Jayne Nelson exhumes some sci-fi and fantasy TV characters who rose from the grave
One of the most brilliant things about sci-fi and fantasy is the way you can break the rules and nobody bats an eyelid. Take dying, for instance – characters in sci-fi telly cark it all the time, but often as not, they’re right as rain a few minutes later.
We take a look at some of sci-fi’s most memorable (or not!) back-from-the-dead jawdroppers...
10 The Torchwood Crew
Death’s just another day at the office for most of these guys, who not only have a boss who can pop his clogs and then come back tap-dancing in them half an hour later (and we bet he would, too, given John Barrowman’s unholy love of light entertainment..) but who also regularly use a special alien glove that can bring the dead back to life in the blink of an eye.
Of course, it’s not all fun’n’games. We’re still baffled that Captain Jack didn’t have severe post-traumatic stress disorder after spending hundreds upon hundreds of years buried underground – imagine how many times he must have woken up, suffocated and then woken up again. Nasty. And Owen wandering around like a zombie was disconcerting, to say the least – coming back from the dead a little different is everybody’s Stephen King-style nightmare. But hey, at least he did. For a bit.
Wonderfully, given the show’s fondness for resurrection, it’s a particularly Torchwood -like twist that the one character most beloved of all, dear wee Ianto Jones and his amazing performing trembling chin, is deader than a totally-deaded doornail. The temptation to bring him back must have been strong, but by keeping him dead he’s more powerful than he ever was in life. (And we don’t mean that in an Obi-Wan kind of way; just that he’ll live on in our memories, whereas a resurrection would cheapen his death.)
9 Daniel Jackson
As any Stargate SG-1 fan knows, nobody on the show died quite as many times as Michael Shanks’ Daniel Jackson – hell, he even died in the original movie, too, back when he was played by James Spader. Whether being shot by evil Goa’uld or succumbing to radiation poisoning, Jackson had an uncanny habit of shuffling off this mortal coil and then returning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as though nothing had happened.
It became such a running joke on the series that eventually the writers made a point of mocking his many deaths and rebirths, in the form of this rant from Colonel O’Neill after Jackson’s latest apparent demise (included at the end of the clip-fest above, if you’d rather watch Richard Dean Anderson deliver it in person):
“All we know for sure is that he’s missing. Forget it! I’m not falling for it this time! How many times have you thought he was gone? And then he shows up, in one form or another. I’m sorry, but we’re not having a memorial service for someone who is not dead. You hear that? I’M NOT BUYING IT! He’s just waiting for us to say a bunch of nice things about him. Next thing you know, he’ll come waltzing through that door!”
And he was right, you know. Not dead.
8 Lex Luthor
You can’t have Superman without Lex Luthor, can you? They’re like Tom and Jerry – they can function independently, but where’s the fun in that? You want to see them beating the crap out of each other, with or without interference from mousetraps and/or a housekeeper who shrieks a lot and jumps on a chair.
Which is why, when Michael Rosenbaum made the decision to leave Smallville after season seven, we all knew he’d come back. It would take more than being blown to pieces in an explosion to keep a good Luthor down, and sure enough, up he popped in the series finale the other day, looking just as cool, calm and clean-domed as ever.
He wasn’t a zombie: being Lex, he’d had the foresight to clone himself before the final kablooie, and after some Horcrux-style assembling by his loved ones he finally returned to embark upon his grand plan of taking over the world. It’s a shame his long-awaited showdown with Clark consisted of nothing more than a short conversation and some glaring, though. What a swizz.
Quite a rare kind of resurrection, this: it’s not often that a character will die on one show, only to turn up on another series afterwards. That’s precisely what happened to James Marsters’ almost embarrassingly popular Spike when Buffy hit the end of the road. One minute he was Sunnydale’s finest vampire; the next he was sharing screen time with Los Angeles’ broodiest vampire and his cronies in the offices of Wolfram & Hart on Angel . As far as afterlifes go, we’d say he landed on his feet, even if he couldn’t touch anyone or anything for a fair while, being a ghost ’n’ all.
What’s a bit sad about this particular back-from-the-dead tale is that Spike was given a wonderfully emotional and hugely redemptive death that helped to save the world, thus bringing his character arc to a massively satisfying resolution. But because viewers already knew he was going to be a regular on Angel ’s next season, his death was robbed of much of its poignancy – it wasn’t a death, just a TTFN. Magical reanimating amulets have a lot to answer for...
6 Agent Mulder
We must admit that we’re not entirely sure what all of this nonsense was about because, by the time the final episodes aired, The X-Files had become as brain-numbingly confusing and needlessly complicated as those damn self-serve tills in Tesco’s. But what seems to have happened is this: Agent Mulder was kidnapped by aliens (ie David Duchovny left the show); the aliens experimented on him; the aliens dumped his body and buggered off; Mulder was buried; and that was that.
Then some weird alien virus started to reanimate another guy who’d been kidnapped by said aliens and Agent Scully, realising that this could be happening to her passed-on partner, dug him up. Lo and behold, Mulder was alive (if a little mouldy-looking)!
As far as miraculous returns from the dead go, Mulder’s reanimation didn’t really contribute much to the series except make poor Robert Patrick’s Agent Doggett a bit superfluous. Still, at least Mulder was around for the finale – even if the viewers weren’t.
5 Just About Everybody On The Vampire Diaries
For a show that’s essentially a teen relationships drama filled with pretty youngsters pouting prettily and falling in love in pretty ways, there’s a whole lot of distinctly un-pretty maiming and killing on The Vampire Diaries .
The problem is, while some characters do indeed die and don’t come back (although after the latest season finale we’re not sure about that...), far too many others meet their maker and then sit up again without so much as a headache.
The reason? Magic rings. Kill anyone human on this show and chances are the ring on their finger will heal them before you can say “deus ex machina”. Which means a death on VD isn’t really that moving at all – it’s been done so many times it’s about as emotional as watching the character wander off to make a peanut butter sandwich.
Here’s an example if you fancy a look , complete with compulsory Elena/Damon angsting and whiny emo track playing in the background.
As annoying as they are on the show, though, we do wish we had one of those rings. Although as they only work when you die a supernaturally-influenced death, maybe they’d be a waste of time. Also? They’re pig-ugly.
4 Jadzia Dax
One of the Star Trek universe’s most ingenious inventions are the Trill, an alien race who have earned our interest and respect despite the fact their name makes us think of bird food. Basically a Trill is two people: a person and a symbiont, a little worm-thing which lives in their belly. When the host body dies, the symbiont can be neatly slipped into another one, thus prolonging its life and preserving all its memories.
So far, so good – but what if you’re married to a Trill named Jadzia Dax, who is horribly murdered? And what if Jadzia dies, but her symbiont is saved and shoved into another body, thus ensuring that this new woman – Ezri – is both Ezri and Jadzia? She’d remember everything about you but she wouldn’t really be Jadzia... Awkward.
Thus Deep Space Nine introduced Ezri Dax (see the clip above, with the teaser for her first episode given extra “oomph” by Gravelly Voiceover Man). We saw some of Jadzia in her, and she knew everybody on DS9 and all the adventures Dax had been through, but she was entirely new. It was such a clever way of shaking up a character without actually killing the character completely – and the Worf/Dax tension that ensued was delicious .
3 Rory Williams
“I thought I was going to die,” said a character in “The Rebel Flesh” the other day. “Welcome to my world,” replied Rory, signalling that yes, the writers of Doctor Who do know that they kill off Rory every five minutes and yes, it’s becoming a cliché. But it’s not one we mind too much, mainly because it’s always done with such gusto. Except, perhaps, in the pirates episode which was a fairly gusto free zone all round.
The first time Rory died, after being shot and falling through a crack in time (as you do), his own girlfriend didn’t even notice. Thankfully, Amy remembered him in the end and was so delighted to get him back that they walked down the aisle without anyone mentioning that awkward, “I became an Auton and shot you” thing.
Recently on the show, Rory has been shot by FBI agents (or apparently so; it was a bluff), needed some serious (and badly performed) CPR after a stint on a pirate ship and aged to a crumbling skeleton in the time it took Amy to walk round a corner (though that may have just been an illusion). Lord knows what will happen to him next. Rory seems to be going for some kind of record here, but at least he keeps coming back, so it’s not all bad...
2 Buffy Summers
When you have a show named after you and you die at the end of a season, it’s a fair bet that you’ll be coming back after you’ve had a nice summer break. What keeps fans’ attention, however, is the manner of your return – and, after hurling herself to her death at the end of the show’s fifth year, Buffy’s comeback didn’t disappoint*.
A woman who made a career out of sitting in graveyards waiting for the dead to crawl out of their coffins got to do so herself in “Bargaining”, the two-part episode at the start of season six. How’s that for irony? It was ghoulishly done, too: there can’t be many people who didn’t shudder at the thought of waking up six feet under and having to claw your way up to daylight, and let’s not even mention the horrors the morticians had performed on her hair and makeup before burial, too.
Buffy’s subsequent confused wanderings around Sunnydale were chilling and horrible to watch: this wasn’t a nice, clean resurrection full of hugs and flowers, but a reawakening that Buffy looked as though she wasn’t too happy about.
Later on, of course, we discovered that she’d actually been yanked out of Heaven by Willow’s spell, and that living on Earth again was like Hell. Ouch, our hearts . Sometimes, the dead should just stay dead. Although then we wouldn’t have had the musical episode, so... whatevs.
* Technically, this wasn’t the first time she died, but her drowning at the hands of The Master at the end of the first season was more a near-death experience, to be honest.
1 The Winchesters
Let’s face it, the Winchester family are the undisputed kings of coming back from the dead. You just can’t argue with statistics: in one episode alone, Dean Winchester died over a hundred times after being stuck in a deadly time loop (favourite methods of death: being mauled by a golden retriever and choking on a sausage).
The brothers have not only visited Heaven several times over (though they’re only allowed to remember their latest trip there, seeing as that was a fact-finding mission) but they’ve also spent years in Hell, done deals with demons to reanimate each other and actually killed themselves to wander around as ghosts or even talk to Death. They’ve messed with the laws of the universe so much that the universe, quite rightly, is a bit pissed off about it, and Death is starting to get rather narked.
Probably the best resurrection we’ve ever seen on the show came at the start of season four when Dean fought his way out of his own grave , but hey, we’re sure there will be more Winchesters-back-from-death adventures before we know it. Seriously, these guys just won’t stay dead.