The Slayer Collection Review
The Slayer Collections; Angel, Willow, Spike, Faith
Whilst Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and its spin-off show Angel, have been phenomenally successful (far more so than the original movie ever was), producing 12 series between them to date, there are – believe it or not – people who’ve never seen it. It can be daunting to try and jump into a series mid way, and the world and relationships of the Buffy universe are complex enough to make it a difficult task. On top of which the existing DVD releases, whilst excellent sets for fans of the show, are rather expensive, making it quite the gamble to dive in and explore. With this in mind 20th Century Fox have released a selection of DVD compilations to give newcomers an affordable insight into the show, and of course get them hooked on those expensive box sets.
Each of the four discs contains four episodes, and is themed around a different character from Sunnydale; Angel (David Boreanaz), Willow (Alyson Hannigan), Spike (James Marsters) and Faith (Eliza Dushku). They’re a varied collection, ranging from the first series through to the fifth and taking in the characters first appearances and origins, as well as picking out some of their biggest plotlines throughout the years.
Angel (Season 1, Episode 7)
Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) discovers the boy she has a crush on is actually a 242 year old vampire, but he doesn’t seem to be like everyday vampires. Angel reveals the secret behind his curse, why he doesn’t hunt like most vampires, and what he did to deserve his fate.
Innocence (Season 2, Episode 1)
Angel’s curse is lifted after he experiences true happiness, which causes him to revert to the evil Angelus, which causes Buffy a world of personal and professional heartache.
I Only Have Eyes for You (Season 2, Episode 14)
The Sadie Hawkins dance at Sunnydale High releases the ghosts of star crossed lovers that died 40 years previously. Their possession of students and faculty alike ends up causing Angelus a few problems in his plan to kill the slayer.
Amends (Season 3, Episode 10)
It’s Christmas in Sunnydale but not everyone is filled with festive cheer. Angel, newly returned from a hell dimension and his soul restored once again, is plagued by visions of people he’s killed through the years. Is he simply racked with guilt, or are there more sinister forces at work, playing with his mind.
Bad Girls (Season 3, Episode 14)
Buffy is drawn to explore the darker side of her power with the help of the new Slayer – Faith. But after running amuck in Sunnydale the two of them have an unfortunate accident, and Buffy realises just how bad being bad can be.
Consequences (Season 3, Episode 15)
Whilst Buffy is filled with remorse over her actions, faith seems worryingly at ease with what they have done, and Buffy begins to understand how far off the Slayer’s path Faith has gone.
Graduation Day Part 1 (Season 3, Episode 21)
The evil Mayor has some rather nasty plans for Buffy, and on the day she finishes high school no less, and he plans of Faith carrying those plans out.
Who Are You? (Season 4, Episode 16)
After a mystical device causes Faith and Buffy to swap bodies Faith gets comfortable being Buffy, while Buffy lays in hospital unconscious. But can the responsibilities of being the good Slayer cause Faith to see how much better her life could be?
Phases (Season 2, Episode 15)
Willow discovers the joys of boys, but an unfortunate surprise awaits her when the full moon comes out.
Doppelgangland (Season 3, Episode 16)
Anya (Emma Caulfield), a former demon, lost her power after a wish she granted turned Sunnydale into a vampire haven, free from the Slayer. After an attempt to regain them – aided by Willow – goes wrong, Willow is transformed into the vampire version of herself, and is in danger of being staked by the Slayer, who is unaware of the magical reason behind Willow’s change.
Wild at Heart (Season 4, Episode 6)
Willow discovers Oz (Seth Green) in a rather compromising position, now she has to decide if he’s worth fighting for, in what could end up as a fight to the death.
New Moon Rising (Season 4, Episode 19)
Oz returns from the wilderness, now able to control his darker side, but has Willow’s relationship with Tara (Amber Benson) gone too far for her to be able to take Oz back, and will he be able to control the beast inside him once he’s lost his trademark nonchalance?
School Hard (Season 2, Episode 3)
Spike makes his arrival in Sunnydale well known as he storms parent teacher evening at Sunnydale High in an attempt to kill the Slayer.
Lie To Me (Season 2, Episode 7)
An old friend of Buffy’s comes to visit Sunnydale, but he’s not really there to see her, he plans on getting Spike to do him a little favour.
Lover’s Walk (Season 3, Episode 8)
Spike returns to Sunnydale once again, but this time without his beloved Drusilla (Juliet Landau). It seems he’s been dumped, and he’s out for revenge, and his plans involve more of the gang than just Angel and Buffy – who he blames for the break up.
Fool For Love (Season 5, Episode 7)
Buffy manages to convince, in the nicest possible way of course, Spike to recount the stories of how he had killed two previous slayers, which also happens to include the story of how he met Drusilla, and reveals that Spike wasn’t always the confident smooth talker he is today.
Rather a varied collection, which takes in many of the larger plotlines from five series – well over 100 episodes – of Buffy. The problem with that being that many strands are touched on which cannot be understood from this selection alone, some will find it intriguing, but others will find it an annoyance. But while the episodes alone may leave you with questions, all the discs manage to tell an abridged story of a key relationship from the series; both Angel and Buffy, and Willow and Oz’s tempestuous love affairs, Buffy and Faith’s contrasting sides of the Slayer persona, and Spike’s troubling love for his worst enemy. As such these may not be the most spectacular episodes, but they work nicely together and at least leave viewers with a feeling of closure on one plotline. It might, though, have been more prudent to release at least one compilation of episodes that can stand alone, the ‘monster of the week’ episodes, rather than those taking in the larger goals of each series, as that would be the easiest to recommend to newcomers to the show.
As they stand these are good value packages, which should appeal to those with some curiosity towards Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and they come close to striking the balance between showing enough of the series to get people interested and not giving them so much they are overwhelmed. It’s a fine line, but 20th Century Fox seem to have almost walked it here. Personally, as a fan of the show, I’d recommend simply going out and buying the first season box set, but at least these discs do show that the series has got more involving over the years, as well as reassuring viewers that the production values of the series got much better very fast
The episodes seem to have been taken from the same masters as are present on the box sets, this means that we get a mixture of aspect ratios (Buffy switched to widescreen releases in the UK from season 4 onwards) and the picture quality also varies. The quality of the first 2 series on DVD was always an area of criticism, these series were shot on 16mm film – before the show switched to shooting on 35mm for season 3 – and as such they just don’t look as good, I wonder if that fact played a part in the episode selection, as the majority from this collection are from season 3 onwards. But as this appears to be the best quality we can hope for from the early years it would be unfair to criticise these releases on those grounds, and the latter episodes – particularly the lone episode from season 5 – look excellent. Bite size proof that the box sets have really gone from strength to strength over the years.
All the episodes are presented in Dolby Surround, which basically translates to the same stereo mixes Buffy has always been shown with on television. These are by no means bad, but it’s a shame that not even the latest series have received 5.1 mixes, which are no longer uncommon on presentations of American series, as some of the more elaborate episodes could have made good use of the extra channels. Unspectacular presentation it may be, but nothing more was expected.
Each disc contains only two extras, they all carry the same trailer for the Buffy and Angel box sets, which is somewhat odd, using some flash animation mixed with the footage and using the Australian pack shots – they are available in Amaray cases there rather than the book style sets available in the UK. Each disc also has a 15 minute introduction to the character the disc is themed around. These consist of interviews with the actor involved about their character, and many of the series’ writers and producers discussing how they developed the characters over the series, and how their story arcs have often ended up far from where they were originally envisaged. As such they do contain some spoilers from the later series, but little more so than watching the episodes themselves and these are a nice way of getting to know a little more about the Buffy universe.
It should be obvious that these are not aimed at existing fans, and anyone who already owns the box sets can ignore these releases, but for those intrigued by the phenomenon Buffy has become could do a lot worse than pick one of these discs up. It wouldn’t be worth buying the set, even at the low price they are available at, anyone that interested should be looking at the full series sets, but these make a great taster, in fact much more so than the previous stand alone release of the episode Once More With Feeling, as that was far from typical Buffy. If I had to pick one, I’d say that Faith’s collection offers the most enjoyable episodes, but all of the discs contain enough of the elements that have made the show so popular so that the curious can make up their minds one way or the other.