A wise man wrote:
[The bombast in the novels of Sir Walter Scott] will always be stirring to anyone who approaches it, as he should approach all literature, as a little child. We could easily excuse the contemporary critic for not admiring melodramas and adventure stories, and Punch and Judy, if he would admit that it was a slight deficiency in his artistic sensibilities. Beyond all question, it marks a lack of literary instinct to be unable to simplify one’s mind at the first signal of the advance of romance. “You do me wrong”, said Brian de Bois-Guilbert to Rebecca. “Many a law, many a commandment have I broken, but my word, never”. “Die”, cries Balfour of Burley to the villain in Old Mortality. “Die, hoping nothing, believing nothing–” “And fearing nothing”, replies the other. This is the old and honourable fine art of bragging, as it was practised by the great worthies of antiquity. The man who cannot appreciate it goes along with the man who cannot appreciate beef or claret or a game with children or a brass band. They are afraid of making fools of themselves, and are unaware that that transformation has already been triumphantly effected.
– G. K. Chesterton, Twelve Types: The Position of Sir Walter Scott
I am confident that Chesterton, if he lived today, would be a big fan of both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Doctor Who. And he would be right to be.
I’ve been watching my way right through Buffy the Vampire Slayer again. Tonight I made it as far as the first two episodes of season six, Bargaining parts 1 and 2.
All through season five I wanted to blog. Especially when I reached The Body, which is — and I say this without hyperbole — the most astonishing and perfect forty-five minutes of television I have ever seen, and I am confident in saying the most astonishing and perfect forty-five minutes of television that have ever been made. (I say this as a huge fan of Veronica Mars, Doctor Who and Firefly.) But I didn’t blog The Body, because I couldn’t see how to write about it without being totally spoily. And I really didn’t want to spoil season five for anyone, especially the event that immediately precedes The Body.
So I won’t say anything about the opening to season 6, except for two things.
1. They really, really didn’t make it easy. The key event in those episodes? They earn it. They pay for it. And they make us pay.
2. Expect the comment thread to be spoily. Don’t read the comments unless you’ve seen seasons five and six of Buffy.
Last time around, in a post about Luke’s role in the Star Wars saga, I wrote about the lightsaber duels in the movies:
The lightsabre duels in the original trilogy are sort of stately and choreographed. You can see and understand what’s happening, and follow the progress of the battle. In The Phantom Menace, the speed and elaborateness were raised in the Darth Maul fight [...]. By Attack of the Clones, they were too fast to follow, and in Revenge of the Sith they are faster still, so we literally can’t see (or, really, care) what’s happening: the result is that the fights — all of them, and there are plenty — end up being reduced to a random whirls of light that continues until someone arbitrarily wins.
It’s that arbitrariness that bugs me. You can’t tell me that, in the climactic Anakin/Obi-Wan duel on the planet made of lava, there comes any point where either one of them works himself into a position where he has a convincing tactical advantage over the other.
I just started re-watching the Buffy Season 2 DVDs [amazon.com, amazon.co.uk] and I was immediately struck by one point in the first episode, When She Was Bad. This, fans will recall, is the episode in which Buffy works through her issues left over from the Season 1 finale, in which she fought the Master and [spoiler alert!] was briefly killed before in turn killing him.
In When She Was Bad, Buffy is a bitch, there’s no doubt about it. She is dismissive of her friends, actively hostile towards other schoolmates, and manipulative of Xander during their subtly distressing dance scene. It’s obvious that she’s been knocked much further off centre by her experiences in Season 1 than she’s letting on.
Last time, I reviewed the first four minutes and 12 seconds of the 1992 movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer, because that was as far through as I could get before I felt overwhelmed by the weirdness of it all. The movie predates by five full years the much more recognised 1997-2003 TV series, and has a completely different cast: the one character appearing both the movie and the TV show is Buffy herself, and in the movie that title role was played by Kirsty Swanson rather than Sarah Michelle Gellar.
And by the way, the first 3:35 of that 4:12 are credits and title sequence music.
Ugh! That’s not Buffy!
Sample dialogue: “Oh, wow, look at that jacket! Oh, this is so lush! Wouldn’t you guys just love me in this?”
This is going to take a lot of getting used to.
Those of you who have become regular readers of The Reinvigorated Programmer but who don’t watch Joss Whedon’s show Buffy the Vampire Slayer will probably be inclined to skip over this article. Don’t do that! I hope to show you that Buffy has depths that you’re probably not aware of, and maybe to introduce you to a TV programme that you’ll not only enjoy over the next few months, but also add to your cultural tapestry. Buffy is very, very good, and I missed it for a long while because I thought it sounded dumb and fluffy and insubstantial. My bad. Don’t make the same mistake I did.