Beverly Hills 90210 mixed with a monster movie may have been an interesting premise, but the 1992 Buffy The Vampire Slayer movie seemed to prove that it should have been left on the drawing board. Writer Joss Whedon disagreed, and brought the idea to the small screen in '97.
Sarah Michelle Gellar's troubled vampire slayer was supported by willing but ineffective friends Xander and Willow, and mentor librarian Rupert Giles, portrayed by Brit actor Anthony Stewart Head. Pitted against Buffy was the embodiment of teen rivalry, shallow Valley girl Cordelia, and an endless parade of pointy toothed nasties.
It was a bit shaky to begin with, but as Whedon's direction improved and the ensemble cast found their feet, Buffy The Vampire Slayer slowly blossomed into one of the most intriguing shows on TV.
All good things come to an end though, and this six DVD set documents Buffy's
final season. However, it comes at a bad time for fans of Whedon's work.
New sci-fi show Firefly was cancelled in its first season despite rave
reviews, and Buffy spin-off Angel is being pulled when the current
fifth season ends. Creatively, with increasing regularity, Angel was
eclipsing its parent, but crucially this wasn't mirrored in the ratings. A
sad end to
a truly remarkable show.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer's final season comes off the back of its weakest period. The majority of season six was slow and uninviting, with a lot of the major characters overly concerned with introspection and self-loathing.
Opening episode Lessons recognises this, and takes the series back to its origins. Sunnydale High School has been rebuilt (on top of the Hellmouth again, naturally) and Buffy joins the staff as a student counsellor. James Marsters as Spike also returns, living in the school basement and seemingly insane. It's soon revealed that the vampire has regained his soul, and thus begun his redemption for a live of evil.
Even the early stand-alone episodes such as Beneath You and Him introduce pertinent information for the coming plot arc, but it's with the edgy and disturbing Conversations With Dead People that things really start to move. As the title suggests, the lead characters are visited by dead friends and acquaintances, each of whom plays on their insecurities and emotions. Particularly harrowing is Buffy's sister Dawn (Michelle Trachtenberg)'s meeting with their dead mother, Joyce . . .
It becomes apparent that the deceased visitors were all aspects of the same entity, the most powerful 'big bad' the gang have ever faced, The First - the oldest and most elemental incarnation of pure evil. In Bring On The Night, The First's acolytes are revealed, the seemingly invulnerable Turok-Han 'uber vamps', as is the possible solution in the form of three 'potentials' - girls who could be slayers if Buffy was to die.
As the good guys assemble their growing, but ill-trained and under-equipped force, augmented by Spike, the returned prodigal slayer Faith (Eliza Dushku) and former Geek Trio member Andrew (Tom Lenk), the true scale of The First's might is revealed . . .
To be blunt, season seven is superb, and is very likely the series' best, being on a par with season four. The sense of dread as it approaches its finale is unmatched, and the cast make the mounting tension and barely concealed hysteria totally believable.
The supporting cast in particular is very impressive: Recovered vengeance demon Anya (Emma Caulfield) bickering with the outrageously camp Andrew - surely this collection's real star - is priceless, and bad guy Caleb (Nathan Fillion) takes the concept of American Gothic's Sheriff Buck character to its logical conclusion.
The crowd pleasers are all present and correct too: The First morphs into each season's big bad - The Master, Glory, Adam and more - Faith, Angel and Joyce return (albeit sometimes briefly), and fan-boy references are liberally sprinkled throughout each episode.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer Season Seven DVD Collection is fabulous television,
and an impressive legacy from from Joss Whedon. We've not heard the
last of him though; A Firefly movie has been green-lighted, he's writing
a new X-Men series for Marvel and you'd be crazy to bet against a
return to the Buffyverse in years to come.
:: Rowan Shaeffer