On dei ex machina and jumping the shark
Well, I'd post this to LJ, but honestly, I feel it would be more at home here.
Lately, one of my fandoms has been not-quite-wanking about how a major character on the show was cured of cancer shortly before her impending death by means of a very sudden miracle that did not get full explaination. The fans are complaining that since the character (whose actress is billed as the #2 on the show, and is under contract for yet another season) didn't die, the producers have betrayed the fans by straining the suspension of disbelief.
The fact is that anyone who didn't see this coming from the moment the show got signed for another season has to be totally new to this whole television thing. They knew that the actress was at least under contract for another 7 episodes after the one in question, and writing her off the show at this time just isn't something that you do. Sure, they could have made the character into one that can be replaced by the same actor, as has been done with another major character on the show who got killed off, but I'm not certain that the producers would be willing to drop a major plot-bomb like turning one of the biggest protaganists on the show into one of the antagonists in that kind of WTF-y moment. It's like back at the end of the first season when another character played by the #1 actor on the show was shot (took two rounds to the gut) in the last 2 minutes of the season finale, and was then separated from a doctor for a fairly long time before he could get treated. We knew he would survive, despite the potentially fatal injuries and severe blood loss (which was actually shown, much to my delightful surprise).
The fact is that in science fiction shows, the science is quite fictional. Furthermore, if they'd explained the miracle cure scientifically, it would have taken far too long and possibly headed in the direction of Trek-like technobabble that eventually contradicts itself--a good sign of a generally naturalistic sci-fi show actually jumping the shark.
Did I like the deus ex machina? Not particularly. It was not as subtile as I would have written it (in fact, there are a couple of other scenes I would have done differently, in order to make the cancer more of a long-term threat), but the fact was that the cancer as a plot point had served its purpose. It worked early on when they were pitching the show to the audience, as they didn't know if they were going to get picked up, but now it's not really an option.
Furthermore, the fact that the woman in question didn't die puts other characters, who had already begun to assume roles that they would have taken in the event of her death, in very interesting positions, to the point of beginning to drive her sucessor more insane than he already was. Basically, it allows everybody to face facts that her death would have glossed over.
But now I'm getting into tl;dr territory, so I think I should stop now.
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