These days you can’t throw a rock without it hitting a couple of characters celebrating their guy love. Female friendship always seems to get short shrift, but male friendship can be the stuff of legends. From Han and Chewie to Sam and Frodo, it’s always been a particularly prevalent trope in sci-fi and fantasy. So let’s look at the top five bromances to bring a tear to the eye in the world of sci-fi/fantasy TV.
Beware – here be spoilers...
Kirk and Spock
The granddaddy of TV bromances. Their mutual love and respect has survived cancellation, big-screen transfers, death, return and even reboot, and it all started on TV, way back in 1966 when Gene Roddenberry first thought to counter his gung-ho captain with a supremely logical first officer. McCoy turned this bromance into something of a (platonic) ménage a tois, but it was Kirk and Spock the audience really connected with, and their relationship continued being developed across the films, with Kirk’s reaction to Spock’s death providing one of the series’ few real emotional punches.
Subsequent Star Trek series’ attempted to capture the magic of Kirk and Spock, but only the Jiminy Cricket and Pinocchio relationship of Geordie and Data came close in The Next Generation, and let’s be honest, Geordie wouldn’t have wailed anywhere near as iconically if Data had been killed by Khan.
Adama and Tigh
Continuing on the space-bromance theme, the rebooted Battlestar Galactica’s Adama and Tigh are clearly the second-best captain/first officer pairing on TV. The righteous and fiercely capable William Adama was lumbered with the gruff and largely useless Saul “I frakked up” Tigh as his second-in-command. For a long time, we were never quite sure why Adama didn’t just fire Tigh. But as the series went on we saw the real depth of brotherly love between the pair. Adama saved Tigh from alcoholism, and Tigh, in turn, is the most loyal officer an admiral could hope for.
In series four, Adama’s reaction to Tigh being revealed as a Cylon is just heartbreaking, but the two of them overcome it and when they stand side-by-side facing death at the end of The Oath, stopping the rebels from blowing up Roslin, we know that nothing, not even one of them being an amnesiac toaster, could possibly come between these two. That’s true guy love.
George and Mitchell
Being Human, we’re told, is about a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost sharing a house. But we all know that it was really about a vampire and a werewolf saving each other with the power of friendship. Annie was just their beard.
When the series begins, George needs Mitchell more than Mitchell needs George. Mitchell is the chilled-out, charismatic one that brings some much-needed calm to the neurotic newly-lycanthropic George. He helps him come to terms with being a monster. But when Mitchell’s job is done and George is emotionally healed, it’s Mitchell who falls spectacularly off the deep end, giving into his vampire cravings and slaughtering train-loads of people, hiding his secret shame from George. But George, of course, knows. He’s always known, deep down. And in the end, through bucket-loads of tears, he saves his best friend the only way he can – with the business-end of a stake.
Sam and Dean
Supernatural’s Winchester’s are the only literally bromantic pair on this list, given that they are actually brothers (not that that stops slash fans’ minds from wandering...) The two of them have been through more hell together than anyone else on this list, and no-one cries in a manly fashion at the death of their hetero life partner quite as well as Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki (they should be good at it by now – they’ve had plenty of practice).
Sam and Dean are just as affecting when they’re joshing around with each other as when they are emoting furiously, and they have the sort of chemistry that keeps a largely unwatched (but excellent) show going for seven series. The addition of Castiel has changed their relationship slightly (you can’t help but feel Dean’s cheating on his brother with his new angel friend) and their best bromantic moments were in series 1-3, but you still root for these boys like no other pairing on TV right now.
Merlin and Arthur
It’s a well known fact that slash fans will ship just about any pairing, even ones that makes no sense (Harry Potter and Draco Malfoy – eh?) But in the case of Merlin’s leads, you can see their point. The growing fondness between this master and servant team has been absolutely lovely (in an awkward, very British, no-hugging kind of way). Nowhere else in TV has one character finally describing another as his “friend” been such an emotional pay-off.
Merlin gleefully teases the slash fans at times (series four even saw a trouserless tussle between the two of them) but the relationship between them is surprisingly affective. The pride and joy on Colin Morgan’s face as he yells “long live the king!” at Arthur’s coronation says more than any number of American talking-about-feelings scenes could. Increasingly, at its heart Merlin is more about male friendship than it is about Arthurian myth, which may just be why it’s actually picked up viewers year-on-year, bucking the trend that nearly all programmes suffer.