Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Angel – tape 2489

We’re definitely jumping around in time with this batch of tapes, that’s the problem with me finding a cache of unnumbered tapes, and numbering them as I was digitising them.

So we flip forward to the latter part of Season Four of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Where The Wild Things Are. Buffy is patrolling with boyfriend Riley, and they’re finding vampires and demons working together, something that usually doesn’t happen.

Xander and Anya are together, and Xander is working as an ice cream man. Cue inappropriate discussions about sex in front of the young customers.

Talking of sex, Buffy and Riley are at it a lot in the Initiative frat house – so much so that it seems to make the fire in the fireplace flare up and burn one of the soldier boys.

Despite this early warning of something amiss, it doesn’t stop them having a party in the house.

Anya is worried that Xander has lost interest in her (due to her inability to understand proper human relationships) so she brings Spike to the party. Not necessarily a good idea, since the Initiative, which Riley and his friends work for, and which is underneath the house, had kept Spike prisoner and put an inhibitor chip in his head that stopped him killing people.

There’s a ghostly boy in the bathtub.

The house evacuates, but Buffy and Riley are still in there. So they seek Giles out, and find him spending some ‘grown up time’ performing at a coffee bar.

The gang are shocked.

Some research turns up the fact that the house used to be a home for children, so they visit the woman who ran the house, played by Kathryn Joosten, Mr Landingham off of The West Wing.

She used to punish the children when they were ‘dirty’, which led to the house having huge pent up poltergeist energy, being let loose by Riley and Buffy having sex.

As Willow, Tara and Giles try some magic to release the trapped spirits, Xander and Anya go back to the house to try and get Buffy and Riley. The house is a little wild.

The spell is broken when they finally get to Riley’s room and interrupt the couple.

After this, there’s an episode of Angel. It was good that Sky were able to show Buffy and Angel back to back in sequences, because of the occasional crossovers.

This episode follows on from a couple of previous Buffy episodes (which we haven’t seen) where Faith wakes up from her coma and wreaks havoc. Now she’s in LA looking for trouble.

We also get more olde-timey Angel and Darla action. This time, we actually see the time Angel gets his soul from the gypsy curse.

Angel rescues a man being attacked by demons. He’s a witness in a case against a client of spooky law firm Wolfram and Hart. So they decide to deal with Angel by recruiting Faith.

Angel looks good in a suit, as he infiltrates Wolfram and Hart.

Faith kidnaps and tortures Wesley to draw out Angel. This is all very grim stuff.

There’s an impressive fight between Faith and Angel, as Faith taunts Angel. But the fight and the episode ends as she finally breaks down sobbing, begging Angel to kill her because she’s so bad. It’s a surprisingly emotional ending, but it’s clearly setting up events for the next episode.

But we don’t get to see that right now, as the recording continues with the first hour of Housesitter, the Goldie Hawn/Steve Martin comedy.

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Bugs – Buffy The Vampire Slayer – tape 2486

BBC One first, starting straight off with an episode of Bugs. There’s a jarring cut that looks like a continuity error right at the top of the show. In the first shot Ros (Jaye Griffiths) is lighting a black candle that’s obviously below her eyeline as she’s looking down at it (and the camera).

In the very next shot, right after the cut, she’s just lit a white candle that’s slightly above her eyeline. Real Amateur Hour, Bugs Makers.

She has visitors, who aren’t who she’s expecting. Then, the rest of her team (including Jesse Birdsall as Beckett) arrive to find signs of a struggle, and a photograph of the team with Ros torn out. The team jump into action. Jan Harvey is the woman in charge.

According to iMDb she joined at the start of Season 3, and this is the first episode of Season 4. At first I was a bit confused, thinking it was Sue Johnston in charge, but I think I’m confusing it with Crime Traveller. And Waking the Dead.

There’s a high tension chase, as they think they’ve spotted Ros’s car, but it’s a different model, then Beckett thinks he’s spotted her, but it’s a different person in a similar coat. They’re definitely trying to paint Beckett as a desperate man. If they’ve decided to do a Death in Paradise and kill off Ros in the first episode of the new series, I’ll be very cross.

Talking of dramatic changes, they keep talking to this strange bloke and calling him Ed when it’s clearly not Craig MacLachlan.

No wonder Beckett is feeling adrift, and desperate to find Ros. He probably just wants to see a familiar face.

I wonder why the show decided to recast Ed’s role, rather than write the character out and introduce a new one. MacLachlan, being a Neighbours cast-off, was presumably a big name when they were initially marketing the show, so to suddenly have this major character played by someone unfamiliar seems like a bad move. New boy Steven Houghton doesn’t even keep the Australian accent, although his dialogue is quite noticeably dubbed in the opening scenes, so I wonder if he was trying a different accent early on and they decided against it, and got him to loop those lines.

Looks like the military are still using Windows 3.1 despite this being 1998. Actually that’s probably accurate given how slow those kinds of organisations are at upgrading systems.

Beckett is really sad in this. Here he is sadly fondling a cricket ball while listening to her answering machine message.

The message is bad news. They’ve found Ros’s car in a river. There’s blood and bullet holes but no body. Beckett won’t believe she’s dead.

The bad guys are tooled up. They’ve even got a Palm Pilot. Remember those? They owned the handheld market.

They’re breaking into a genetics lab and then blowing it up. They’re some kind of eco terrorists.

More bad news for the team as the blood in Ros’s car is a match for her DNA. It’s definitely curtains for Ros. They even hold a memorial service. But the more they layer it on, the more I suspect she’s going to pop up, not least because she was still in the opening titles for this episode.

I’m with Beckett. Show me a body. #roslives

Beckett is so convinced she’s still alive that he quits the bureau to search for her himself.

He finds out that the founder of the company Ros used to work for was also, at one time, her fiancee, and that he and Ros originally formed the eco terrorist group that broke into the genetics lab, known as Sunstorm. He talks to the man but doesn’t find anything. But he’s being watched.

By Ros.

Is she there willingly? Or has she returned to her shady past? Sunstorm is trying to expose a secret bioweapon, and they don’t know who they can trust, which is why they have to pretend Ros is dead, and hide from Beckett.

Ros is helping Sunstorm find the evidence that the genetics lab are building a bioweapon, and it ends on a cliffhanger as they grab the proof as it’s being transported (by Ed and new agent Alex, played by Paula Hunt) with Beckett in rogue pursuit, and he sees that Ros is alive.

This is so hyper dramatic it’s starting to be a bit silly. Beckett even drops to his knees and yells “Rooooooooooos!” as she drives away.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 11th July 1998 – 18:35

After this, there’s trailers for Lakesiders and The Three Tenors – Paris 1998.

Then, the start of National Lottery Big Ticket with Anthea Turner and Patrick Kielty.

After a few minutes, recording switches to Sky One, with the end of a programme which seems to be people talking about their biggest influence. I don’t know if this is an actual programme or just a filler thing.

Then, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is introduced by its stunt coordinator.

This episode is Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered. It’s a couple of episodes after the last ones we saw. Angel is now evil, and hanging out with Spike and Drusilla. It’s Valentine’s Day, so they’re expecting him to do something against Buffy.

Xander is still with Cordelia, but she’s trying to put him off as he’s cramping her style, despite really liking him. So Xander asks Willow’s friend Amy (who we last saw turning into a rat, but in the future) to cast a love spell to make Cordy fall for him again.

It goes a little wrong, because the only person who’s not affected by it is Cordelia. All the other girls at school are now lusting after Xander, and he’s finding it hard to cope.

When Buffy and Amy clash over Xander’s affections, Amy uses her go-to trick and turns Buffy into a rat.

Cordelia is also in trouble with Harmony and her crew, who are angry with the way she used and discarded Xander. Even Willow is acting rather out of character.

I love the way this show takes an ostensibly comedy premise, which could just be light and frothy (and is, indeed, very funny) but still imbues it with genuinely high stakes. Both Xander’s as he’s pursued by a frightening mob of angry women, and Buffy, as a rat, menaced by cats and mousetraps. And it can still raise real laughs often seconds before another genuine scare.

I am in awe of this show.

Plus, even while all the women are after him, Xander understands about consent.

Plus Plus, Cordy tells off Harmony at the end. I love Cordelia.

Back to BBC1, Saturday Night, and Bugs next.

Before it starts, though, there’s the end of an episode of the Dale Winton game show The Other Half. I notice in the credits it was created by Jeremy Lloyd – famous as a writer of (among other things) ‘Allo ‘Allo and one of my favourite things when I was younger, Captain Beaky and his band.

By the way, I wonder whose bright idea it was to have those two blobs bouncing around over the top of the credits, making it hard to read them. Nice work. Probably the same person who invented credit squeezing, and limiting closing credit running times.

Another trailer for Lakesiders follows, and one for The National Lottery On Tour.

We’ve moved into the era of the BBC One hot air balloon idents. I quite liked these, but it’s definitely the start of a very slippery slope that has brought us to the current, quite dire ‘Oneness’ idents they’re inflicting on us.

So now we have the second part of the opener of this series of BugsSacrifice to Science.

Now the team know Ros is alive, and more than that. After the ambush of the van carrying the genetic lab’s experiment, Ed and Alex managed to hang on to the sample, and they now know that, contrary to what the team had been assured by the military, this is definitely not a medical experiment, it’s a weaponised virus that can be targeted at any specific genetic group.

As if on cue, military bigshot General Russell turns up with a large team of soldiers pointing guns everywhere, telling Jan he’s shutting the Bureau down (for an hour?) because Ros was working with the eco terrorists and they’re compromised. General Russell is played by Robert Addie, who looked familiar to me, then I remembered him as Guy of Gisburne in Robin of Sherwood (and he’s also young Mordred in John Boorman’s Excalibur).

He also takes the genetic weapon. I guarantee it’ll be in play before the end of the episode.

Jan goes to her superior, who’s just had a shower, but gets no support.

Ros contacts Beckett and they have an emotional reunion, but he’s being tracked by the other side, who shoot a couple of the Sunstorm members, and blow up their base with the others inside.

Ed and Alex are following a lead to an Eastern European virus expert, Yerevenkian. Meanwhile Jan visits the pub. This is a pub quite close to where I live, only about twenty minutes walk along the canal.

She talks to a psychiatrist who treated General Russell after a breakdown, and who recommended he should retire on health grounds.

Ed and Alex track Yerevenkian, but his suitcase is stolen, and ends up with General Russell. It’s fortunate that the security conscious General chooses to enact all his secret doings in front of his office’s huge public facing window, so Ed can see him.

I’m sorry, but every time any of these characters talk about ‘the bureau’ all I can think of is The Day Today.

General Russell’s thugs are back at Felton Down genetic research lab, leaning on the head scientist to create a specific bioweapon tuned to a specific person’s DNA. When Ros and her friend get there to talk to the head of the lab, they find him dead, and also find Yerevenkian’s hairbrush.

Ed and Alex have found some data on General Russell past, particularly the chemical leak that killed his family, for which he blames Yerevenkian. I love these mocked-up computer screens, as there’s almost always a typo somewhere. ‘ACCCESS’?

The General leaves a device that will spread a modified Ebola virus designed to attack only Yerevenkian in the air conditioning of the hotel where Yerevenkian will be speaking, intending his death to appear in a very public place. But the team learn that the scientist at Felton Down didn’t do the DNA bonding, so the virus would kill everyone there.

There’s a race against time as Ros and Beckett confront Russell on stage which Ed and Alex find the virus device and have to keep it warm, which they do by putting it in a tray of sweetcorn.

There’s a big fight, but crisis is averted, although not before Ros’s friend from Sunstorm, an old boyfriend, is shot by Russell. This leaves her and Beckett’s relationship rather broken.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 18th July 1998 – 19:00

Before the next episode, the end of another episode of The Other Half.

There’s a trailer for Bob Monkhouse – Over the Limit.

Also, a trailer for the Pauline Quirke detective drama Maisie Raine.

Then more Bugs. In Hell and High Water it looks like some people are burgling a retro computing museum.

As I was scrubbing through the opening titles I saw an unfamiliar name and thought ‘Oh No, Jesse Birdsall has left now.’

The burglars were after a particular component in an old mainframe.

The Bureau team are called in to investigate a platform at sea, which has lost contact with the mainland, and is in control of an orbiting missile defence satellite. There’s a time window in which they have to find the problem before the satellite crashes.

When they get there, the occupants of the platform seem nervous, and we soon learn it’s part of the same group who stole the mainframe, looking for the second part of a component, hidden there in the 70s.

There’s lots of betrayal, double crossing, and Ros and Beckett get locked in a decompression chamber for good measure.

BBC Genome: BBC One – 8th August 1998 – 19:00

Following this, recording continues. There’s a trailer for Top Gun and for Sunday’s programmes.

Then, the start of The National Lottery on Tour. Live from the Bournemouth Opera House. Wow. I thought Summertime Special was long gone. Presented by Bradley Walsh, featuring music from Steps. Gosh, this is quite poor.

There’s also an appearance by a young Dominic Monaghan, fresh off four years as Hetty Wainthrop’s sidekick.

Luckily we’re spared a performance from Simply Red as the recording stops, and underneath is a bit of Casualty. And when that programme finishes, after a few minutes, there’s a trailer for The Broker’s Man.

Then, the tape ends with the start of Little White Lies. The tape ends after ten minutes or so.

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Spaced – tape 2485

First on this tape, an episode of Spaced. It’s Gone from the second series.

I love Spaced, but for me it was one of the first instances of me being a bit older than the target demographic. I can connect with all the nerdy stuff, of course, but the occasional forays into the nightclub scene is the part that mostly passed me by.

Having said that, this episode sees Tim and Daisy themselves encounter a slightly younger generation than themselves, when Tim somehow enrages a young man at the pub by joking about the Kia Ora advert while at the toilet.

It also sees the return of Tim’s Nemesis Duane Benzie, played by the wonderful Peter Serafinowicz.

In a very meta moment, he even has the line “At last I will emerge as the victor. At last I will have revenge.” Which is a variation on Serafinowicz’s line from The Phantom Menace where he plays the voice of Darth Maul.

There’s also a moment with Julia Deakin as Marsha, telling Daisy how she could have been an olympic runner, and we see how her life might have turned out, as a presenter on a sports programme, looking very different to the Marsha we know.

Thanks to Channel 4, the whole episode is available to watch.

After this, Channel 4 lights up an oregano spliff and descends into ‘4 Later’ – a nighttime service that looks identical to every other nighttime service with trancey music, edgy graphics and a weird collection of programmes.

The reason I recorded this is the first programme here, SF:UK. This episode is Big Brother Goes Hardcore which (I’m sure to the delight of Channel 4 late night commissioners) leads with Nigel Kneale’s future dystopia The Year of the Sex Olympics. But at least they talk to Nigel Kneale, which is a relief from having to listen to the droning voice of presenter Matthew De Abaitua.

Kim Newman talks about 1984, and laughs about how Orwell’s doomy predictions hadn’t really come true. I think he might be a little less positive if this interview happened today.

Newman is right on the money, though, when he talks about Nigel Kneale as the most significant writer of Science Fiction on television.

Mark Gatiss, at this time credited as ‘League of Gentleman’ rather than ‘Sherlock co-creator’ also talks glowingly about Kneale. Gatiss riffed directly on Quatermass himself for his Doctor Who novel Nightshade.

Also interviewed is writer Richard Holliss, here credited as ‘Starlog Magazine’ but I’m sure I remember him better as a writer for Starburst magazine.

Part 2 looks at The Prisoner and talks to Charlie Higson.

They talk to the leader of the Prisoner Appreciation Society (Six of One) who says “I know people will label us all as loonies.”

Was it Six of One that always seems to suffer from infighting between different factions trying to run the organisation? To be honest, that’s probably true of most fan organisations.

Here’s the whole programme.

Next on the tape, another SF:UK, with Trips Through Time and Space.

The presenter gets to visit one of the Doctor Who Exhibitions. I wonder which one?

De Abaitua is clearly a longtime Doctor Who fan. His rundown of the seven classic Doctors is a dead giveaway.

He talks to Alan Moore about the influence of the sixties on science fiction.

The programme isn’t very kind to Bonnie Langford, whom it blames for the demise of the programme. Even Mark Gatiss puts the boot in. A bit harsh.

The second half looks at the Jerry Cornelius film The Final Programme and the loopy Sean Connery red nappy movie Zardoz.

The next episode is Ultra-Violence.

Naturally, it starts with a look at A Clockwork Orange. Then it moves to 2000AD. Those interviewed include Andy Diggle

Pat Mills

Puzzlingly, this is the second episode that has featured Guy and Victoria Isherwood. In that they were credited as Prisoner fans, and here they are 2000AD fans. I wonder what relation to the production team they are. O rare they well known fandom characters?

When the programme moves its gaze to Watchmen the presenter annoys me by referring to is as ‘The Watchmen’. He also mispronounces ‘nuclear’.

The next episode is No More Heroes.

It leads with Alien Invasion, concentrating first on Jed Mercurio’s Invasion:Earth. It really bigs up the show, although I think it was generally regarded as unsuccessful. But Mercurio is interviewed – a long time before his current fame for Line of Duty.

When the show moves onto Dan Dare it talks to revisionist writer Grant Morrison. I quite enjoyed his revamp.

Blake’s Seven brings us Paul Darrow.

Also Mike Kelt, a VFX designer

On to Star Wars, with Anthony Daniels.

The last episode in the series is The New Jerusalem.

The programme starts by looking at 2001: A Space Odyssey. Among other talking heads we’ve seen before (Kim Newman, Jed Mercurio) the programme has Professor Kevin Warwick. He was a notorious figure around this time, not because he particularly did anything bad, but simply because he was all over the media whenever there is a news report about humans and cyborgs. He had an RFID chip embedded in his wrist, and because of this he declared he was the first cyborg. I always thought he was a bit of a chancer.

A much better person to talk to is the much-missed writer Iain M Banks.

 

When the programme talks about Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles, one of the characters is described as a ‘tranny’, language which shocked me slightly. I’m so progressive you can smell my virtue signalling.

They talk to Michael Marshall Smith about his novel Spares.

And Kevin Warwick is back, to bang on about his ‘implants’. It gets quite creepy when he talks about his wife getting an implant, and they would be sending signals between their implants. Oh God he’s talking about having sex with his wife. I think I just threw up a little in my mouth.

The programme ends with a montage of clips played along with ‘Jerusalem’ which is quite fun.

After this, recording continues, and I get to see what other treats the 4Later strand has. First it’s Karaoke Fishtank. It’s presented by a fish called Vince Finn.

And the captions appear to be in Comic Sans

After this, a puppet show called Pets. It looks bad.

Then, an episode of Troma’s Edge TV presented by head of Troma films, Lloyd Kaufman.

There’s lots of gratuitous nudity in this, as you might expect from the Troma brand. It comes across as a slightly gory version of Eurotrash. There is a visit to Forrest J Ackerman’s museum, but no sign of Ackerman himself.

After this, there’s the start of another episode of Troma’s Edge TV but the tape ends after a few minutes.

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Company – tape 2484

Here’s a tape that made it into my collection, but I think it was lent to me by somebody else. Sorry!

It starts with the end of Brian Cox (the actor) talking about the end of John Ford’s The Searchers. This was for the short programme Close Up.

There’s a trailer for Oliver Stone’s JFK.

Then, a live broadcast from the Donmar Warehouse of Stephen Sondheim’s Company. This is why I was lent this tape – I was auditioning for a part in the show for a local am-dram.

The lead, Bobby, is played by Adrian Lester.

Also in the cast is the wonderful Rebecca Front.

And Clive Rowe as her husband.

The show is about Single 35 year old Bobby, and his interactions with all of his married friends. I think the best verdict on this was from my friend Danny, a longtime musical theatre performer, who came to see our production. He said he hated the show, didn’t agree with a word of it, but liked the production. I think I agree with that. I didn’t identify much with many of the characters.

It does have some lovely songs in there. The opening number was a nightmare to learn – all the cast are singing slightly different lines, at slightly different times, so there’s nowhere to hide, and there’s a hell of a lot of counting bars and beats to ensure you come in at the right time. It’s sounds amazing when you do it right, though.

 

I played the smallest character in the show – I get one or two solo lines in one song, otherwise it’s all ensemble singing. Not that that’s entirely bad, as it meant I got plenty of time to relax between my scenes.

Wow, whoever recorded this tape had horrible reception.

During the interval, there’s a conversation between the show’s director Sam Mendes, and composer Stephen Sondheim.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 1st March 1997 – 20:30

After this, there’s a trailer for Cosi Fan Tutte.

Then, recording continues with the start of Harrison Bergeron but that recording stops quite quickly, and underneath there’s David Bradley and Robson Green, from an ITV show called Reckless about which I know nothing. Robson Green’s entire oeuvre is a closed book to me.

After this show ends, that recording also stops and under that is a programme about dogs. It’s called A Dog’s World.

After this, there’s the start of an episode of ER during which the tape stops.

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Buffy The Vampire Slayer – tape 2470

Back to BBC2 for these Buffy Episodes, this time from Season 2. They’re from the late night repeats as well, so likely to be less cut than the 6pm showings that the BBC decided were totally appropriate for Buffy.

First is The Dark Age. A man dies trying to reach Giles, and when he’s asked to identify him, he recognises him as a friend from his past.

He tries to contact other people he knew at the same time, but finds them dead too.

Next on the list is Ethan Rayne, last seen selling haunted costumes at Halloween. He’s also back in town, but not dead yet.

Something evil is stalking Giles and Rayne, something which can reanimate dead men. And when Buffy defeats the zombie, it looks like it might have passed into Jenny Calendar.

She’s not looking good when she goes full demon.

But the gang fool the demon by tricking it to jump into Angel, causing an internal crisis.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 14th November 1999 – 22:40

Next it’s a two parter, with What’s My Line part 1. The gang have to fill in Vocational Aptitude Tests, which Buffy feels is moot, due to the whole destiny thing.

Meanwhile, Spike and Drusilla are working on something. He’s trying to decode a manuscript to cure Drusilla, but Buffy keeps getting in the way, so he summons some big demons to kill her.

At the Employer’s Fair, Willow is selected to interview with the world’s largest software company. The only other candidate is Oz.

The bad people brought in by Spike start to arrive including this guy. Even Buffy wasn’t immune to the 90s trend for long haired buff guys.

Another is a creepy salesman.

A third arrival, hiding out in an airplane hold, is better looking.

The salesman is a bit buggy

The young girl from the airport attacks Angel after seeing him and Buffy kiss at an ice rink. She locks him in a room to wait for sunrise, then goes after Buffy, and when they fight she introduces herself as Kendra the Vampire Slayer.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 22nd November 1999 – 00:25

Before the next episode there’s a trailer for Robot Wars.

Next it’s What’s My Line part 2. Kendra has been sent to Sunnydale by her watcher. Cordelia and Xander are trapped in Buffy’s house by the buggy salesman, and end up kissing in the basement. And Buffy is attacked by another assassin posing as a police officer. Poor old Jonathan gets threatened again.

For the ritual to cure Drusilla, Spike needs Angel, so he’s in jeopardy. Cue a big fight, and the threat is resolved.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 5th December 1999 – 23:50

The next episode starts a bit abruptly – I was obviously a bit late getting the VCR set up.

This one is Ted and is another story about bad parents. I’m glad Joyce is more often a helpful parent in this, as young adult fiction does tend to sideline positive parenting as it gets in the way of the narrative.

Buffy’s mother Joyce has a boyfriend, Ted, played by John Ritter (Hooperman). He’s a software salesmen, so Willow likes him, and he makes awesome pizza, so Xander likes him. But naturally, Buffy is suspicious.

He certainly has a darker side, revealed when Buffy cheats at miniature golf, and he threatens her. But to her mother he’s all sweetness and light.

Then, when she comes home after a patrol, he’s in her room, and threatens to tell Joyce about her diary, which talks all about her Slayer duties. They argue, and he hits her, so she feels able to hit back. But it escalates, and she knocks him down the stairs.

Dead.

Everyone is shocked, and trying to rationalise what happened. Surely there’s something wrong about Ted that justified Buffy’s action. Willow finds some suspicious chemicals Ted’s cookies, and Cordy finds old marriage records.

But the biggest clue is when Ted turns up, not dead. And the gang find his flat, complete with the dead bodies of his four previous wives. And when Buffy finally takes him out, we learn he’s not wired that way.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 12th December 1999 – 23:10

Before the last episode there’s a trailer for The League of Gentlemen.

Finally, there’s Surprise. Buffy is dreaming.

As well as Willow and the monkey, and her mother asking her if she’s ready, she also sees Drusilla killing Angel, then wishing her a happy birthday. What can it all mean?

Spike and Drusilla are still alive, although Spike is in a wheelchair. They’re planning for a party.

So are the rest of the gang, planning for Buffy’s surprise birthday party.

Jenny Calendar gets a visit from her Uncle, Vincent Schiavelli.

We learn that she’s there to watch Angel, and ensure that his curse remains intact. They worry that if he gets a moment of pure happiness, the curse will break.

On her way to her surprise party, Buffy catches some vamps, and deals with them. They were transporting a piece of an ancient evil being, The Judge, who can’t be killed, and if all his pieces are brought together it’ll mean the end of the world. So Jenny suggests Angel take the piece they’ve got and transport it far away, to safeguard against him being reassembled.

Buffy and Angel have a tearful goodbye on the docks. He gives her a Claddagh ring, a traditional Irish ring, actually from my mother’s home town of Galway.

But Spike’s thugs ambush them, and get away with the bit of the Judge, and Spike and Drusilla put him together.

Buffy and Angel find them, almost get killed by the Judge, and escape just in time, making their way back to Angel’s lair.

Where they’re all wet from the rain.

And things happen…

Then Angel wakes with a start, runs out of bed into the rain, crying out in pain…

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 8th January 2000 – 22:45

After this episode there’s a trailer for Gimme Gimme Gimme and for Summer in the Suburbs.

Then, recording stops, and underneath there’s a older recording from The Learning Zone. There’s a programme about Chemistry and one about Polymers.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 22nd November 1999 – 00:25

Buffy The Vampire Slayer – tape 2253

Now here’s a small puzzle for me.

This tape was labelled Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and indeed that’s what it contains. But the tape number in my database says the number belongs to The Langoliers part 2. Unfortunately, since the tapes are all packed in large boxes in inaccessible places in my garage, and also not in any particular order, it’s virtually impossible for me to find the tape to check the label and number, and see if it’s simply a case of me not having updated my database (quite possible) and, sadly therefore, having taped over part 2 of The Langoliers. Which would be a small shame, because much as I love Buffy, I’ve got them all on DVD, but I don’t have The Langoliers. Oh well, maybe it’ll turn up. For now, I’m sticking with this tape number.

First, Lover’s Walk. Willow is horrified by her test scores – 740 verbal. I don’t know what that means. Buffy also gets a good score, but this doesn’t seem to excite her. Cordelia is delighted, as it’ll mean Buffy will leave Sunnydale for college and never come back.

“After all, what kind of moron would ever want to come back here?”

Yes, Spike’s back. And he’s a mess, since the last time we saw him was the end of the previous season, when Drusilla turned agains

Xander and Cordelia are a couple, as are Oz and Willow. But Willow and Xander have unresolved relationship issues, from a previous episode. So Willow decides to cast a spell to make the love go away.

But Spike captures Willow and Xander, and wants her to make a love spell for him, to make Drusilla love him again.

He also pays a visit to Joyce, who clearly doesn’t know his past, and there’s an amusing scene when Angel can’t come in because he hasn’t been invited.

Willow and Xander being imprisoned and possibly in mortal danger naturally brings them together, which gets embarrassing when Cordelia and Oz find them.

Worse is to come when Cordelia falls through the rotten floor and is impaled on an iron spike. There’s a heartwrenching moment as Xander begs her to hold on, as she closes her eyes, breaths out, and the camera pulls up slowly.

Cut to a funeral. Then Buffy and Willow walk past in the foreground. “So Cordelia’s going to be OK?” “Yes, she lost a lot of blood, but no vital organs were punctured.”

I love this show so much. And for some reason, I care so much more about their various relationships than I ever do about the people in Roswell High. Possibly because, as characters, they’re just more interesting. But also, more happens to the arcs of the characters in this single episode than seems to happen in five episodes of Roswell. At the end of this episode every single character’s relationships has changed significantly, including Spike’s.

Next is The Wish. Cordelia’s still ignoring Xander’s phone calls, and burning his pictures, as she recovers from her injury.

First day back at school, and Cordy’s friends are their usual bitchy selves, suggesting Cordelia should start dating, and suggesting she start with Jonathan.

Danny Strong makes regular appearances in various episodes. He’s now an Oscar nominated screenwriter.

This episode also sees the first appearance of Anya, here in her original form of Anyanka the vengeance demon who grants vengeance wishes for wronged women.

Cordelia wishes that Buffy had never come to Sunnydale. This creates a terrible alternate world. Remember what I said a couple of tapes ago, about alternate universe stories being great. Well here’s Exhibit A, and we’re off on a horribly dark version of Sunnydale if Buffy had never come there.

Among the highlights are: Xander and Willow are vampires and, to rub salt into Cordy’s wounds, still a couple.

Mark Metcalf is back as The Master, killed by Buffy in the old world, but still reigning over Sunnydale here, where all non-vampires are cowering at home at night.

Giles is still there, although of course he’s not had to be a watcher because Buffy never came. Cordelia tries to tell him that this world is wrong because she wished for no Buffy, but before a plan can be formed, she’s killed by Xander and Willow. Giles recognises Anya’s amulet around her neck, starts doing research, then has to go home to check more books, but on the way sees a group of humans being corralled into a truck by some vampires, so he tries to help, and is almost taken himself when the vampires are taken out but an unseen figure. It’s Buffy.

They went for a scar. I’m an alternate universe purist, and would have preferred an eyepatch (see Doctor Who: Inferno) since a Star Trek goatee was out of the question.

Buffy decides to go after The Master, since she’s there anyway, and doesn’t believe Giles’ thoughts about the alternate reality. She doesn’t find him at his lair, in The Bronze, but she does find Angel, who’s happy to see her, as he’s been waiting for her to come to Sunnydale all this time. He’s been kept as a pet by The Master, and tortured by Angel and Willow.

The Master is setting up a factory to do mass processing of humans to extract their blood. Buffy and Angel crash the party, free the humans from their cage, and a huge fight ensues. And because it’s an alternate reality, the stakes are huge, and pretty much everyone starts dying.

Lucky, then, that Giles has summoned Anyanka, and when she won’t restore things, he takes her necklace and destroys it, just as Buffy is killed by The Master.

Everything is back as it was, Anyanka’s power is gone, and it was all a bad dream.

It’s strange. A story which basically pushes a big reset switch at the end should really annoy me, but this is still one of my favourite episodes of the whole series. I think, because it takes the premise seriously, and the jeopardy the characters are in is still very real, it has dramatic heft. And I’ve just noticed that this is the second episode in a row that ‘kills’ Cordelia.

Next it’s Amends. Starting off with Oirish Angel back in the 19th Century. I confess, there’s a small part of me that thinks the Angel backstory can sometimes skirt very close to being this show’s ‘Klingon Bollocks’. Boreanaz’s Irish accent in particular is on very shaky ground.

Angel’s dreaming about his past, and when he’s awake, in town talking to Buffy, he sees the man he killed in his dream, a man from his past.

It’s Christmas in Sunnydale, complete with an unseasonal heatwave, so the Christmas Tree vendor has to improvise.

Willow and Oz have something of a reconciliation. Cordelia, on the other hand, is still rightfully angry with Xander.

New slayer Faith is around. She and Buffy aren’t hitting it off, though.

Angel keeps having dreams about his past which he doesn’t understand so he goes to the only person who  can help him – Giles. But because the last time Giles saw Angel, he had just murdered his lover, Jenny Calendar, Giles isn’t happy to see him. This scene is electrifying right from the off. The episode where Angel killed Jenny was shocking, so however we feel about the new, improved, good again Angel, we know exactly what Giles is feeling, and somehow because Anthony Head plays it with all Giles’ English reserve, the emotional undercurrent is even stronger.

Angel wants to know why he’s been brought back. Giles isn’t sure he should help him achieve peace of mind. “The last time you became complacent about your existence, it turned out rather badly.”

But while they’re talking, Angel is seeing someone else from the past. Jenny Calendar.

Giles can’t see her but Angel can, so he leaves quickly. Cue another dream from the past. But this time he sees Buffy in the dream. And Buffy sees the same dream.

The gang start researching, while Angel is visited by visions of the people he has killed, telling him all the awful things he’s done. Whoever is tormenting him wants him to get back with Buffy, and kill her. The gang find something in Giles’ books about a group of priests with no eyes summoning the First Evil. And the bartender in the local bar frequented by demons and vampires says that he’s heard there might be something nasty somewhere underground.

Willow and Oz have a ‘netflix and chill’ evening. OK, it’s videos, but you get the idea. I love this scene. Willow is ready, with the nice dress and Barry White on the stereo, but it’s Oz who’s not ready, and is willing to say they should wait until they both ‘need it to happen’. I love Oz so much. Come to that, I love Willow, but that kind of goes without saying.

Angel’s tormentors are driving him to kill Buffy, so Buffy has to find whoever is doing this. Angel is fighting the impulses – he’d rather die at sunrise than kill Buffy. Buffy and Giles find something that leads her to a spot under the Christmas Tree. She confronts the First Evil, in Jenny’s form, who tells her Angel will be dead by sunrise. She finds Angel on a hill overlooking Sunnydale, minutes before sunrise.

Angel wants to die, Buffy wants him to fight, to live. “If I can’t convince you that you belong in this world then I don’t know what can. But do not expect me to watch. And don’t expect me to mourn for you because…”

And then it starts snowing.

The snow means the sun’s not coming out any time soon. If Angel wanted a sign, I think he got one.

Another really good episode. The show really was firing on all cylinders this year.

Finally on this tape, Gingerbread. Joyce brings Buffy a snack while she’s out on patrol. She witnesses a fight with a vampire. “Oh my God. It’s Mr Sanderson from the bank.”

While Buffy is busy with the vamp, Joyce discovers the bodies of two young children, dead in the playground.

It’s a shocking thing, even for Sunnydale. Giles thinks it might be cult related, and not demons.

Side note: This episode’s story is co-written by Thania St John, one of the Roswell High writing team, who also worked on The New Adventures of Superman.

Joyce and the local parents mobilise the local community to protest against the horrific murder. The rumours going around is that witches are responsible. And when Joyce addresses the town meeting she strikes an ominous tone. “This isn’t our town any more. It belongs to the monsters, and the witches, and the slayers.”

But then, we see Willow and her friends enacting some type of ritual, around the symbol that was on the dead children’s hands.

At school, one of Willow’s friends, a boy goth wizard, is hassled by some jocks. “People like him have got to learn a lesson”

Willow’s other friend Amy stands up for him. “What about people like me?” “Get in my face and you’ll find out.”

Then Buffy’s head comes into frame next to Amy, and the jocks back off. I love little moments like this.

But pretty soon the police are raiding lockers, and Amy and Willow are summoned to the Principal’s office. And Giles’ library is ransacked by the police.

Willow is grounded. And Joyce forbids Buffy to see Willow. She’s founded MOO – Mothers Opposed to the Occult. But we know there’s something else at play, because Joyce is visited by the ghosts of the two dead children.

Buffy asks Giles what they know about the two dead children, and nobody seems to know anything about them – who they are, who their parents are, where they went to school. Some online searching finds references to the same two dead children, reports that pop up every 50 years going back centuries.

Willow’s mother talks more to her. She’s discussed it with MOO. “So you believe me now?” asks Willow. “I believe you, dear. Now all I can do is let you go with love.”

It’s a potent theme, the parent convinced of their child’s evil or guilt, and it always scares me.

Pretty soon, the town hall is rigged for a good old fashioned witch burning, and Joyce manages to drug Buffy with some chloroform so she’s tied up too. I love that they’ve got old fashioned torches. It wouldn’t be an angry mob without lit torches.

Amy takes matters into her own hands and turns herself into a rat to escape, leaving Willow and Buffy still tied up. So it’s up to Giles and Cordelia to race to the rescue, Giles with a spell, and Cordelia with more practical help.

Giles reveals the true form of the two children, and Buffy manages to finish him off. With that, the collective delusion vanishes.

Not quite as wrenching as the previous episodes, but this was still top notch stuff.

Following this, recording continues with World’s Most Incredible Hostage Rescues, the kind of tat that Sky One ran all the time. The tape ends during this programme.

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Proms 2000 – tape 2482

This tape starts part of the way into the programme, unfortunately. It’s the First Night of the Proms 2000, and we join it during Leopold Stokowski’s arrangement of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue, arranged for Disney’s Fantasia, or at least, that’s where I first heard it.

The conductor is Andrew Davis, as was normal for Proms at this time as he was the principal conductor for the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

After this, Evgeny Kissin plays Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto. Always beautiful.

He plays two encores, two Rachmaninov preludes, one of which is so familiar to me. I wonder if it’s one of the pieces my father used to play on the piano.

After this, during the interval, there’s a music quiz, Full House, presented by Francine Stock

With panellists Simon Callow

Marie McLaughlin

John Sessions

and Thomas Allen

There’s a ‘before they were famous’ section which featured, among others, a very young Joshua Bell, pictured here mostly for the female members of my family.

The teams on this are incredibly competitive, John Sessions in particular.

After the interval, there’s a performance of Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass. Not a piece I’m familiar with. It’s a mix of very modern, atonal stuff, with some rather more tuneful music. Not sure it would become a favourite.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 14th July 2000 – 19:30

After the programme, recording continues with a short programme called Blooming Lovely. It’s about flowers.

There’s a trailer for I Love the 1970s.

Then, a trailer for Lamarr’s Attacks.

Then recording continues with an episode of Never Mind the Buzzcocks. Joining Mark Lamarr, Phill Jupitus and Sean Hughes (we’ve seen him quite a lot over the last few tapes, haven’t we? I hope he’s OK.) are Lauren Laverne (billed as ‘former lead singer of Kenickie’ at this stage)

Matt Priest

Tom Robinson

and Jeff Green

Dean Friedman is in the identity parade.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 14th July 2000 – 22:00

After this, something quite sad (to me). A trailer for Liquid News, the entertainment news show on BBC Choice (which would eventually become BBC3) presented by the wonderful Christopher Price. He died tragically young of a rare condition brought on by an ear infection, and if he hadn’t, I suspect he would today be one of our most beloved broadcasters. Such a huge loss. I wish I had some Liquid News in my collection.

There’s a trailer for News from Number Ten. Remember when we had a Labour government that people trusted?

This is followed by Newsnight reporting on huge damages awarded against American tobacco companies. The whole programme is on this tape.

BBC Genome: BBC Two – 14th July 2000 – 22:30

After this, there’s Weather from Darren Bett, a trailer for Brain Story presented by Susan Greenfield. A trailer for a programme about people who make firework displays, Masterblasters, and a trail for Grandstand.

Then, the tape runs out with a bit of Davis Cup Tennis.