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PLEASE NOTE: Michael D's is currently in READ ONLY MODE. Anything submitted will simply not be written to the database.
Lots of stuff is still broken, but at least reviews can now be looked up and read.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer-Season 6 Box Set Part 1 (2002)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer-Season 6 Box Set Part 1 (2002)

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Released 13-May-2003

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Vampire Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary-Bargaining Part 1 & 2; Once More With Feeling; Smashed
Featurette-David Fury's Behind the Scenes
Karaoke-This Is My Verse, Hello! (3)
Trailer-Buffy Season 2;Buffy Season 3;Buffy Season 4;Buffy Season 5
Trailer-Buffy The Vampire Slayer Movie
Trailer-Angel Season 1; Angel Season 2; Angel Season 3
Featurette-American Television Arts & Sciences Panel Discussion
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2002
Running Time 465:10
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Multi Disc Set (3)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Joss Whedon
David Grossman
David Solomon
Studio
Distributor

Twentieth Century Fox
Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar
Alyson Hannigan
Nicholas Brandon
James Marsters
Emma Caulfield
Amber Benson
Michelle Trachtenberg
Anthony Stewart Head
Case ?
RPI $79.95 Music Thomas Wanker
Joss Whedon
Christophe Beck


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles Danish
English for the Hearing Impaired
Finnish
Norwegian
Swedish
English Audio Commentary
Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 6 — not bad for a show that was originally made as a fall-back, in case some other show was so awful that it had to be yanked off mid-season. You know, I don't even know what the show was that failed and allowed Buffy to get to air (I have a sneaking suspicion I'm about to get a few e-mails about it, though...). Something about that first season struck a chord, though, and so it continued. I'd like to think that what made the show a success was its lack of fear — it would take risks, and violate unwritten rules.

    If you haven't seen at least to the end of Season 5, I strongly recommend that you skip directly to the discussion of the transfer — I will be trying to avoid spoilers for this season, but I do have to mention stuff from previous seasons. Speaking of previous seasons, you may care to consult reviews of:

    This season started with something of a burden from the end of Season 5 — remember that the last scene in that season was a shot of Buffy's tombstone. So this season opens with a double episode that addresses that little issue. The opening was screened as two episodes here in Australia, but was broadcast as a single double-length episode in the US — we get the joined version here, and that's not a bad thing. The episodes in this box are:

Title

Time

Script Director  
Bargaining, Parts I & 2 85:27 Marti Noxon (part 1)
David Fury
(part 2)
David Grossman The Scoobies are making a very risky plan, while Giles is planning to return to England
After Life 41:31 Jane Espenson David Solomon Magic has consequences...
Flooded 41:31 Douglas Petrie
Jane Espenson
Douglas Petrie Unlicensed plumbing also has consequences; quite expensive consequences
Life Serial 41:32 David Fury
Jane Espenson
Nick Marck The Trio run a competition to see who can most disturb the Slayer
All the Way 41:32 Steven S DeKnight David Solomon Halloween, with Anya as an Angel (the Charlie kind), and Dawn sneaking out
Once More With Feeling 48:33 Joss Whedon Joss Whedon Musical!
Tabula Rasa 41:32 Rebecca Rand Kirshner David Grossman When the whole group lose their memories, who do they think they are?
Smashed 41:26 Drew Z Greenburg Turi Meyer The Trio pulls a robbery, while Willow finally restores Amy from rat
Wrecked 41:31 Marti Noxon David Solomon Willow's problem increases, putting Dawn in danger
Gone 41:35 David Fury David Fury Invisibility — privilege or curse?

    This season has pretty much the longest "Previously on Buffy..." sequences of any season. There's a lot of context needed for some of these episodes, with references from several previous seasons; in fact, I think every previous season gets referenced on occasion.

    Since Buffy became established, Joss Whedon has made a point of making one episode each season that tried something quite radical. In Season 4 we had Hush, where no one could speak, and so the music had to carry a great load of the drama. In Season 5 we got The Body, where there was no music at all. And now, in Season 6, we get Once More With Feeling — a full-blown musical. Joss Whedon explains how much he wanted to write a musical in the commentary (and a later extra, too). What makes this episode so very special is that it is not a typical musical, where the songs are ancillary to the story-line, and sometimes included in contrived fashion. In this musical, the songs are the major movers of the story-line (well, maybe not the executive producers' songs...) — the words have been carefully woven together to convey all of the major plot points (well, except for the final scene). All the episodes prior to the musical are building up the secrets that get blown by the songs, and many of the following episodes are based on revelations from the songs. Joss Whedon is responsible for all the words (sung and spoken), the music for the songs (he wisely let Christophe Beck handle the scoring, and left arrangements up to Jesse Tobias and Christophe Beck), the directing, and even the commentary; he even appears frequently in the behind-the-scenes documentary (including some interesting choreography...).

    I happen to be extremely fond of musicals, and I was looking forward to this episode with almost unreachable expectations. I was delighted when I saw it broadcast — it managed to fulfil my expectations. I watched it a few times on tape, then managed to get hold of a DVD that was released on the front cover of Hollywood Reporter magazine (it wasn't 16x9 enhanced, but at least it didn't wear out) — there were lots of copies of this disc available on eBay. Then the musical episode was released as a stand-alone disc in Region 2 — it is 16x9 enhanced, but the extras are recycled from earlier seasons. The musical episode in this box is given a beautiful transfer, and comes with a stack of extras. I am so very happy to have this one episode — I actually consider it worth the price of the entire box (the DVDs on eBay were going for a lot more money!), making everything else a big bonus. Your mileage may vary.

    If I had to choose a second-best episode from those in this box, I think I'd choose Tabula Rasa. After the musical it's a delight to get an episode that is so funny. Whenever we get a commentary from a non-Joss Whedon writer they always point out that the most memorable moment of their episode was contributed by Joss. I rather suspect that it was Joss who suggested (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) the appearance of the loan shark.

    There are some marvellous exchanges of dialogue in amongst these episodes. Perhaps the best comes in Smashed: (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) Buffy—"How've you been?", Amy—"Rat. You?", Buffy—"Dead", Amy—"Oh" (you have to think she wasn't expecting to be topped) . And perhaps the best one-liner is: "When did the building fall down?"

    This season, of all the seasons so far, has the greatest number of fake-outs with regard to the season's "big bad". We only get to see some of candidates in this box: (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) the world's nerdiest self-described super-villains, the magic-pusher Rack, ex-rat Amy, and the suggestion that Spike or even Buffy may be dangerous. It isn't until the second half that we add a no-longer-ex-vengeance demon to the list. But when the big threat is revealed, it is quite justified.

    I find The Trio amusing, but that may be because I can identify all of the Star Wars and Star Trek references, including the ones in the background (I don't get all the comic-book references, though).

    Of all the episodes in this box, only Flooded is not a top-class piece of work. It is important, in that it provides our introduction to The Trio, and establishes the financial sub-plot, but it is not brilliantly scripted. That may be because it was the last episode to be written and shot before Joss Whedon returned from the break he took so he could write the musical.

    An interesting bit of trivia — (SPOILER ALERT: highlight with mouse to read) the scene where Buffy cuts her hair? Sarah Michelle Gellar is cutting her own hair in that scene.

    This season is darker than the previous ones, and that makes sense. We're a long way from when they could fight a demon, then go home and be safe with their parents. Now some of their scariest opponents are people like a bank loan officer, or an official from Social Services, or even themselves. This is a somewhat more adult show, too, with some of the subtleties / metaphors replaced with more direct imagery. I don't know that you could ever describe Buffy as suitable for children, but this season is definitely not.

    Any collection of Buffy the Vampire Slayer must include this box.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

    This show is a TV series. It's made to a TV budget, not a big movie budget. It is amazing what they can achieve within their budget.

    The musical episode was broadcast in widescreen (but not 16x9 enhanced — just letter-boxed). The rest of the episodes were broadcast here in full-screen (they were broadcast wide-screen on some systems in Europe, I believe).

    We get the every episode presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, so it is really good to see that they are 16x9 enhanced. These DVDs are the only way we get to see this season in wide-screen in Australia (it wasn't until Season 7 that we got broadcasts in wide-screen). The more I watch Buffy this way, the more I want it — it looks gorgeous, and by this season they have gotten really good at shooting for wide-screen as well as full-screen.

    The picture is excellent — gorgeous for a TV show. The image is quite sharp in daylight and close-ups, losing a little of that sharpness in the darker night-time scenes. The night scenes are sometimes a little grainy, but mostly quite acceptable; all the day-time shots are grain-free. One quite grainy section runs from about 37:08–37:19 of Once More With Feeling (in the commentary Joss mentions that that night's shooting came out badly). Shadow detail is very good, although perhaps a touch less so than last season. There is virtually no low-level noise.

    Colour is just as good as last season: deep, rich, and fully-saturated. There are no colour-related artefacts. Lovely.

    There are no film artefacts worth mentioning. I did notice, for example, a faint blue optical effect at 12:05 in Smashed, but it's barely visible, even on a large screen.

    There are moments of light aliasing or moire, but it is always brief and limited in extent. There's next to no MPEG shimmer, and no other MPEG artefacts.

    Once again, we get subtitles in Scandinavian languages, plus captions in English. I watched the English — they are often a little abbreviated compared with the dialogue, but they are otherwise accurate, well-timed, and easily read. You know I love to spot subtitle errors — the only one I spotted came in the Panel Discussion, where "flaying" was subtitled as "flame" repeatedly.

    The discs are single-sided and dual layered, formatted RSDL, but there is no visible layer change. This is because there are two episodes on one layer, and two on the other.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The English soundtrack is Dolby Digital 2.0, surround encoded (even on the musical — the rumours of a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack for that have not come to pass). There's no other soundtrack, save for the commentaries.

    The dialogue is clear and readily understood, which is vital when we're listening to the unique dialect that is Buffy-speak. There are no signs of audio sync errors, save for one momentary slip of lip-sync on the demon in the musical.

    Thomas W***er scored all the episodes except the musical — he's doing a fine job. The musical owes its music to Joss Whedon (songs), Christophe Beck (score and arrangements), and Jesse Tobias (arrangements) — this is a superlative effort.

    The surrounds are not used for directional cues, just a little bit of ambience, and some score. The subwoofer is not used at all, unless your bass management settings redirect bass from the mains into the sub. The score uses quite decent amounts of bass on occasion.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    This box gets some excellent extras. There are some extras on the first two discs, but the third disc, with one less episode, is where I usually expect to see the most extras. This time it's not quite like that — there are more extras on disc 2, but we do get an excellent featurette (nearly an hour long) on disc 3. Oh, and there are no scripts on any of the discs — I don't miss them.

Menu

    The discs start with a quieter transition than usual (this is not a bad thing), and it's the same transition on all three discs. Almost every menu has music.

    The main menu on each disc is the episode menu. The episodes are arranged in a rectangle, and it is not obvious whether they run top-to-bottom or left-to-right (or even in a circle). The answer is left-to-right: play the top left, then top right, bottom left, bottom right, if you want to play them back in order. I don't really like this design — I'd rather they'd followed the paradigm of Angel Season 3, where the episodes are listed in a simple vertical list — there's no confusion then.

    The other confusion with these menus is that the selected item on the episode menu is the darker one, while the selected item on the episode menu is the lighter one — not the greatest piece of menu ergonomics.

Commentary: Bargaining, Parts 1 & 2

    This commentary is provided by both writers, Marti Noxon and David Fury. Rather than have Marti Noxon commenting on the episode she wrote and David Fury commenting on the one he wrote, we get the two of them for the entire double episode. That sounds good, given that I've liked Marti Noxon's commentaries in the past, but  unfortunately they seem to have a bad effect on one another. The commentary is interesting enough, but they distract one another, and joke about being required to mention Joss Whedon's great sexual prowess, rather than talking to us full-time. Still, there is quite a lot of information conveyed. They clarify the urban myths surrounding the numbered clothes (you'll hear about it). They mention George Lucas' visit to the set. Oh, and they mention the troubles they had with the deer scene.

    They clarify that they were basically left in charge of the show while Joss was finishing up the musical script and songs.

    There are some long pauses between comments, and some huge spoilers for later in the season — do not listen to this commentary until after you've seen the entire season.

Commentary: Once More With Feeling

    A Joss Whedon commentary — always a highlight. If you don't listen to every Joss Whedon commentary, then you are really missing out.

Featurette: David Fury's Behind the Scenes (28:17)

    A lengthy "fly-on-the-wall" view of the making of the musical episode — a lot of fun, seeing things like Alyson Hannigan miming to the Mustard Song, and Joss Whedon demonstrating choreography.

Karaoke: This Is My Verse, Hello!

    Karaoke versions of three of the numbers, with the vision in the top part of the 4x3 frame, and the words in the bottom part, changing colour as they are sung.

Commentary: Smashed

    This is interesting - a commentary from writer Drew Z. Greenburg, talking about his very first Buffy script. It's entertaining to hear his enthusiasm, and his thrill at seeing his own name in the Buffy font.

Featurette: American TV Arts and Sciences Panel Discussion (59:30)

    This is a highly entertaining panel interview with lots of the cast and crew:

    The footage is pretty dreadful quality, suffering from colour bleed, grain, aliasing, moire, cross-colouration — it has lots of artefacts. But that's OK, because the content is marvellous — watch and enjoy. There are spoilers for the whole of season 6, and even hints at some of season 7.

Trailers

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Region 1 is only about to get Season 4. Region 2 gets this season almost the same day as R4. The R2 and R4 discs will probably be exactly the same again. The R2 packaging is the same as last season, which is nice (I like it, although the Season 5 version felt a bit "cheap" — this one is a bit better). The R4 packaging is the same as all the other seasons, too, with a set of standard Amarays. Choose the packaging you want, 'cause that's the only difference between the R2 and the R4.

    Note that there's a much bigger difference between these and what we expect to see in R1; you have heard, I'm sure, that Season 4 is being released full-screen in R1, after being wide-screen in R2 and R4 — it's expected that future seasons in R1 will follow suit. I won't recap my reasons for preferring the wide-screen here, but...

    New: the R2 packaging lists another extra on disc 2 — an Easter egg (which apparently shows some candid footage of a signing held at Tower Records).

Summary

    Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 6, including the musical episode — ooh, yeah!

    The video quality is excellent, and wide-screen 16x9 enhanced.

    The audio quality is very good.

    There are some marvellous extras in this box, many for the musical.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Tony Rogers (bio-degrading: making a fool of oneself in a bio...)
Monday, May 05, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-S733A, using Component output
DisplaySony VPH-G70 CRT Projector, QuadScan Elite scaler (Tripler), ScreenTechnics 110. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationDenon AVC-A1SE
SpeakersFront Left, Centre, Right: Krix Euphonix; Rears: Krix KDX-M; Subwoofer: Krix Seismix 5

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