Kill Your Darlings–But Carefully

As I have learned about the craft of storytelling over the years, I have frequently heard the old addage of “kill your darlings”, meaning, of course, that you shouldn’t get so attached to anything in your work that you’re not willing to change it for the betterment of the story.  This could be particular lines, scenes, characters.  Mostly I’m pretty good about this.  I’ve learned to be fairly willing to axe almost anything (like 50% of the love scene that refuses to properly resolve itself this week).

TV often does this kind of thing, killing off characters we love to either raise the stakes (or because the actor decided to leave and didn’t want to come back cough: Kate from NCIS), but sometimes they just take it too far.  DH and I have been watching Primeval, a British sci-fi TV series that is based on the concept that there are these anomolies in the fabric of time that allow dinosaurs into modern England.

Warning, if you intend to watch, SPOILERS FOLLOW.


Okay that should do it for spoiler warnings.

Now in Primeval in the very beginning we have the team that comes together to research these anomolies.

  • Professor Nick Cutter: sexy Scottish prof of paeleontology, brilliant and the core of the team
  • Abby Maitland: zookeeper and reptile expert (handy when you’re dealing with live dinos)
  • Connor Temple: student of Nick’s, also brilliant, tech genius
  • Stephen Hart: former student of Nick’s wife, amazing animal tracker and all around good guy
  • Claudia Brown: government liason chick in charge fo the anomaly research project
  • Helen Cutter: Nick’s wife who disappeared 8 years ago and has apparently been anomaly hopping for all this time–she has her own agenda with all of this and is the primary antagonist

So we have the entire first season to fall in love with this crew, watch Abby have a thing for Stephen, while Connor has a thing for her.  There’s a bit of a romance that develps between Nick and Claudia by the end of season 1 when Nick and Helen and some others go through an anomoly for a mission.  And when they come back out, Claudia no longer exists in their time.  No one knows who Nick’s talking about because something changed in the past.

Okay that pissed us off, but we kept watching because we figure that they’ll find a way to fix it, right?  So early on in Season 2, we get introduced to Jenny Lewis, who is apparently who Claudia turned into in this reality.  She is not Claudia, though she looks just like her.  Nick has issues because of it all season.  But Jenny starts to grow on you so that you like her by the end of Season 2.  Fine.  We figure that maybe Nick and JENNY will get together.  So in the final episode of Season 2, Stephen ends up sacrificing himself to save everybody else.  This is really sad because Stephen is a standup guy, but Helen makes some over the grave statement that implies that they’re going to change the past and fix it. And either way, I can see why they chose him because he was important, but not central and killing him raised the stakes.  Fine.

So Season 3 starts up.  We get a new team member in Sarah Paige,  an expert in mythology.  Fine.  We like Sarah.  And things seem to be maybe moving in the right direction with Nick and Jenny.  Right off the bat in EPISODE 3 they fucking let Helen kill Nick off!  Nick was my favorite character!  This was, in my opinion, the beginning of the end ofr Primeval.  But we kept watching.  Then in Episode 5, after a death and back experience, Jenny leaves the team!  So we are left with only TWO of the original team members–Abby and Conner.  We’re watching to the end of the season just to finish it out, but I can see why it didn’t make it for a fourth season.  They blamed it on budget issues (because all the CG critters are expensive), but there is NO WAY that killing off (or otherwise getting rid of) THREE of the main characters within a 6 episode span did not have an impact on the show’s popularity.

I absolutely get that you have to kill your darlings and sometimes you have to make awful things happen to characters you love because the stakes don’t get raised with characters you haven’t made the reader care about.  But there is a line, and the writers of Primeval crossed it.  There is a difference between raising the stakes and screwing your reader/viewer.  So when you’re considering drastic action, give it some careful thought.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.