Presumed Dead

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Tropes and genres
Synonym(s)My Partner's Dead, Just Kidding (MPDJK), thought dead, mistaken death, miraculous return, believed dead
Related tropes/genresdeathfic, denialfic, fix-it
See alsohurt/comfort, comic book death, afterlife
Related articles on Fanlore.
You may be looking for "Presumed Dead", an episode in Forever Knight's virtual fourth season, V4S.

A fanfiction trope in which a character appears to be dead, only to return later, alive and well. Comparable to a deathfic, only non-permanent, "presumed dead" stories often dwell on the emotional hurt/comfort, and sometimes the physical as well.

In fandoms with partners (professional or ships), this trope is sometimes called My Partner's Dead, Just Kidding (MPDJK), an acronym which may have originated with Megan Kent back in the early 1990s.[1]

Sometimes these are written as fix-it fics, resurrecting a character who dies in canon. In more reality-based fandoms, the character's death usually has been faked for various reasons, or otherwise mistaken; in fantasy and scifi fandoms sometimes the dead characters actually have expired, and are resurrected with magic or technology.

Some fans consider these "pseudo-deathfics" to be cheating, "copping out" and undermining the emotional intensity of grief[2], while other fans who find deathfics too depressing enjoy the happy resolution of the angst. Whether such a fic should require a warning is a matter of debate; some fans find temporary deathfics as traumatizing as the real deal, while others don't like such spoilers on a story.[3]

While most fandoms will have at least a few examples, this trope is quite common in some, especially fandoms that tend toward hurt/comfort. Professionals fanfic is known to include MPDJK, and The Real Ghostbusters fanfic had multiple long gen fics with one or more of the team seeming to die but later returning.

Stargate: SG-1 had a variety of stories with Daniel Jackson appearing to die but surviving it, probably because it happened so much in canon.

Marvel Cinematic Universe fandom has many fix-it fics for the death of Agent Phil Coulson, many of which were written before his canon resurrection. They are particularly common in the Clint-Coulson ship, deriving angst from Clint Barton's reaction to Phil's apparent death before his survival is revealed. Following the release of Age of Ultron, fix-it fics also appeared for the death of Pietro Maximoff - although unlike Phil Coulson, Pietro's resurrection is not (yet) canon.

Hornblower TV fandom has the Live Kennedy Universe which is an AU in which a major character death is averted; this is usually written with an initial presumption of death, which is remedied in the course of the story.

In Canon

As well as in fanfic, series canons often include "presumed dead" plots or subplots, especially during cliffhanger season finales. The most famous of these is probably Sherlock Holmes's death and return, and Spock's at the end of the Star Trek movie The Wrath of Khan, though Kirk's 'death' at Spock's hands in the TOS episode Amok Time probably also qualifies. TV Tropes lists such incidents under Not Quite Dead and Disney Death, among other terms.

Comic book canons so frequently kill off and resurrect characters that comic fandom refers to the phenomenon as "comic book death."[4][5] In one X-Factor comic, Siryn refuses to mourn the death of her father, Banshee, because "half the X-teams are always mourning the other half thinking they're dead. If you think I'm falling for that, you can just forget it. My da's fine. He'll turn up." [6] For a long time, the joke in comic-dom was, "No one stays dead except Jason Todd, Bucky Barnes, and Uncle Ben." In a phenomenal demonstration of the point, Jason Todd and Bucky Barnes have since been resurrected.

Comic Book death has even spread to movies through the Marvel Cinematic Universe, with Agent Phil Coulson (an original character for the films who never previously appeared in comics) returning from the dead after The Avengers.

Time travel stories often include character deaths that can only be fixed by restoring the "right" timeline, such as seen in the first Back to the Future movie, and the season 4 finale of SGA.

Examples in Fanfiction

Most examples are, of course, spoilers for the fic in question. Click with caution.

Archives & Links


  1. ^ See Talk page
  2. ^ gwyn_r in comments, posted Oct. 30th, 2004 (accessed 1/2009)
  3. ^ Friendshipper in comments on tipper_green posted Dec. 17th, 2008 (accessed 1/2009)
  4. ^ Comic Book Death - Chris Buchner, May 1 2007 (accessed 1/2009)
  5. ^ Comic Book Death on Wikipedia (Accessed 1/2009)
  6. ^ X-Factor #7, Peter David. May 2006.