There were lots of events and revelations happening all throughout Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Fans had the rise of the Scarlet Witch to content with, Xochitl Gomez’s America Chavez entering the fray, and even the slaughtering of the Illuminati. But within all of the alternate reality shenanigans, there was a new revelation pretty close to home: Stephen Strange once had a sister, a sibling who sadly passed away after drowning. This event is what paved the way for the character to become who he is.
At one point and time, there was a scene filmed for the first Doctor Strange film that depicted the tragic scene, which was ultimately removed from the final cut. While fans still don’t see the incident play out on screen, the events of that fateful moment have now been canonized.
Besides that single deleted scene, and despite the first movie in the series being his origin story, there sadly wasn’t even a single whisper of her name.
Now the film’s star, Benedict Cumberbatch, has spoken out about this new information regarding Stephen Strange’s origin and how it has helped inform how the character becomes who they are.
Benedict Cumberbatch Gets Candid
In an interview with Marvel, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness star Benedict Cumberbatch commented on the new tragic origin revealed about his now-iconic character.
The actor explained how “the loss of Donna is basically the bedrock of his motivation,” and because of his guilt in now being able to save his sister, he’s trying to “solve problems that result in people living rather than dying.”
“The loss of Donna is basically the bedrock of his motivation as a character, so I’m really glad that we exposed that part of his backstory in this iteration of it… we meet him as a neurosurgeon, somebody who thinks he can control the situation through sheer determination, ego, and ability. To an extent, he’s right; but what he’s really trying to do is triumph over death. He’s trying to defy medicine and science and solve problems that result in people living rather than dying.”
The actor continued, explaining how, for Stephen, “it almost always feels like [his work is] righting a wrong,” though he eventually comes to learn how “it’s not always possible for [him] to control the outcome of things:”
“Having failed to do that as a young person, as a teenager with his sister drowning in front of him and being incapable of resuscitating her, that’s a pretty dark place to begin a career in medicine… It almost always feels like it’s righting a wrong, and that’s a deep scar. That’s something he still holds right up until this moment in the film where he realizes, ‘Okay, I have to face my fears. It’s not always possible for me to control the outcome of things.’ I learned that when I was young, but I didn’t learn it; I buried the trauma, and it manifested in this need to try and master everything. Whether it’s with a scalpel in brain surgery or whether it’s with sorcery in the Multiverse, it’s not always the best way to think that you can try it through sheer will, effort, and ego-driven necessity to control. It’s a very interesting bit of his backstory to reveal.”
The film’s director added that “all the characters in [the movie] have trauma,” and it’s “worked to forge these heroes and help make them who they are today:”
“All the characters in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Doctor Strange, America Chavez, and Wanda Maximoff, have trauma in their background… Stephen lost his sister in an accident on a frozen lake, and he was powerless to save her, and he’s had to live with that. I think it’s why he became a surgeon, trying desperately to save people where he couldn’t as a boy… all of these things have worked to forge these heroes and help make them who they are today,"
The Tragedy of Donna Strange
Given how important the event was to Strange as a character, it’s hard not to feel how it should have almost certainly been included in the original film. If not that deleted scene, then a mention of her and his guilt, at the very least.
Even in the project fans just got, it seemed crammed into the plot. One also has to wonder why that bit of information proved anything to the darker Strange Variant—after all, this is the Multiverse; this version of Stephen could have grown up in a family of ten for all he knew.
Either way, it's good that the information is out there in any form. Hopefully, those complicated feelings held by Benedict Cumberbatch’s hero will be explored in further detail and depth in his coming appearances.
Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is now playing in theaters worldwide.