Publisher: Titan Books
Length: 176 pages
What’s good: full colour and loads of pics, detailed bibliography and comprehensive recap of all seven seasons
What’s not so good: it just scrapes the surface, quotes from some of the cast but no new full interviews
It’s been nearly ten long bleak years since BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER (1997-2003) left our television screens and while you can still read about the Scooby Gang’s exploits in the official Dark Horse comics (considered canon), admittedly it just isn’t the same. So anything new and Sunnydale related is liable to send any potential Slayer into a frenzy of high kicks and midnight runs through the local graveyard.
Nancy Holder’s official guide BUFFY: THE MAKING OF A SLAYER starts off well. There’s a foreword by Amber Benson (Tara, Willow’s magic-practising girlfriend) and a background section on Joss Whedon and how he developed the idea for the TV series of BUFFY (as opposed to the 1992 film). All interesting stuff, but details any well-trained Slayerette would already know. There’s also appealing sections on the creative process: Joss’ experimentation with form and structure, for example in the super spooky award-winning episode Hush, his love for long takes, overviews of the main writers and, most interestingly, a section called ‘The Writers’ Room’. Here we find out how individual writers pitched their ideas for episodes, how the structure is worked out (breaking the story) and who had responsibility for what.
That’s the good bit. We then move into a chronological approach to all of BUFFY’S seven seasons and here’s where things start to lose momentum. Holder essentially gives us a synopsis of each season’s key points and conflicts, along with important themes and character backgrounds. It’s hardly ground-breaking. Don’t get me wrong – there’s a lot written here, but it’s all very descriptive and for someone (*coughmecough*) who’s watched each season over fifteen times (and counting) I’m not quite sure what you’d get out of it.
True, there are intermittent features dotted about in amidst all this paraphrasing, but the quality is variable. For example, there’s a run-down of all the Big Bads (nothing new) to storyboard sketches (better) to a map of Sunnydale (give me more!). During the Season One to Three commentaries we also learn a bit about how the set was designed and built, as well as some details about make-up and costumes. This is the kind of thing I want to see more of. But as Holder progresses with her chronological countdown the behind-the-scenes info slowly disappears, leaving just a whiff of filler.
A later section entitled ‘I Wrote my Thesis on You: Buffy in Academia’ seems more promising. One of the best things about BUFFY is the way it’s been accepted by the academic community (honest). ‘Slayage’ is a fantastic free internet journal totally devoted to BUFFY and it’s absolutely brimming with serious heavy-weight academic papers on everything Slayer and Whedon related (including ANGEL and FIREFLY). Holder touches on this community, mentioning how at the ‘first Slayage conference, 180 papers were presented’ and letting us know that there’s been a new call for papers on BUFFY and religion. But again, it’s skimming the surface.
Overall this has the feel of a rushed yearly annual: light on new info and easy to digest. Slayer collectors will probably want to add this to their hoard and it does have a lot of colour photos including a few rare behind-the-scenes ones (although most are older publicity shots or screen grabs familiar to any fan). However if you’re looking for a more detailed and weighty exploration of the mythologies of BUFFY, I’d recommend giving this one a miss.