Buffy The Vampire Slayer
The Complete First Season

Title: Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season One
Rating: Not Rated
Release Date: January 15, 2002
Running Time: approximately 600 minutes
Ten-second Rundown: The Master intends to be freed from The Hellmouth, and only the Chosen One can stop him.

  • Interactive Menus
  • Scene Selection
  • Interviews with David Boreanaz and Joss Whedon
  • Commentary by Joss Whedon on pilot: Welcome To The Hellmouth
  • Photo Gallery
  • Cast Biographies
  • Pilot Script

    Choice Scene: In the pilot, Buffy gets knocked into a tomb, still occupied by a rotting corpse. After an episode of witty banter (even with vampires), the strange tone of the show establishes itself.

    Tech Specs: Full-frame format (1.33:1), English Dolby Surround, French Dolby Surround, English & Spanish subtitles.

    With such knock-offs as Dark Angel and ALIAS running around, it's easy to forget how ground-breaking and surprising Buffy The Vampire Slayer really was. Based on a so-so movie, albeit one with a good concept, many genre fans ignored it at first.

    But something about the show did more than hook viewers who tuned in; it dug its claws deep within our psyches, searching desperately to devour our souls and ascend to a higher plane of…actually, that's Season Three. Nah. The real secret to Buffy's popularity lies in its snappy dialogue, cool monsters, and strangely honest look at how painful growing up can be; when you're a teen, the scariest monster may just be in the mirror.

    A DVD collection has been long overdue, and Fox has finally answered U.S. fans (European releases have been available for some time). While some of the extras have been clearly lying around for a while, the overall package will satisfy all but the most demanding fan.

    Every season of Buffy has a defining villain, and for these first twelve episodes, it's The Master, the greatest of all vampires (until Dracula showed up last season), played by an unrecognizable Mark Metcalf. Though The Master looms over all the proceedings, creator Joss Whedon took plenty of time to establish that The Slayer can face down any supernatural menace, a tack which still keeps the show fresh.

    For those who came late to Buffy, this season will also play as somewhat of a surprise. Though Xander (Nicholas Brendan) looks pretty much the same, everyone else including Giles (Anthony Stewart Head) looks much younger than they do now. Willow (Alyson Hannigan) in particular has grown in character.

    Visually, this first season plays a bit murky. When the WB first bought the show, as Whedon tells it, they had a lot of enthusiasm and no money. So this mid-season replacement was shot on 16mm. No matter what digital tricks get used in mastering the video, the picture will always be a little less quality than you might expect. And it sounds like that will carry over through Season Two. The crew wasn't able to switch over to the more sumptuous 35mm until Season Three.

    The sound, however, is very crisp, and in a show with such sharp dialogue, it had better be. But it also benefits the score, which, when featuring a good band, really needs to be cranked up.

    Where the set could have been beefed up, however, was in the extras. Fox clearly sacrificed to get twelve episodes (not twenty-four, as the sticker on the package blares) onto three discs. We get one script, for Welcome To The Hellmouth. Snippets of an interview with Whedon find their way onto each disc, but its clear that it's an old piece: Whedon sits in front of the set for the library, destroyed three years ago.

    However, Fox did get Whedon to do commentary on the pilot episode, and through this, we get a really strong sense of the love and commitment he has for this show. Unlike a lot of such exercises, Whedon either re-watched the first episode before doing the commentary, or it really made an indelible mark on him. His anecdotes are to the point, offering insight as to why certain decisions were made, as well as what a wake-up call it was to write for television after several high-profile genre films.

    Ironically, his commentary does call up visions of extras that could have (or should have) been. A couple of scenes in the pilot were re-shot when both Whedon and Sara Michelle Gellar thought she had the wrong tone for them. It would have been cool to see the original version of at least one scene, so we could really understand what they meant.

    Whedon alludes to other castings, including Gellar herself as Cordelia, as well as how great some of the final cast members did in their auditions. Do the screen tests still exist? Or would they have just been embarrassing? And any conventioneer knows that an earlier version of the pilot exists; even just a snippet would have been cool to see.

    Maybe they will show up in a later collection; Fox has already announced Season Two for this summer. And of course fans are chomping at the bit for this season's Once More With Feeling to get a separate release ASAP. There Fox could throw in some more off-beat extras; I humbly suggest some of James Marster's and Anthony Stewart Head's club appearances.

    Still, what we have before us is a great set for a show that really is fun to watch over and over again. Even without extras at all, it would be worth it.

    Derek McCaw



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