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  ThomasMalthus presents...

 [ Peckinpah the Series Slayer ]

1.09: The Knife-Wielding Puppet

From the sorely misused brain of David Peckinpah: So one day I got this brain storm: Why not have a show about a puppet who's evil? I mean, nobody's done that before, right? <off-camera whispering> Twilight Zone AND MST3K? Sci-Fi owns both those, right? Cause I've got connections... <more whispering> Comedy Central? Good, we're safe. Nobody watches that.

The episode involves a puppet who walks and talks by itself and carries around a big bloody knife with him and is attempting to kill the student body during the course of a school talent show for no stated reason. He still tries to fit in with the kids at school, however, and in one scene even carries out a murder while comparing the various features of Harley Davidsons and Kawasakis with Xander.

Although it's wicked obvious to everyone in the audience by the first scene, the Stupor Gang (a fan name for the series' protagonists that was eventually adopted by the clueless writers) can't figure out who's behind the killings. Buffy suspects vampires and so she decides to dunk everyone in the talent show in a vat of holy water and see whose skin doesn't melt. Unfortunately, Giles' warnings about their air supply go unheeded as Buffy nonsensically replies, "If they're vampires, they don't NEED to breathe". The outcome is, well, not pretty.

To introduce some small level of dramatic tension into who the killer might be, the series "introduces" Principal Snyder (who is called 'the new principal' several times despite appearing in the last episode) wearing the same suit as the puppet and carrying around a suitcase full of cutlery. Meanwhile, in an attempt at character depth, Peck gives Willow horrible stage fright one minute, then turns her into a total drama queen the next. "What?" asked Peckinpah. "She's complex."

In the "shocking" ending where the killer is revealed to be the puppet, (he stands up and screams "I did it!" over and over), he transforms himself into a much more vulnerable demon and Buffy promptly kills him. She then says, "Well, I guess that's show biz" to audience laughter. You know, the extras Peck paid to be the audience at the talent show. Not the real audience.

From the script: Xander: "So lots of people are dying, I had mustard on my sandwich for lunch, it gave me gas and I think I heard somebody mention the Von Schlieffen Plan. Does anybody else feel like they've been Kaiser Wilhelmed?"

1.10: Nightmares on the Street Where Sunnydale High Is

The implausible plot this week centers around nightmare-causing psychic skater little leaguers who are nerds. Or, as David Peckinpah says, "Who cares? It's the Hellmouth!"

The gang's nightmares land Buffy and Cordelia at K-Mart, Xander in a world without motorcycles and Willow trapped forever in the boys' locker room. Giles, whose indifference to everything keeps him from having nightmares, is the one who tracks down the gang of nightmare-inducing brats and uses his powers to send them to a parallel universe where English-speaking Egyptians worship a giant worm whose excrement creates half-men, half-beasts and diet pill-addicted zombies.

Joss Whedon actually got a hold of one of the scripts and did a rewrite. Unfortunately, his brilliant scene wasn't shot, due to the fact that the director only got fifteen pages of the script. If they'd been consecutive, the episode would have made a lot more sense.

From the script: "You're sullen, rude and you're not half as bright as I thought you were going to be. In other words, you're the perfect Valley Girl! Here's a new blazer!" -Hank Summers

April 25, 1997, "Sliders":

The Sliders find a world that looks a lot like home...except that they don't exist.

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