Everybody knows that death is a revolving door. Especially in the comics, where everybody dies and comes back. But even in other media, death is seldom final. Here are a dozen characters whose creators did everything in their power to kill them once and for all — and they still came back, by popular demand.

Top image: Sherlock at Reichenbach Falls by Tintreas

Note: This list doesn't include things like the death of Buffy in "The Gift," or Spock in Wrath of Khan, or Malcolm Merlyn at the end of Arrow season one. Basically, if the writers always planned to bring the character back, or left a backdoor open for the character to return, it doesn't count for the purposes of this list. (Here's Nicholas Meyer on how he fought to have Spock stay dead, but the studio insisted on giving him a way to come back to life at the end of TWoK.)


Sherlock Holmes

One of the earliest (and most famous) examples of characters being brought back from a permanent death was Sherlock Holmes. Whom the author had killed off despite a fanatical following. As his biographical website explains:

During a trip to Switzerland, he found the spot where his hero was to come to his end. In The Final Problem, published in December 1893, Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty plunged to their deaths at The Reichenbach Falls. As a result, twenty thousand readers cancelled their subscriptions to The Strand Magazine. Now liberated from his medical career and from a fictional character who oppressed him and overshadowed what he considered his finer work, Conan Doyle immersed himself into even more intensive activity.

While Holmes was brought post-mortem in "The Hounds of Baskerville" Doyle was sure to point out this story occurred before the events at Reichenbach Falls. Though he was later brought back to life a year later in 1903, in the story "The Adventure of an Empty House."


Agent Coulson

Coulson is probably the most recent on this list to be killed off. Many people probably think that he was killed with Agents of SHIELD in mind, or that he would have come back in some capacity in another MCU movie. Nope! If the show hadn't been picked up. Coulson would have been dead for good. According to SHIELD show runners:

"After Agent Coulson was killed in Avengers Assemble," Tancharoen explains, "it was the fans who started a campaign that said 'Coulson Lives' and I do think that plays a part in why we have a show now about SHIELD and about Agent Coulson." Whedon laughs: "The fan energy has spawned a TV show."


Carson Beckett

Another character who came back from being dead dead was Carson Beckett on Stargate: Atlantis. Though he came back as a clone, he still played the same role. One of the biggest reasons for the return of Beckett was again, fan support:

Q: Now that the SCB [Save Carson Beckett] Campaign has generated so much press coverage, and on a national scale in the US, will you hold true to your word and bring back Carson Beckett in S4?

A: I'm a man of my word. The SCB Campaign upheld their end of the bargain, so I'm upholding mine. I am pleased to announce that Carson Beckett will be returning to Atlantis for a two-part story in the back half of season four.


James T. Kirk

Captain Kirk got one of the most bullshit death scenes of all time, in Star Trek: Generations. But he's come back to life — at least, there's an alternate universe version walking around, played by Chris Pine, who's highly unlikely to die the same way the Shatner version did. And alternate-timeline versions totally count as a character being back from the dead.


Ellen Ripley

Ellen Ripley, at the end of the third installment of the Alien series, was last seen plunging into a gigantic furnace while an Alien queen burst from her chest, ensuring the death of both. This was originally going to be the end of Ripley, because the next movie was supposed to feature Newt, Ripley's young companion, as the lead. Original script-writer, Joss Whedon walked an interviewer through his first draft saying:

The history of "Alien: Resurrection" is fairly twisted also because I wrote a 30-page treatment for a different movie. They wanted to do a movie with a clone of Newt [the little girl from "Aliens"] as their heroine. Because I'd done some action movies and I'd done "Buffy," they said, "Well, he can write teenage girls and he can write action, so let's give him a shot." The franchise was pretty much dead, and I wrote the treatment and they said, "This is really exciting. We want to get back in this business. But we want Ripley. So throw this out." That one was probably my favorite; I think it was a better-structured story than the one I ultimately wrote.


Ian Malcolm

Ian Malcolm, it could be argued, wasn't necessarily killed at the end of the novel and source material for Jurassic Park. As the end is told through the point of view of Alan Grant (Ahem, Dr. Alan Grant) who could have misheard, it otherwise seemed like Ian Malcolm was pretty definitively dead. In fact, the Michael Chrichton official website acknowledges the death of Malcolm, saying:

"The Lost World was the only sequel Michael had ever written, and he saw it as a challenge. The title was of course a reference to Arthur Conan Doyle, whose 1912 novel told of explorers visiting a remote plateau to confront dinosaurs. Michael borrowed another trick from Conan Doyle's sequels —he brought a character back to life. Conan Doyle resuscitated Sherlock Holmes, even though he fell to his death at the Reichenbach Falls; Michael brought back Ian Malcolm, a favorite of readers and filmgoers."


Which puts the nail in the coffin as far as Malcom's death in the first novel goes. Luckily for him, and Jeff Goldblum (who portrayed Ian Malcom as the lead in the second Jurassic Park movie), the coffin was shoddily built.


Tasha Yar

Tasha Yar died a pretty casual death. It wasn't until the end of that episode that many fans thought, "Hey, they didn't get around to saving Tasha…" only to have her for real death set in. The reason that the death seemed so nonchalant is that the actor portraying Yar wanted off the show, according to Denise Crosby herself:

I was miserable. I couldn't wait to get off that show. I was dying. This was not an overnight decision. I was grateful to have made that many episodes, but I didn't want to spend the next six years going "Aye, aye, captain," and standing there, in the same uniform, in the same position on the bridge. It just scared the hell out of me that this was what I was going to be doing for the next X-amount of years. I think you have to take your chances.


Yet in the same interview she shows some fondness for her experience on the Star Trek: TNG set when her character, from another timeline, makes a return saying,"My favorite episode was when I died and came back. "Yesterday's Enterprise" was just much more realized writing for this character." In this episode, the Enterprise encounters a temporal phenomenon and we meet a Tasha Yar that never died and is doing quite well aboard the Enterprise. It's a kind of "What-if" style episode that resolves with Yar going back through the rift, to a death that she thinks is more worthy than the one her normal timeline Yar got. This unlikely resurrection also spawned other appearances of Denise Crosby, as Sela, the daughter of Yar and a Romulan who had taken the alternate timeline Yar captive and reproduced.


Daniel Jackson

Michael Shanks left the Stargate SG-1 series because he wasn't happy with the direction his character was going. So the producers wrote him off the show by having him ascend to a higher plain of existence, to be with the Ancients, upon his death. Shanks spoke pretty candidly about his feelings, and the real reason for his characters death in an interview:

"To be honest with you it's one of those things where I don't know what I'm going to be doing," says Michael Shanks as he leaves Stargate SG-1, the show that's brought him to prominence. "It's not like I'm in the kind of situation where I can say I'm quitting Stargate SG-1 to go do this, or I'm leaving to kick-start my film career. It's more a case of having embarked on a course of action so that I can explore the possibilities that are out there."


And just a short while later, this interview happened, in which Shanks says:

Without going into too much detail in terms of the business and creative side of it, I'll just say that the reasons that I left are not the reasons why I'm coming back. They're two separate situations, and I'm walking back into a different situation that's much more acceptable than the one which I left.

The bottom line is, I don't think there was any bad blood between myself and the production people, except in theory. And, once we actually sat down in a room and talked over some things, those things were resolved instantaneously. So, the situation I'm coming back to is a bit of a unique circumstance from the one [in which I left], and that's the main point. Nobody bent over backwards; MGM wasn't over a barrel, nor was I coming back with a cap in hand. It was more like the situation changed and they said, 'hey, what do you think about this?' And I said, 'well, that's better.' And it's as simple as that. For me, on a more personal level, I would say the acceptance of the character and the expression of sentiment towards the character was a factor in me deciding to come back.


So Daniel Jackson comes back from being ascended and lives simply because the actor and the production staff had a meeting.


Charlie Francis

Actor Kirk Acevedo was "let go" from the show Fringe simply for budgetary reasons. So, obviously Charlie had to die. He is killed by a shapeshifter, and unceremoniously dumped in a furnace to hide the evidence. The actor was clearly unhappy about this tweeting: "Well boys and girls they done did yer boy wrong! They fired me off Fringe and I've never been fired in my life!!!!"


Luckily for Acevedo, Fringe was built around two realities where each one has a sometimes only slightly different version of each person, where he was able to come back and portray Charlie Francis again.


Arthur Dent

The main character in Douglas Adam's "The Hitchhiker's Guide" series, gets killed off at the end of the fifth book. Even the author, in retrospect, felt that this was the wrong move saying, "People have said, quite rightly, that Mostly Harmless is a very bleak book. And it was a bleak book. I would love to finish Hitchhiker on a slightly more upbeat note, so five seems to be a wrong kind of number; six is a better kind of number." From which one can obviously assume that a 6th book was planned. Unfortunately Adams died before he could write it. But fortunately Eoin Colfer wrote an official sequel, called …And Another Thing that saved Arthur Dent from his ill-advised fate, by having Zaphod Beeblebrox swoop in and save Arthur.


Peri Brown

The Doctor's companion from 1984-86, Peri was supposed to go out with a bang. In an interview with Nicola Bryant, she discussed having a big finish at the end of her run,

"I was very excited about it because I wanted a really dramatic ending. I didn't want one of those weak 'well, bye then' endings. I was in the studio when Janet Fielding [Tegan] was leaving and filming her final episode. So I watched that and thought that was really rather weak. Of course, I hadn't even started but I was hoping that when I got to leave I would have something more exciting. When [producer] John Nathan Turner said to me 'how do you want to go?' I said 'dramatically, with a bang!'


And she was supposed to. While the Doctor was on trial, Peri had the villain Kiv's brain implanted into her head. Effectively killing Peri. Just as she rises from the surgeon's table, her friend and possibly lover, Yrcanos bust through the door. After realizing what has happened he went nuts and killed everyone in the room screaming, "NOOOOOO!"

But then, during the trial in a different episode, it is revealed that Peri actually lived and is happily married to Yrcanos. So much for a dramatic death for her character.


Share This Story

Get our newsletter