ORBzine - 1999.01 Television Review

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer [pilot: episodes 1 & 2]

Welcome to the Hellmouth / The Harvest
[shown December 1998]
[shown 3rd & 10th May 2001 - Thursday]

This is a sequel to the Kirsty Swanson film , not a remake of it - unlike most pilot episodes of shows based on movies. Gellar is accepted as Swanson's character, newly moved from L.A. [site of the movie] to a small California town. She starts to settle in, and befriends a couple of nerds called Willow [played by the delectable Alyson Hannigan ] and Xander [Nicholas Brendon].

However, her past as a Vampire Slayer follows her, in the shape of 2 people in the town. One is the school librarian, who introduces himself as Giles the Watcher, played by television's Gold Blend man [Anthony Stewart Head]. The other is a villainous vampire called Luke, played by Brian Thompson [ X-Files, Kindred: the Embraced - he has been an SF villain so often you will recognise him immediately].

As in the film, the vampire hordes seek to slaughter the town's attractive human teenagers in order to free their leader - and Buffy the reluctant Slayer is the only one who can stop them!

Once TV pilots were shot as TV movies, then cut into 2 parts; this show was filmed as 2 separate episodes, and actually has 2 different directors. The plot is very similar to the Swanson movie - the original writer Joss Whedon is now Executive Producer, and has managed to turn his big-screen flop into small-screen success.

One of the best features of this version is the new actress in the title role. This reviewer first saw Sarah Michelle Gellar [whose initials also stand for Sub-MachineGun!] in Scream 2 and I Know What You Did Last Summer [IKWYDLS] - 2 roles very different from that of Buffy the fresh-faced 16-year old. In Scream 2 she plays a sensible sorority girl/film student who has the memorable line You've got a hardon for [James] Cameron and beats up the pathetic killer before ... Well, I won't spoil it for you.

In IKWYDLS she plays the town's beauty queen [and sister of Mortal Kombat star Brigitte Wilson ], who tempts her drunken BF into the back seat of his car by promising I'll let you do things to me. Unfortunately for her, in IKWYDLS she was not up against a second-rate slasher as in the Scream sequel.

As Buffy, Ms Gellar has ample opportunity to display her talent - and although she is playing a character five years younger than herself she does so marvelously.

SMG does not carry the show by herself. Her on-screen rival as teen babe of the decade is Alyson Hannigan - who while admittedly more attractive than her is also a more talented actress; Hannigan's character is dowdy and even nerdish, something far removed from the actress herself.

The other supporting actor of note is Giles the Watcher. Tony Head shows there is more to him than just a coffee-addict - but not much more; the character is little more than a thin stereotype.

All in all, however, this is an extremely entertaining show. An interesting heroine, witty dialogue, intelligent characters and entertaining plots all come together to create something that is reminiscent of the first season of the X-Files, before Chris Carter's show lost its bite.

Rating: 80%

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Buffy Buffy the Vampire Slayer [Season 1, Episode 3] The Witch
shown January 1999
shown 17th May 2001 [Thursday]

Buffy decides to join the School Cheerleading squad. She is still nice and round-limbed, not the bag of bones from later episodes. However, it seems that one of the other girls, Amy, is sabotaging the try-outs by witchcraft.

Giles uses witchcraft himself, and it's a pity he didn't use magic in more episodes. Instead the writers made him into a useless stereotype.

Like many episodes of the show, the supernatural threat is a metaphor for a problem teenagers face. Here it is Overbearing Parent syndrome.

There are a few nice touches. The idea of mindswop was used in a later Season, and the ending seems a reference to the original movie The Fly . Also, the cheerleaders' music is used in a film where Eliza Dushku starred as a cheerleader!

Buffy Buffy the Vampire Slayer [Season 1, Episode 4] Teacher's Pet
shown January 1999
shown 24th May 2001 [Thursday]

Musetta Vander guest-stars as Ms French, the new Biology teacher who takes a shine to Xander. Xander is happy but Slutty - err, Buffy - is spiteful. Why doesn't she find someone her own age? Later, we discover that Buffy assumed Xander wasn't a virgin.

Poor Ms French, all she wants to do is find a father for her children. And let's face it, the reason for living is sex!

Cordelia only has the briefest of appearances. She discovers a corpse, then talks about it to a Counsellor.

Buffy Buffy the Vampire Slayer [Season 1, Episode 5] Never Kill A Boy On The First Date
shown January 1999
shown 31st May 2001 [Thursday]

Buffy wants to date a guy called Owen, because he is quiet and broody and reads books. Cordelia wants him too. Unbelievable or what? Buffster gets frustrated when her Slayer duties get in the way, and Xander gets jealous. Buffy could have any man she wants.

The Vampires plot to create the Annointed One.

Buffy Buffy the Vampire Slayer [Season 1, Episode 6] The Pack
shown January 1999
shown 7th June 2001 [Thursday]

The episode was great - this reviewer intended to go out, but stayed in to watch it, and now I wish I had gone out and videotaped Buffy so I could watch it over.

A trip to the zoo turns bad when Xander and some tough kids [including Jennifer Sky ] are possessed by Hyena Demons. He gains confidence, but becomes a bit of a bastard. Oh well, nobody's perfect.

Buffy's male associate Xander [Nicholas Brandon] and 4 other classmates (including Jennifer Sky ) are possessed by a Hyena spirit. The possession acts as a disinhibitor, and in Xander's case allows him to express his true feelings about Buffy. Naturally, she cannot cope with having her sad, nerdish love slave transformed into a confident, capable individual and promptly cures him.

The problem with the episode is this. Xander rejects his long-time hanger-on, Willow [Allyson Hannigan] in brutal fashion - I won't have to look at your pasty face again [maniacal Hyena laughter], and this is portrayed as being negative. However, Buffy rejects Xander by hitting him with a desk, among other things, and we are supposed to empathise with her?

Let's face it, rejection is rejection - and this reviewer feels for Xander. In his place a smart man would just refuse to speak to Buffy ever again, and thus deny her the opportunity to hurt him again.

Buffy has a thing for Angel, which is sick in itself. This gets a mention, even though Angel and Cordy don't appear this episode. But when Xander wants to make love to Buffy, this is meant to be perverse.

Apparently zebras mating is like the heimlich but with stripes.

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Buffy Buffy the Vampire Slayer [Season 1, Episode 7] Angel
shown February 1999
shown 14th June 2001 [Thursday]

One of main story arc's from the Pilot Episode is concluded. Buffy discovers the truth about her Amor, Angel. The episode builds to a climactic battle with Darla [ Julie Benz ], the female vampire - and one potentially vital character is removed permanently from the series.

Get your own copy HERE!

Buffy Buffy the Vampire Slayer [Season 1, Episode 8] I Robot, You Jane
shown 25th February 1999 [Wednesday]
shown 21st June 2001 [Thursday]

This episode we get to see Willow finally get one of these relationship things Merkins are always talking about. However, this relationship is carried out over e-mail, and the BF turns out to be a robotic demon called Moloch the Corruptor. Oh well.

The problem this reviewer has with this storyline is the way on-line relationships are portrayed. Willow instantly rejects her BF once she finds out he falls short of her expectations - how typically female! However, this reviewer cannot see a MALE character getting away with such brutal rejection of a suitor - not without being vilified for it! See Season 4 for further details.

On a plus note, Giles the Librarian is actually seen talking to a ... female! Yes, the overgrown nerd finally gets a chance at a relationship himself; one can only hope the lady in question [computer teacher Jenny Calendar, played by Robia La Morte] turns out to be a recurring character.

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Buffy Buffy the Vampire Slayer [Season 1, Episode 9] The Puppet Show
Shown 3rd March 1999 [Wednesday]
Shown 12th July 2001 [Thursday]

In the strangest of coincidences, Quark himself has a cameo as the new School Principal!

A demon is collecting body-parts from members of the school's talent contest - and one of the entrants has a ventriloquist's dummy with a life of its own!

An Evil Entity goes about dismembering the members of the school talent show. Meanwhile, Buffy and Co suspect that a ventriloquist's dummy is involved ...

Cordelia pops up briefly in order to sing very badly. This leads on nicely to her career choice of Actress in the Angel spin-off show.

Get your own copy HERE!

Buffy Buffy the Vampire Slayer [Season 1, Episode 10] Nightmares
shown 10th March 1999 [Wednesday]
shown 26th July 2001 [Thursday]

Nightmares start to come true - and for someone like Buffy, those nightmares are more terrifying than a normal person could ever imagine ...

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Buffy Buffy the Vampire Slayer [Season 1, Episode 11] Invisible Girl
shown 17th March 1999 [Wednesday]
shown 2nd August 2001 [Thursday]

An invisible girl [ Clea DuVal from The Faculty ] with a grudge against the school's May Queen wreaks havoc for Buffy and the Slayerettes. Finally, Charisma Carpenter gets a role worthy of her title billing. We see that Cordy is more than a 1-dimensional bimbo ... Also, Harmony [ Mercedes McNab ] pops up long enough to fall down the stairs.

The original story was written by Joss Whedon himself, and resembles the Halo Jones story, I'll Never Forget What's-his-name. The director is Reza Badiyi, an Iranian who directed many episodes of Mission: Impossible in the 1960s.

The downbeat ending is straight out of X-Files - and this reviewer has to say, this show is FAR superior to the average M&S episode!

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Buffy Buffy the Vampire Slayer [Season 1, Episode 12 - Finale] Prophecy Girl
shown 31st March 1999 [Wednesday]

Buffy faced a prophesy that she would die at the hands of the head vampire, the Master, in this climactic final episode to Season 1.

Angel, Giles' girlfriend, the Annointed One and Charisma Carpenter all make obligatory Guest Appearances.

We don't have to wait long for Season 2, though - it starts next Thursday. And we even get to see a trailer to announce the new slot!

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