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The Buffy The Vampire Slayer spin-offs that almost happened…

June 1st, 2020 by Marc Comments

So, as myself and my family are still in lockdown, I have been watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel with my kids (first time for my kids; my wife and I are long-time fans) and it got me thinking how big a universe this was and could have gone on to be.

Kicking off in 1997, Joss Whedon’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer introduced us to Buffy Summers – technically re-introduced as Whedon has a failed movie based around the character in 1992 starring Kristy Swanson, Donald Sutherland, Paul Reubens, Rutger Hauer, Luke Perry, and Hilary Swank; we don’t talk about it much, for good reason – but in 1997 it was picked up by Fox TV to fill a slot and the rest, as they say is history.

The series caught fire and soon everyone was talking about the hippest TV show since The X-Files which starred newcomers Sarah Michelle Gellar, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendon and Anthony Stewart Head, making them all household names.

The story of a young girl caught up in a supernatural world in which she has been handed the powers of a superhero and is the world’s only chance in the battle against evil, Buffy caught the heart of viewers all over the world, of all races, ages and persuasions.

It was scary, exciting, funny – Gellar in the titular role perfectly encapsulated vulnerability and absolute badassery and her costars all brought their own strengths to the group – Brendon’s Xander Harris was the wit of the team, Hannigan’s Willow was the heart of the group (and a totally badass Wicca) and Head’s Giles was the weather-beaten mentor to the team who finally found his place in the world.

Over the years, the show built up a massive supporting cast and managed to never lose sight of what made it special… it managed to metaphorically breakdown the troubles of the younger generation while using vampires, demons, ghouls and the apocalypse to deal with the struggles they (we) all faced.

It was superb TV in every respect. And, no, no-one had issues with the lead being a strong, capable, badass woman – makes you wonder, right? Anyway…

Early in the first season we met David Boreanaz’s Angel, a mysterious dark figure – annoyingly good looking too – who popped up to aid Buffy and the gang from time-to-time with his knowledge of all things ghastly.

When it was revealed that Angel himself was a vampire, the sworn enemy of the Slayer, things got interesting. When it was further revealed that Angel had been given his soul back by a gypsy curse after he killed one of their young girls and, as such, had to spend his time repenting for the fowl acts he had done over the centuries, tortured by his past, the true genius of Whedon’s creation… no-one (that I’m aware of) has ever done something like this. The concept was simple and brilliant.

When Angel got his own spin-off series in 1999 – kicking off the whole crossover fad which is so popular now – it had a built-in audience. It also got a later time slot, which meant it could go a little darker than Buffy ever did – we were still a long time off from Game of Thrones and the like in those days – and oh, boy it did.

However, unlike the adult Torchwood (for example) that was spun-off from Doctor Who and injected sex and violence into the mix, meaning it never truly felt like Doctor Who, or Netflix’s Marvel shows which, with the violence and adult content, could not have been further from the ultra bright and fluffy world of the movies that it claimed to be connected to, Angel managed to still feel true to its origins and always felt like the sister (brother?) series to Buffy.

Plus, it was basically a Batman detective series with monsters, so win-win.

However, despite all this – along with comics, games etc – the world of the Buffyverse always felt like it could have been bigger. After all, we spent all our time in Buffy’s Sunnydale and Angel’s LA… what was happening in the rest of the world? In other cities and towns?

Well, it turns out that several times we came close to finding out more about the massive world of vampires, Slayers, demons and more.

So, without further ado, here is our look at the other Buffy shows that almost came to be.

One of the shows that, it seems, came closest to actually happening was the Buffy: The Animated Series project.

The series went into development after the main series’ fourth season and even had a four-minute promo put together (see below). The series itself was set to take place during the first season of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, happening in between the stories we already knew and loved.

All the cast had signed on to return except for Gellar who was growing tired being Buffy and wanted to move on to other projects – the promo below starred actress Giselle Loren in the title role.

The series was to appear on Fox Kids in 2002.

Sadly, Fox kids came to an end and the show was shopped out to other networks but sadly – surprisingly – the show wasn’t picked up.

Whedon claimed his inspiration for the series was Warner Bros’ groundbreaking Batman: The Animated series, wanting it to be quippy, like the main show, full of awesome action and, yes, scary (for a kids’ show) monsters.

He later commented that the cost of developing the series along with the (potentially) dark content for a kids’ cartoon was a turn-off for potential investors.

Still a real shame, though.

Another series that, at the time, was getting a lot of word of mouth via magazines and TV review shows – no real internet as we know it today, remember? – was a Rupert Giles series called Ripper.

When Giles, played by Anthony Stewart Head, was introduced in the first season of Buffy, his character came across as a smart fatherlike but stuffy figure.

However, as the series developed, Giles became a total badass character who hid behind the charade we first met.

Tough, smart and a warlock in his own right, we first got a glimpse of Giles’ dark past when we met the character of Ethan Rayne in season two.

Rayne was a dark, mischievous character who liked to use dark magic for his own personal gain – and to mess with people he didn’t like.

It was revealed that Rayne (played by the late, but quite brilliant Robin Sachs) was a friend of Giles’ and the duo had a colourful history together of dark arts and rebellion; so dark that Giles was known to him by his old nickname of Ripper (alluding to his being formidable and, well, called Rupert: Rupert/Ripper, geddit?).

And this is where the Ripper series would have taken off.

While not an awful lot is known about the series, we do know that it would have focused on Giles’ adventures both post Buffy and as a younger man. We had also heard that Ethan Rayne – whose final fate in Buffy was, well, likely death – would likely have a role to play too.

The Ripper series was set to air and be financed by the BBC – Head is, of course, British –  and would have seen him travelling around investigating paranormal reports and cases, fighting evil as he had so often done in Sunnydale.

At the time, Head had said: “I pitched an idea to Joss Whedon, when he was talking about a series for Giles in Buffy, about him becoming a ghost hunter.

“A friend of ours is a medium and she told us some fantastic stories about stuff that she’s encountered which I’d love to use.”

Hmmmmm… Ghostbusters via Buffy? Count us in!

Despite getting dusted in the final episode of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer (before being resurrected in Angel), James Marster’s peroxide-blonde vampire (also with a soul) Spike, AKA William the Bloody, was set not just for a new series, but a movie!

Now, does this mean TV movie? Well, you’d have to imagine so… although it would have been very cool either way.

Spike: Into the Light was a comic series penned by Marsden himself and told the story of Spike after be got his soul back but before he returned to Sunnydale and tied into The First taking over him in the final season and also featured a flashback to evil Spike’s life in 1977…

But! Did you know that comic series was originally hoped to be a movie?

Well it was, however there was fears that it was too similar to the adventures Angel had already been on in the Angel series. It probably didn’t help when Angel was cancelled without any warning.

On the cancellation of Angel, in 2016 Marsters said: “We were all bummed! Because we were so proud that the show was doing well. That last season, the audience almost doubled—I think it went up by 80 percent—and we were all riding high, we were all full of ourselves, and we were all thinking, ‘There’s no way they’re going to cancel us now! Ha ha ha ha ha ha!’ And then life happened. It was, like, ‘Nope! You’re gone!’. 

“And the problem was that Joss likes to plan ahead, and this one caught him completely by surprise, so he hadn’t saved any budget or built up a storyline to finish the arc of Angel.”

Marsden has since said he’d be up for returning for a new Buffy series [more on that in a while], so you never know, we may not have seen the end of Spike. Though, we likely have, sadly.

Of all the series that could have happened, the one that perhaps had the least chance of getting off the ground was Slayer School.

And yet, it could have been an interesting watch.

The concept was to have Alyson Hannigan’s Willow Rosenberg – probably the best character in the whole Buffyverse – teach Miss Rosenberg’s School for Vampire Hunters.

No, really.

So I believe the idea was that after the core Buffy series wrapped – and as was seen in the Dark Horse comic series – the new Slayers needed to have a new school and watchers to teach them how to become the world-savers they were born to be and Willow would have been responsible for teaching classes on magic and how to deal with it in field.

It’s also likely that Brendon’s Xander Harris would have been part of the series as in the Dark Horse Comics Buffy series – laid out be Whedon – he became a Watcher to the new team.

Buffy does Harry Potter (stop it!), then?

Buffy writer Jane Espenson said after all the shows ended: “I think Marti [Noxon] talked with Joss about Slayer School.

“I assume there was some back-and-forth pitching.”

But that seemed to be the height of it and, alas, Willow’s story ended that day she saved the world on the Hellmouth.

Well, until the Dark Horse comics, that is.

Of all the shows I always thought the two that came closet to happening were Ripper and Buffy: The Animated Series, but it seems that Eliza Duskhu’s Faith came closest to getting back to killing monsters.

Fans of the series will know that the legend of one Slayer at all times was not just damaged but utterly shattered in Buffy, with Faith being a rogue Slayer before all the potential Slayers in the whole world were activated, creating a powerful army off Slayers.

But, aside from Buffy, the clear fan-favourite was Duskhu’s Faith.

And it seems we almost had further adventures with her as Duskhu herself has revealed: “After I finished the show, I’d withdrawn from school and followed up with a couple of films like Bring It On, but I’d had such an awesome experience working with Joss I was ready to go down that road again.

“So I met with Joss and Tim Minear and spoke about the potential for a Faith spin-off. But Buffy had just gone on seven years and Joss was really straightforward: he couldn’t play the kind of day-to-day role he had on Buffy – he had his family.”

Dushku added that as great as Tim Minear was, Whedon not being involved was a deal breaker for her and sadly, the idea was soon thereafter dead.

“It wasn’t that I felt… it wasn’t right [without Joss] but it was a contributing factor… On top of it, I had just played this character for almost five years [and] it felt like time to explore a different role,” Duskhu added.

I find this sad as a franchise like Buffy and the way Slayers come into play opens a door widely for other Slayers and a host of different tales with different locations, diverse characters and anything you can possibly imagine.

The future…

Although we reported waaaaaaaay back in May 2018 (here) that Monica Owusu-Breen was developing a new Buffy series with creator Joss Whedon (here) which was, thank God, an in-universe continuation focusing on a new Slayer which, given how the TV series and the official Dark Horse spin-off series ended, would be easy enough to do, we’ve not heard any more in almost two years.

So, whether it’s still a-go or not, if there’s one thing this feature proved, it’s that the Buffy-verse has plenty of room for spin-offs and sequels without even considering a reboot.

And on that note:

It’s als0 worth giving an honorary mention to Fray.

Fray was an eight-issue comic book limited series which was a futuristic spin-off from Buffy which was written by Joss Whedon and followed a Slayer named Melaka Fray living in a time where vampires (here called lurks) are returning to the slums of New York and the rich/poor divide is growing even greater.

The series was set in a future long after demons had been banished from earth for good and a Slayer had not been called in centuries. However, something dark had woken and the old evils were returning.

When the series was originally written it tied into the final season of Buffy, with Fray even brandishing the Slayer’s Scythe which played a big role in said season.

Whedon has several times teased that Fray was not finished with and indeed she briefly appeared in the now finished Dark Horse Comics Buffy series, however, her full potential has never been realised.

I see a series that is part Batman Beyond, part Buffy the Vampire Slayer and, honestly, I think it could be superb… live-action or animated.

Could Fray be the series Owusu-Breen is developing?

It might also be worth noting that while Buffy and The X-Files were both airing at the same time, there was a lot of talk about the two shows crossing over. Whether this was only a fans’ wish (there’s a lot of fan fiction out there) or there was ever actually plans for it is is unclear, although to be fair I can’t find anything official about it, but it would certainly have been an interesting premise – and would also have connected Buffy to the dark thriller series Millennium and the X-Files spin-off series The Lone Gunmen.

Ah well, I know at the time I was excited by the idea and it was a big talking point among myself and my friends, especially as both franchises were massive at the time and owned by 20th Century Fox TV.

Only time will tell if we will ever return to Sunnydale, but it’s clear that the Buffyverse is out there and is full of untold adventures and has a fanbase to lap it up.

Let’s just hope that Whedon et al have the gumption to capitalise on it sooner rather than later.

Anyway, any Buffy fans here? Let me know which – if any –  of these shows you’d have been most excited for.

Let us know your thoughts below, @NerdFollowing on Twitter or on Facebook

Marc is a self-confessed nerd. Ever since seeing Star Wars for the first time around 1979 he’s been an unapologetic fan of the Wars and still believes, with Clone Wars and now Underworld, we are yet to see the best Star Wars. He’s a dad of two who now doesn’t have the time (or money) to collect the amount of toys, comics, movies and books he once did, much to the relief of his long-suffering wife. In the real world he’s a graphic designer. He started Following the Nerd because he was tired of searching a million sites every day for all the best news that he loves and decided to create one place where you can go to get the whole lot. Secretly he longs to be sitting in the cockpit of his YT-1300 Corellian Transport ship with his co-pilot Chewie, roaming the universe, waiting for his next big adventure, but feels just at home watching cartoons with his kids….