One of my favorite time-killing websites has as it’s unofficial slogan “[Website Name] will ruin your life.”  This has proven to have more than a grain of truth in it for me, as after hearing someone referring to the anniversary of the death of Eric Carr, second drummer for KISS, I found myself thinking how he had seemingly avoided the curse of the ‘Replacement Scrappy.’  Replacement members are par for the course in the music industry, but it seems that other facets of pop culture are a bit less tolerant of the new kid.  Ask a ‘Deep Space Nine’ stalwart fan about Ezri Dax sometime, or mention Joe to a kid who grew up with ‘Blues Clues’ in the 90s.  But what would have happened if the characters DIDN’T get replaced, such as when William Hartnell (the First Doctor) became ill back in the day?

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) is in some ways the inverse of yesterday’s query, asking:
Is it better for creators to issue replacement characters to sustain a series (ala Doctor Who) or to let a work be cut short/altered due to personnel issues?


About Author

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.


  1. Josh "Spaceboot" Treleaven on

    It’s a quite different dynamic between an actor dying and an actor getting fired or quitting. At least with death, we can all unite in grief.

    Let’s address “cut it short”. The show must go on. Enough said.

    Now “let it be altered” is a different question. A lot of shows are based on formulas that include demographics as definitions for the characters. If “the girl” dies and you don’t replace her with a girl, you’ve broken the formula. But I don’t think formulas should be set in stone anyways, so I’m okay with a show changing. Even going on with a missing piece. Artistically anyways, I’m okay with it. That said…

    Show-business-wise, it’s probably better to replace that character with someone similar. The reason they use a demographically-determined formula is because different segments of the audience identify with different characters. It’s true though, that you can’t expect your audience to automatically fall in love with your character who happens to fill the same demographic role.

    All you have to do is make sure you can get away with it artistically, and have a story reason for the replacement. In the case of a Star Trek, replacements make sense because that’s how the military works (and Trills too, for that matter). But if someone from Friends or Seinfeld had died, it would be weird if the Friends suddenly had a new guy sitting in Joey’s chair at the coffee shop. On the other hand, Chandler has to get a new roommate anyways, and statistically that’s likely to be another young single white male.

    • I’d like to point out that, while as a Trill it made sense for there to be a new Dax, she did not fill the same function as Jadzia on the staff. Jadzia was the science officer, while Ezri was the station’s counselor. Of course, I’m one of the crazy people who liked Ezria, and J.P. Farrell has a history of being flighty about long term roles (she left DS9 for “Becker,” a series she ended up quitting before the end), so I’m not really mad about that particular change-up.

  2. Doctor Who and the James Bond franchises are the only two I can think of that replaced the main character with a different actor, and at least Dr. Who gave an explanation for the change. Alias Smith and Jones replaced both leads because the studio didn’t want to pay them more with new actors who portrayed their cousins. Didn’t work and the show quickly died. Warewolf starred Chuck Connors as the sire of the Warewolf clan – one of his few evil roles – and it was great, but the producers didn’t want to pay him to appear in more episodes, and his health was failing, so in the later part of the first season they had a stand in take his place and only showed him from the back, and in the second season they just eliminated his whole character. There really was no reason to watch the show after Chuck Conners left. Then you’ve got the Star Trek movies where Lt. Saavik was played by two or three different actresses (with no explanation). They changed out the female sidekick in The Avengers several times, but Dianna Riggs was the only one who worked for me.

    With the exception of Dr. Who and Bond, it really doesn’t work replacing one actor with a different actor playing the same character, and it seems just as cheap when the character is changed but is still, basically, the same character. I.E., replacing a dopey blonde cousin with a dopey redhaired cousin, or replacing the original Supergirl with a silly putty girl.

    I like it better when they replace an actor and build a whole new character for the new person but even that doesn’t always work. When they replaced Gates McFadden with Diana Muldaur, it didn’t work for me because they just replaced one shrill, annoying loudmouthed female doctor with an even shriller, annoying, loudmouted female doctor. They could have done so much better by bringing in something different, like a Vulcan doctor or, heaven forbid, how about a Klingon doctor? Instead of doing something creative, they gave us a retread.

    I hate to see a good show end prematurely when a critical cast member leaves, but it’s hard to recall an instance where a replacement actor worked out for the better, either, so I guess you can call me conflicted on this one.

  3. I actually liked Ezri Dax, but I’ll admit that a part of that was a crush on the actress.

    It really depends on different factors for me. Several of shows that had once been my favorites (“Sliders”, “Seaquest”, “That 70’s Show”, etc) tried to replace actors and/or characters to keep going, but it just didn’t feel right. But others (“Stargate SG-1”, “Andromeda”, “Farscape”, etc) managed to go about it in a way that was plausible enough for me (and in the case of both Andromeda and Farscape, I was sympathetic to actors leaving due to having reactions to the makeups).

    I think they need to work really hard if they have to replace a character or actor. Just having a plausible story reason isn’t going to cut it. It can work out, but it isn’t going to be easy.

    • Josh "Spaceboot" Treleaven on

      I think you’re right that it’s hard work to replace a character. A lot of work goes into any show as a whole at the beginning, and any new character is going to have to play catch-up in the hearts of the audience.

      • Replacing Coach on Cheers worked really well. Replacing Eric Foreman on That 70s Show was terrible. Replacing Ozzie Osbourne with Ronnie Jame Dio in Black Sabbath worked. Replacing Bruce Dickinson in Iron Maiden was terrible. It depends on chemistry, how its handled and where the franchise/group/property is in its life cycle.

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