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We live in a TV age of hype and spoilers, so it’s not often that a drama catches us completely by surprise. But Silent Witness certainly made us gasp on Tuesday night with the demise of Dr Adam Yeun (Jason Wong), who debuted last week seemingly as a series regular – only to then be brutally bumped off at the climax of the latest case.
Viewers hadn’t been told in advance that Adam was for the chop. In fact, publicity photos for this current series of the long-running whodunnit featured him in a position of prominence. But suddenly, The Lyell Centre has yet another vacancy to fill, with Adam having gone from investigator to murder victim.
Read more: The best TV to watch this Autumn
He isn’t, though, the first TV character to be dispatched without warning. Here, we look at some of telly’s best-remembered shock deaths:
Adric – Doctor Who
We were used to the Doctor keeping his companions safe even in the direst of circumstances, but Peter Davison’s incarnation of the Time Lord lost Tardis regular Adric (Matthew Waterhouse) in the 1982 serial Earthshock.
The maths genius died in an explosion as he tried to stop the latest scheme of the nefarious Cybermen. And as a mark of respect, the end credits of that particular episode scrolled in silence.
Helen Flynn – Spooks
The BBC1 spy drama grabbed attention early in its first series when new MI5 recruit Helen Flynn (Lisa Faulkner) went on an undercover mission that came to a violent and tragic end.
At the time of broadcast in 2002, Faulkner had just completed a long stint on Holby City, so audiences were expecting her to be a main player on Spooks.
What they hadn’t anticipated was Helen having her head plunged into a deep-fat fryer by the villain of the week. But the message to viewers was now clear: on this show, nobody was safe.
Ned Stark – Game of Thrones
The first season of the HBO fantasy drama put Sean Bean’s patriarch Eddard Stark front and centre, both in the poster artwork and on the show itself. After all, it was a casting coup to get Bean — well-known from his appearances in the Lord of the Rings trilogy — back on TV.
But, as it turned out, Ned wasn’t long for this world and in the penultimate episode of the first season entitled Baelor, he was beheaded on the order of Joffrey (Jack Gleeson), with his death then shifting the trajectory of the whole saga.
Mattie Storin – House of Cards
In Michael Dobbs’s original novel, political manipulator Francis Urquhart (as played on TV by Ian Richardson) took his own life while the journalist on his tail, Mattie Storin, survived.
But the 1990 BBC dramatisation gave events a fresh spin, when a murderous Urquhart threw Mattie (Susannah Harker) from the roof garden of the House of Parliament onto a parked van below. Having Urquhart evade justice meant, of course, that there could now be sequels to the story.
Omar Little – The Wire
On the surface, Baltimore stick-up man Omar was just one element of a sprawling ensemble cast of characters. Yet so magnetic was the late Michael K Williams in the role that devotees of the hard-hitting HBO crime drama always felt themselves to be on Omar’s side.
But the season five episode Clarifications in 2011 left viewers in mourning when Omar was shot in the side of the head by the youngster Kenard in a Korean-owned convenience store.
Lady Sybil Crawley – Downton Abbey
Up until its third series, Downton Abbey had been a nostalgic comfort blanket for the millions who tuned in to watch the genteel dramas of the aristocratic Crawley clan each Sunday evening.
But viewers were given a jolt to their systems thanks to an October 2012 instalment that saw the rule-breaking, convention-defying Lady Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) give birth to her daughter and then die from eclampsia, leaving husband Tom Branson a widower and a single dad.
Teri Bauer – 24
It’s Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) who we think of as always experiencing the day from hell in the real-time espionage drama. But spare a thought for his poor wife Teri (Leslie Hope), who definitely had a worse time of it back in season one.
After being kidnapped by terrorists, losing her memory, dealing with the shock of thinking that her daughter had died and spending every waking minute in the same dirty cardigan, Teri was shot by CTU mole Nina Myers in the final seconds of the season.
Arthur 'Fatboy' Chubb – EastEnders
Fatboy (Ricky Norwood) was that rare thing on EastEnders: a genuinely nice character and seemingly a friend to all. But that essentially likeability didn’t stop show bosses from giving him a traumatic exit.
In a case of mistaken identity, Fats met his maker in the boot of a car that went to a Walford crusher. Vincent — the intended victim of the hit — found Fatboy’s remains in the smashed-up vehicle in not-exactly-festive scenes that aired over Christmas 2015.
Gary Shepherd – thirtysomething
Free-spirited professor Gary had been a mainstay on the baby-boomer drama since its launch in 1987, with actor Peter Horton even being named one of the world’s “50 Most Beautiful People” by People magazine.
But with thirtysomething’s end fast approaching in 1991, writers decided to leave fans reeling when, just as show regular Nancy Weston (Patricia Wettig) learned that she’d beaten cancer, her buddy Gary lost his life in a car crash. Nobody saw the accident coming – particularly not Gary.
Glenn Rhee – The Walking Dead
Pizza delivery boy Glenn (Steven Yeun) had been a staple part of the zombie drama from its earliest days, with audiences having witnessed him fall in love with and then marry (Lauren Cohen), who then became pregnant with his child.
But there was to be no happy ever after the pair, with Glenn bludgeoned to death by antagonist Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) in the 2016 season seven premiere The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be. Even those who’d been battle-hardened by previous deaths found the stomach-churning scene to be violently excessive.
Watch a trailer for The Walking Dead