Instant Guide to...
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
All you'll ever need to know!
The Premise: "In every generation there is a chosen one. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness. She is the Slayer." So, think strapping armour-clad princesses, think timeless landscapes, right? Wrong! The place is Sunnydale, smalltown California. The time is now - and Buffy is a petite (albeit surprisingly strong) teenager, with a secret double-life as the Slayer. For beneath the town is the 'Hellmouth', a magnet for all life-threatening weirdness… but especially vampires.

Background: Writer Joss Whedon's 1992 film established the character and mythology: vampires live among us, but one girl at a time has the latent skills to destroy them. Recast for the series, Buffy's mission was broadened beyond routine vampire battles. The result: a winning blend of witty characters, heroism, high-kicking action and high-school dilemmas (Buffy craves a normal teenage life, but the role is non-negotiable).

First Run: In the US: March 10th, 1997 on the Warner Network. In the UK, transmission began in January 1998 on Sky One (continuing until August).

Number of Episodes: 32 to date. The first semi-season of 12 (known to fans as Anno I); 20 more in the season that's just concluded in the US (Anno II). A third season is already commissioned.

Slayer & Slayerettes: Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar, whose martial arts skills are genuine) is no Grade A student, but drop-dead cool when confronting evil. Her best ally is Giles, the very English school librarian (Anthony Stewart Head). He is The Watcher who supervises Buffy's training, and collects demon and occult lore. Buffy's companions are Willow (Alyson Hannigan), a shy swot and web-head, and Xander (Nicholas Brendon), a self-deprecating slacker with wit. Cordelia - a vain, bitchy beauty - (Charisma Carpenter) is initially Buffy's biggest classroom headache; later she joins the select circle. Angel (David Boreanaz), a hunky guilt-ridden vampire with a soul, has a taboo-breaking relationship with Buffy.

Slayees: The Master is the über-Vampire of Season One, trapped under the Hellmouth until his showdown with Buffy. The Anointed, his vassal, is a Damien-like eight-year-old who is usurped in Season Two by the peroxided Spike and his beloved Drusilla. The host of non-vampiric threats includes a snake-worshipping cult, an internet-based demon and a possessed ventriloquist's dummy.
Buffy and Angel
And Isn’t That... Armin Shimerman (Quark in DSN) joined as Principal Snyder during Season One. Anthony Head starred in some loved-or-loathed coffee ads, and was also the original magician employing Jonathan Creek.

Overdone clichés: Cordelia needs rescuing. Angel turns up in the nick-of-time.

Smells like Teen Spirit: Music with a dark, post-grunge edge features prominently, sometimes live at the Bronze - Sunnydale's only tolerable club / meeting-place - sometimes to choreograph action sequences.

Photo © Warner
Straight for the Jugular
Nearly every episode sparkles, but these are essential, and typical of the series' depth and subtlety:

Welcome to the Hellmouth
The style-establishing pilot, where the Master awaits the vampire Harvest.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind
A student ignored into invisibility sets out to ruin Cordelia's big day as May Queen.

Prophecy Girl
The doom-laden Season One closer, when the Anointed leads Buffy to the Master - and Hell opens...

A costume-shop owner causes havoc by transforming his clients to personify their outfits during 'Trick or Treat'.

Lie To Me
An old LA friend of Buffy plans to lead naïve Vampire sympathisers to their deaths, hiding his own bitter secret….

 In the Wrong Vein
Teacher's Pet, with a disguised praying mantis on the school payroll, is the weakest of the early crop of one-off foes. But the series' variety is essential, and the mix gets more powerful all the time.
Mark Wyman

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