‘Doctor Who’ thing of the day: why Ianto Jones had to die

Torchwood writer John Fay is helping pen the upcoming made-in-America season “The New World” — and he’s got quite a lot to say about it (spoiler free!) at Scyfi Love. But he also helped write the previous season, “Children of Earth,” and he’s got a lot of stuff to say about why it was necessary for Ianto Jones to die therein. Such as:

“Russell wanted that to happen, although they are my words,” he said. “It was absolutely the right thing to do though from the point of view of the story and what it gave to the last episode.

“The strength of Torchwood and Russell’s vision is that you don’t know the heroes are going to survive. That’s been well established now!

“That adds a sense of jeopardy to the show which leaves everyone wondering what will happen next.”

He added Ianto’s death also allowed him to illustrate one of the costs of immortality for Captain Jack.

“In my mind, I was always aware that Jack had gone through this situation many times before, and that was really interesting to me. How do you have a relationship and fall in love with someone when you know – absolutely know – you will be around to see them die?

“That’s a real tragedy that Jack has to carry around with him, as well as a fascinating weight to hang around a character’s shoulders.”

There’s more at Scyfi Love.

I usually feel that one of the drawbacks of TV shows is that you’re pretty much guaranteed that none of the regular characters are in serious danger of being removed from the story. I was terribly sad to see Ianto go, but I agree with Fay that a willingness to kill off regular characters significantly ups the ante… even if it wreaks havoc on an actor’s paycheck.

(Thanks to reader Keith for the link. If you stumble across a cool Doctor Who thing, feel free to email me with a link.)

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Fri, Sep 10, 2010 4:03pm

Sure, but why not the female lead? Or would that be TOO radical? Plus just the season prior they already killed TWO regular cast members. I mean, we already knew it was that type of show. They didn’t need to prove it again so soon.

And if the point was to get across the cost of Jack’s immortality, well Ianto’s death was a bit overkill, pardon the pun, especially since we already sort of got the tragedy of his immortality based on his relationship with his daughter and subsequent death of his grandchild.

Oh, but we should all just get over it. Yeah, ok. I’ve forgiven them, but I will never forget.

Fri, Sep 10, 2010 4:43pm

Indeed, RyanT, and for those of us who weren’t particularly fans of the show it felt like cheap sensationalism. Hey, look what I can do! I can kill off a major character! So there! Cry now!

Contrast if you will the death of Derek Reese in the penultimate episode of The Sarah Connor Chronicles: no huge dramatic foreshadowing, no gushy last words, just bang he’s dead and holy crap he didn’t even get a shot off. That tells me that nobody’s safe.

Fri, Sep 10, 2010 7:35pm

Joss Whedon’s been keeping his fans on edge for years through Buffy and Firefly and Serenity… also, as far as a female character getting killed off: Susie in the first episode, Tosh gets killed off… there were only 2 regular women in the whole series as it is…

Fri, Sep 10, 2010 8:18pm

Awww, Sarah Conner spoilers! I guess it’s my own fault for waiting so long to watch the 2nd season.

Another good Whedon one comes in the final episode of Dollhouse… it’s almost worse than what happens in Serenity. Almost!

Sat, Sep 11, 2010 10:36am

Agreed Roger. Killing off characters shouldn’t a thing writers just do willy nilly. Russel needs to understand that killing people off shouldn’t because “oh hey I can!” There needs to some flipping reason.
Ianto’s death only happen to raise the stakes(like they weren’t high already o_o) and so Jack runs away. Um yeah if I sacrificed my grandson and my daughter forever hates me for it. I probbaly would run away from myself. I don’t need my lover to die to run.
Seriously Russel stop making your characters be big babies when bad things happen to their lovers-no one likes hearing characters going “Ianto!! my only love!!! WAHHHHHHHHHH D:” and or”Rose shlsh you’re not dead but I can never love anything again!!!! I lost my only(mary sue)love!!!!”anymore.

Sat, Sep 11, 2010 11:33am

Don’t get me wrong.. I thought Ianto was cute as a button & droll as hell; I’ve got no problem with his death. I adore Spooks/MI-5 & characters there get killed off regularly. Shit happens. I like the roller coaster of death in my fiction.

Victor Plenty
Victor Plenty
Sat, Sep 11, 2010 12:12pm

A small favor to ask. As one of your low-income readers, one who can’t afford to subscribe to any cable television that carries Doctor Who, and can’t even afford to rent DVDs very often, nor subscribe to NetFlix, in the past I have known that I can safely read most of your site. I just don’t read the Doctor Who articles – but I do take note of them. Believe it or not, I plan to watch those someday, hopefully somewhat soon, and I hope to come back and read your comments about them after doing so.

I know it’s terribly unfashionable to have the shocking temerity to believe that poor people deserve a reasonably spoiler-free viewing experience too. It actually surprises me to learn how much this bothers me, but there it is.

I completely understand wanting to discuss the death of a major character. I’m not going to say this article shouldn’t have been posted at all. I’d only have asked for a different headline. People who have seen it already know who it was that had to die. The headline could have been written to let them know what it was about, without ruining the surprise for future viewers (of whom I very much doubt that I am the only one).

Of course in this case it is already too late. The character in question has a very distinctive name, so there’s no way I can even hope to forget who it is that I can expect to die when I finally get the chance to watch.

But still I hope you will at least consider my request. And I hope your site will always continue to grow and prosper, even if it turns out that I can’t read it for the next few years, until after I’m fully caught up with every important event in the modern Doctor Who universe.

Sat, Sep 11, 2010 4:28pm

For me it’s not so much that a major character died or which character, it’s just the incredibly contrived way it happened. He died because the writers wanted a major character to die. The character did not die for reasons relating to character or plot. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, and by that token the same effect could have been achieved by running him down with a bus.

The writers are better than that. Much better, as has bet demonstrated by the previous two series’. This was the equivalent of “Rocks fall, Ianto dies.” Highly disappointing.

Sat, Sep 11, 2010 6:36pm

I guess I’m one of those viewers who doesn’t feel the ante *needs* to be upped. I watch television for entertainment; part of what makes it enjoyable *is* that knowledge that all the characters I love are probably going to be okay. When I don’t have that reassurance, I don’t enjoy it as much. Especially when it’s done with such regularity as Torchwood and pretty much all of Joss Whedon’s shows do it. People die unexpectedly often enough in real life, I don’t need that in my entertainment too.

I was one of the few viewers who honestly didn’t care much for Ianto. But I’m still probably not going to watch Torchwood S4 because what “Exit Wounds” and “Children of Earth” have taught me is that no one on Torchwood is safe, so why should I bother caring about the characters when they’re all (except Jack) going to be ripped away from me?

Drama can be good and exciting without gratuitous death and bloodshed. IMO, the latter has been so over used lately anyway that it’s lost whatever punch they might want it to have. It becomes less, “OMG, what if someone doesn’t make it?” and more, “Great, who are they going to kill off THIS time?”