how dare they kill off Ben Kenobi?

TV Oh for pity's sake.

Over and over and over and over, we've been told by people who like telling us these things that the youff of today (well since the 90s) are far more media literate than ever and can grasp the messages they're receiving far faster and with greater depth than ever before. Steven Johnson wrote a whole book about this. It has charts demonstrating how the average episode of 24 is basically impenetrable to anyone without a young mind capable of cumulative long term memory.

If the finale of Torchwood has proved anything, it's that there is a (hopefully) small minority of people for whom:

(a) None of the above is true
(b) Have no idea about the language of television
(c) Can't tell the difference between a news item and a "review"
(d) Think that sending abuse to one of the writers is a pleasant and clever way to conduct business
(d) Shouldn't be allowed anywhere near proper drama again basically.

Kirsty Walker's article is an attempt to sum up the "fan" reaction to the death of Ianto and how it spilled out into the hate mail directed towards James Moran. It's not a review. It's not about the general public reaction. And yet the comments section spends its time criticising it for not being a review and not mentioning the ratings most horrendously comparing it to The Sun's coverage of the Hillsborough Tragedy.

To stereotypically paraphrase the response in these comments, on Twitter and elsewhere: "How dare you kill Ianto. He was the reason I watch Torchwood and how very dare you make him and Jack into a couple and then kill him off you homophobes and you didn't develop their relationship properly. I'm never watching the programme again. You just keep bringing in these characters and then killing them off after we've started to like them. Why would we want to watch it again. Bastards. Lusers."

Anyone with quarter of a brain can see the flaws in that so I'm not going to bother outlining them too much. It's just fairly shocking that the very people who profess themselves to be fans of the series can't deconstruct it on the most basic of levels. Banging on about the rift being open in Cardiff and the SUV being stolen and then entirely the subtext that ran through the rest of the series about humanity being the real monsters. Remember that tense scene in the board room about how they're going to organise the collection of the children? Boring and too long apparently (according to someone on Twitter).

Also, over and over throughout all three series now, one of the underlying ideas is that if you join Torchwood, it'll kill you. It was the basis for whole episodes and what Jack was talking about in his final speech before being beamed up; so the death of Ianto shouldn't be too much of a surprise. Well it was a surprise because of when it happened (though on-reflection it was forshadowed throughout the episode) and its sudden brutality, but from the first episode on, its been underscored that with the exception of Jack, everybody dies.

How can you and I see that but not MJ who writes: "I don’t care to see a series four that doesn’t have any recognizable characters, or that I can now fear will merely kill off whatever characters are introduced. Why should I warm up to characters who are simply destined to be eliminated pointlessly,or allow myself as a viewer to care about what happens to them?" Well, yes, it's a point, but you've clearly been watching a different programme to me. Plus, you must have a real problem with Star Wars. I mean how dare they kill off Ben Kenobi half way through, I mean what's that about?

I don't remember it being this bad for Wash and Book or Tara ...


  1. Even today, you don't have to travel far to discover the banal, 'Joss is a mysoginist homophobe navel gazer' series of arguments.

    There are always going to be people who can't see beyond their own narrow perception of issues, that are way more complex than they will ever admit.

  2. Anonymous10:37 pm

    Isn't it the point that this reaction comes from a very small group of people? Is there a point discussing it in any general terms? Does it have any relevance to the real world? Even the world of fandom?

    The only point of general interest is that the level of audience access has changed. We have direct access to the artists and the process. We can say, blog, twitter things and we are heard. Which is great. But as with all good things, there is a downside. The problem is not the unreasonable people. The problem is that the artists hadn't had time to think how they operate in this new world. I feel for James Moran. The whole thing was abysmal. But providing that he makes himself available (and more and more, this won't be a matter of choice, it will be required of him, or at least of most creative people), situations like that are unavoidable. Anyone, at any point, can create them. As we are now heard as indivuduals, it only takes one person. So James Moran's real problem is what's his plan when something like that happens.

  3. Anonymous10:43 pm

    You do realise it's not real don't you ?

  4. @theotherbridgeproject

    RTD spoke in an interview a few years back on how he had to essentially ban people from reading discussion boards because they were taking the comments so seriously -- he mentioned Murray Gold and Helen Raynor being particularly hurt.


    I do. They don't.

  5. Anonymous11:04 pm

    I can see it's not good for creative people to read these comments. They can't be objective about them, and it's almost inevitable they will obsess in a non productive way. My point is that in a world where the distance between audience and artists gets smaller and smaller (and that's a very interesting thing, more good than bad), they don't have the choice. Before, they needed to go to a fan forum to seek the comments out. Now, they have to retreat from the internet altogether.

  6. Omigod! Have you read The Bible? I can't believe they killed off [SPOILER] just when they made him so sympathetic!

    I think Moran probably felt equipped to read comments critical of his work. Not everyone is, and discussion board reviews are often little more than harshly worded expressions of a single opinion, so I can understand RTD's caution. But even if Moran were willing to engage in discussion of the work (and he's said repeatedly he's fine if people don't like it) could anyone be prepared to be accused of trying to hurt the fans as if in a deliberate act of sadism?

    So they can't deconstruct the drama, or perhaps they just didn't like the way it was written. I thought it was superb, though I haven't said that about all of Moran's writing. Just how incredibly ego-centric must these "fans" be to assume that any part of the writer's motivation is to inflict hurt on them personally?