“Slayers & Vampires” is an Engrossing History of Buffy and Angel

SlayersVampires

When it comes to essays, journals, and thinkpieces, few TV shows have as vast a catalog as Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Countless books have been published which dig into the characters and themes of the show. The series itself was a trailblazer for the current wave of analytical online TV recaps, paving the way for essays about quality shows ranging from Breaking Bad to The Leftovers. And, lest we forget, this very website owes its existence to the intricacies of the Buffyverse.

With all that’s been written about the series in the last 20 years, one must naturally wonder: What is there left to say? It seems like we’ve reached maximum Buffy capacity, where everything that can be analyzed about the “high school is hell” metaphor (and everything on the show which followed it) has been analyzed, often a great many times.

So, with the “Why” of the Buffyverse seemingly answered, a new book turns instead to focus on the “How.” Slayers & Vampires: The Complete Uncensored, Unauthorized History of Buffy & Angel is yet another publication under the Buffy banner – but it’s a book like none other in the Slayer canon.

The book was put together by Edward Gross and Mark A. Altman, previously known for their two-volume epic The Fifty-Year Mission: The Complete Uncensored, Unauthorized History of Star Trek. That book chronicled the entire half-century history of the Trekverse, tracing the franchise from its Gene Roddenberry roots to the modern JJ Abrams incarnation, all told through interviews with hundreds of cast and crewmembers. It’s a fascinating read, and well worth checking out for any Trek fan. And, following up on that previous triumph, Gross and Altman have set their sights on chronicling the story behind another beloved cult franchise.

At over 500 pages in length, Slayers & Vampires documents the complete history of both the beloved Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its oft-neglected stepchild, Angel. From the origins of Buffy as a 1992 feature film, all the way up to the divisive Angel finale, this book tells the story like no other before it.

The book is divided into two sections, one for each series, and every season is given its own chapter. The pages are filled with in-depth interviews with cast and crew; some are snippets of past interviews, but many have been conducted freshly for this book. There is expected running commentary by famed Buffy celebs like Alyson Hannigan, James Marsters, and David Greenwalt, but also plenty of insight from lesser-known stars like Camden Toy (who played multiple demonic roles on the series, including one of the Gentlemen in “Hush” and the Ubervamp in Season Seven). The book is thorough, almost to a fault – it goes so far as to devote four pages of text to the actors who played the two Oracles in the first season of Angel.

Some oralhistories fall into the trap of being boring and repetitive, garnering the feel of a documentary without the film. Slayers & Vampires neatly sidesteps this trap – the people interviewed here clearly love their work, be it on the innocent and free-spirited high school years of Buffy or the divisive and production-tormented fourth season of Angel. There is humor (vampiric actors discussing makeup woes), there is sadness (the Angel cast remembering the late Glenn Quinn and Andy Hallett) – but, above all, there is a consistent sense of innovation and wonder.

And the trivia! It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for fun behind-the-scenes tidbits, and this book delivers those in spaces. Did you know that Felicia Day auditioned for the role of Fred? Or that the writers had originally planned the role of robot-girl April in “I Was Made to Love You” to be played by Britney Spears? These and other bits of knowledge are glittered all throughout the book – tasty little pieces of band candy, designed to make even the sagest of Buffy aficionados feel young again.

Reading this book, I was impressed by the sheer devotion displayed within. Not just by Gross and Altman (whose efforts at procuring these many lengthy interviews are certainly worth commending), but by the cast and crew of the two shows themselves. Whedon, Greenwalt, Noxon, and co. understood that they were creating something different – something revolutionary – for television. So did Gellar, Boreanaz, and all the other actors who spent years in front of the Mutant Enemy camera. All of them began working on this little underdog show, a midsesason replacement on a little-watched network, not knowing how far the journey would take them, and how many other shows and writers it would influence over the next two decades.

Slayers & Vampires is a wonderful culmination of this journey, and a worthy read for the devoted Slayerette. By digging deep into Buffy and Angel’s past, it points toward television’s bright and continually evolving future.

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