Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 1 (1997)
By: J.R. McNamara on May 24, 2010  | 
DVD
Fox | Region 4, PAL | 4:3 | English DD 2.0 | 515 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Creator: Joss Whedon
Starring: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anthony Stewart Head, Nicholas Brendon, Alyson Hannigan, Charisma Carpenter, David Boreanaz
Country: USA
External Links
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Once upon a time there was a wonderful creature of the night known as a vampire. It was a scary creature, who rose from the grave at night and fed on the blood of the innocent. Unfortunately films like Fright Night, and the writings of Anne Rice turned vampires into emasculated, make-up-less clowns who never really seem to be any kind of threat at all.

1992's Buffy the Vampire Slayer film continued the castration of the vampire myth, and Joss Whedon's character leapt from the silver to the small screen in 1997 with a sucessful TV series that went for seven seasons, spun off another series (the horrible and devoid of entertainment Angel) and a series of comic books that, as of 2010, is still going.

Season 1 of this TV series is, at only 12 episodes, thankfully short.

Episode 1: Welcome to the Hellmouth - Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Geller) has arrived at her new school in Sunnydale, leaving the world of vampire slaying (with some loose references to the 1992 film starring Kristy Swanson, Donald Sutherland and Rutger Hauer) behind her, but very quickly she finds her destiny cannot be abandoned so easily. The new librarian at Sunnydale High, Rupert Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) realises who Buffy is and tells her that he is to be her new Watcher, and her arrival at Sunnydale has been organised, and that she will be the defender of all things good as the town has been built on a nexus of all things evil, called the Hellmouth, a place to where evil is drawn. Hopefully she will be able to keep her secret identy a secret from her new friends, nerdy loser Xander (Nicolas Brenden) and shy wallflower Willow (Alyson Hannigan).  It is a shame all Buffy wanted was to be a normal girl; it is also a shame that bitchy popular girl Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) is out to get her. And who is the mysterious Angel (David Boring-as... I am sorry Boreanaz) who is the deliverer of strange mystic messages?

Episode 2: The Harvest - Well, Buffy's ability to keep her secret identity secret lasted all of one episode and now Willow and Xander have become fellow vampire busters, though more with research and getting in the way than actual vampire hunting. Xander does become proactive in this episode though, as a friend of his, Jesse (Eric Balfour) becomes bitten, and becomes part of a vampre cabal under the vampire leader, The Master (Mark Metcalf), who is trapped in an underground cavern, and yearns for the Hellmouth to open.

Episode 3: Witch - The first of the episodes that get a bit stupid. Buffy tries to join the cheerleader squad but suspects that one of the others trying out, Amy (Elizabeth Anne Allen), is a witch who is casting spells on her competitors to knock them out of the running.

Episode 4: Teacher's Pet - Another silly episode where a science teacher is eaten by his replacement, a gigantic praying mantis that has the ability to pose as a human being, in this case the sexy Miss French, who starts luring teenage boys to after school liasons for mating... and eating.

Episode 5: Never Kill A Boy On The First Date - Aching to lead the life of a normal teen girl, Buffy ignores her duties as the Slayer to go on a date with school hunk Owen (Christopher Wiehl), but when Giles investigates another prophecy involving the Master, he gets into trouble and requires Buffy's help. They think they stop the prophecy, but don't realise that a child and object of the prophecy, Collin (Andrew J. Ferchland) has made it to the Master's grasp.

Episode 6: Prey - This is a strange episode as it is a ridiculous premise that is well executed by all involved. A gang of Sunnydale High tough guys, led by total jerk-off, Kyle Dufours (Eion Bailey) gets possesed by the spirits of hyenas on a school field trip and wreak havok through the school, eating the school mascot, and the principal (living every teens dream)... the problem is, when they were posessed, Xander was with them, and he too, is becoming a predatory beast. Can Buffy, Giles and Willow save Xander from permantly becoming an animal? The best thing about this episode is the death of the ineffectual and pathetic principal, who is replaced by the far more ominous Principal Snyder (Armin Shimerman).

Episode 7: Angel - So the secret of Angel is finally revealed: he is a vampire...what a surprise. When the Master sends some kick-ass vampires after Buffy, Angel steps in to assist her, and Buffy feels her feelings toward him grow. The Master's vampiric assistant, and Collin's older sister, Darla (Julie Benz) sets it up so that Buffy finds out his secret when Angel is left holding a bitten Buffy's mother. The truth is eventually revealed but how can the Slayer be attracted to a vampire... this is where the Buffyverse starts to fall apart. Sure the whole 'forbidden love' thing is a favorite amongst teenage girls and lonely 30 year olds who live alone with four cats, but when the idea flies in the face of the concept of a 'Vampire Slayer' it is when my eyes start to roll back into my head.

Episode 8: I, Robot...You, Jane - Willow scans some ancient texts into  a computer, which cause the entire internet to become a sentient demon. The demon, though, makes Willow think it is a guy cracking onto her via email. Luckily, the computer teacher at Sunnydale also happens to be a cyber-witch...phew! That was lucky!!! This was a daft episode in 1997, but is even worse now as the whole 'computer geek' stereotype went the way of 4 Non Blondes and Hypercolor T-shirts, and if you are reading this review, you would have been classed as such. To make this epsiode even worse, when the demon finally is revealed, he looks like the offspring of Darth Vader and a Care Bear.

Episode 9: The Puppet Show - It feels like a bad episode of Goosebumps, but actually this episode is quite good. A talent show is happening at Sunnydale High, but unfortunately, so is murder. The victims are having various organs removed and the prime suspect is a ventriloquist who has strange headaches, and a creepy dummy. This episode has a nice twist to it, though the eventual payoff is a bit sorry.

Episode 10: Nightmares - People's nightmares are coming true! Xander turns up naked to class, Giles loses the ability to read, Buffy is told by her father that she was the reason that her parents split up, everyone is living their greatest fear but why, and what does Billy, a child in a coma, have to do with it? Obviously a lite version of A Nightmare on Elm Street this is one of the more uneven episodes, which is a shame as it shows the potential. Some of the nightmares are ridiculous, which takes the edge off the horrific ones.

Episode 11: Out of Mind, Out of Sight - This is probably the best episode of series 1, and touches on a great teen fear: that of being ignored. The school seems to be haunted as something seems to be going all poltergeist-y on the stduent body, especially those who are acquaintences of Cordelia, but when the 'ghost' bumps into Buffy, the group realise that maybe this isn't something undead, but someone with an amazing ability. This episode also starts to prepare us for the final episode with a revisit from Angel. I also like this episode as it features a favourite actress of mine, Clea Duvall. Tragically, the potential for a spin-off revealled at the end of this episode was never explored.

Episode 12: Prophecy Girl - It is revealed to Buffy that she is to die on the night of the prom, which to a 16 year old girl is perceived as a massive bummer. All the lingering threads throughout the series are tied up a bit too tidily in this episode as the entire storyline of the Master finally comes to a close. It does set up the succeeding series and really showcases the acting ability of some of the cast.

Now my negativity might suggest I hate Joss Whedon, but that is not true. I really enjoyed both Firefly and Serenity, and thought his writing on Marvel's The Astonishing X-Men was exceptional but I just didn't like any of the characters in this first series. I found all the kids to be extraorinarily smart-arse-y and completely unlikeable. Thankfully the series did improve, and the characters all softened to become actual characters instead of amalgams of all the biggest jerks you would ever meet in a lifetime.

The scripts were also quite generic: problem sets up in the first 20 minutes, they sit down to work out the solution and at the 25 minute mark, Giles will say 'That's it' and they spend the last 20 minutes solving the problem, usually the first attempt fails at the 38 minute mark, and a last minute solution then presents itself... then the hidden bad guy reveals himself.

That's not to say that some of the scripts weren't funny at times, but at the end, series one of Buffy the Vampire Slayer felt like Beverly Hills 90210 with the occasional spooky bit.
Video
Not the greatest image ever seen on DVD, with a lot of grain that is immediately apparent. The disc is presented in 4:3 as would be expected considering it is a TV show that was on TV before the idea of widescreen TV shows was a common thing.
Audio
Audio is presented in Dolby 2.0 and has no apparent flaws.
Extra Features
Disc 1: Interview with Joss Whedon and David Boreanaz has the two describe the series, both where the ideas came from, and what its all about. It feels like it is a promo piece for investors, or an extended network advert.

Commentary by Joss Whedon is a detailed and quite interesting commentary where he discusses origins and production secrets of the series.

There are 2 text scripts for 'Welcome to the Hellmouth' and 'The Harvest".

The Buffy Trailer is an ad for all of series one, I assume on video considering part of its dialogue says 'take it home'.

There are also DVD-Rom elements (un-reviewed) which are a screensaver and access to www.buffy.com.

Disc 2: This disc presents us with a music clip for the song "I Quit" by English Only and a dreaded Stills Gallery.

Disc 3: This disc just featured text biographies of the main cast.

The Verdict
A poor start to a sucessful TV series that thankfully got better as it went along. I admit I am surprised it survived this dismal first series though.
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score

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