Seven characters you meet on science fiction/fantasy TV

The leader: Buffy

The scientist, who uses a lot computer screens: Willow

The one who knows the lore, who handles a lot of dusty old books: Giles

The comic sidekick: Xander.

The outlaw who’s allied with the good guys: Angel and later Spike

The muscle: Buffy, once again.

And of course, the Big Bad: A sympathetic villain whose story arc spans a full season or more. Examples: the Mayor in Buffy Season 3, Bulshar on Wynonna Earp.

A good Big Bad steals every scene he or she is in.

Roles of individual characters change over time, and are often combined in a single character. In Stargate SG-1, O’Neill was both the leader and the comic sidekick. Teal’c was both the outlaw and the muscle. In Buffy, Willow became a powerful witch. Doctor Who is leader, comic sidekick, outlaw, scientist and loremaster all in one.

Star Trek shows have similar but different roles. No Trek is successful without the Alienated Alien – for example, Spock, Data and Odo. Voyager was flailing until they brought on 7 of 9. (Credit goes to a friend on the Alienated Alien observation.)

A few random thoughts on rewatching “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”

We’re rewatching the series. Partway through the second season now. Random observations:

  • Jenny Callendar’s declaration that she’s a “cyberpagan” just does not age well. Was it as silly then as it is today?

  • I love the episode where Ethan returns and Giles is forced to confront his past as the Ripper. The final scene with Giles and Jenny Callendar is heartbreaking. Here is a man who has isolated himself from other people and is torturing himself for the sins of his adolescence. He had one chance at making romantic connection, it’s blown, and it’s own fault.

  • I’ve gotten to know a few more English people since the show first aired. Are there REALLY people like Giles in the UK, who walk around wearing tweed all the time and drinking tea from china cups?

  • And speaking of which: Tweed all the time? In Southern California? It gets HOT here.

  • For the first two seasons at least, Angel is kind of dull. Angelus hasn’t returned yet but we did get a hint of him when Angel was PRETENDING to be Angelus to trick Spike. And that was excellent.

  • Spike was terrific as I remember him. A blogger at Tor.com compared Spike’s first couple of episodes to a kind of reverse-innocence. Spike was still pure evil then and he was fantastic.

  • If you’re a middle-aged man and you mention being a fan of “Buffy” — and “Veronica Mars” — women in their 20s will think you are creepy.

Wikipedia entry for Sunnydale, the fictional location for “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” 

Sunnydale’s size and surroundings are implausible but justified given its origins — to sustain a human population for supernatural evils to prey upon. The town’s founder spared no expense to attract a populace, and Sunnydale thus contains many elements of a large city — which the show’s writers utilized fully for comic effect and narrative convenience. During the first three seasons, Sunnydale is shown to have 38,500 inhabitants,[2] very few high schools,[3] forty-three churches,[4] a small private college,[5] a zoo,[6] a museum,[7] and one modest main street. Even so, it has twelve gothic cemeteries.[8] These cemeteries are so heavily used that services are sometimes held at night.[9] Sunnydale is divided into five neighborhoods. The first is the entertainment district which contains Bronze. The second is the alleys directly behind Bronze which contain the town’s excess supply of pallets and cardboard. The high school makes the third neighborhood. The fourth neighborhood is filled in its entirety by the large graveyard, and lastly the suburban residential sprawl is the final neighborhood. The abundance of very nice homes is made possible by low property values caused by frequent murder.[10]

Charlie Jane Anders learns vital storytelling lessons from Buffy the Vampire Slayer

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I’ve been taking a break for a month from creative writing, due to a heavy travel schedule. But now the schedule has lightened up so it’s time to get back into it.

Also, time for a “Buffy” re-watch.

Like Charlie Jane, we came to “Buffy” late. Our first episode was Season 3, the episode where Spike comes back to town and he’s bereft because Drusilla dumped him. It was one of the show’s best episodes by far, and a great choice for first. Genre TV often doesn’t work out that way — you’ve been hearing people rave about some fantastic program and you pick an episode at random and you dive in and it turns out to be one that even the show’s die-hard fans think is a steaming turd. (“Brain? What is brain?”)

A friend says “Buffy” shows that if you mix two or more cliches, you can get something fresh and original. Vampires, vampire hunters, Chosen Ones, and high school emo are all cliches. But a show about an emo high school girl vampire hunter? Brilliant!

Giles’ character was terrific. He was a cartoon English expat at first. I know expat Brits, even a couple who live in Southern California. None of them resemble Giles. None of the English people I know in England are like Giles. No English people anywhere in the world are anything like Giles. But as “Buffy” played out we saw that Giles’ manner was a conscious persona, compensating – perhaps overcompensating – for a dark past.

Still: Tweeds? In Southern California? Maybe you could get away with that in winter but even then you have to pick your days.

Oh, hell, Giles was a cartoon. But he was great anyway.

Spike turned out to be compensating in the opposite direction. His Cockney accent sounded fake because it was.

But back to Charlie Jane: The more I read about her writing philosophy, the higher her novel climbs on my to-be-read list.

[10 Vital Storytelling Lessons I Learned From Buffy the Vampire Slayer / Charlie Jane Anders / io9]