Doctor Who review: The Lives of Captain Jack: Volume Two features a strong mix of stories

With stories ranging from fun and hilarious to dark and gritty, The Lives of Captain Jack: Volume Two features a strong and diverse mix of stories for the Doctor Who and Torchwood character.

Knowing that Torchwood spin-off box set The Sins of Captain John was coming out this month, (a box set that I’m eager to listen to and review,) I decided it was time for me to finally review the second volume of The Lives of Captain Jack. I rather enjoyed the first volume, which gave us glimpses of Jack’s life outside of both Doctor Who and Torchwood. The man has lived an extremely long life, and he’s had a wide variety of adventures, as the first box set proved.

This continues to be true of the second volume. We got such wildly different stories in this one, ranging in both tone and style. The box set begins with a fun romp with the Sixth Doctor, but then we got a dark and gritty story set during World War I, before ending with the exploration of an extremely minor character.

While many box sets set in the world of Doctor Who tend to feature stories with a wide range of style and tone, this is still an extremely distinctive mix. Perhaps what helps is that the stories aren’t consecutive, and take place across different points in Jack’s life, just as volume one did. There’s no arc or even a real theme here, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Like I said, it allows us to have separate and distinctive glimpses of Jack’s long life.

A unique mix

And those glimpses are pretty fantastic. Especially the opening episode, Piece of Mind. I’ll admit, I was extremely skeptical about the idea of Jack meeting the Sixth Doctor. After all, we all know that Six would need to forget about meeting Jack by the end so that Nine doesn’t recognize him in The Empty Child. And yes, the story does end with amnesia.

But when you have a story where Jack pretends to be the Doctor, or even just listen to Jack and the Sixth Doctor talk to each other, then the amnesia ending is definitely worth it. Piece of Mind was so much fun to listen to from start to finish, thanks to the performances of John Barrowman and Colin Baker, as well as the writing of James Goss.

As previously mentioned, the next episode is a lot darker. In fact, in some ways, What Have I Done? is probably the darkest episode in The Lives of Captain Jack so far. It’s also a rather effective two-hander, focusing mostly on Jack and another soldier trying to survive. It’s not the easiest of episodes to listen to, due to its grim nature. But it is a strong piece of drama by Guy Adams.

The final episode of the box set is noticeably lighter. Driving Miss Wells is an interesting exploration of a rather minor character from Russell T Davies’s era as showrunner on Doctor Who: American newsreader Trinity Wells. Focusing on both what she did next and how the events of the TV series impacted her life is interesting to find out.

There are some box sets that are easy to binge listen to, and there are others where it’s better to just enjoy them one episode at a time. The Lives of Captain Jack: Volume Two is definitely an example of the latter. All the episodes are decent stories in their own right, but they’re so different and unconnected that it’s best to listen to them and enjoy them separately. A strong and extremely diverse mix of stories.

Have you listened to either box set of The Lives of Captain Jack? Do you like the idea of the series? What gaps in Jack’s life would you like to see explored? Let us know in the comments below.