Entertainment

How The Unaired Buffy Pilot Almost Killed The Show Before It Started



Due to budgetary issues, The WB could only commission a 25-minute pilot presentation, forcing Whedon to cut his pilot script down to accommodate the shorter run-time. That was just the first issue the show creator ran into, however. Amy Pascale’s “Joss Whedon: The Biography” details how troubled the “presentation” production was, with Whedon summing it up as a “nightmare” due to working with a crew that didn’t seem to like him very much — sounds familiar.

But if you watch the unaired pilot, which you can easily do online, you don’t get a sense of the tension that was percolating behind the scenes. In fact, the 25-minute episode is pretty similar to the show’s actual pilot “Welcome to the Hellmouth,” which debuted on the WB on March 10, 1997, and featured much of the same story beats, characters, and dialogue.

For instance, both the unaired pilot and the actual series opener begin with a couple breaking into Sunnydale High School, known as Berryman High School in the “presentation.” In both episodes, this setup serves as a way of defining Whedon’s aspirations, subverting expectations by having the girl reveal herself as a vampire and kill her male companion. Meanwhile, Buffy was played by Sarah Michelle Gellar, accompanied by Nicholas Brendon as Xander Harris. And straight from the world of coffee commercials, Anthony Stewart Head was also in evidence as Rupert Giles, Buffy’s watcher and de facto father figure.

Story-wise, the pilot also followed a similar narrative to that of “Welcome to the Hellmouth,” with Buffy rebuffing Giles’ attempts to have her embrace her destiny as the Slayer, before ultimately being drawn into it anyway when she’s forced to save Willow from the clutches of a hungry vamp. But there were also significant differences between the unaired pilot and the official series opener.



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