Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete 1st Season
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete 1st Season
Review By: Staff
Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Complete First Season
Hot girls, badass monsters. That pretty much summed up my reasons for wanting to see the series premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the WB network back in March, 1997. While it seemed like a strange idea to turn a just decent horror spoof into a tv show, I tuned in based on the aforementioned conclusions I had drawn from the previews. What I found was a show that entertained me on nearly every level: horror, comedy and drama, it had it all. It transcended these genres effortlessly and eventually became a story that spoke to me as a teenager and then, simply as a person, like no other show could. Over 7 years, mastermind Joss Whedon was able to present humanity in a clearer and more meaningful light than nearly any other show or film of its time. In its first season, Buffy hadn't begun to set its ambitions so high, but it was a fun, witty horror/comedy that showed hints toward the end of the masterpiece it would eventually become.
Following the events of the 1992 campy comedy but immediately shifting to a straighter, darker tone, Buffy begins with the title character(Sarah Michelle Gellar) moving from Los Angeles to Sunnydale, a tiny Northern California town that happens to rest over the Hellmouth, a supernatural magnet for all vampires, demons and mythological evil across the globe(convenient, huh). Buffy, having run away from her destiny after the incidents chronicled in the film caused her expulsion, arrives trying to start a new life. She makes friends with Cordelia(Charisma Carpenter), the most popular girl in school, and gets on good terms with her teachers. But everything good goes sour again when she meets Rupert Giles(Anthony Stewart Head), who has been assigned to be her Watcher, to guide and educate her as she fights. Buffy initially blows him off, but is quickly pulled back into "that whole good vs. evil thing"Â when she learns of an ancient vampire known as the Master(Mark Metcalf) and his plans to open the Hellmouth and bring on the Apocalypse. Once the slaying starts, her grades and popularity coincidentally plummet, leaving her only Giles and new friends Xander(Nicholas Brendon) and Willow(Alysson Hannigan) to confide in(her mom, Joyce(Kristine Sutherland) is left outside the inner circle for obvious reasons). Aided by her friends and stalked by a suspicious but helpful man named Angel(David Boreanaz), Buffy sets out to avert the Master's plans, unbeknownst to her that she will die fighting him, according to an ancient prophecy.
DISC ONE: "Welcome to Hellmouth/The Harvest"Â, "Witch"Â, "Teacher's Pet"Â
On the first disk, we are quickly introduced to Sunnydale and its residents, living and undead. In the two part opener, the show's mythology is explained, Buffy's "Scoobie Gang"Â of friends is
DISC TWO: "Never Kill A Boy On the First Date"Â, "The Pack"Â, "Angel"Â, "I Robot, You
On the second disk, the plot, of course, begins to thicken. In "Never Kill A Boy On the First Date"Â, Buffy learns that she will probably never get the chance at a normal relationship, while the Master searches for the "Annointed One"Â spoken of in his prophecy who is necessary for his victory over the Slayer. He finds him in a very unlikely form. In "The Pack"Â, Xander, along with a gang of bullies, is possessed by a pack of hyenas and allows his sexual frustration with Buffy to manifest violently, while Principal Flutie meets a grizzly end in one of the show's more disturbing episodes up to this point. In "Angel"Â, the mysterious stranger's past is revealed and the mythology of the show is given a twist. Angel is revealed to be a vampire, but a vampire "cursed"Â with a soul and a conscience. This revelation only strengthens the ironic romance unfolding between him and Buffy, much to Xander's dismay. In "I Robot, You Jane"Â, Giles and Willow both gain love interests. Unfortunately for Willow, while Giles gets sexy, quick-witted "Techno-Pagan"Â Jenny Calender(Robia LaMorte), she gets an evil, all-powerful demon in disguise. Episodes in this disk introduce elements(Angel's curse, Buffy's relationship woes, Miss Calender's interest in witchcraft) that play very important roles on the show for the next seven years.
DISK THREE: "The Puppet Show"Â, "Nightmares"Â, "Out of Mind, Out of Sight"Â, "Prophecy Girl"Â
On the final disk, the monster of the week theme continues, while the tone begins to slowly darken. In "The Puppet Show"Â, students participating in a Giles-run talent show begin to turn up dead, and ventriloquist's dummy is the main suspect. Nazi-like Principle Synder(Armin Shimerman) is introduced here, immediately worming his way under the gang's skin. The closing moment of the episode is also one of the funniest moments in the show's history. In "Nightmares"Â, the innermost fears of the town's residents come to life, and Buffy and the Master finally meet face to face. In "Out of Mind, Out of Sight"Â, the metaphor of the invisible high school outcast is taken literally,
All in all, the first season is a fantastic prelude to the true Buffy saga told in the second and third seasons. It's a fun, if not essential starting point for new fans discovering the show on DVD. While one wouldn't be missing a whole lot by skipping the first 12 episodes, most new fans will eventually want to go back and discover how it all started when they're done with the later years. In that context, Season One may seem fluffy compared to the meatier stuff found in the other seasons, which is too bad. Because of this, I would highly recommend new fans start by checking these episodes out, so that they may be enjoyed for what they are. None, however, save maybe "Prophecy Girl"Â, are really essential to enjoying the rest of the show. But they make a bloody good companion. I occasionally make puns.
Show Score: 9/10
Featured on the disks are a total of three interviews with creator Joss Whedon and actor David Boreanaz, none of which are really that insightful. Whedon also lends commentary to "Welcome to Hellmouth/The Harvest"Â. I haven't listened to it(I'm not a fanatic or anything, geez), but it may be of more note than the interviews. Also included are a handful of 1997 WB promos for the show, complete with hokey voice-over guy and all. These are most fun for old fans of the show. The picture and sound quality is certainly passable, but you would think they'd clean up the black grain a bit more for a show that so often takes place in the dark. Basically, the episodes are presented at about the same quality they were when they first aired.
DVD Score: 7/10
Overall Score: 8.5/10
Other Critics Weigh in on Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete First Season…..
BBC Online says:
"The series picks up more or less where the Buffy movie ended, but sensibly assumes that the viewer won’t have seen it.
All the various elements are juggled with consummate skill. Writer Joss Whedon still finds time to work in plot strands that will be taken up in the next episode, while admirably driving the narrative forward.
First impressions are very favourable. The main characters are appealing, and the show’s premise is commendably unusual. This is hardly surprising, as most of the bugs were worked out by the feature film, and an elusive untransmitted pilot episode. At this stage, the characters seem fairly stock, (the computer nerd, the stuffy British librarian, etc), but they’re quickly fleshed out in the next couple of episodes. Even in the era that’s given us The X-Files and countless inferior spin-offs, there’s no show that’s directly comparable to Buffy."Â
-BBC Cult Review Team, August 1997, http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/buffy
Season One's official synopsis, courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment:
After moving to Sunnydale, California, Buffy Ann Summers just wants to be a normal teenager. Back in Los Angeles her first Watcher had died, she inadvertently burned down the school gymnasium at her old high school, and her parents got a divorce. The move to Sunnydale is supposed to give her and her mother, Joyce, a clean slate. But then she meets the school librarian, Rupert Giles, and quickly learns there is no escaping her destiny.
With Giles as her new Watcher, she reluctantly steps back in to her role as the Slayer. But this time she is not fighting alone. For she now has an inner circle of special friends ready to join the fight and drive a stake or two if need be: Willow, Xander, Cordelia, and a mysterious young man named Angel"Â¦
Rating (MPAA): NR
Originally Released/Aired: 1997
Run Time: 600 min
DVD Special Features:
– Full length commentary on “Welcome to Hellmouth” by Joss Whedon”
– interview with Joss Whedon and David Boreanaz
– Joss Whedon
– original pilot script, Buffy trailer, DVD ROM links to Buffy sites
– 3-Disc Box Set
Audio: Dolby Surround
Close Captioned: Yes
Check out Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Complete Second Season