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October 05 2004

Pray He Doesn't Alter Them Any Further . An article about the new Star Wars DVD set. Did you know about the connection between 'The Empire Strikes Back' and Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

By Jonathan Last, the Weekly Standard editor who called Buffy the best show in TV history:(http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/002/706fyuan.asp)
There is a Buffy reference near the end. Never knew where the term "Nerf Herder" came from. Now I do.

D'oh! I have tried several times to fix this post...Simon, somebody, a little help?

No html skills whatsoever here, folks, sorry!
I can't help you Chris, but can I say that Amends really is not the best episode ever and i found it really quite boring. Although i loved "Help" it wasn't good enough for the Top Ten
I like this guy. Check out the link at the bottom for a defense of the Empire in "Star Wars".
Link seems fine to me.

Chris in Virgina: Thanks ever so for the link to Last's piece about BtVS - I'd never read it. He is clearly a discerning and smart fan (although I would never dream of putting "Help" on my top 10 list. I'm with Justine Larbalestier in thinking that there's more drek than gold in that particular hill.)

As far as his Star Wars rant is concerned, while I'm sympathetic to his central theme (Lucas's obsession with tinkering and his apparent bottom line of merchandise, merchandise, merchandise), I find several of Last's points actually rather weak. His main critique is the substitution of Hayden Christiansen for Sebastian Shaw (and I'd never noticed the X-Men name connection before - funny) in the final scene of RotJ. I agree that it's tacky, and Last's belief that the timeline now doesn't work out may be valid, depending on what Lucas does in the next movie. But harping on about the actors' ages is completely beside the point - if Anakin takes a dive into a volcano or what-have-you in order to complete his transformation into Darth, he will surely come out looking like 78 rather than 23. Who cares how old the actors are? And to say that Luke wouldn't know who the figure standing with Yoda and Obi-Wan was is simply nit-picking. I think he'd have a pretty good idea, even without recourse to mystical explanation such as "the Force told him it was his dad". And the charge that "Lucas has made it philosophically impossible to separate the original trilogy" from the paler latter-day movies? Well, duh, that's his goal really, isn't it? I think Last is right to be pissed off, but the collection of persnickety little jabs that he has assembled here don't really advance his case very much.

I bought the DVDs, and have enjoyed them. I can't believe that more than 1 fan in 10,000 will hear any of the technical problems that have been identified, and I actually give plaudits to Lucas for allowing some of the actors and Gary Kurtz, the producer of SW and ESB, to voice some mild criticism of his filmmaking methods in the accompanying documentary.

But here's a little think-piece: how many of us would like Joss to go back into BtVS (or AtS) and tweak some of the "less-successful" moments or even try to achieve his "original intent"? Let's say - have Tara appearing in "Conversations with Dead People", or get rid of the notorious time glitch in "Innocence", or make the Ozwolf look the same over the seasons, or (stretching now), make there be 100 Hellions attacking Sunnydale in "Bargaining" rather than six or seven slightly overweight bikers on not-very-impressive bikes?

The fact that I'm straining to come up with anything to "improve" suggests that the series is close to perfect and, more important, that it is so organically-woven that tinkering with one part is liable to have a serious effect on the others.
At first glance, not the obvious link about the Whedonverse so I'll edit your subject line to show the Buffy connection. But hey it's our 5000th link* :).


*This includes test links and links that have been deleted.
Whooooooo! Whedonesque! Can't wait for the next 5000
Yay!! Quite an accomplishment!
SoddingNancyTribe, how about making Buffy look like she crawled out of a grave in "Bargaining" That has always bothered me. But good points. I for one don't mind George Lucas "fixing" some things in the movies...I do wish that he had included the originals in the box set though.
If you see Star Wars for the first time with these new changes then you should enjoy it as much as you would have enjoyed the originals, because the additions are mostly superficial. But if you saw the originals first and are now seeing the Re-Mastered editions, then I can understand feeling a little frustrated. A lot of Last's comments are weak, but I see where he's coming from. I've been there a little.

"The fact that I'm straining to come up with anything to "improve" suggests that the series is close to perfect and, more important, that it is so organically-woven that tinkering with one part is liable to have a serious effect on the others."

People would have once said the same thing about the original Star Wars trilogy, remember. It's important to bare in mind that the creator of something has a vastly different perspective to those who view the final result, and thus I'm sure Joss has things he would like to have done differently in BtvS and AtS just as Lucas did with Star Wars. Perfection is in the eye of the beholder, is what I'm trying to say.

Of course, there is also a difference between 'wish you had done things differently' and actually going and retroactively changing things. Joss may wish Tara was in Conversations with Dead People as Lucas wished Jabba was in A New Hope, but the difference is that I doubt Joss would use computer technology to add Amber in now. I'm thankful for that. It wouldn't make me like him or the shows less if he were to go back and start changing things - improving Ozwolf make-up certainly wouldn't effect the show in any huge negative way - but it could certainly be a bit messy and unnecessary.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it, and even if you can see the flaws that no one else does, simply learn from your mistakes and move on.
I grant the point, to some extent, but not totally. Making Greedo shoot first changes the kind of guy Han Solo is. He needs to come into the drama as a heartless, mercenary criminal so that the influence of Luke, Leia and Obi-Wan can transform him into someone who'd go back to cover Luke's back in the final battle. If it isn't clear early on that he's all about the money, it isn't out of character (and a sign of growth) that he comes back and becomes a hero. Better landspeeder visuals? Yay. A ring of fire when the Death Star blows up? Not really scientific, from what I understand, but looked cool. A restored Jabba scene with Boba Fett CGI'd in? It weakened things, but OK. But making Greedo shoot first (or even making them shoot simultaneously) makes it a poorer movie.

(How is this about Buffy? I know!)

Jonathan would agree with me, I'm sure. B)
Ah Darth Rosenberg.
Seeing Anakin as a person/ghost at the end of one of the orignal Star Wars (not recalling the names) was a shock enough—especially after we saw him without his helmet earlier on, and he was scarred, etc. Putting the new, young Anakin in doesn't work for me; why not put the Liam Neeson in as Obi Wan?!

When Star Wars came out, it broke the mold, says a friend who was in film school at the time; it did things no movie had yet done and set the bar for things afterwards. It's a shame Lucas feels teh need to go back and change it—especially when he "revises" it so that the originals are no longer available.
LudditeRobot: I agree. The Greedo change is the single biggest problem with the revised edition. I didn't understand Lucas's initial desire to change it to Greedo clearly shooting first, nor did I follow why he seemingly had second thoughts and made them shoot almost simultaneously (except that maybe he wanted it to come across more like a western shoot-out). Not only does it change Han's character, as you point out, but it completely eviscerates the humor of the original scene, which has the bounty hunter talking big, and Han just blowing him away. Not unlike the "Raiders" marketplace scene with the big guy twirling the sword and Indy shooting him, actually. Also didn't like the Mos Eisly Jabba scene for the reasons given by Last in his piece.

Gonnas: excellent points. Without putting myself in the excessively-obsessive shoes of George Lucas, it is hard to see what one might have changed in the original trilogy. I tend to like the illusion that what one sees on film is what was intended; all these special editions tend to pull back the veil on filmmaking - great fun for techno geeks, but a tad annoying for some of us regular fans. Of course, the difference in scale and timeframe between movie-making and TV shows suggests that, with television, the creators will more often have to settle for whatever they can get in the time permitted. In Joss's case, such constraints seems to have inspired him to ever greater heights.

In sum, I don't like some of Lucas's changes, and I don't like the idea of making them to begin with, but, frankly, I can't get too worked up about it all. As for Joss making such changes, the idea is frankly so remote from reality, that I'm not gonna get preemptively steamed there either. But if it ever came to pass . . .

(Quick addition) Gaudior: I guess the force images could be rationalized as having the appearance of the person at death. Since Anakin "died" (giving birth to Darth Vader), he is represented by Christiansen. Obi-Wan and Yoda look as they did when they died. So, Alec Guiness rather than Liam Neeson. (Anyways, Neeson swore he'd never have anything to do with Lucas again after Episode One, didn't he? Not that Lucas couldn't CGI him in if he wanted, I suppose)

[ edited by SoddingNancyTribe on 2004-10-05 20:54 ]
First thing first, the link within the post to the Film Threat article on the fifty reasonw why 'Return...' sucks is brillant in it's whinniness.

Jinximan - It's funny you mention Buffy's appearance when crawling out of the grave as an issue because David Fury & Marti Noxon talk about it quite a bit on the "Bargaining" commentray track. Fury,especially, wanted a more feral, intense look to the post-resurrection Buffy but it's strongly hinted that SMG objected to going all the way with it.

[ edited by Unitas on 2004-10-05 21:26 ]
Happy 5000th, Whedonesque! I watched the original Star Wars and its sequels in theaters as a young teenager. Just picked up this DVD release today and will watch it over this week-end. I'm not a huge SW fan, but I got curious over all this noise whether or not George Lucas "ruined" this film. I'll see for myself. BTW, must agree with Simon. I thought Darth Rosenberg was much more interesting than Darth Vader. Better storyline, better character. Plus, Aly is hot in black.
I knew about Nerf Herder, Han and Leia, the whole shmear. My geekdom is boundless, my dork is legion.
I like the Prequel Trilogy better than the originals (don't bite my head off just my opinion). I just watched episodes II and IV last night and I must say that I like II much better then IV but of course I wasn't around when the originals debuted but I did see the OT before the PT.
I've heard Joss say he isn't a fan of "Revised" versions. I'm sure in one of the commentaries he says he has been asked why he doesn't put back scenes cut for time and he thinks the version that first aired is 'official' and he shouldn't mess with it.

But if he did....

I'd vote for bigger padlock on the cage when Kendra locks Angel up. Dawn could have kicked that open!
Yeah, I think i kind of like original versions too (with both BtVS and Star Wars). It's fun to think about what you'd change if you could – Spike shoving Initiative workers left and right after he has the chip in his brain in "The Initiative," the numerous inconsistencies with chronology in various episodes, certainly the possibility of having Tara, not Cassie, in "Help" – and yet the many errors and inconsistencies are also part of what makes Buffy charming. It's fun to go back and gripe about the errors and goofs, or debate the rules of the Buffyverse – Do vampires taste food or not? Why does Angel say it has no taste but Spike loves the Blooming onion? If they don't breathe, how do they smoke? Just how many days ARE crammed into one in "Innocence?" – but would we really want them all cleaned up? Those imperfections are part of the joy of fandom.
As for the idea that the Prequel trilogy could be better than the originals - I won't even go there. Suffice it to say i had a hard time sitting through either of the most recent (or, i suppose, "first" two) without either laughing at the atrocious dialogue or leaving.
And that old Jonathan Last article was fun to read - thanks for posting it. It's not the top 10 I'd pick (Off the top of my head, I'd leave off Amends, Help, and Something Blue for sure, and I'd probably include Hush, Fool for Love, and maybe either Lovers Walk or Doppelgangland), but I always love seeing what's grabbed other viewers and buffy appreciators.

[Edited addition: And Restless! How could i forget Restless? That would be on any top 10 list of mine....Pure brilliance. In fact, Restless, OMWF, and the Body would have to be the top 3, closely followed by Becoming I/II]

[ edited by acp on 2004-10-05 23:49 ]
An even more direct analogy to the Star Wars scenario would be the cleaning up of the special effects. The first season of Buffy has laughably bad effects in places, and the vamp faces in the early angel episodes are equally atrocious. And yet would i really want all those effects cleaned up and made more big-budget/cinematic? Yes, it would be cool to see what some of the scenes COULD look like on a bigger budget or with more modern effects (a snake in graduation day that's actually scary? Ditto on the snake in Shadow), but it's also part of the fun of the episodes. Call me reactionary (in entertainment, not politics), but I like Buffy (and Star Wars) imperfections, damn it!
acp, what's worse about the atrocious vamp-faces in early Angel is that it was deliberate, to show that this was a darker show they decided that the vamp faces should be "scarier", thank god they quickly realised it sucked and went back to the buffy vamp faces.

I'd actually like it if they went back and tidied up season 1 of buffy, improved the effects, made vamp faces less blue, and the main change I'd be interested in for season one would be if they were to rescore it, the score in season one (in my opinion) sounds really cheap, and I'd love if they were to get Christophe Beck in to give it a decent treatment. I'll be just as happy if they never change it, it was the beginning of a wonderful show, you can't expect everything to be great right off the bat.

The snake in Graduation Day was about a million times better than the one in Shadow, I don't want them to change it though, the scenes with Buffy riding it are hilarious! Likewise I would never want them to add stupid things, eg. "we always meant to have giant demons walking around in the background of scenes."

ShotgunWes agree with you about Episode II being better than IV, but none of the new trilogy can compare to Empire, Episode III would seem to be a contender, it's going to be such a dark film, if Lucas has been careful, it could be the best of the lot.

[ edited by Ghost Spike on 2004-10-06 00:33 ]

[ edited by Ghost Spike on 2004-10-06 00:35 ]
*disbeliefdisbeliefdisbelief*

Respectfully, the "II better than IV" argument borders on insane troll logic to this older entity. I admit that Whiny!Luke is the sheer death, but Anakin is a vastly more dangerous and sappy whiner in every way.

Sorry, mods... *attempts desperate return-to-topic ploy* maybe Episode III will be the other hope that Warren/The First refers to. Wah.
A few more points.

Gaudior: I imagined that Anakin would look as he did pre-Vader in the ghostly image because it marked his return to the Good Side of the Force. Obi-Wan says that "When you strike me down I will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine." This implies that masters of the Dark Side don't go on living in this form after they die. Thus, when Darth crosses back over to the Light Side at the end of Vader, sacrificing himself, he actually saves his own soul at the same time, and the ghostly Anakin is post-Darth. Vader is destroyed, bring back Anakin. It's a whole re-birth thing.

LudditeRobot: Han shooting first strikes him out as a bad-ass, but Lucas has said that he always felt Greedo should have fired first. His reasoning is that, if Han shoots first, he murders Greedo in cold-blood and as a result the audience won't be able to resolve their feelings of him as a killer for the rest of the movie. Personally, I never saw it that way. Greedo was going to kill him, Han beat him to the punch in self-defence. Move on.

SoddingNancyTribe: Thank you :). As for mistakes simply being another part of geekdom/fandom, I couldn't agree more. I like, with things I love, being able to spot certain flaws that casual viewers wouldn't notice. I like being able to read about trivia and goofs on IMDB. I like that it adds an extra layer to the shows or films, something I can mention with other nerds that no one else would get. The Stormtrooper hitting his head on the door in the original? Just like that.

I really like the film Good Will Hunting, and in it there's this piece of dialogue from Robin Williams' characther Sean. He talks about his wife, about the secret flaws only he knew about, and at the end of it he says "People call those imperfections, but no, that's the good stuff."

I guess I agree with that.
I love the inconsistences it leads to others point of view on how we see them. For example i believe that In the Inniative episode IMO i take it as Spikes chip wasn't fully activated yet. Correct me if i'm wrong but i think it was Forrest who said to Riley something about the chip and Riley said it was now fully activated or something to that effect, so that explains why he was able to toss around the commandos in the intiative. As for the smoking thats another story i look at is maybe Vamps like the taste of smoke and i dont know physics but maybe you can suck smoke through a cig. without having to breathe and blow it back out, but it would be just smoke coming out not air with it. I don't know i am probably way off on that one. The food one always bothered me though, Angel did say food had no taste but yet when the old man took over Angels body he was able to eat and seemed to taste it as well, as was the case with the spike reference about the blossom. There are many other examples where i'm sure us Whedonheads come up with our own ways of looking at them.
Ah, if we're quibbling about *breathing* vampires, where the hell does the blood come to produce the whole manly sex thing, anyway??

It's clearly a realm of internal consistency occasionally given a bit of shore leave, no?
I love the inconsistencies and goofs of the Whedonverse. It's glorious to be enough of a nerd to be hip to them.

My current favorite goof (they rotate): when Wash in the Firefly pilot episode, Serenity, is piloting the ship and the camera cuts to a sideview of him and he's miming turning the wheel. There's no wheel! Fabulous. It's not a split second shot, either. Joss has fun dissecting this gaffe in his commentary.

I'm happy with the DVDs not being revised, but I agree with Ghost Spike that I wouldn't weep if the chintzy score of season one Buffy were redone. Although part of me loves it. It represents the era of low-budgetness, of "when we were young and fresh and didn't know if we'd even get picked up" innocence.

"Help" as one of Buffy's Top 10? What? This may be the only episode of Buffy that I resent. It felt like a useless retread detour to me in a season that should have had no wasted episodes. What was its purpose, aside from having Cassie spout off a few prophetic words to Buffy and Spike before she dies? (Cassie's prophesies would come true but this alone does nothing for me). Buffy had already learned the lesson that she can't save everyone, particularly people who die of natural causes. Like, say, her mother.

Urgh. Can anyone help me not dislike Help? I want to like it. I want to be made to see something about it, to be persuaded that it fits brilliantly into the season seven arc. Any thoughts?
phlebotinin - Going to bed so I'll make this a quickie. I saw Buffy's relationship to Cassie to be a precursor to her relationship to the the Potentials. Cassie is a young woman facing a difficult & dangerous future (sound familar) who Buffy desperatly wants to save, but Buffy ultimately fails (no fault of her own) and that outcome is Buffy's great fear when she becomes the guradian of the Potentials. In many ways, Cassie is the only Potential (metaphorically speaking) that we really get to know as the girls themselves exist more as symbols of young womanhood than fully developed characters when they arrive later in this over-crowded season.

So much more to say but have to go bed now.

[ edited by Unitas on 2004-10-06 07:40 ]
Can anyone help me not dislike Help?
I wish, but i happen to share your disdain. There are other episodes that i think are worse in the sense of just purely bad writing - Beer Bad, Bad Eggs, Inca Mummy Girl, etc – but what bugged me about Help was how contrived and manipulative it felt – something i'd always counted on buffy NOT to be. As you say, Phleb, Buffy had learned the lesson that she can't save everyone with her mom – in a much more realistic and eloquent way, without tugging at our heart strings over a girl we just met who's somehow "special" just because she happens to post bad poetry on the internet. grr. I prefered the soundtrackless realism and much more real emotion of the Body, thanks.
Unitas, I appreciate your views on it, and perhaps you're right that Cassie was a precursor to the potentials (and thus Buffy's justified fears about not being able to save them). But I've got issues with her relationship (or lack thereof) with the interchangeable potentials as well. In all, Help just struck me as a forced and manipulative episode, that was beneath BtVS's usual noncliched dignity.
phlebotinin, the only reason they had 'Help' was to explain the Cassie character to fill in Amber Benson's role in CWDP. Any reason to like 'Help'? Well, they did have that cool website on her. As for revising BtVS, no way. I like it just as it is, wouldn't change a thing.
One thing Joss could do that no one has mentioned would be to add Jesse into the 1x01 titles. That'd be a small change and something he said he wanted to do initially. But again, they're fine as they are.

As for Help, I liked the episode. I disagree with Madhatter though, as I think Amber probably turned down the chance to come back after "Help" was written and aired, and as a result the writers simply went back and took Cassie for the role instead. I don't think they did Help simply to set up Cassie's later inclusion in the show.

On the surface Help is a fun throwback to the earlier seasons of BtVS. She's in the school, for one, and she's trying to stop a bunch of teenagers from sacrificing a girl to a demon in the hope of getting wealth and power in return. Right away that brings up memories of similar battles in the first three seasons, and specifically the episode 2x05 Reptile Boy where Cordelia and Buffy are kidnapped for much the same purpose. That episode deals largely with Giles pushing Buffy too hard, and Buffy turning away from her responsibilities to go to a party. Giles says that he 'Pushes her so hard because he knows what she has to face'. 'Help' is a throwback to that, while still being relevant because it shows that Buffy now knows herself what she has to face. She knows exactly what horrors she has to face in her life and this causes different problems from before.

It's true that Buffy already knows she can't save everyone - she learned this from, among other places, The Body. Equally it's true to say that the writers are aware of this as well though, as they deliberately remind the audience of it just a few episodes before in 7x01 Lessons. The ghosts in the school basement say "Why didn't you save ME? You let me DIE!" and Buffy effectively brushes them off and says "Look, I can't save everyone. Sorry. Move on." Something that would have once bothered her, made her question herself and her actions, now doesn't even make her break stride. She knows she can't save everyone and the contrast of the school (representing her past) and her new confidence show how much she has changed and grown since those first couple of seasons.

However the message in 'Help' isn't "You can't save everyone", it's "What do you do when you know that?" That's the last line of the episode. Dawn says that Buffy didn't fail Cassie because at the very least she tried to help her and there was simply nothing she could have done. Buffy asks "What do you do when you know, when you know that maybe you can't help?" and then the last shot is through the window of her office the next day, as she sits down at her desk to start again.

So, this episode asks the question, and the implied answer is that "You try anyway. You come into work again the next day and you try."

Still, you might be asking what relevance this has to the overall arc, but when you think about it this theme plays out throughout the entire season. Buffy is fighting The First, Evil Incarnate, and she's doing it while trying to save the world and lead a band of awkward teenage girls. Constantly throughout the season she has to face her own doubts about whether or not she can win while at the same time facing the doubts of those around her. 'Help' goes someway early on to showing she has the strength now to face the battle for as long as she does, where as before, in her younger days, she might have shirked at the challenge. At the same time, it also makes it all the more dramatic when she finally does buckle under the pressure and when the others ask her to leave the house in 'Empty Places'. She really has been trying regardless of how impossible she knows the task to be, so it's worse to see her fail.

Conversely, it also makes it all the more believable when in Chosen she talks to The First and finally realises, as she notes to Spike, that "We're gonna win." Buffy realises in the end something that a wise little muppet once said, "Do, or do not. There is no try." And so it all comes full circle back to Star Wars, and back to the start of season seven.

'Help' has levels. On the one hand it's a throwback to earlier seasons (something season seven does throughout), and on a deeper level it sets up the themes of fighting against doubt, of trying to win regardless of odds, and as someone already said acts as a precursor to the addition of the Potentials.

It might not be in my Top Ten, but 'Help' is relevant and entertaining.
Here's my two cents

Star Wars is George's creation so if he wants to change it that is fine with me; however I feel he should have included the movies, un-updated as they were orginally released in the movie theathers because that is the historically correct thing to do.

I saw the first Star Wars movie when it was released and enjoyed it immensely. I would love to see the orginal movie I remember seeing. Jaba did not appear in the movie I saw, neither did al these four legged dinosaurs walking around as pack animals, which BTY look very added in afterwards to me, they don't look like they were really there.

If we allow people to continually rewrite and distort history to their own liking Hitler could, over time become a a model hero. This is of course an extreme statement but I think my point is valid.

[ edited by Passion on 2004-10-06 15:17 ]
Gonnas: I agree with you and not Lucas.

Passion: I'm largely with you. Then again, I have both the director's cut and the original release of Blade Runner in my top-ten movies list, because they are different movies.

phlebotinin: The point of "Help", to me, is all about Buffy. (Big surprise.) There are few points in S6 where Buffy saved the day. She is incidental to the resolution of that apocalypse. That trend didn't really change in S7 before then: "Lessons" - Xander broke the amulet; "Beneath You" - Xander talked Anya into reversing the wish; "Same Time, Same Place" - yes, Buffy killed not!Gollum, but had nothing to do with the magic. "Help" was a classic S1-or-2 plot, taking rough shape from "Reptile Boy", and Buffy should've been able to defeat an S1 villain and save the girl, but she wasn't, so when the episode ends, she's at her desk, ready to try harder. Hope that helps.
Well, excellently stout defenses of "Help" by Unitas and Gonnas. I think both of you may be right that, thematically and structurally, the episode fits in with Buffy's development and with the plot of Season 7.

Nevertheless, I think it was poorly executed. The teen-angsty girl who writes poetry might have been an interesting idea to play off, but it is played absolutely straight, in a mawkish "Seventh Heaven" (or at least what I would expect "Seventh Heaven" to be like, having never actually watched it) style. We are treated to several readings of, let's face it, bloody awful poems, the demonic threat is somewhat laughable (although you might just call it a feint), and at the end we are peremptorily told that Cassie was "special". And instead of the Buffy-style voice from the chorus saying something snarky or undercutting the solemnity, the Scoobies all nod assent, as if, like, they *really knew her soul* or some such gobbledegook. Joyce's death really hit hard. Cassie's was just another "huh", I'm afraid. Relevant maybe, but not, for me, entertaining.

Passion: I think there's a rather major difference between redoing one's own work (even if it means the quasi-suppression of the original copies) and revising or distorting history. Lucas isn't walking around telling everyone that the "Special Edition" is the original, or that the original never existed. That would be revising history. He is exercising the rights that he owns over his own work. I don't like it, but it is a far cry from the scenario you envisage.
Eloquent post, Gonnas. You and Unitas make excellent points and I now have a deeper appreciation for Help's thematic relevance. The two arguments that struck a chord: first, that Cassie is a precursor to the Potentials and all that they represent for Buffy (love that), and second, that an older and wiser Buffy has to deal with fighting on, even if she knows that maybe she can't help and that some around her - most notably, Cassie - doubt her ability to save the day.

Where I depart slightly on this last argument is that Buffy has repeatedly learned this lesson and stood up to the challenge. She demonstrated this in Prophecy Girl. Nobody, not even Giles, believed she could triumph. She demonstrated this in the transition from The Weight of the World to The Gift. And she demonstrated this in Grave when she fought the earth monsters despite the seeming inevitability of the world ending. In the end - although it took her a long time to get there in Season Six - Buffy has to try, no matter the odds and the doubts of her own heart and of those around her.

However, I get that Season Seven's "The First" arc is usefully framed by having Buffy learn this lesson again as she further evolves as a Slayer. Over the years she has transitioned from an apprentice to a capable mature Slayer who's outgrown her Watcher to a Slayer Yoda in the making. The responsibility she bears grows by leaps and bounds in Season Seven and she must thus be tested again on her resolve to fight on.

I still don't love Help for the reasons that acp lists. These are not thematic issues but presentation issues. What I've always loved about BtVS is the relative subtlety and non-standard-tv'esque manipulation of viewer emotions. I feel that Help lacked the usual Whedon magic. As Joss once said in an NPR interview, viewers don't give a hang about one-episode characters who die. Cassie was likeable (her lousy poetry aside) but despite ME's attempts to make me care deeply whether she lived or died, I didn't, really. I do understand that what we're really supposed to care about is not Cassie but Buffy and Co. and what their reaction to Cassie's death is and what it means in terms of fighting the good fight. Yet I wish I could have cared more about Cassie since so many minutes of the episode are taken up with her life, her poetry, and her potential boyfriend.
Gonnas writes: "However the message in 'Help' isn't "You can't save everyone", it's "What do you do when you know that?"

I think this episode prefigures "Not Fade Away" in Angel, especially the scene where Gunn is helping Ann load up the furniture. And Angel's conversation with Lindsay about humans and demons and how it used to be the demons' world and now it isn't. And "Let's go to work" even if it's essentially hopeless.

And Buffy's St. Crispin's Day speech in "Bring on the Night" comes to mind, as well.

Won't even try to elaborate more on it...it just seems to me to be a Whedonesque theme being developed in "Help", which I happened to like a great deal. I did in fact care about Cassie, a whole lot, and maybe I'm a sap, but I think her monologue to Buffy about all the things she wants to do but won't be able to is beautifully heartrending.

See you tomorrow night, phlebotinin!

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