There is a joke in the Whovian community: “Steven Moffat walks into a bar and everyone you love dies.” This seems accurate as the man’s body count ranges in the double digits. The same can be said for George R. R. Martin with his Game of Thrones series in which many characters face agonizingly graphic deaths that leave you a sobbing mess on the living room rug.
What is the difference between the deaths in Doctor Who and the deaths in the Game of Thrones series?
When someone dies in Game of Thrones I actually care.
It’s not that I don’t feel a connection with the characters in Doctor Who. My problem is Steven Moffat, as well as many other writers, are guilty of overusing the Lazarus Trope.
The Lazarus Trope occurs when a character— usually one of rapport— dies, but is brought back to life through some manner of plot contrivance.
And it’s not just Doctor Who that is guilty of overusing this trope. If I took a shot for every character in anime or comic book movies/TV shows that have died only to be brought back to life, I would need a stomach pump.
Seriously, it’s a wonder that people in these universes even have funerals anymore. You’d think they would just wait with a beer by the front door for their loved ones to reappear.
The Lazarus Trope is reaching epidemic levels in all forms of media from TV shows, to movies, to books, to video games and it needs to die (pun intended).
It has gotten to the point where I’m no longer bothered if a character’s life ends because I just assume they’re going to return later on. Therefore, all the unrest this character’s demise is supposed to create becomes dead on arrival.
The reason the deaths in Game of Thrones resonate so powerfully with audiences is because we know that once those characters are gone, they’re gone for good. And most of them don’t deserve the fates they were given.
To all you creative types out there, I implore you, don’t bring your characters back to life. Or, if you must, let there be a catch to their survival. Give them some sort of psychological or physiological side effect that will follow them throughout the course of their story. People who go through near-death experiences in reality don’t come out of it unscathed, so neither should those that reside in fictional worlds.
I’m not against the slaying of characters if it’s done for a good reason. But if you’re just going to use it as a cheap sleight of hand, then consider other alternatives.
Death is not a head cold. Don’t treat it like one.
Your audience will probably see it coming anyway.