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  Star Trek Reviews, 1.1

7.1: Lessons

Written by Joss Whedon | Directed by David Solomon

BRIEF SUMMARY: 3 Months later: Buffy and Dawn are back in the newly built Sunnydale High School when ghosts attack them. Willow is recovering in England with Giles, Xander's doing very well for himself thanks for asking and Anya seems to still be stuck in Season 6 depressed mode. Plus, Spike has gone quietly insane living with his new soul and seems to have an unwelcome guest in the form of this seasons Big Bad.

Buffy & Dawn in cheerful mood shocker
Well, here we go again. 22 episodes of Buffymania, possibly for the last time. Will this be the last season? It seems to be geared up for the end of the road with the themes of coming full circle and the very cool ending indicating past glories, but who knows. If it is the end then I'd be glad as it's better to go out on the top of your game (plus the DVD collections are crippling my budget ;-)) First of all let me just say a big welcome back to happy Buff and non-irratating Dawn. After last seasons Prozac inducing antics it's a huge relief to be able to enjoy this great series once again. And if the first episode sets the tone and template for the rest of the season then we could well be in for a cracker. Also I'd like to welcome any new readers to this site or fans of the show. S.O.P. round here is to take each of the main characters and discuss them in terms of the plot. Updates hopefully happen on a weekly basis but if not do keep checking in. They'll definitely go up at some point. Anyway, let's get on with the show.

Dawn was very much the focal point of this episode and it shocks me to see how likeable she has become. At the start of Season 5 she was quite funny and cute, then she started to descend into mildly irritating. Then Season 6 came with the Dawn-you'd-like-to-punch incarnation and the farce that was the shoplifting crisis. I'm all for continuity but I'd be quite happy to see that storyline buried in the sea along with Angel. But this episode wipes all the bad memories away in a single scene with her witty remarks to Buffy during the training. I found myself laughing, at something Dawn had said. I knew then it was going to be a good episode. And how cool is it that Buffy is finally training a successor, someone who can fight the good fight when she eventually leaves and it turns out to be her sister. Excellent stuff though I'll admit this entire heir to the stake stuff is just me speculating. It was good seeing her first day in school through her eyes, watching as her social cred was ruined in the space of one class being very amusing. It's too early to tell if her new friends, Kit & Carlos, are really going to be Scooby juniors or merely cannon fodder. But they aren't annoying and they seemed to have a good chemistry for the few scenes they had together. I think there's a good chance we could be seeing Buffy: The next Generation here but it's too early to tell. Also now that I think about it, all the usual cast seemed very old and mature with Xanders suit, Buffys 'mom hair' and Anya dressed like a Victorian maid (and what the fuh is that about?). Really emphasised how young Dawn and her crew were in comparison to the 'oldies'. But yeah, really pleased that Dawn is a likeable character again and gives hope for a strong season. Buffy had the rest of the main story even though it was mostly connecting the dots and doing a bit of fighting. But goddamn, it was fun! No more angst, no more depressive thoughts and impulses. Just saying the funny lines, a wee bit of scrapping and being generally likeable. Great stuff and (stating the obvious) a welcome return to form. Her relationship with the Principal will be quite interesting, and having a job in school is a great reason to have her around the expensive looking school sets. She's obviously still not 100% sure about Spike but it's a definite line she's drawn in the sand and I'm pretty sure there's going to be no shagging between the two of them. The ghosts & zombies were quite an interesting thread and no doubt last year she would spend the rest of the month torturing herself about the lives she couldn't save. But here she doesn't really care and just wants her sister back safe. She knows the good she's done and is sure enough of herself to literally breeze by these phantoms. This is a good thing in my book Like I say, not a lot of plot happening with her but very enjoyable to watch her back on form. And her hair is long again which is another good thing (cue drooling ;-)) Spike was absent for most of the story but as always nearly managed to steal the show (which just goes to show you how strong Dawn's character was this Ep.). Not only did he provide the solution for the Ghosts with the talisman but also his unhinged barely sane performance was electrifying to watch. Just how has he been coping with his soul these past 3 months? Not very well judging by the scars and cuts as he attempted to 'cut it out'. There still seems to be some debate with fans about this soul. Did he want his soul back, did he want to be human or did he want to be a bad ass vampire again? The way I interpreted it, he wanted his soul back to be more like Angel and so hopefully he could love Buffy and vice versa. That's what I'm going with anyway for now. Of course, the really interesting part was the very end when we saw the strange ghost/first evil/big bad do it's very cool morphing. First Warren, though to be honest I tend to think Dark Willow was really the big bad, but I get what Whedon's trying to do. Then Glory (ah, didn't really work for me as a baddie), Adam (who was always a bit under rated I feel), the Mayor (how cool was he?), Drusilla (again it should really have been Angelus but obviously due to WB/UPN problems it couldn't have happened) and the Master (who I really did like). But there was still one to come. Who? Why only Buffy Summers! What does this mean? Is Buffy gonna be the big bad. Unless they were referring to the Film version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer which was truly bad and evil. They should've got Kristy Swanson (Spelling?) in if that's the case ;-) But no, I tend to think it's the first evil from Amends fame. It was a shape shifter and kind of talks in the same way. Or it could be the personification of the Hellmouth. Or maybe it was just a cool way to end the show. Either way, it'd be a bit unusual to reveal the Big Bad straight of the bat, but that's what seems to have been done. We'll see. Getting back to Spike, I think he's going to have a very interesting journey with his soul and trying to deal with the guilt. Plus he's really gotta get some sanity. But good stuff for Spike and he definitely could be redeemed in the eyes of the Scooby's before the end of the season. BTW, his hair looks a bit weird to me. Get it sorted ;-)
Anya being sexy. Anyone remember?

The rest of the gang were only really snapshots but they were quite revealing. Xander looks to have mysteriously come out best during the summer. He's gone from no hoper loser to suave rich businessman with nice suits and a nice car. Still, saving the world must be a pretty good self-esteem booster and it's good to see him actually happy for once. Will the Chandler inside him be the next thing to be released? Probably not, but he's looking more like the natural 'Giles' of the group (mind you I said that last year and it didn't happen.) It was a shame we didn't see the immediate aftermath of the S6 finale with him and Willow but that's the price you pay for having a 'real time' 3 month break. But on reflection, I'd rather see the gang recovered and healthy Form S6 rather than still crawling from the wreckage. Not sure what's gonna happen to the Xan man this year but he's off to a good start so here's hoping for a bit more from him this year.

Giles & Willow are in merry old England and didn't really get much exposure. Willow seems to be recovering slowly but rather surprisingly her magic hasn't been stripped. It seems to be part of her. This is an interesting angle to follow and you've got applaud the writers for not taking the 3 month reset button on Willow. Still a bit of a shame we didn't see Tara's funeral but presumably there'll be something in the future. I can't put my finger on it, but Willow seemed very likeable in the short scenes she had, much like Willow of old. And I like. Very much. Giles is pretty much the same, father figure and general cool guy. I doubt he'll be coming back to the States but he presumably will be featured in a few episodes. What can you say really? The guy's crucial to the gang. Finally, Anya still seems trapped in S6 land, making with the blues and general depression. She is also wearing the worst clothes I've ever seen. I'm informed it's a blouse but Jesus, it makes her look like a Victorian school marm. And what happened to her blonde hair. Wasn't this girl voted as one of the sexiest woman in sci-fi? What's happened here. Anya's still on a yellow card with me. I'm not sure where her character can go that won't make me dislike her. Xander's better with out her, but she's got no reason for staying with out him. I'm not sure, I'll give her and the writers the benefit of the doubt for now but if she doesn't start producing the funnies I say drop her. And get her wardrobe fixed for crissakes!

Other moments of note:

  • I'm glad that High School seems to be the main setting this season. Happy memories of the first 3 seasons.

  • Lot's of humour this episode. Humour is our friend. More, I say, more!

  • And a self-contained story in the episode. This is a good thing. I'm all for story arcs, but lets not forget different storys every week. That was half the problem with S6 with it's unrelenting grind of darkness & depression.

  • The new Principal seems quite cool so he's either a) evil, b) gonna be eaten or c) gonna be a Giles character for the Junior Scooby's. The fact that the characters even acknowledge this suggests to me he's gonna stay a while.

  • So who planted the Talisman/twigs thing? Was it the principal, giving Buffy a test? Was it the weird shapeshifter monster thing? That would make sense since Spike knew about it. Was it maybe even Spike? All will be revealed.

  • The opening scene with the chased girl being killed was very intriguing. I've read other reviews saying this could be a slayer in training being killed. Dunno where that info came from, but if it's true it'd be very interesting.All right, so what was that thing at the end? I'm going with The First Evil even though that's more an Angel thing really. But unless it's something brand new or maybe something Spike brought back with his Soul, that's my guess.

Okay, for those still awake we're wrapping this up now. Basically a great season opener. I'd rate it (from Best to worst) S2, S4, S1, S7, S5, S6, S3. So a good ep and after the dark and depressing S6 a real return to form and balance. If this is a template for the rest of the Season, bring it on!

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Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy Anne Summers) Website: James Marsters (Spike aka William the Bloody) Website: James Nicholas Brendon (Alexander 'Xander' LaVelle Harris) Website: Nick Alyson Hannigan (Willow Rosenberg) Website: HDC - Alyson Hannigan Central Emma Caulfield (Anya Emerson aka Anyanka) Website: Anya.Org.UK Michelle Trachtenberg (Dawn Summers aka The Key) Website:

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