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Death scenes are the kind of thing actors drool over. If your character has to bite it, you want to go out like William Wallace, dammit! FREEEEDOOOOM!!!

But occasionally you see a character die in an abrupt, pointless way that seemed to have been written in as an afterthought, or even in such an undignified way that you suspect the writers included it as a "screw you" to the actor.

Well, there's a reason for that.

Capt. James T. Kirk

William Shatner played the same character for 28 years, and inspired something like a religion. Somewhere, right now, a grown man is dressed in a Captain Kirk uniform, probably while in a crowded room next to some other guy dressed like a Klingon. So how did they send off the star of one of the most popular and lucrative franchises in entertainment history?

Warning: May cause spontaneous uncontrollable arousal in women.

The Death:

They dropped a bridge on him. After decades of (sometimes shirtlessly) tangling with the universe's biggest baddies and boning the hottest aliens, Kirk leaves the mortal coil by way of subpar building construction codes.

While watching Star Trek: Generations we knew something was wrong when, during a face-off with the movie's main bad guy with Captain Picard, Kirk tells Picard to hold off the bad guy for him. James T. Kirk passing the chance to punch a dude? That's like a heroin addict saying, "Man, can you shoot up my stash for me? I got an errand to run."

An addiction is an addiction.

So instead Kirk goes to fetch a remote to disable the cloak on a bunch of missiles Soran (the bad guy) was about to launch. The remote just so happens to be on a rickety bridge and, as Kirk manages to make a final act of disabling the cloaking system, the bridge collapses down a cliff, taking Kirk with it.

What Really Happened:

First of all, it's clear that Kirk was shoehorned into the film only because the suits weren't confident they could get people to watch a Kirk-less Star Trek movie (Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley both refused to be in the movie, saying the crew got a perfectly good sendoff in The Undiscovered Country, a film specifically written for that purpose). Then, when the writers were sitting around brainstorming ideas for, you know, what to actually do with him, somebody said, "Why don't we kill Kirk?" (yes, that's literally what they said).

So, they brought Shatner and Kirk back to the franchise specifically to kill his ass, and thus wrote in a death for him where he... gets shot in the back by the bad guy.

They filmed it, too:

That didn't make it into the movie because test audiences felt it wasn't heroic enough. So, grossly misunderstanding that feedback, they had a rusty bridge accidentally fall on him instead. Couldn't he at least been having sex with something at the time?

Preferably not a bridge.

Scott Summers (aka Cyclops of the X-Men)

Wolverine gets all the attention, but Cyclops is the X-Men's field leader and second in command. Also, he can destroy a city block by taking his sunglasses off. That should count for something, right?

The Death:

He dies in X-Men: The Last Stand. Well, that makes sense. It is the last stand, after all. You see that on a poster and picture him and the rest of his comrades going down in some kind of universe-saving blaze of glory.

Then you watch and find out he dies in the first half hour.

Candid photo of Marsden's reaction to the script.

He gets roughly five minutes of screen time, and never even suits up as Cyclops (even though the promotional posters clearly show him suited up X-Men style). Still depressed over the loss of his wife (Jean Grey, who died in the second film), Cyclops goes to Alkali Lake, Canada, where she died, despite Professor X's warnings.

That's what you get for ignoring Patrick Stewart.

At the lake, he finds a very much alive Jean Grey standing there. After asking the obvious question of "how are you alive?" they kiss and Cyclops just explodes. Well, we assume. Cyclops wasn't even granted an on-screen death.

Then, back at the mansion, the X-Men hold a funeral for their fallen friend and lead-

Oh, wait, no. Actually, he's never mentioned again until the end of the movie, where you see a brief glance of his tombstone.

What Really Happened:

Marsden was being unfaithful. He was cheating on the X-Men with another comic book franchise, Superman. He didn't have much time on the set of X-Men: The Last Stand because he was cast in Superman Returns, which was shooting at the same time.

How could this go wrong?

Rumors floated around the Internet that Cyclops' death was intentionally bad, as Fox was upset over Marsden's choice (Superman Returns was owned by another studio and helmed by X-Men 1 and 2 director Bryan Singer). While we are not ones to indulge in unconfirmed Internet rumors, yeah, that's what probably happened.

The bigger question is, why would Marsden do it? Keep in mind, he didn't leave to play Superman, or Lex Luthor (possibly the only two characters in the Superman universe worth playing). No, he bailed on being Cyclops just to play the guy who bones Superman's girlfriend when Supe's is out of town. There can't be much job security in stealing Superman's girlfriend.

I will rip off your dick and throw it into the sun.

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Hicks, Newt and Bishop (Aliens)

They are three of four survivors from Aliens (well, including the android--does an android "survive" something?). The trio includes the little girl whose safety is the driving motivation for the entire film, and the robot who flew them all to salvation.

One of them was even on the damn poster.

The Deaths:

These are the only people on our list to not make it out of the opening credits alive.

In the opening minutes of Alien 3, while much of the audience was just getting back from the popcorn counter, we see an alien face-hugger running loose on the escape pod the heroes were sleeping in during the denouement of the last movie. How will the gang get out of this one?!

Ah, right. They won't. The pod crashes, killing Hicks and Newt and smashing Bishop. Hicks was impaled by a support beam while Newt drowned when her pod crashed into the ocean.

What Really Happened:

As for Newt, the issue was age. The little girl who played Newt in Aliens had aged six years by the time the next movie was filmed and she wasn't acting any more (Aliens is the only thing she was ever in). Well, not having her in the movie is understandable. They didn't have to murder a child just because they didn't feel like replacing the actress.

Happy endings don't exist in the Alien universe.

As for the other two... there is no good answer.

It's well known among sci-fi fans that the production of Alien 3 was a ridiculous carnival of stupidity. David Fincher had been brought in at the last minute after every single other director in Hollywood had been hired and eventually fired from the project. At least four scripts had been written for the film, but 20th Century Fox didn't like any of them, so producers Walter Hill and David Giler took over and mashed up aspects from all the previous scripts.

All of the terrible decisions that were made appear to be due to that random, haphazard cobbling together of story elements. They had drafts that didn't include Ripley at all. They had some that had Hicks as the main character, with Ripley in a cameo (in fact, that was the case in the last draft before the one that killed off Hicks).

Industry experts theorize, "God hates Michael Biehn."

Thus the decision to kill him off--and reduce Bishop to a single scene where he talks to Ripley from a pile of garbage--appeared to be a arbitrary, last-minute choices made while slapping the story together. Michael Biehn was so pissed off by it he demanded to get the same money for the few seconds they used his likeness in the opening scene that he was paid to co-star in Aliens.

Don't worry, Michael, we're pretty sure you got out of the franchise just in time.

There are worse things than death.

Danny Sorenson (NYPD Blue)

Rick Schroder had big shoes to fill when he got assigned to take on what was, at the time, one of the biggest roles on television: Dennis Franz's partner on NYPD Blue. The show had already gone through David Caruso's John Kelly and Jimmy Smits as Bobby Simone. So, playing second fiddle to the show's star seemed to have a high burnout rate for actors, possibly due to having to see Dennis Franz's naked ass in every episode.

The Death:

First, let's back up and see how his successors left the show.

David Caruso said he wanted to leave the show after he decided his awesomeness was far, far too great to be contained by a mere award-winning TV drama. Despite being something of a douchebag, the show devoted the first four episodes of the second season to the character's downfall and eventual resignation from the force.

Pre-shades Caruso.

He would be replaced by Jimmy Smits's character Bobby Simone. When it was time for him to leave the show a few seasons later, he got a heart-wrenching sendoff that included a dramatic story arc involving heart disease and a transplant and the kind of drama that sucked in Emmy nominations for the show every single year.

But Schroder? There was a plot about him getting involved with a stripper, and the stripper was connected to the mob, and the stripper turns up dead and... that's it. The season ended.

When the show picked up for Season 9, they find his body buried in Brooklyn.

The noble end of many a Union rep before him.

What Really Happened:

Rick Schroder wanted to spend more time with his family. The writers then had to figure out a way to write him out of the show, and when choosing all of the various dramatic ways he could go out in a blaze of glory (including some that, you know, left the character alive so maybe he could come back if he changed his mind later) they decided to go with, "have him die off-camera, bludgeoned to death by Mafiosi."

The real crime, is that we never got to see this man beaten to death by Italians.

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Lawrence Kutner (House)

Kal Penn of Harold and Kumar fame joined House during Season 4, when his character refused to leave after getting fired during tryouts (in the House universe, hospitals choose doctors the same way high schools choose cheerleaders).

The plot was part of a major cast shake-up that may have saved the show. Or ruined it. It depends on who you ask.


The Death:

In the episode, "Simple Explanation," Kutner's co-workers, Foreman and Thirteen (if you don't watch the show, the character is named "Thirteen" because she's a robot), find Kutner lying in a pool of blood in his bedroom, a gun in his hand.

If the characters were a little surprised, the audience was shocked. The show did absolutely zero to allude to the fact Kutner might harbor depression or, well, any reason to kill himself whatsoever.

Rumor has it, he was depressed about being left off two consecutive DVD covers.

The show's writers never even made the effort of giving a valid reason for Kutner's suicide after the fact. He was just a brilliant, successful, happy guy who decided to play a solo game of Russian Roulette with an automatic. End of story.

In fact, after Season 5, he and his death were never mentioned again. A mere few months after his death, everybody he ever loved or knew forgot about him. Just like in real life!

"Hey, guys, didn't we used to be more ethnically diverse?"

What Really Happened:

The writers did a terrible job of foreshadowing Kutner's death because they didn't know he was going to die. They found out at the last minute that actor Kal Penn had left the show for a new job as Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, which sounds like a totally noble, albeit very-made-up sounding, reason to leave a hit show.

Apparently his job entailed sharing the views of the public with the Obama Administration. Yes, this guy:

The "out of nowhere" shot to the head would leave critics baffled (as would their incredibly tasteless tie-in website memorializing Kutner as if he was a real person who had passed away).

House producers said they wanted Kutner's leaving to "have an impact." They wanted to honor the beloved character with a death with dramatic meaning. Except they forgot the drama. Oh, and also the meaning.

Find more Travis at Wasted Degrees.

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And make sure you check the real-world origins of your favorite characters, in 7 Iconic Characters They Saved from The Cutting Room Floor and 6 Famous Characters You Didn't Know Were Shameless Rip Offs.

And stop by our Top Picks (Updated 04.23.10) to see how we kill off Brockway.

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