They Keep Killing Rory: Steven Moffat’s resurrection complex

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With the drop of the new Sherlock trailer last weekend at Comic Con, I was thrilled – everything points towards a thrilling season this winter. However, I found myself faced with a niggle of annoyance and frustration; a niggle I’ve felt many times before when faced with an (otherwise) good piece of TV or film. The trailer is dominated by the ongoing question of ‘Is Moriarty Dead?’, despite it seemingly being given a sort-of answer in this year’s Victorian-themed New Year special, ‘The Abominable Bride’. Once again, another character rising from the grave at the hands of chief resurrector, Steven Moffat; a man who just can’t leave the bodies of his characters in their graves.

Steven Moffat is undeniably a spectacular writer, but I, alongside many other fans, have big issues about his abilities as a ‘showrunner’. He is the main power responsible for constructing a cohesive story and overall arc for the whole show, individual seasons, and the characters within them. Moffat is a very intelligent man, but his mind launches through narratives at a thousand miles per hour which leaves fans struggling to keep up with the latest ‘ingenious’ confusing twist. And usually, this twist involves resurrecting character upon character.

The many deaths of Rory Williams. [Image via doctorwhotv.com]

The many deaths of Rory Williams. [Image via doctorwhotv.com]

Firstly, to the man this article is named after: Rory Williams. Rory (Arthur Darvill) is a character created in Moffat’s first series at the helm of cult British sci-fi show Doctor Who, introduced as the neglected and ‘boring’ suburban fiance of exciting, charismatic, sexy new companion Amy Pond (Karen Gillan). In only his fifth episode in the show, Rory is shot dead by a Silurian in the closing moments of an episode. His death is used to make Amy realise how much she did love her boyfriend, and learn to appreciate him when, four episodes later he returned from the dead in a Moffat-typical timey wimey twist. It also allowed Rory to develop as a character into more of the traditional brave hero, and for Amy to value his down-to-earth qualities (quite literally, compared to Matt Smith’s alien Doctor).

The only thing was: all those lessons were soon forgotten, only to be learnt again in pretty much the same way. Seemingly at a loss for how to keep Rory and Amy’s arc going, Moffat put them back in the same predicament time upon time. Rory’s many deaths even became a running gag both with fans and within the show itself – in his and Amy’s final episode, he dies three times in about fifteen minutes, but still ends up (sort of) alive. Every time the same; Amy is devastated, Amy realises she doesn’t want to live without him, Amy does whatever is necessary to get her husband back. Though this does show the strength their love holds, it completely removes the danger element for fans; they don’t fear that one of their favourite characters will meet their maker, so life-and-death situations carry little weight, and the whole thing gets old real quick.

The death of Moriarty. [Image via the Daily Mail]

The death of Moriarty. [Image via the Daily Mail]

I might even be able to forgive Moffat if it was just a Rory-specific thing. But it’s not. Obviously at a loss at how to construct new, inventive storylines for companions, he does the same thing with Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman), who directly succeeds Rory and Amy in the TARDIS. Clara’s introduction is as the mystery girl that the Doctor keeps meeting, who then keeps dying. “It’s just sci-fi!” I hear Moffat fans cry. Ok, ok, I get that; but my biggest issue came with Clara’s concluding story, at the end of Season 9. Two episodes from the end of the season, unannounced, Clara was tragically killed off in absolutely heartbreaking scenes, which gave Coleman a chance to act her socks off. ‘Face the Raven’ became one of my favourite Doctor Who episodes of all time, and it seemed to be the perfect exit.

Until, two episodes later, for the actual finale, the Doctor (now Peter Capaldi) brought her back to life. Then we had endure another exit episode for her, with the Doctor ‘forgetting’ her in a twist that was basically a rehash of Donna Noble’s exit back in 2008. Clara vowed she would get back to the time and space of her death ‘eventually’, as she bizarrely decided to fly around the universe in a diner-shaped TARDIS with Game of Thrones‘ Arya Stark. One brilliant death ruined because of more over-complicated timey-wimey mess created by Steven Moffat’s 100-mile-per-hour brain.

A huge part of any kind of love, whether it be for a real person, or for a fictional character, is the fear of losing them. Only when you are faced with what you can lose, you realise what you have. So placing characters in life-or-death situations are hugely important plot devices across all genres. Just look at soap operas; their entire format hangs off it! Whodunnits and grief propel EastEnders, Coronation Street and the other big soaps on a day to day basis. But remove the finality of death, and it loses all its impact: it becomes a redundant plot device. You lose all the shock and impact of scenes such as Moriarty’s suicide in ‘The Reichenbach Fall’, Rory’s (many) sacrifices for Amy, or Clara’s death at the hands of the Raven. And, fyi, Rory died and came back a grand total of – wait for it – 8 times, in two and a half seasons of Doctor Who. Come on Moffat – even Jesus was only resurrected once.

See a less extreme reaction to Moffat killing and bringing back Rory Williams than mine below.

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Editor of The Edge. Previously Culture Editor (2016-17). Sporadic writer for the Wessex Scene, DJ on Surge, known photobomber of SUSUtv's videos. Bad habits include Netflix, not doing my work and drinking too much tea.

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