Can I make a blog post about Doctor Who? Are people cool with me doing that? If you haven’t seen the series up to the finale, this post probably isn’t for you, unless you have no intention of catching up or don’t mind a spoiler but still want to read about Doctor Who, although this will also tie in with Marvel Cinematic Universe. Why? Death scenes, that’s why, tragic ends to character arcs and why that’s not a thing anymore, if Whedon and Moffat are anything to by at least – though regarded as harbingers of death in their work, actually killing characters stone dead forever is not something they’re all that good at and that pisses me off more than it should. Without further ado, let’s begin!
So Doctor Who, my starting point, just closed another series and the big thing we’d been leading up to this whole time was the death of Clara and the Hybrid story arc, which turned out to be a red herring (There was no ‘hybrid’ in the sense of a single warrior being, it was the hybrid of the Doctor and Clara, a duo so damned dangerous they had to be separated or time itself would splinter around them) and we’d known that for a while with Jenna Louise Coleman already landing work elsewhere and Moffat promising a devastating death scene. Personally, long overdue, Clara outstayed her welcome for me and as a character, offered nothing that Moffat female characters don’t already – plucky attitudes, implied fluid sexualities and a fascination with the protagonist that overrides their sense of individuality. Clara died, having failed to cheat death and meeting her end in a big tragic scene with that raven thing and that was that… except it wasn’t. No, because you see Clara died with valuable information in her head so the Time Lords stole her at the precise moment just before she died and she lived on as a preserved memory of herself and the Doctor tries to run away with her so he can wipe her memory of him and dump her on Earth in a normal life, ala Donna Noble. The plan backfires, the Doctor wipes his own memory of Clara and Clara lives on, a fugitive fleeing the wrath of the Time Lords and gallivanting about time and space with the red herring hybrid we’d all thought was going to be a bigger deal than she was, Me (Me is the character name, I’m not referring to myself)
I’m annoyed. I already watched Clara have a big moment of sacrifice when she jumped into the Doctor’s time stream to save him and thus she broke apart into a million other Clara-like characters littered across the life of the Doctor and that, for me, should have been it. The Impossible Girl explained, terrific, a lack lustre character but hey, the arc ties up nicely at the end. Only it doesn’t, the Doctor still has a Clara at his side through thick and thin. Jeez, selfish cow, a big touching sacrifice scene wasn’t enough, you want more? What’s that? You want two tragic death scenes? Well Moffat seems happy to oblige apparently. This is dumb writing, this undermines the emotional investment, I didn’t even blink at Clara’s second death because any heartbreak I had, I’d already spent and then, not only does she die twice, she’s alive again and free to roam time and space in her own TARDIS just so as not to write the character off in case Coleman ever turns up back at Moffat’s door looking for work.
Here’s where I connect to Marvel, who do the exact same thing. Coulson, Stark, Groot, Pepper – all of those characters made big sacrifices and final plays that would have killed them but they survived through asinine loophole nonsense so as not to cut chunks out of their marketable merchandise and so you never have to part with a character you want to save for later. Heaven forbid Coulson die, even though his death was the catalyst that united the Avengers, god no, if he’s dead we can’t make a TV show about him. Groot dies but he survives, Pepper falls to her death but surprise, she has powers and Iron Man goes to sacrifice himself but he’s fine after. Heck, look at Loki (As if I need to tell the internet to look at Tom Hiddleston), he’s died twice too, when he dies for real nobody will believe it, it’s just a sham, he’ll be back, it’s like someone looked at Doctor Who and Dragonball Z and thought the key to timeless cult classics is to have main characters that just don’t die ever.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to tell Whedon and Moffat to go ahead and kill off their cast willy-nilly, death scenes aren’t just shock film filler, that’s what fake out death scenes are. If you have a death scene that doesn’t result in the end of a character, that’s a cop out, that’s an excuse to get that emotional response from your audience without committing to finding a way to advance the stories without those characters. One revival, sure, I’ll forgive it, but two deaths and then suddenly you’re a time traveller/disguised as your dad? That’s just exploitation and a lack of willingness to evolve a story beyond the same five or so faces you know earn you some money. Doctor Who, kill off companions or have them left behind, don’t combine the two – Amy and Rory didn’t die, Clara didn’t die, Moffat seems incapable of killing anything other than my interest in Doctor Who of late. Marvel, have someone important die and stay dead, at least for a little bit – you killed and revived Loki IN THE SAME FILM, there’s no big reveal to that, it’s more just “Haha you thought he was dead but he’s not, aren’t you a silly?”. No, I’m not, I thought you’d actually closed his character development but it seems you have come up with an excuse to keep using Loki as a villain rather than a tragic hero that died to avenge his mother and seek the forgiveness of his brother.
Death scenes are beautifully potent endings to character stories, they allow us to see the last of that character and reflect on who they were and what they meant to us and to the world in which they lived. We saw Loki die, we saw a shitty entitled brat become a self-sacrificing hero with his last breath but then it seemed that was not so, he had always been just a piece of self-serving shit. We saw Clara die, we thought she had been prepared to sacrifice everything for those she loved yet she sacrificed nothing, she never lost, if anything, she gained – a TARDIS all her own and her own little companion. As a writer and as a fan of fiction, I can’t stand to see the powerful emotions brought by death used as just an excuse to shake the snowglobe a little bit and watch people react to the snow inside.