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The Surprising Origin Of Doctor Who's Jack Harkness And The Face Of Boe

If you're a fan of Doctor Whoyou've quite likely heard about the connection between two of the modern run's iconic characters — immortal time traveler Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman) and the Face of Boe, an ancient and powerful head in a jar, who is said to be a member of the mysterious Boekind. While the two characters couldn't be more physically different, the show has actually all but confirmed that they might be the same person. In the series 3 finale of the show's modern run, "Last of the Time Lords," Captain Jack makes an offhand mention that he's the first person from the Boeshane Peninsula to join an organization called the Time Agency, and because of this, his fellow agents liked to call him ... the Face of Boe.   

The connection between Captain Jack and the Face of Boe is a mystery that has bothered Doctor Who fans for years, not least because Russell T. Davies, the showrunner who introduced the possibility, has been happy to tease it. During one live tweet session in 2020, he even explained how the drastic physical change from a handsome adventurer to a giant alien head could happen. "So... why does Captain Jack looks like that after 5 billion years?" Davies wrote. "The question is, why not? Have you seen how your ears keep growing, your nose? After FIVE BILLION YEARS, extraordinary changes must happen. And here they are!"

Still, while it's easy to assume that the connection between the two characters is fully canon because it came up in an episode of the show, things are actually a bit more complicated. Let's take a look at the surprising origin of Doctor Who's Jack Harkness and the Face of Boe.

The connection between Jack and the Face of Boe was never supposed to be canon

As Davies has told the New Jersey Star Ledger, he originally designed the "Jack is Boe" tease as a fun, running joke that would come up on occasion, simply because both characters are extremely long-lived. "It wasn't exactly planned," Davies says about Captain Jack's wham line in the season 3 finale. "I did spend a long time thinking about Jack's immortality, and one day it occurred to me there was another immortal character on the show. It made me laugh ... I have my own personal theories, but the moment it became very true or very false, the joke dies."

Alas, other people involved with the show didn't share Davies' love for comical ambiguity, and so, the joke died. "Last of the Time Lords" came out in 2007, and in its episode commentary, executive producer Julie Gardner flat out told the showrunner to "stop back-pedaling" about the Boe-Jack connection. In 2008, she happily confirmed that the two characters are one and the same at San Diego Comic-Con. David Tennant (who played the Doctor in the episode) and Barrowman have also gone on record embracing the theory. Oh, and the show's production team sneakily made Boe call the Doctor an "old friend" in post-production for another season 3 episode, "Gridlock," as if to further imply that the two know each other from way back. 

So, regardless of Davies' original intentions, it sure looks like people are determined to present the "Jack Harkness is the Face of Boe" thing as canon.