Companion Tropes 10
Even as somebody who has never watched South Park, and never will, I’m still well aware of the most famous catchphrase from that show: “Oh my God, they killed Kenny!” Kenny of course was a character who got killed over and over again, only to pop back up in the next episode alive and well. It’s presumably a commentary on American animated television series, which are distinctive from their generally superior Japanese cousins by the fact that they tend to reset every episode, with the events of one episode rarely impacting on anything in future. A character who is killed off repeatedly is not limited to South Park, and doesn’t even have to be a comedy character in a series that deliberately eschews continuity.
Doctor Who has a few of them, not least the Doctor himself/herself. The Master and Jack are some other good examples. But all of these are fair game for death and resurrection because of one simple fact: they are effectively immortal. A much more tricky kind of Kenny character for a writer to work with is one like Rory, who keeps getting killed despite being a perfectly normal human being, and it all has to make sense without just throwing series continuity out of the window.
I suspect this kind of thing generally happens by accident. A writer uses the same character as a shock fake death and reverses it, and does that twice, only realising afterwards what he has done and that it will be noticed. After that he might as well make it a thing. But let’s give Rory the benefit of the doubt, because if we look closely we can perhaps see a thread woven through his adventures that leads to the most important decision of his life. Maybe there’s a point to the many deaths of Rory Williams.
There have been a lot of deaths, and I can’t promise not to miss something, but let’s try to look at the evidence:
- Amy’s Choice: Rory is killed in a fake universe. Amy and the Doctor commit suicide to join him, so this is not a death that is specific to Rory, but he is the first to go. As a bonus, they all get killed all over again when the TARDIS blows up. Rory Death Count #1 and #2.
- Cold Blood: this it the first big one. Rory is killed and erased from existence. The series moves on without him and to all intents and purposes he’s the third in a line of companions that goes Katarina, Adric, Rory. But there’s more to it than that… Rory Death Count #3.
- The Big Bang: this is a technicality, much like death #2 in Amy’s Choice, because everyone dies when the universe is destroyed, but still… Rory Death Count #4.
- Day of the Moon: an apparent death rather than a genuine killing requiring a parallel universe or something like a lot of the others. Rory is shot dead, or is he? Rory Death Count #5.
- Curse of the Black Spot: Rory drowns, and is revived by life support. When it’s disconnected he dies again. Rory Death Count #6 and #7.
- The Doctor’s Wife: Amy finds Rory dead inside the TARDIS. Rory Death Count #8.
- The Angels Take Manhattan: Rory dies of old age, commits suicide, and dies of old age again. Rory Death Count #8, #9 and #10.
Technically we also have a #11 when all the dead bodies get resurrected as Cybermen and then destroyed in Death in Heaven, but we can safely ignore that as it’s not specific to Rory. So is there a point to all this? I think there might be. The most important death of all is the one in The Angels Take Manhattan, where Rory has to make that leap of faith. He has already died so many times, and every time he came back again. Maybe it’s that fact which gives him the strength of character to make the leap.
RIP RIP RIP RIP RIP RIP RIP RIP RIP RIP RIP Rory Williams. RP