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Everybody Lives – The Drama of Death

clara-oswin-oswald-gravestone-snowmen

The death of Doctor Who death? Guest contributor Thomas Capon examines.

‘Everybody lives, Rose. Just this once, everybody lives!’

A ‘fantastic’ end to a ‘fantastic’ episode? The Ninth Doctor, according to Clive in the Series 1 opener Rose, had one constant companion: death. But when the end credits of The Doctor Dances appeared, viewers realised that the Doctor had finally succeeded in leaving this companion behind in this delightful two-parter. Steven Moffat was the writer behind those two episodes and recently I can’t help but wondering if his idea that no-one should ever die has got a bit carried away.

After watching Moffat’s most recent episode, The Snowmen, it was my brother who stated that Moffat had taken all drama out of death and I have to concede that he has a point. We’re all aware of the running joke ‘Rory just died again!’ but as I went over a list of major characters introduced by Moffat, I began to realise how few major characters Moffat has killed off. In fact, I can only think of one character who was killed off and not revived, though I admit that there are a few others who died because of natural causes.

First though let’s just recap on the victims of Moffat’s pen and how they died and survived:

  • Doctor Constantine and everyone else who touched the Empty Child.
    Death: Converted into gas mask zombies
    Revival: Process reversed by nanogenes
  • Madame de Pompadour
    Death: Died prematurely due to an illness
  • Kathy Nightingale
    Death: Died of old age
  • Billy Shipton
    Death: Died of old age
  • River Song
    Death: Sacrificing herself to save the Doctor
    Revival: The Doctor uploading consciousness into the Library’s computer
  • Proper Dave
    Death: Killed by Vashta Nerada
    Revival: CAL uploading consciousness into the Library’s computer
  • Other Dave
    Death: Killed by Vashta Nerada
    Revival: CAL uploading consciousness into the Library’s computer
  • Miss Evangelista
    Death: Killed by Vashta Nerada
    Revival: CAL uploading consciousness into the Library’s computer
  • Anita
    Death: Killed by Vashta Nerada
    Revival: CAL uploading consciousness into the Library’s computer
  • Father Octavian
    Death: Killed by a Weeping Angel
    Revival: Weeping Angel removed from existence by Crack in Time presumably resulting in Octavian’s return?
  • Rory
    Death: Killed by Restac (death planned by Moffat even though it was written by Chibnall)
    Revival: The Doctor rebooting of the universe
    Death 2: Died of old age
  • Amy
    Death: Shot by Auton duplicate of Rory
    Revival: The Pandorica keeps her alive until it gains a sample of her living DNA
    Death 2: Died of old age
  • The Doctor
    Death: Killed by the Impossible Astronaut
    Revival: The Doctor avoiding death using the Teselecta
  • Dorium
    Death: Killed in the Battle of Demon’s Run
    Revival: Dorium’s head survives
  • Strax
    Death: Killed in the Battle of Demon’s Run
    Revival: Unknown at time of writing but he is definitely alive in ‘The Snowmen’ during which the Doctor mentions an old friend reviving him
  • Clara Oswin Oswald
    Death: Converted into a Dalek
    Death 2: Fell from the TARDIS’ cloud
    Revival: The universe makes bargains?

As you can see, there are a few people who do indeed remain dead but their deaths are by a natural cause. No major good character seems to be able to be killed permanently. You can literally behead them and they’ll show back up. Even those who do die of natural causes enjoy a nice long retirement before they die of old age. Madame de Pompadour does stand out a bit as she was a historic figure whose death was a fixed point in time.

Call me morbid if you want, but we have to face the fact that everybody does indeed die. I do feel that my brother is right: Moffat isn’t taking death seriously enough. When a death occurs in Doctor Who, I want it to hurt and I won’t feel this pain if I know that the person will show up again five minutes later and be perfectly fine. This lack of taking death seriously ruins the drama.

lorna-bucket-death

In the hope of bringing home my point, let’s consider the one major character that Moffat has killed off. Eagle-eyed readers will have picked up on the person missing from that list: Lorna Bucket.

Lorna Bucket is one of the could-have-been companions. She joins the list alongside Lynda, Rita, Astrid Peth and others who sacrificed themselves for the Doctor before they had a chance to travel with him. After meeting him in her youth, Lorna wants to find the Doctor so much she leaves her home and joins an army who plan to fight him. And when she finally meets him again, it is for a brief, extremely sad, moment made worse by the fact that the Doctor can’t remember her. This is truly amazing drama.

I sincerely hope that is the last we see of Lorna Bucket because it is on of those stories that truly shows the seriousness of death. I do think that it is a pity that Moffat of late has seemed to feel that he can just use death as a means to create a little drama in a character’s story. Death isn’t a method of creating drama in a story, death is rather the end of a story.

In conclusion, we do need those days where ‘everybody lives”. But those days won’t seem so special if everybody lives all the time. Everybody living isn’t a common feature of the Doctor’s life. Moffat needs to remember this. On a positive note, other writers such as Whithouse have provided us with some touching deaths recently.

Death is the true example of the Doctor’s true enemy. He is unable to truly defeat death. I will leave you with the following words (quoted from the Bible): The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

Step back in time...

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