We know Jack Harkness cannot die. But does he "need" to eat?

Or does anything bad happen to him if he doesn't eat? Does he feel hungry or weak? Would he eventually die of starvation, to be immediately resurrected again, as when he is shot in the head, for instance?

  • 2
    He certainly knows how to drink.
    – BBlake
    Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 13:17

4 Answers 4


No, but he'll have to die and return to life if he doesn't.

From Doctor Who series 3 episode 10, Utopia (not Torchwood, but same character and same universe):

DOCTOR [behind door]: When did you first realise?
JACK: Earth, 1892. Got in a fight in Ellis Island. A man shot me through the heart. Then I woke up. Thought it was kind of strange. But then it never stopped. Fell off a cliff, trampled by horses, World War One, World War Two, poison, starvation, a stray javelin. In the end, I got the message. I'm the man who can never die. And all that time you knew.

Jack seems to be listing ways in which he's actually died and then woken up. Starvation appears on the list, so we can assume that when he doesn't eat for long enough, his body dies and then comes back to life, as we saw it do a couple of times in this very episode.


NO, he does not NEED to eat. He CAN simply die and resurrect.

However, the mechanics for that state do not explain whether he suffers, starves to death over time and dies or whether he is returned to his state of temporal grace, fit and able to starve to death over a period of thirty days, again.

What we have observed

  • Jack Harkness cannot die. Or perhaps we should redefine this as "he cannot stay dead". Any condition that renders him dead is invalidated and he returns to life. Starving to death certainly qualifies. His condition is due to an improper use of the Temporal Vortex as applied by Rose Tyler.

  • Jack has been shown to eat. He appears to relish it, in fact. Despite his "temporal immortality" he appears to need to live as a normal human in all other ways. He has not been shown to be invulnerable to environmental conditions, he has been shown to get tired and become fatigued. So it stands to reason he would get hungry and potentially die from starvation.

  • It would be safe to assume Captain Jack Harkness needs to eat to continue living. Without food he will certainly expire, however, the mechanics which describe his "immortality" are tenuously described, at best.

Dying is Easy

We have watched Jack Harkness die in any number of exotic ways but we have never seen him starve to death. Curious. Why not? Can he starve to death, what would it look like? More importantly what does his resurrection look like?

During one of the most terrible scenes, the good captain is encased in concrete to prevent his escape. This means he is denied air, water, and food. When he is rescued, he appears none the worse for the wear, physically. But such an imprisonment did not allow him to starve...

  • We are never allowed to see him return from his emaciated body to his robust vigorous self.

  • But we have seen him tortured and flesh stripped from his body, only to watch it reverse and be restored back to his soon-to-be-living form.

Since the mechanic for his dying and resurrection are unclear:

  • it is not known whether he is returning to a singular spot in time (pre-starvation)

  • or whether he is being resurrected in his starved state only to die again possibly in minutes.

  • Does this mean he starves to death again in a few hours or will he return and reset to a point where he is physically robust and then die in the amount of time he would have if he started healthy and then found himself without food or water?

  • Realize the human longevity without air food or water is: three to five minutes without air, without water he would last about three to five days, without food perhaps twenty to thirty days, assuming water was available in sufficient supply.

  • Our current experience says he returns to life, UNDAMAGED, indicating a possible return to a previous temporal state. But no matter his condition, he will resurrect, starved or not, and likely continue until he expires again. Judging from his nearly destroyed body event, I tend to go with him returning from a state of temporal grace, no matter how he dies.

Temporal Grace

If we assume he is restored to the state he was in when he died how do we explain:

  • His retention of memories up to and including whatever he knew before he died? If he were physically being restored from a temporal backup, he would have no memories up to the point of his death.

  • It is more likely, any damage which manages to kill him is undone and he is restored to a point just before he died. Since this is more likely, he will return to the state prior to his condition leading to his death.

Without the specific chronal mechanic for his resurrection, WE CANNOT KNOW FOR CERTAIN. Neither Torchwood nor Dr. Who have supplied us with sufficient information to make that determination with any degree of accuracy.

  • 1
    Re: #3; we've actually seen this, but (being obscure since I can't spoiler tag a comment) in a different air restricted environment.
    – K-H-W
    Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 3:21
  • 1
    This doesn't really answer the question, except to confirm what the question itself already states: That if he were to die, he would resurrect. Does he suffer from hunger?
    – Flimzy
    Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 6:32
  • @KHW: maybe then use it in a separate answer? Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 7:46
  • 3
    Just a guess... He was made a 'Fixed Point in Time' by Rose; my guess is that no matter what happens, the universe attempts to return him to the exact status he was at after Rose did this; luckily for him, he was hyped up in the middle of a battle, and probably not terribly hungry/tired/etc. That would suggest starvation to not be possible; as he moves away from that state, he is returned there -- what we need to know is how QUICKLY he returns; suffocation is comparatively quick next to starvation, but we need more data, as Thaddeus points out.
    – K-H-W
    Commented Sep 12, 2013 at 13:51
  • 1
    I thought the Doctor described him as being a "fixed point in time" meaning physically he couldn't be affected, and he would always revert to the physical state Rose resurrected him to. So assuming he wasn't hungry then, if he starved to death he would return to a non-starving state once he resurrected.
    – Monty129
    Commented Sep 14, 2013 at 20:00

We know that if his body is completely destroyed (Torchwood Series 3, a bomb explodes within him) his body recovers very slowly and he is (apparently) alive again once his body recovered to a healthy state.

From the point of view of the body starvation is pretty much the same thing: destruction of the body.

Hence we can safely assume that his body would recover to a pre-starvation state.

He wouldn't even be hungry since he also didn't show any symptoms of having exploded to a non-lifethreatening degree after recovering from the bomb within.


As KHW has already pointed out, we've seen Jack being subject to situations which would enduce death by starvation, and whilst he not only doesn't starve his body also doesn't seem to deteriorate.

In S2E12, he is buried for (if memory serves) a few hundred years beneath the city of Cardiff, before it has even formed. When unearthed in the present day he emerges a little rough around the edges, but certainly not malnourished.

My suspicion is that his body has been fixed in time on a cellular level, and he can not experience any form of cell death on that scale.

It's a theory that chokes a little when we come to hair growth, memory etc. but with a sight variation it kinda flies. You can tear him to pieces and expose him to as much radiation as you want, eventually his cells will revert back to the state and formation they were in when Rose Tyler made him a fixed point.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.