Review By Paul Mount, 5 out of 5 .
(Released April 2003 in the UK)
Buffy Summers ?the Vampire Slayer ?is back from the dead, resurrected by the sorcery of her best friend Willow. Killed in battle at the end of season five Buffy, unbeknownst to her friends in the so-called Scooby Gang, had finally found eternal peace from her earthly labours in some blissful Heaven-dimension. Rudely brought back to life the Buffster is none too pleased at being forced to take up her slaying duties again and she’s finding life amongst the living a little hard to get used to. But the others have their own problems too. Xander and Anya are engaged but both of them are plagued by unspoken self-doubts. Buffy’s sister Dawn is feeling distinctly neglected and has taken to idle kleptomania to get her jollies. Willow’s getting deeper and deeper into dark magic and her obsession is putting her relationship with Tara at risk and vampire Spike has his own obsession ?Buffy herself. Finally there’s watcher Giles who’s feeling more and more unnecessary as his charges start to take responsibility for their own lives. But the problem is communication ?none of the Gang has got the guts to voice their feelings to the others. How can they resolve their own inner demons and how can BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, as a series, move on to the next dramatic level? The answer is in ‘Once More, With Feeling’, the most audacious, exhilarating, outrageous episode not only of BUFFY but also of any other TV of recent memory you care to mention.
But why ?just a few weeks ahead of its release as part of the Season 6 boxset ?does the episode turn up on a lightweight stand-alone disc? Ah, that’d be a quick buck then, Fox ?a chance to notch up a few extra sales from viewers who loved the music but really wouldn’t want to buy the whole series. The enterprise might have been of some merit if some genuine thought had gone into the package ?as it is we’re left with an achingly-disappointing presentation of a genuine TV classic.
And mark my words, this is a classic, a sassy piece of contemporary television which is fun, exciting, witty, superbly written and directed (by Joss Whedon himself) and with a selection of almost-irritatingly catchy songs which get into your brain and just won’t go away, even months after the event. ‘Once More, With Feeling’ is about as good as it gets and it’s one you really need to have in your collection ?whether it’s on the already-available VHS boxset, the forthcoming DVD set or, if you must, this standalone disc.
THE DISC: BUFFY Producer David Fury is on record as having videotaped hours of behind-the-scenes production footage on the making of ‘Once More, With Feeling’ ?and none of it appears on this disc. To be fair, a thirty-minute feature does appear on the Season Six DVD boxset but that’s really not the point. It should be here too ?perhaps with a few other exclusive bits and pieces. But what do we get instead? An old ‘Behind the Music’ featurette lifted from an early BUFFY boxset and an endless stream of trailers for BUFFY, ANGEL and even DARK ANGEL. Disappointing but just about excusable because of the sheer quality of the main feature.aHHH