Companion Tropes 21
DOCTOR: Rose, you’ve done it. Now stop. Just let go.
ROSE: How can I let go of this? I bring life.
…and the life she brings is to Jack, who has been exterminated by a Dalek. With a gasp he returns to life, and from that point onwards will always return to life.
Everything she did was so human. She brought you back to life but she couldn’t control it. She brought you back forever.
When we next see Jack in Doctor Who, after his first season of Torchwood, the Doctor runs away from him. That might seem odd initially. We know that the Doctor rarely goes back to revisit old friends, and in School Reunion he gives his reasons for that, but there is a difference between not making the effort to go back and see somebody, and deliberate avoidance, locking an old friend out of the TARDIS. When Jack, persistent as ever, clings on to the outside of the TARDIS, it tries to shake him off, running away just like the Doctor, and it runs all the way to the end of the universe. We are also used to the TARDIS having opinions about a companion, but there are always reasons for that, and this is an extreme reaction to a returning former crew member of the ship. So what’s going on there? Both the TARDIS and the Doctor are instinctively reacting to the same thing: Jack is an abomination, in humanoid form.
Last thing I remember, back when I was mortal, I was facing three Daleks. Death by extermination. And then I came back to life.
These crop up a lot in sci-fi and more often fantasy fiction, film and television, and they take various forms. They are creatures who do not fit the laws of nature in some way. In fantasy they will be magical, or superpowered. In sci-fi it’s a simple formula: magic + technobabble. They are often created somehow, either by their own actions or by somebody else, and Jack falls into the latter category, created by Rose in the guise of the Bad Wolf, herself an abomination of sorts. They will always be a little bit wrong somehow. Quite often that is something visible to the viewer, and can go either way: a bit too perfect, or physically twisted. As far as Jack is concerned, his wrongness is invisible to the viewer, apart from the lack of much in the way of an aging process, but his wrongness can be sensed by the Doctor and the TARDIS, causing both to run from him.
JACK: I’m the man who can never die. And all that time you knew.
DOCTOR: That’s why I left you behind. It’s not easy even just looking at you, Jack, because you’re wrong.
DOCTOR: You are. I can’t help it. I’m a Time Lord. It’s instinct. It’s in my guts. You’re a fixed point in time and space. You’re a fact. That’s never meant to happen. Even the Tardis reacted against you, tried to shake you off. Flew all the way to the end of the universe just to get rid of you.
I’m not really crossing over into the realms of the spinoffs too much with these articles, but it’s worth picking up one point, from Children of Earth. Jack’s immortality is something that clearly changes him as a person, and we see that impact with Ashildr as well. The decision Jack makes regarding his grandson is one that most people could not make, and perhaps his endless existence, coupled with the loss that inevitably involves, has started to make him cold.
Jack of course is not the only abomination in Doctor Who. The Doctor himself, who has gone beyond the life cycle of a Time Lord and might now be functionally immortal, is arguably wrong, as is the Master, and that is particularly obvious in episodes such as The Deadly Assassin, the Movie and The End of Time, which really play on his abomination characteristics. As I mentioned above, Rose in the guise of the Bad Wolf is a human with impossible powers, as is the Doctor-Donna. Clara’s wrongness leads to the Doctor forming an obsession with solving the riddle of her existence, and Ashildr is an abomination created by the Doctor himself. At the end of the universe, she still looks exactly the same.
If we take the hint from Last of the Time Lords, the same cannot be said to be true of Jack. It is left open to interpretation, but only open to interpretation in that we can just about stick our fingers in our ears and go “la la la” if we want to.
Used to be a poster boy when I was a kid living on the Boeshane Peninsula. Tiny little place. I was the first one ever to be signed up for the Time Agency. They were so proud of me. The Face of Boe, they called me.
So Jack almost certainly ends up as Boe, who has lived for billions of years. Not only has he lived for an impossibly long time, but he is an enigma, who has knowledge beyond belief, including a message for the Doctor. He is the closest Doctor Who ever gets to a godlike being: almost omniscient, almost immortal. He’s an abomination and he’s wrong, but ultimately at the end of his life he’s still the Doctor’s old friend. RP