Is bringing characters back from the dead generally a cheat?

Feel free to mention stories in which it IS and is NOT a cheat, and why.

I say it’s generally a cheat; bringing characters back from the dead generally cheapens the original story, especially if the character died in a heroic sacrifice. Spock should have stayed dead; Jean Grey should have stayed dead on the moon. Even Gandalf should have stayed outside the circles of the world.

But I will name a few exceptions:

  1. Aslan. He’s Jesus, after all. (Though,given the fact that he died and resurrected in both Palestine and Narnia, I wonder how many other worlds he’s gone through this cycle and exactly how he pissed off the Emperor over the Sea to be fated to go through that.)
  2. Buffy Summers–but only because it’s made clear that bringing her back was, in fact, an enormous mistake, both for her personally (they ripped her out of Heaven!) and because it allowed the First Evil the chance to wreck its havok on the world.

But that’s just me. I’m sure some of you have your own opinions.

I agree it can ruin a good story, especially if it’s the hero who gets zombified instead of a villain. When a bad guy comes back from the dead in any way it’s just an annoyance but if the hero comes back then it takes away some of the heroics from his actions since he was never in any real danger to begin with.

Yes, bringing characters back from the dead is usually pretty stupid.

Gandalf never died, so that’s not a good example.

Magnetos death in X-Men # 3 was poignant. He was taken out with Chris Claremont’s retirement. It was a perfect end to Claremont’s reign over the X-Men. I said if they ever brought Magneto back I’d stop reading the X-Men. They brought him back, and I did.

Sherlock Holmes probably should never have been killed off in the first place. It was only in a fit of pique that the author, bored to tears with the character, decided to bump off the Great Detective. Bridges like that should not be burned.

Well, when Gandalf is brought back it always bothers me little, but I’ve rationalized pretty well after all these years.
Otherwise “back from the dead” isn’t a trope used very often except in TV shows (or comic books, fatasy) is it?

Hell, she died twice.

Obviously I was talking about science fiction & fantasy. Comic books are obviously the worst-offending genre, though probably the single most-offending character is Xena, whose series finale went to enormous lengths to say “Okay, she’s really dead now–and this time we mean it!” And even then they’d already established that she’d be reincarnated to canoodle with Gabrielle in time.

(That’s assuming they were lovers, of course. I’m actually in the minority that says that their love was generally a celestial rather than sublunary one.)

Generally yes, I think bringing back a character from the dead is a bad thing. It lowers the stakes. You’re not going to be very concerned about a hero’s fate if the door of heaven is a revolving one, are you?

In some stories–like, say, Order of the Stick–resurrection is understood to be obtainable. But even in those stories, there should be a way to permanently put a character out of commission–or at least make resurrection hard to obtain–because there’s no suspense when death is casual.

Generally, yes, but when you’re dealing with something like company owned comic books, it all depends on how a character died. If someone was bumped off in a single panel because some dork writer wanted to prove how badass and extreme his new pet villain is, I don’t mind the death being undone or ignored because you can’t take meaning away from something that was pointless to begin with.

I just re read my post, and it was really poorly worded. I’m not really that dumb - I know that “back from the dead” obviously only happens in fantasy. Anyway, I don’t think its a good idea, as a rule. It’s a money not art driven choice in long running series (comic book or tv) usually. Remember when Magnum PI miraculously came back to life when Tom Selleck decided he wanted more paychecks?

Actually, no. Despite being of the right generation to do so, I have never seen more than a few minutes of any episode of Magnum PI. I just never got it. Not sure why.

Back from the dead is generally a terrible idea. It cheats the audience – they’ve invested their emotions in finding someone die, and then you bring them back just to make them feel good.

One exception: in the stage version of Nicholas Nickleby, there is a play-within-a-play of Romeon and Juliet where both lovers end up alive. It works simply because it is meant to be a ridiculous pandering to the audience.

One very bad example outside of fantasy/science fiction: Rent.

Wasn’t it three times?

She drowned and threw herself off the tower. What was the third?

Also, as Alaistar Cook explained in the Masterpiece Theater broadcast, (1) this was done a lot to Shakespeare’s plays in Victorian Britain (tragedy is so depressing!) and (2) while Dickens was publishing Nicholas Nickleby in serial form, playwrights were pirating it and adding their own improbably optimistic endings. So it’s kind of an in-joke.

She died in the first season finale by drowning and was non-mystically resurrected by CPR. I don’t really count that one; she was only "dead’ for a few minutes, and it was mostly the first in many installations of “prophecies never mean what they seem to.” And of course she died again in the fifty-season/WB finale. The only other death I can think of would be in “The Wish,” and I’m not sure about that one; I’m only sure that Cordy dies. And I’m willing to give it a pass if so, as it’s clearly an alternate reality story not involving the Buffy we know and tolerate so as to keep Willow around.

  1. While Buffy was brought back the first time by CPR, it was real and called Faith as the next slayer.

  2. Her jump from the tower was also a real death, but no new slayer was called because she already died.

  3. She did die in the Wish, but it was alternate reality Buffy, who was centered in Cleveland…so the Sunnyday Buffy didn’t die.

In the musical, she even sings, “Hey, I’ve died twice!”

Actually it called Kendra, whose death at Drusilla’s hands called Faith.

Anyway, I wasn’t saying it was an unreal death by the rules of Slayer-hood. I meant that it is a different narrative experience to have a character die at the end of a scene and then, after the commercial break, be brought back to life by entirely mundane means. For Buffy and her friends as well as the audience, the first death is only technical; the dive off the tower is the one that has the emotional punch.

Heh, Marvel has had so many characters come back from the dead that I remember a story where someone was begging Dr. Strange to bring someone back to life and was incredulous when the Dr. insisted that it just wasn’t doable.

What, no mention of the Riverworld series yet?

Actually, I don’t know if they ever “solved” the mysteries – the series was so bad by the 3rd book (or was it the 4th) I stopped reading them.