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Feature: Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Slaying the Competition

Good ideas don't die

Over the past seven years, the seriesr has evolved from fun show into a cult phenomenon. As the Slayer stakes her last vamp, we discover why the Scooby Gang will leave an enduring legacy…

Unlike many Sci-Fi or Fantasy shows, however, Buffy The Vampire Slayer’s fate is not down to dwindling ratings or a descent into mediocrity – rather, those involved have chosen to go out on a high, bringing the series to an end while it’s still at the peak of its popularity. And, unlike many of its contemporaries, Buffy has transformed the genre and left a mark that will undoubtedly continue to influence future programmes – not to mention the popularity of spin-off show Angel, and rumours of various other affiliated projects already in the pipeline. But why does the sassy Slayer – and her friends – stand head and shoulders above the competition, with a legacy that will continue to be felt long after the final credits have rolled?

Since its launch in 1997, Buffy has steadily grown from quirky genre show to one of the most respected, and loved, dramas of modern television. A look back at its origins, however, reveals little explanation of this huge success. The 1992 movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer, starring fluffy pseudo-teen star Kristy Swanson in the lead role, failed to set the box office alight and was the subject of critical derision. It may come as a surprise to learn that the script was written by a certain Joss Whedon, now hailed as a master of his craft and all-round genius. Whedon’s initial premise for the film was a dark comedy, inspired by the Horror films that he loved and his desire to create a better fate for the screaming blonde victims of those movies. So he envisioned a strong central female character in Buffy, the teenage girl chosen by fate to rid the world of vampires and demons. Unfortunately Whedon’s script suffered extensive re-writes in an effort to make it ‘lighter’, and the farcical, romantic comedy-esque result was nothing like he had planned.

Five years later, Whedon premièred his Buffy on television screens, and the series should be seen as a spin-off from his original script, not from the film itself. As such, the movie plays no real part in the Buffy success story, and so can be disregarded. Thank God.

Undoubtedly, the main reason why Buffy has joined the ranks of these immortal shows is its creator. By bringing the skills he had honed working on movie scripts as diverse as Alien Resurrection and Toy Story, and surrounding himself with the most talented and forward-thinking writers in the business (people like Marti Noxon and Jane Espenson in particular), he immediately made his show something special. His attention to detail is legendary, and the series has remained fresh because he keeps his finger firmly on the pulse of the genre. The fans are obviously the force behind the show’s success and, unlike some of their contemporaries, Whedon and team are aware of this at all times and actively work to include the viewer in the whole Buffy experience.

by Nikki Baughan

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Cult Times Special #26

Photo © Warner Bros, Image © Visual Imagination
Feature © Visual Imagination 2003. Not for reproduction

Taken from
Cult Times Special #26, see below for ordering options
Cult Times Special #26
The Immortals 2003
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