In fiction, death is anything but irreversible. Characters that die, can come back to life. In fact, in vampire fiction characters have to die to come back as vampires. Why is death so transient in fiction? Because in real life we can’t bring people back, but under the writer’s microscope men who have been dead for centuries are given voice again. Is it any wonder that writers love to bring people back from the grave? Of course, some deaths receive a really obvious red pen – in the next episode, the next season, the next film or the next book.
Red Pen of Death
What character deaths do I vote the best to be red penned?
In Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Spock died to save the Enterprise. He sacrificed himself and died in a scene that had me bawling for days. I was just a little over ten years old at the time. I had no idea that he would be back. For me, character death was irreversible. So a few years later, here comes The Search for Spock and I could hardly believe it – Spock was alive? But was it really Spock? Thanks to his Vulcan mind-meld with Bones, yep – it was going to be Spock. You know, as it turns out, this red pen death saved the franchise. Without the reversal of fortune, Spock wouldn’t have been around to reboot the franchise!
Ellen Tigh bit it on New Caprica after her husband Saul poisoned her for betraying the resistance. She did it for Saul, she didn’t care about the resistance, just about him. It broke his heart, but he did it anyway. The irony – Ellen was a Cylon and so was Saul. Ellen woke up in a goo bath screaming and shocked as she downloaded, assimilating the information of who she really was and who she’d been. Thankfully, she was much cooler after she became a Cylon than she ever was as the shrill, drunk harpy beforehand. Red penning her death may have been an accident of good fortune, but it was definitely fun storytelling.
Dr. Daniel Jackson
I really don’t know which death to choose for Daniel, because he died – a lot. He died in alternate realities. He died in this reality. Heck, he even died in the movie that started it all. In fact, I think the character summed it up in one scene where he is locked in a prison cell, facing certain execution and someone asks him if he ever stops or gives up. Daniel says, “Not until I’m dead. And sometimes, not even then.” At this point, any Daniel death scene must be written in red pen.
Eve Levine died off screen in Kelley Armstrong’s second novel Stolen She was a very powerful half-demon witch with some rather kick ass magic and a momma bear attitude where daughter Savannah was concerned. She was killed trying to escape with her daughter from the compound that served as their prison. Eve later returned as a spirit – on the other side – helping out Savannah’s foster parents and eventually hooking up with necromancer Jaime Vegas and helping her out. Eve, still dead mind you, soon earned her own novel. Now THAT is a red pen that kept death interesting.
Gandalf the Grey
Gandalf died. He died to save the others, going over the edge with the Balrog, breaking the hearts of millions who mourned him. But when he returned, he was Gandalf the White. So while technically a red pen, he got an upgrade on his way back.
Anna Sheridan died with the crew of the Icarus after they landed on Zha’hadum. Arguably, she didn’t die, die, she was implanted in one of the Shadow vessels as its CPU. She was taken out, woken up and sent off to lure her husband Captain John Sheridan into a trap. Sadly, what made Anna, Anna was dead. But it was definitely creepy to see her come back from the dead and even creepier to see little Laura Ingalls all empty eyed and dark. Shivers!
In the 1970s Superman, Pa Kent was a good man and his death was the catalyst that set Clark on his journey to become Superman. In Smallville, we spent five years with John Schneider as the hard working, earnest farmer who kept his super powered son well grounded. Jonathon was Clark’s stern and firm moral compass. When Lana died shortly after learning Clark’s secret, Clark begged Jor-El to turn back time, to save Lana. But in doing so, he doomed his own father to die. No matter that Jonathon’s death was inevitable, it’s still heart breaking for Martha and Clark, because they were very lost without him. Sadly, it was Lana’s death that got red penned and not Jonathon’s.
What is your favorite red penned death?