At its peak, Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the ultimate '90s show - it had teenage angst, bloody battles and scenes that had you hiding behind the couch. By its seventh (and) final season Sarah Michelle Gellar had grown tired of the role and The final episode, "Chosen" aired on May 20 2003. Rated as Entertainment Weekly's No. 9 of '20 Best TV Series Finales Ever', "Chosen" served as a fitting swansong to the show, whilst leaving the door open. Before, during and even after the impressive six year run, the show was supposed to have several spin-offs, of which only one, Angel, ever made it to air. Angel was never quite as good as Buffy, but outlived it by one day shy of a whole year. In 2007 Joss Whedon decided to continue the story of Buffy where it left off with his comic book adaptation and unofficial eight season, "The Long Way Home." Chances are that Buffy will one day again return to our screens, but in the meantime lets look at the spin-offs that weren't meant to be.
Buffy the Animated Series
Well if it worked for witches with Sabrina: The Animated Series, why wouldn't it work for Sunnydale? Buffy the Animated Series was the first incarnation of the main show branching off and ideas for it came as early as the live action show's first season. Joss Whedon and Jeph Loeb were executive producers and it was set in continuity after Episode 7, Loeb told Fanboy Planet:
We've always seen it as Episode 7.5. Buffy has met Angel. He's this brooding dark romantic character. She doesn't know yet about Angelus or any of that stuff. It's quite a lot of fun being able to tell stories that you know what will happen in the years to come!
It was due to air on Fox Kids in February 2002, but when the channel ceased production, no one else was willing to buy. The series rose from the dead again in 2004, with the cast like Anthony Stewart head continuing as Rupert Giles, as well as a four-minute presentation of artwork was. The duo had tried to create a dark, Batman: The Animated Series cartoon, but ultimately it was too adult for children's television, whilst not mainstream enough for prime-time slots. It wasn't until 2005 that Whedon confirmed the project had been officially 'staked'. If you want to watch, you can see the promo above, as well as visiting the idea in comic form. Season Eight's "After These Messages... We'll Be Right Back!" sees Buffy trapped in animated form and revisiting past forms of her and her friends.
Faith The Vampire Slayer
Where there's one, there's more. The convoluted 'Slayer' rule and Buffy's death (which time?!?) meant that there were several introductions of replacement Slayers during the show's seven seasons. This storyline culminated in the final season's plot to train up as many young slayers as possible (more on that later). One of the series's most popular characters was Eliza Dushku's spunky Faith, who served as one of Buffy's replacements. As the series progressed and Buffy mellowed with those around her, Faith served as and angry reminder of what Buffy could have been if she had stuck to her old ways. In 2003, with both Angel and Buffy doing well as shows, it was rumoured that Faith would get her own show. American Horror Story exec producer Tim Minear even had an idea for the show - Faith meets Kung Fu, riding the Earth on a motorcycle, trying to find her place in the world. Minear loved the idea of Faith never stopping and constantly on the go, but Joss Whedon's inability to play a large part in the series finally canned the idea. Dushku told SFX:
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.
Whereas the main show was extremely dark at times, it always had a lighter side to it from the Scooby Gang. A Faith-centric show would undoubtedly have consisted of Dushku lurking in dark alleys and seedy bars, making Buffy look like a pleasant walk in the grveyard. Perhaps it was for the best; also without a Faith spin-off, we got the amazing Tru Calling.
Stuffy Rupert Giles as a rocker with a penchant for the occult? Buffy, you do throw some surprises at us. The premise is set after Buffy when a lonely Rupert Giles returns to England to go on a journey of self-discovery, whilst revisiting his murky past. Giles himself, Anthony Stewart Head, described it as "Cracker with ghosts." Whedon had written a two-hour pilot, whilst other Buffy writers had penned later episodes, but it still didn't have a home. During the '90s it was BBC Two which had become the unofficial home for Buffy, so a Ripper series would be shown on the flagship, BBC One channel. In 2001 BBC One had intended on airing Whedon's show as a miniseries, but all parties became involved in other projects. In 2005 it was suggested that had Ripper ever made it to our screens it would have been as a direct-to-DVD or TV movie, whilst at Comic Con in 2007, Whedon still said talks for a 90 minute BBC miniseries were going ahead, with the producer of Doctor Who and Torchwood. 2009 saw Whedon turn his attention to his short-lived series Dollhouse and Ripper again fell on the back-burner. By this point the character had fallen into legal disputes and Whedon was fighting for the rights to Rupert Giles. He told the A.V. Club:
The thing about Ripper—the essence of it—is that the BBC came to me at one point like, “It doesn’t have to be Ripper. It can just be [Anthony Stewart Head], and there’s magic, and he’s Tony, cuz he’s awesome.” And that’s the thing: For some reason, he keeps getting sexier every year. That’s not happening to me! I’m like, “What are you doing?” And that story was always about a mature guy who’s lived, and about the choices he’s made. So you could make that now, or you could make it 10 years from now. And I’ve tortured Tony more than any other living human with, “We’re definitely gonna do this!” Because I thought we were. He’s working so much, though, I’d feel too guilty. But that’s the thing with Ripper: It doesn’t go away in my head because he’s still right for it, and he could still bring it.
Whether we will ever get a Ripper series now looks highly unlikely. Like with Faith, the ideas of Ripper were re-written into a 2012 comic book Angel & Faith, which saw the Slayer as Rupert's only heir and her teaming up with Angel to try and resurrect the (now deceased) Watcher. Not only did you manage to kill off the TV show, but you also killed the character...great job guys!
As a potential replacement for Buffy, a one-time pitch came for Slayer School. Leading on from the finale, Willow Rosenberg would train the potentials (who became Slayers in the last episode) in whatever may come their way. Whedon told TV Guide:
It doesn't mean the Buffy universe is closed or that there aren't potential spinoffs, like Willow or whatever. But it does mean that Buffy, as we know it, will end.
According to Buffy writer Jane Espenson, Wheedon had said that the idea for Slayer School "didn't seem right". No other details were ever available, but we can only imagine a Charles Xavier School For Gifted Youngsters-style show, complete with Willow as the witch headmistress, Spike as a Professor, and the odd visit from Buffy Summers, the school's most famous graduate.
Finally, the strangest, but probably most satisfying idea for a spin-off was with Buffy's vampiric nemesis/lover Spike. When Angel was cancelled in 2004, WB had wanted to finance an Angel film, however, David Boreanaz said he would only play the role again for a theatrical release. Shortly after, James Marsters had said that there was interest in him reprising his role for a Spike film. It may have starred Alyson Hannigan, as well as interweaving with the Buffy comics that were coming out in 2007. Marsters had given a small window of opportunity, saying that after five years of Buffy ending he would hang up his fangs for good - so the clock started ticking. Whedon's involvement in the likes of Serenity and his Astonishing X-Men line meant that that window was soon missed, and as with all these things, it also looks like money got in the way. 20th Century Fox owned the rights to the characters but passed on picking up a solo film. Whedon told Wizarduniverse.com:
There are certain characters I've been saving because I thought I might make movies about them, but that doesn't look like it's going to happen." Asked by Bendis why the movies aren't going forward, Whedon wouldn't go into specifics, but said, "I think money is standing in the way. What is ever in the way? What ever makes anything happen or not happen?
Angel actress Amy Acker had also been rumoured to star in the Spike solo film, but put all hopes to bed in 2006. At a convention she said that any plans for an Angel, Spike, or even Willow film had been canned. In 2012 James Marsters confirmed that Spike really was dust and he felt too old to play the character again. Coffin closed!
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is now a part of pop-culture, it made a star out of Sarah Michelle Gellar and helped lift Whedon to his Hollywood superstardom. Apart from Angel, it looks like no spin-off from the main show was meant to be. If leaving the cast stood on the edge of a Sunnydale shaped crater isn't enough for you, they live on in Dark Horse's comic books. We always hope for a sequel to the musical episode "Once More, with Feeling", however, for the time being, the slayer remains slain!