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Why Doctor Who Fans Are Confused About Jack Harkness' Immortality

The BBC's science fiction flagship Doctor Who has been dealing in gloriously fantastical timey-wimey business since 1963. Though the good Doctor's journey hasn't been without its hiccups and troubles, the Christopher Eccleston-led revival season in 2005 marked the show's return to the absolute top of the genre game, which it hasn't really left since. Doctor Who's knack for being incredibly moving and entertaining while happily embracing its inherently ridiculous nature has proven to be a winning formula, and with the uber-talented Jodie Whitaker as the latest regeneration of the main character, it's hard to see the winning streak ending any time soon.

Of course, on a show like Doctor Who, the lead is only a part of the pulling power. Over the decades, the show has amassed a cast of truly fascinating secondary characters, including the iconic Daleks and Cybermen, as well as the revolving door cast of the Doctor's friends and companions. One of the Time Lord's best-received acquaintances has been the dashing Captain Jack Harkness, a time-traveling, flirtatious con man who spends some time with the Ninth Doctor (Christopher Eccleston), and later joins the Tenth Doctor's (David Tennant) adventures. During his many travels, he gained a spin-off series called Torchwood, and he may or may not be destined to become another famous Doctor Who character — a huge, borderline divine head-in-a-jar known as the Face of Boe. Oh, and it also turns out that he's immortal.   

Yeah, about that immortality. Though its many implications bring an extra layer of nuance and power to Jack's character, some viewers have found it difficult to figure out just how his ability to come back from death and recover from injuries works. Here's why Doctor Who fans are confused about Jack Harkness' immortality. 

Does Jack Harkness have a healing factor or not?

The big question about immortality is how you get to live forever. Torchwood season 2 shows this when Jack uses a resurrection glove to bring Owen Harper (Burn Gorman) back to life. Unfortunately, Owen's "immortality" is a half-life in which his wounds won't heal and he can't eat, sleep, or even breathe. As Owen himself tells Jack, "You get to live forever, I have to die forever." 

Since Jack looks like John Barrowman, it stands to reason that his immortality enables him to heal from injuries pretty well — but can he do it without dying and coming back to life? In a recent Reddit thread, fans tried to figure out how his healing process works. "How developed is Jack's immortality?" one poster asked. "Does he have to die for his wounds to be healed?" 

Some believe that he does. "He hasn't ever displayed healing without death, so he has to die first," wrote one commenter. 

Others point to the fact that Jack's a fixed point in time, a human version of the noted Whoniverse concept of a moment that can't be changed, no matter what. As one Redditor posited, "The universe literally cannot stand it if he's dead, so it revives him, and heals his wounds." 

However, perhaps the best clue about Jack's possible Wolverine-style healing power comes from the man himself. During the Torchwood episode "Miracle Day," everyone else gains immortality while Jack loses his. As one commenter pointed out, the character realizes the situation specifically by noticing the slow healing of his injuries. 

Fans may never completely agree about how Jack Harkness lives forever, but they're certainly glad he does.