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The Slayer Collection:
Buffy The Vampire Slayer - Spike
cast: Sarah Michelle Gellar, James Marsters, Nicholas Brendon, Alison Hannigan, and David Boreanaz

creator: Josh Whedon
180 minutes (15) 2003 widescreen ratio 1.78:1
20th Century Fox DVD Region 2 + 4 retail

RATING: 7/10
reviewed by Thomas Cropper
Who came up with the idea for Buffy, The Vampire Slayer? I mean really? Somebody sat down and thought: "What we need is a cross between Dawson's Creek and From Dusk Till Dawn." Every week our heroine would try to battle the forces of darkness while, at the same time, keeping her school life and love life in order. Worst of all, when looking for the name, the one they came up with was Buffy - yeah that'll work, sure. It should have been terrible, it should have been as awful as the movie from which it came, but somehow it wasn't and now, God knows how many years later, we can look back on what was possibly one of the most memorable teen-dramas of all time.
   In an effort to help us all with our nostalgia, they've kindly brought out a host of boxset DVDs to make sure that you'll never have to go without your favourite episodes. Furthermore a series of collections have now come out cherry picking various plot strands from across the whole series and, for this collection, we're looking at the main villain of the piece - Spike.
   Part Sex Pistol, part Billy Idol look-alike, Spike arrived at the beginning of the second series to save them the trouble, as Joss Whedon put it "of killing off another bad guy every week." Since then he has variously been the villain, comic turn, sidekick and even - briefly - the love interest. It's fair to say that Spike has had an interesting time on this show.
   The first two episodes, School Hard and Lie To Me feature Spike at his best. First we see his entrance, one of the finest, as he jumps down from his car, takes a drag on his cigarette and says "home sweet home." He's arrived in a Sunnydale recovering from the demise of The Master in the previous series and a TV show that had no real place to go. A 12-year-old boy called the Chosen One now runs the vampires, but he's not really supervillain material and the writers seem to agree. Barely has he settled in when he's dusted the Chosen One and taken his place as 'the big bad.' It's a stunning debut and really changes the attitude and slant of the entire series. As Spike lunges onto the show insulting Angel as an 'Uncle Tom' somehow we're already secretly rooting for the bad guy.
   By the second episode, he's in full swing as resident big bad and we get more backstory on the relationship between himself Drusilla and Angel. We find out, for example, that Angel turned Drusilla into a vampire and we confront the uncomfortable truth that one of the 'good guys' in this scenario is nothing more than a reformed mass murderer. For what, on the face of it, is really a children's programme this is some pretty shaky ground.
   The second two episodes take us into later incarnations of Spike. By Lover's Walk we see a much-changed Spike. He returns, having been run out of town and dumped by Drusilla, a shadow of his former self. He's no longer the villain, but he's become one of the great clowns and when he leaves with the words "all I have to do is find Dru and torture her until she likes me again," we almost find ourselves shouting 'ahhhh' - it's touching, it really is.
   By final episode, Fool For Love, we see a character almost unrecognisable from the first. Spike has been neutralised, by a chip in his head that prevents him from attacking innocent passers-by. He's a broken figure and, pathetically, has fallen in love with Buffy, but the writers are using this as a tool to turn the series down a decidedly darker path. As he tells his backstory to Buffy, explaining how he killed two previous slayers, he adds new dimensions to our previously sugar-sweet heroine. "You know the end is coming," he says, "and part of you wants it."
   No series is complete without its villain and Spike, who was hired initially as the disposable bad guy, has taken the show over so completely that it's become impossible for it to live without him. His fans are many and they'll be delighted with this presentation. In a number of interviews with the actor - whose thick American drawl seems put-on after you've gotten used to his 'mockney' accent on the show - we get a little more insight into one of the great baddies of our age.
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