July 9, 2006

There is one kind of Star Trek episode that is always easy to get made…

  1. Woman-of-color Uhurah detects a disturbance on her short range scanner.
  2. Kirk asks her to bring up whatever-it-is on the ship’s widescreen LCD.
  3. It’s some-kind-of energy field floating in space. Spock suggests it could be ominous, or failing that, mysterious.
  4. It gets on the ship and TAKES OVER SCOTTY’S MIND. Scotty is now evil, but he still looks exactly like good old Scotty. How freaky is that, mo’ fo’?
  5. Scotty gives Bones a kiss. Scotty falls over and says “Where am I?” He’s okay, but now Bones is evil, because, like, it JUMPED INTO BONES (this is different from jumping on bones).
  6. Etc.

The advantages of this story template are plentyfold:

  • The bad guys are played by the normal cast members. No need to phone around the casting agencies trying to find a journeyman hack character actor who can pull an evil face and will probably turn out to be a dead loss.
  • No need to ask make-up to “design” another rubber alien mask with tentacles. No special effects at all, in fact, just one picture of a mysterious energy field floating in space (and possibly something sparkly around the mouths when the bad character kisses its next victim).
  • The actors love it, because the whole miracle is achieved only by the noble art established by Thespis of Icaria in which a humble darling lovely actor speaks great lines and holds the very beating heart of the audience in their hand, forcing them to credit the incredible.
  • Best of all, the viewing public wins also. Because Scotty and Bones go way back together, or something, and it’s so gripping to see Bones meet evil Scotty – oh man, he’s going to be so confused by how strangely his old pal is acting!

This theme is regularly made use of in Buffy, often with tremendous artistry, by writers who are wielding the tropes of their chosen medium as if they were pulling solid gold out of their arseholes. And sometimes just in a really average way, but with a few good jokes dotted about.

It’s not always an evil thing that possesses one character after another; sometimes it’s a body swap between two characters, or it’s an evilness that picks a character and stays with them for the entire episode (or longer). The point is, the usual cast of players is re-deployed as different characters, or on radically different variations on their usual characters.

Here’s a quick rundown, just for fun – a “fundown”, if you will:

Season 1

Witch – Amy swaps bodies with her mother – a bit tenuous as Amy isn’t a regular cast member, but she would go on to appear in every season except 5.

The Pack – Xander is inhabited by a hyena and – key point – treats Willow very badly.

Season 2

When She Was Bad – this doesn’t really count because Buffy is just being an arse, not actually actually possessed.

Halloween – Buffy turns 18th century while Xander goes commando (but not in the sense of wearing no underpants, sadly, though you do get to see him not wearing very many clothes at all in Go Fish).

Bad Eggs – Giles is possessed by… erm… an egg.

Innocence – Angel turns bad, and stays that way for nine episodes. Willow tragically loses several tropical fish.

Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered – several regular female characters succumb to a love spell.

I Only Have Eyes For You – a couple of ghosts take over Angel and Buffy.

Season 3

Band Candy – Giles and Joyce turn into teenagers and have sex on top of her car.

The Wish – Xander and Willow get to be vampires, while Buffy gets to be grumpy. See also Doppelgangland, of course.

Amends – Buffy’s hairstyle appears to be under some kind of dreadful curse.

Gingerbread – Joyce falls under the influence of the Daily Mail.

Season 4

Beer Bad – Buffy is oddly exempt from the forehead makeup that all the less important actors have to wear.

Something Blue – Buffy and Spike, etc. This reminds me, I ought to do a post about foreshadowings.
Who Are You? – Buffy and Faith swap bodies, and guess how badly Faith-as-Buffy treats Willow and Tara? If you answered “fairly” or similar, you may have a gold star. Both slayer-actresses have a good time mimicking each other’s mannerisms and accents.

Season 5

The Replacement – bit of an oddity, this one. Two Xanders, and a mislead suggesting that one of them is evil, but it’s actually two actors (they’re twins), so this doesn’t quite count. But otherwise it would look like I’d forgotten about Season 5.

Season 6

After Life – only very quick possessions here, just long enough for the nasty thing to overhear useful information before sodding off to take advantage of it.

Tabula Rasa – everyone’s memory is wiped, so they get to play a naive, simpler version of their usual selves.

Normal Again – aside from the twist that we never really find out which version of reality to trust, this is a fairly normal possession episode, as the main character turns on all the other characters one by one.

Villains – Willow is effectively possessed by magically-enhanced grief, turning into an utterly different character.

Season 7

Him – shameless (yet entertaining) revisit of ‘Bewitched…’ which is even referred to in the episode by way of apology.

The Killer In Me – In this episode, Willow is played mostly by Adam Busch (usually Warren), who does rather an excellent job.

So there we have it.

Note that there is no episode in which the possessing influence jumps directly from one character to another in the classic way. However, there is a somewhat crappy Angel episode (Lonely Hearts, Season 1) where that happens. And a pretty good straight body-swap in Carpe Noctem from Season 3.


2 Responses to “Possession”

  1. Ronnie Barko Says:

    “Band Candy – Giles and Joyce turn into teenagers and have sex on top of her car.”

    Even better – it was a police car.

    “Gingerbread – Joyce falls under the influence of the Daily Mail.”


  2. peterobject Says:

    Thanx. Oh man, a factual error!

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