BLOGBUSTERS Reversible Deaths
Death, when not played by William Sadler or a perky goth lady, is a bummer. It’s also a constant. Our favourite characters die (right, JOSS?), the worst things happen to the best people and we love to hate it. Right now if you went to tumblr and looked at the right hashtags you’d see rafts of people simultaneously complaining about the imminent de-Ponding of Doctor Who but also saying how much they’re looking forward to it. Death comes to us all, but genre fans run at it as a shortcut to emotion, catharsis and closure.
But what if death was a revolving door? What if you could bring someone back? Who and why? Join us as we peel back the veil, raise the cage high and scream ‘Liiiiiiiiivvvvvveeeeeee!’ in the middle of a lightning storm as the organ music crashes and we ask…
If you could reverse one death in all of genre fiction, who would it be?
Troo Topham I’m unhappy with the ending Marcus Cole received in Babylon 5. While I would have accepted it if Ivanova had bothered sticking around for season five, thus giving his sacrifice meaning, she didn’t. I’d reverse Cole’s “death” (sure, Ivanova requested he go into stasis, but really, that’s hardly going to save him). JMS’s additional “ending” from Amazing Stories just makes an imperfect resolution even worse by throwing in dubious moral quandary in exchange for pastiche happy ending. Don’t get me wrong, I think Marcus’ sacrifice would have been perfect if he’d been allowed to die, and if it had meant anything. But with Claudia Christian’s contract quibbles and Ivanova’s subsequent non-appearance due to OOC concerns, Marcus’ sacrifice just falls flat in the storyline, failing to achieve any dramatic purpose.
Narin Bahar Wash in Serenity. I get that the Whedonverse is all about the death but to dispatch him immediately after the demise of Shepherd Book is the worst kind of writing evil. I get why it works in cinematic terms – I remember sitting in the cinema watching the final third of the film suddenly terrified everyone was going to die, that no-one was safe at all now. But just for lovely, loyal, stoic Zoe I think I’d have Wash back.
Will Salmon ADRIC!
No, of course not. Well, I was very sad about Tara’s death in Buffy (mainly because I fancy Amber Benson – seriously Amber, come to me…), but I wouldn’t want to reverse it, because it was such a powerful moment.
The one that rankles with me is Nina on Being Human. Admittedly partly because I fancy Sinead Keenan (seriously SK, come to me…), but mainly because she was a brilliant character and a vital part of the show. Killing her off between seasons, without a final scene, was really unsatisfying. Obviously I’m not privvy to the reasons for Keenan’s departure from the show, but it was a real shame to see her just vanish from the screen like that.
Laura McConnell: Oh, this is tricky. See, many of the characters on my list have been resurrected in some way already. Examples are Darth Maul (who returned in The Clone Wars), who makes the cut because he was so under-utilized in The Phantom Menace that it’s a crime not to have more of him; Boba Fett (who returned in the Extended Universe), who is included just because he’s made of cool; and Enterprise’s Trip Tucker (who came back in The Good That Men Do and its sequels) who would be my number one choice overall just because I adore him if not for the little fact that he’s already back as far as I’m concerned. The same thing applies to Carson Beckett, victim of the Stargate physician curse – but only for a while.
So that leaves me with far fewer choices. Janet Fraiser of Stargate fame is most certainly very dead, and I miss that character greatly, but I think my official choice will go in another direction. I’m picking The Lone Gunmen. Why? Because they died a completely stupid death and deserve better. Also, they were funny! They added more to the The X-Files than can be measured, with their quirky comic relief and paranormal paranoia, and I love them dearly. So, when all is said and done, even Nymphadora Tonks can’t compare to that trio of ragtag conspiracy theorists. I’m saying The Lone Gunmen. Someone pass the DVD of “Three Of A Kind.”
Matt Risley: Death in sci-fi is a notoriously fickle thing – in comics, TV and movies, even the most traumatising of deaths can be reversed (Jean Grey, Ripley, erm…. Dirty Den), so to think of a death that I’d willingly want reversed makes me think it’d have to be one that’s as permanent as they come.
So – SPOILER ALERT – my one-time Get Out Of Death card would have to go to Y: The Last Man‘s Agent 355. After 58 issues of protecting leading man Yorick no matter the personal cost, it looked like – with just two issues left – Brian K Vaughan was finally giving the two the happy ending they truly deserved after battling against killer plagues, genocidal amazons and Israeli commandos.
But just as they declared their affections for each other, a solitary sniper bullet to the head killed Agent 355, and Yorick’s lasting chance at happiness for good. That in itself was heartbreaking; what truly upset, though, was Vaughan’s bleak but beautifully told final issue, charting Yorick’s remaining days. As his nearest and dearest all passed away over time, and the sadness drove him into a straight jacket, everything kept coming back to 355.
Sure it was poetic, and sure it tugged on the heart-strings more than any other graphic novel I’ve ever read, but then that strong emotional reaction is the very reason I’d – in a hypothetical, non-narrative-reliant world – bring her back.
Steven Ellis: I don’t think there is one. I can’t think of any character I’ve really cared about who’s death wasn’t really well done and dramatic no matter how much I wanted to reverse it at the time. Undoing such deaths would undo all that followed or be like hitting a big reset button.
I suppose some of my fellow bloggers may mention Wash or Book from Firefly/Serenity. And if the series had continued I may agree, but seeing as they both died in the film and it’s the last we’ll see of that universe I don’t suppose it matters. Their deaths helped to make the threats to the characters real and were needed. Plus we all know what Joss Whedon’s like with characters we love… Remember Jenny Calendar?
Staying with Whedon, although he wasn’t actually responsible for the decision, I’d love to see Agent Coulson in the proposed SHIELD TV show, so maybe I’d be tempted to undo his death. But Coulson’s death in The Avengers was instrumental so undoing it then would spoil the film. As I said in a previous Blogbusters, I’d have some of the TV show set as a SHIELD origins story and find a way to wedge Coulson in scenes set prior to his death, but I don’t think I’d undo it.
The one character I would have brought back is Johnny Alpha from 2000AD’s Strontium Dog, if John Wagner, the character’s creator, hadn’t spent the last 20 years finding ways to tell stories set before the Alpha’s death, which eventually culminated in his finding a very interesting way to actually bring the character back from the dead himself.
Wagner had always regretted Alan Grant’s decision to kill the character back in 1990, along with most of the 2000AD readership. Alpha’s co-creator Carlos Ezquerra was so against the decision to kill Alpha that he refused to draw the story. If Johnny Alpha hadn’t been brought back already. I reckon he’d be the one I bring back.
John Cooper My gut reaction would be to go for Johnny Alpha, the original Strontium Dog from the pages of 2000AD. In the epic “Final Solution” storyline he had a pretty horrible time being tied to a tree and having his mutant eyes pecked out by vultures. It was a ballsy move by the writers and I recall being disturbed by the beautiful artwork of Colin MacNeil. There was a fan backlash and I recall one particular letter by a fan who’d had a really crap week, sought his weekly fix of thrill power to cheer him up and angrily boycotted the comic altogether. Saying all this, in recent years 2000AD did return to the character, which didn’t sit too well with me as it feels like they’ve undermined the power of the original story.
With that in mind then, I’ll opt for another in Commander Shepard from the Mass Effect trilogy of games (spoilers ahead). Another incident where fans went into revolt at the end, and rightly so. Playing that game as that character, I got to make many moral decisions that reflected on the character, and how other races acted towards me/him. Sometime I was nice, sometimes I was selfish git. This was fine until the end of the third game where it didn’t seem to matter how I’d played it, I was going to be a martyr. There was no way out, no more adventures for me: I have to press the big shiny button and die.
It wasn’t just me. There was a bit of a hullabaloo and the nice game designers made a new ending to appease the fans, but I’ve not been able to bring myself to see it yet. I watched my Commander Shepard disintegrate into a million tiny pieces, and I wish I hadn’t.
So there you go, death and all his friends can keep most fictional characters but not these ones damn it! Next week we’re taking a different tack. Heroes and heroines do bad things for good reasons but sometimes they go so far. So join us in a week when we name and shame them by answering this question:
Which hero or heroine do you like least? And why?
We’ll see you in seven.
Tags: 2000AD, Babylon 5, Being Human The X-Files, Blogbusters, Doctor Who, Firefly, Mass Effect, Serenity, Star Wars, Stargate, Strontium Dog, The Avengers, Y The Last Man