The greatest science fiction heroes live on the edge, skimming the jagged maw of death every day. "Scifi hero" is a high-risk profession, so you shouldn't expect your idols to live forever. But at the very least, you can hope your hero gets a good death - a hero's death - instead of going out like a punk. So it's too bad that some of our most favorite space adventurers have been stuck with lame deaths. Here's our list of the 12 scifi hero deaths that made us feel like instead of our heroes cheating death, death cheated our heroes. With spoilers.
12) Shepherd Book. I almost mentioned Wash here, since his death in Serenity upset me tremendously - but at least Wash's death made sense in context. Wash gets to die heroically, piloting the ship through a crazy dogfight over a scary planet, then gliding a dead ship to a landing (almost) everyone can walk away from. His death is jarring and shocking, and it feels like we get to love him all over again before saying goodbye.
But Shepherd Book on the other hand — he feels like a throwaway character in the movie, and his death is pretty pointless. He's just there to mouth a few words about spirituality and then get wasted. And his death, unlike Wash, is purely there for plot-hammer purposes. He's Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru — he dies so that Mal can realize that there's no way to hide from the Operative any longer, and he's too mad to keep hiding. It's the plot-device death that lets Mal turn to the camera and (pretty much) say "Now it's personal." He's Mal's girlfriend in a refrigerator. Shepherd Book deserved so, so much more than that.
11) Marcus Cole in Babylon 5. He's madly in love with Susan Ivanova, but never gets anywhere with her. Until finally, he sacrificed his life to save hers, using an alien device to transfer all his life energy to hers. Says actor Jason Carter:
"The irony of it all is that I gave my life in order that someone else might live who then left the show!" Carter laughs, referring to Claudia Christian's decision to quit as Ivanova at the of B5's fourth season. "I mean, what was the point about that then? It kind of makes my heroic act a little pointless, I thought."
Carter actually filmed two versions of the story: one where Cole died, and one where he was cryogenically frozen. And later, we found out the frosty version of Cole's fate was the real version, and creator J. Michael Straczynski wrote a story where Cole gets revived and gets to live on a barren planet with a clone of Ivanova. Aww. (Runner up: I nearly put Boone from Earth: The Final Conflict in this slot.)
10) Pantha. Actually, she can serve as a stand-in for every great comics character who's had a throwaway death in a major crossover. It never fails: some character who used to be popular or star in their own book falls from grace, until he/she turns into cannon fodder. All in the name of showing how bad-ass the latest bad-guy is, like Eclipso killing off the Will Payton version of Starman, or Max Lord shooting Blue Beetle in the head. Or Black Goliath randomly dying off in Civil War. But poor old Pantha may be the worst. One of the most loved New Titans characters in the 1990s, she'd fallen into obscurity by the time Infinite Crisis came around. So she randomly gets in the way of Superboy Prime's backhand. He spends a few panels afterwards staring at her rolling head and trying to insist he didn't really mean to do that. Way to prove you're not stupid, Superboy Prime.
(Oh, and another comic-book runner up: I almost threw Superman in here, because his 1992 "death" was really cheap and weird. He and Doomsday just punch each other a whole lot, and then they're both dead. Except that they're not.)
9) Carson Beckett. Actually, there have been so many deaths on Stargate that left us unsatisfied, from Janet to Martouf to Her-ur (who shoulda been a contender!). But at least none of those other characters were killed by an exploding tumor, which apparently is the cutting edge in space terrorism. Watson has a tumor that was due to explode and kill everyone and Beckett insists on removing it instead of putting Watson in isolation. He gets it out in time, but then it blows up and kills Beckett and the bomb-disposal team. And yes, I know Beckett later comes back, but it's his clone or something.
8) The Lone Gunmen. They were cool enough to get their own short-lived spin-off series, but then they died (or possibly faked their deaths) in an episode that didn't even have Mulder and Scully in it. In the episode "Jump The Shark," the Lone Gunmen return to the show after the end of their own spin-off, only to get locked in a room with a virus bomb.
7) Trinity in the Matrix: Revolutions. Mostly, her death is weak because she gets killed and then keeps talking for another ten minutes. (Thanks to Meredith for the suggestion.)
6) Cpl. Hicks in Aliens 3. He's one of the coolest characters in Aliens, stepping up and taking charge after everything goes rotten. He stands up to the slimy Burke and listens to Ripley when she says they have to wipe out the aliens. But what does that get him in the third movie? An off-screen death at the movie's beginning, with just his name on a computer screen to confirm that he died. (Thanks again to Meredith for this one.)
5) Louanne "Kat" Katraine. She was one of my favorite characters on Battlestar Galactica, maybe because she was the only one who ever really called Starbuck on all her shit. So I was bummed when she got turned into a drug addict, and then it turned out she's an imposter who stole the name Louanne Katraine and is involved in running contraband. She may even have helped the Cylons infiltrate human society prior to the attacks. Even though I usually love Jane Espenson's writing, I really didn't like the episode "The Passage," in which Kat suddenly gets a whole new backstory as a smuggler, before being "redeemed" by sacrificing her life in a radiation field. It felt sort of cheap, as if the show was turning one of its coolest characters into a whole different person before disposing of her.
4) Judge Giant. He was one of the coolest characters in the Judge Dredd universe — until he got shot in the back during a riot in the "Block War" storyline. It was a quick, throwaway cheap death for such a cool character. Writer Alan Grant later apologized, according to Wikipedia: "When we wrote the death of Giant, I thought it was a great idea to kill him off in such a casual, natural (for a judge) way. But when the reader outcry came, I was startled and forced to see things from their point of view."
3) Cyclops in X-Men 3. This was a cheap death, except that it ended up being very expensive — it totally cost the movie my interest and suspension of disbelief. I spent about an hour after Cyclops died assuming they'd faked his death for some reason, and expecting him to pop up at a critical moment. And when I finally accepted that Cyclops had died off screen, at the hands of his true love, who had gone batshit after being hit with a plot hammer, I was so incredulous I could barely pay attention to all the waffling and wailing over whether Rogue was going to get Mutant-begone treatment or not. (Did she? I can't even remember.)
2) The Sixth Doctor. When the BBC fired Colin Baker as the star of Doctor Who, they asked him to come back so they could kill him off and regenerate him into a new actor. Not surprisingly, he said no thanks. In that instance, the classy thing would have been to introduce the new Doctor already settled in the role, and pretend the Colin Baker Doctor had died off-screen. (As a bonus, that approach would have allowed you to write out Bonnie Langford's Mel at the same time.) Instead, they put a curly blond wig onto the new Doctor, Sylvester McCoy, and had him pretend to be the old Doctor for long enough to blur his face. And poor old Colin's Doctor died, not saving the universe, but banging his head on the TARDIS console while the Rani was shooting pew-pew lasers at the time machine.
1) Captain Kirk. Actually, I pretty much want to make Captain Kirk numbers one through 10 on this list, since his death in Star Trek: Generations was the gold standard for disappointing ends.
He finally agrees to leave the happy horse-barn paradise to help Captain Picard deal with Malcolm McDowell, who really shouldn't have posed much of a challenge for one Captain, let alone two. Maybe if it was Clockwork Orange Malcolm McDowell (before the treatments) or even Get Crazy Malcolm McDowell. But cranky old Malcolm McDowell? Why why why? McDowell basically beats the crap out of Kirk. It could have been worse. It could have been the original version they shot:
Trek runner up: Trip in the final episode of Enterprise. Why did he have to sacrifice his life when faced with a set of standard-issue thugs? Normally, he would have defeated the low-rent space-crooks with one pinky and some technobabble, but suddenly it becomes a matter of life and death because it's the final episode.
BONUS: I had to add Boba Fett from Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi, becuase as Rickotron and Bonniegrrl pointed out, he totally gets the short end of the lightsaber. He gets built up as this super-cool bounty hunter, and then he just sort of gets knocked into the mouth of the desert beastie. Yuck. And Star Wars runner-up status goes to Mace Windu and all the Jedi who get zapped by Clone Troopers in Revenge Of The Sith.