Nobody Said It Would Be Easy: Dramatic Neccessity, Sexuality and British SF

February 18, 2012 in General

When Torchwood’s Ianto Jones was killed in the course of action during the penultimate episode of its third season, I was shocked, but realised that it might be rationalised through dramatic neccessity.¬† There are people who took exception to Russell T.Davies editorial decision, but¬† in retrospect, I liked what happened in Miracle Day (Torchwood Season 4) to his widowed lover Jack Harkness as a consequence. Ianto was mentioned, Jack seemed lost and still mourning what happened to his lover and it seemed honourable.¬† Significantly, Jack seemed unable to form an enduring relationship with someone else as a result of what had happened in the previous series.

Granted, one of the objections might be that falling pianos always seem to hit same-sex couples. Well, that’s no longer true. In Misfits and Being Human, in their third and fourth series respectively, tragedy also strikes the established straight couples Simon Bellamy and Alisha Bailey on the one hand and George Sands and Nina Pickering on the other.¬† I’m not going to give away any more details, but none of the four characters survives.¬† The scenes involved are truly heartbreaking ones, especially as the end of these relationships is complete.¬† Russell Davies has been trumped, which leaves some interesting questions about how any fifth series of¬† Torchwood is going to be able to trump those respective tragic denouements.¬† Kill off Gwen Cooper and Rhys Williams?

Yes, I hated watching those respective death scenes. They were as brutal and arbitrary as Ianto’s death was in Torchwood: Children of Earth, or Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s “Seeing Red”, in which Willow Rosenberg lost Tara MacLay forever.¬† However, dramatic neccessity and tragedy is like that- the good guys don’t always walk away unscathed, not without sacrifice.¬† For the survivors of those arbitrary and senseless deaths, the result is utter devastation- because there’s a profound difference between survival and living.¬†Mere survival ¬†involves going through the motions but feeling that there is no purpose or meaning to them without the person one values, while living again deals with gradually recovering from that emptiness and beginning to form personal relationships with others once more.

To me, this is what distinguishes British science fiction and fantasy from some of its more lacklustre US counterparts. However, I want to note that¬† Buffy, Babylon 5 and Battlestar Galactica 2.0 are valiant exceptions to this general rule.¬† It was also deeply moving when Delenn said goodbye to John Sheridan in the series finale and Adama lost Laura Roslin just after the colonial fleet found Earth.¬† And Star Trek?¬† I hate to be brutal, but that series lost me when they decided to resurrect Spock in the movie series, quite apart from its homophobic exclusion of lesbian and gay core characters.¬† Perhaps that explained why I felt nothing when Kirk died in Generations and when Data sacrificed his existence in Star Trek: Nemesis. Evidently, death and dramatic integrity mean nothing whatsoever in the Star Trek franchise anymore. Fine. Just don’t expect me to watch it.

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