode. But it certainly makes this special one to look forward to - appropriately, since the episode will already be a much-needed gift to fans during the pandemic. Photography on Revolution of the Daleks had fortunately finished before the pandemic shut down production in the UK, allowing it to be completed on schedule, as the last pre-pandemic episode of Doctor Who

Addressing his return in today's press release, John Barrowman said:

“Putting on Jack’s coat and setting foot back on the set of Doctor Who was just like going back home. It’s always thrilling to play Captain Jack. He’s a character very close to my heart who changed my life, and to know the fans love him as much as I do makes his return even sweeter. I hope everyone enjoys Jack’s Heroic adventure with Thirteen.”

The last Doctor we saw Captain Jack interact with was David Tennant, so it will be fascinating to see the famously-horny adventurer interact with Jody Whittaker's new Doctor (they didn't actually meet when he briefly returned last season, though Jack wasted no time in flirting with Graham). It will also be fascinating to see a staple character of Doctor Who's past reappear in the current, decidedly pretty different iteration of the series under showrunner Chris Chibnall. Aside from Billie Piper's Rose Tyler returning (sort of) in the 50th anniversary special The Day of the Doctor, this will be the first time that a side-character created for former-showrunner Russell T. Davies' era of the modern series has made a comeback. For all these reasons and more (to say nothing of the particularly-precarious situation that the end of season 12 left The Doctor in), this will absolutely be a special to look forward to.

- Christopher S. Jordan

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