Bob, a regular and/or beloved character on the show, has been killed off. In the aftermath of Bob's death, at least one of the other regular characters gives him an emotional, sometimes tear-jerking
eulogy. It can be ceremonial (part of an official funeral), a moment of introspection among friends, or even a soliloquy. The eulogy has everything you might expect, praising Bob's deeds and lamenting his untimely end, and so on. The phrase "I wish I had the time to get to know you better" seems to crop up very
However, as it turns out, Bob isn't dead after all
! Later in the same episode/work he'll re-appear, either having been brought Back from the Dead
or having survived whatever it was that should've killed him.
Why did we waste our time watching a eulogy for a character who isn't dead? The idea is to generate sympathy for the "dead" character and a sense of loss in the viewers, without actually having to give up the character at all. It's useful for a lot of different reasons: Maybe to expose the true feelings that other characters have about Bob, now that they feel there's no need to further hide their true emotions. Maybe they'll reveal more of Bob's backstory. Or maybe the author feels that Bob needs a boost to his popularity among viewers
. Whatever the reason, the fact is that Bob isn't really dead, so the point isn't to sum up his exploits and let him go - it's to enhance Bob's appeal through the sincere mourning of his friends, who have no idea that they have no reason to mourn at all.
For a true Premature Eulogy
, the author must have the clear intention of bringing the "dead" character back within a relatively short timeframe. On TV shows, this will occur either in the same episode or within a few, just long enough to keep the audience believing that the character has been Killed Off for Real
. This works best in shows where Anyone Can Die
, but can be even more jarring if the death of major characters is not common at all.
A Premature Eulogy is always played straight
, not for comical effect, since it's meant to generate sincere viewer sympathy for the "dead" character. A little comedy might
be involved as a starting point for the eulogy, but things are supposed to look bleak
- a gut-punch to the audience. If it's played JUST for laughs, it's a sort of Informal Eulogy
In some cases, the audience is already informed that the character isn't really dead, having seen them survive whatever event should've killed them. This may trigger various responses from the audience once the Eulogy starts, and runs a high risk of turning it into Narm
. Even more so if the Premature Eulogy is a set-up for a Clip Show
Compare and contrast with Informal Eulogy
. Occasionally overlaps with Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated
and Attending Your Own Funeral
. Often an excuse for Character Shilling
Film - Animated
Film - Live Action
- Bagheera gives one for the unconscious Baloo in The Jungle Book. He actually wakes up during the eulogy and enjoys it so much that when Bagheera is done, he gets up and happily asks him to keep going. Understandably, Bagheera is nearly reduced to Angrish.
- Kirk eulogizing Spock, in The Wrath of Khan and The Search for Spock.
- Oddly enough, Wrath of Khan is very borderline. A true Premature Eulogy is supposed to trigger a sense of loss in the viewers without any intention of actually losing the character, but in Wrath of Khan the writers weren't expecting Spock to come back at all! Leonard Nimoy was actually hoping to leave the franchise forever, it was the only reason he agreed to do the movie at all. To everyone's surprise, the movie ended up being so good that Nimoy did a complete 180 on his previous decision (he ended up directing the next film). However, Spock's return was not 100% unintentional either, because by the time the movie was shot the director had caught the smell of success and decided to leave Nimoy a crack in the door - that shot of the coffin on Genesis. So the bottom line is that it's still a Premature Eulogy, but mostly in retrospect.
- A very short one for Indiana Jones after he falls from a cliff in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
- The one for James Bond in You Only Live Twice, delivered by the Royal Navy as he's a member of the RNVR (besides his other job...), quoting 1 Corinthians 15. Divers retrieve the "corpse" and cut open the lining to reveal 007, reporting for duty.
Live Action Television
- An awful lot of examples will be homages to Tom Sawyer, where Tom showed up for his own funeral.
- Percy Jackson and the Olympians - Battle of the Labyrinth, everyone at Camp Half-Blood thinks Percy's dead, and they are holding his funeral. Annabeth is reading his eulogy when Percy arrives back at camp, thus overlapping this with Attending Your Own Funeral.
- There's a variation in Galaxy of Fear. Zak is conscious but paralyzed in the coffin and listening to Pylum eulogize him; he's been put into this state by the villain who intends to turn Zak into an Undead Child, and Pylum knows and is helping. The eulogy is there to feed Zak's horror, and vicariously the readers', at the thought of being Buried Alive.
- Star Trek: The Original Series: In "The Tholian Web", Kirk is presumed dead when he is pulled into another universe. We get an official ceremony with about 50 people present and Spock lamenting his friend - as much as a Vulcan would, anyway. McCoy finishes up by giving another short eulogy in Kirk's quarters during the next scene.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: When Geordi and Ro are phased out-of-synch with the rest of reality the folks on the Enterprise think they were killed in a transporter accident. A memorial service is held, with eulogies planned but not followed through because, what with one thing and another, they discover the truth of the situation and re-incorporate Geordi & Ro.
- In an early Deep Space 9 episode "The Armageddon Game", an alien government tries to kill Bashir and O'Brien after the two had helped them get rid of some biological weapons. The two escape the attack, but are trapped on the alien planet. The aliens, who do not wish Starfleet to come looking for the two escapees, produce a doctored tape showing O'Brien accidentally triggering some sort of security device which vaporizes both him and Bashir. Cue Premature Eulogies from pretty much everyone on the station, including Quark.
- In this case, the audience knows that the two aren't dead, having seen them making their escape in the intro. This makes the Premature Eulogies especially glaring, but fortunately it doesn't take long before the station crew gets savvy about what really happened.
- In the episode The Visitor, Jake Sisko recalls his father's funeral, where Major Kira gives a eulogy. Of course, Ben Sisko isn't dead, just frozen in time. He's Back from the Dead by the end of the episode.
- The Deep Space Nine episode "Who Mourns for Morn" from season 6 is practically made of this trope. Morn, a decidedly minor character in the series, "dies" in a freak accident and is eulogized by several of the regular characters. A sizeable portion of the episode is dedicated to eulogies and other sympathetic gestures by the show's regulars. By the end of the episode, it turns out he faked his own death. Deep Space Nine is doing a double subversion here. The first subversion is the fact that Morn certainly doesn't answer the criteria you'd normally expect in a character being prematurely eulogized, or even mourned at all, for an entire episode - he has NO speaking lines, and only appears on screen for a dozen seconds an episode if he appears at all. Other characters often speak of Morn as though he's a truly interesting, talkative and vibrant character, and we (the audience) only ever see him shrugging, nodding, or drinking. And the Premature Eulogy follows the same formula: everyone is eulogizing this insignificant minor character and telling stories about him as though he were one of the major protagonists. The second subversion is of course that this is probably one of the only instances in any Star Trek work where a eulogy isn't being taken with utter gravitas - normally a series staple. They're not eulogizing Spock, or Worf, or even Wesley, they're eulogizing a character who has been given absolutely no depth or role anywhere in the series up to that point.
- It should be noted however that although it's not being played straight, this is STILL a Premature Eulogy because by this point in the show's running many fans considered Morn to be a major Ensemble Darkhorse, and it's likely that some were truly shocked when his death was announced. The episode manages to generate a lot of sympathy for a completely irrelevant character, then proceeds to make him very relevant, then brings him back to life at the end.
- Not to be left out, Voyager has its share of Premature Eulogies, but one glaring example is in the episode Coda, where Janeway is stuck in a time-loop where she ends up dying over and over again. At one point, she becomes "detached" from her dead body, and is Attending Her Own Funeral with crewmembers gushing over her for a full four minutes. This shouldn't be surprising given that this episode was written by Jeri Taylor. The narm levels go through the roof, just one reason why this is one of the lowest-rated episodes on the show.
- SF Debris pointed out the true irony of this particular eulogy: It's all in Janeway's head. There is no time loop, no death, and no funeral. Meaning that this scene that is supposed to demonstrate how awesome Janeway is and how much her crew loves her and couldn't bear to be without her actually demonstrates that she has a massive ego and seriously overinflates her own importance.
- Star Trek: Enterprise had one for Mayweather, given by Hoshi after he was "killed" at a strange repair facility where the ship had docked. After the eulogy (actually, almost immediately after) it turned out that the corpse on the sickbay table was a copy of Mayweather, not the man himself. The real Mayweather was rescued shortly thereafter.
- Blanche from The Golden Girls once told a long embellished story about her childhood in which, to get back at her father for something trivial, she faked her death and showed up at her own funeral. Dorothy points out how off-topic it was, dubbing it Blanche: The Miniseries.
- Kara Thrace receives a considerably long period of mourning after her presumed death in the third season of Battlestar Galactica - proportional to her central role in the series. Of course, she's not dead. Well, actually, sorta kinda not dead.
- In the third Lexx movie, Kai receives premature eulogies from a grieving Zev ("If you were alive—I'd want you to be the first man—I—") and a perplexed Stan, who's only heard of prepackaged "video benedictions." ("Uh—thanks for not killing us," he offers.)
- Aeryn Sun gets one from Zhaan when she dies at the end of Farscape season 2. Owing to the nature of this show, deaths don't (usually) stick very long anyway.
- Spoofed on different shows but best in Get Smart's take on "The Prisoner of Zenda":
Conspirators: "The King is dead. Long live the King."
Loyalist: "The King lives!"
Conspirators: (Massive spit take) "The King lives?"
- In the opera Albert Herring, when Albert disappears the day after being crowned King of the May and all the town is desperately searching for him alive or dead, his widowed mother immediately goes into deep mourning. When Albert's crown is found lying in a ditch, everyone assumes the worst, and they all sing a heartfelt threnody. Then Albert walks in, and they are stunned.
- In the opening special of Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, The Adventure Begins, Buzz's first partner and best friend dies on a mission. He's given a heartfelt eulogy by Buzz, but in the third part it's revealed that he faked his death and has been on Zurg's payroll.
- The Futurama episode "The Sting" works on this premise, with the assumption that Fry died saving Leela. After this occurs, he's given a heartfelt funeral. Despite this being played for laughs (like the amazon saying he gave good "Snu-Snu"), the episode becomes extremely disturbing from that point on. Thankfully, in the end we discover that it was Leela who was almost killed, and is lying in a coma hallucinating about Fry's death.