“Reboot” has become a contentious word. While risk-averse producers are perpetually looking for familiar films and TV to bring back in new forms, with the expectation that the new versions will have a built-in fandom, the seemingly endless wave of lackluster reboots of popular properties seems to be taking a toll on fans.
And every new reboot announcement sparks a wave of online backlash. One of the most recent kerfuffles involved the announcement that Midnight, Texas creator Monica Owusu-Breen was working with Joss Whedon on a new version of his signature show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Initial reports suggested their new show would be a reboot, with a woman of color in the title role.
Actual information about the planned show was thin as of its initial announcement, apart from a producer statement that read, “Like our world, it will be richly diverse, and like the original, some aspects of the series could be seen as metaphors for issues facing us all today.”
But after a wave of negative response to the suggestion that the show might be looping back to the Buffy character’s starting point — and retelling the same stories with different actors — Owusu-Breen put out a statement via her Twitter suggesting the show is actually a sequel centered on a new character entirely.
This statement may read as a little vague, but it does seem to make it clear that Owusu-Breen isn’t interested in recasting the original roles, or retelling the stories from Whedon’s series. Instead, it heavily implies that the new Buffy will be a sequel series.
In the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer, protagonist Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is the Slayer, a young woman granted supernatural strength and skill so she can fight the evils of the world. Most of the series emphasizes that there can be only one Slayer at a time, and that a new Slayer is empowered only when the old one dies. Complications from that formula do eventually mean a second Slayer is running around in addition to Buffy. But in last episode of season 7, the series finale, Buffy and her friends activate the Slayer magic and distribute it to dozens of potential Slayers, creating an army of empowered women.
That dynamic continues throughout the 11-year run of Buffy spin-off comics, a series collected in arcs styled as Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season Eight, Season Nine, Season Ten, and so forth. Given that the comics were initially approved by Whedon, who scripted many of the Season Eight comics himself, there’s been some debate over whether they’re canonical to the series. While Whedon said in an initial 2006 interview that he intended for them to be canon, and Buffy-related story arcs still need his office’s approval, he hasn’t had much direct involvement in the comics in years, and the series’ increasingly weird fantasy arcs would be a difficult thing for any new show to absorb. But they do feature a world with a lot of Slayer-empowered women running around, employed in a lot of different projects.
And Whedon was more directly involved in the 2001-2003 comics series Fray, a far-future take on Buffy featuring a Slayer descendant who’d inherited Buffy’s primary weapon and her primary problem — vampires. Whedon has in the past said he has a specific plan to return to the Fray timeline, and that he also has a story in mind that would explain the discrepancies between Fray and the end of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Given his involvement in the show, there’s always the possibility that the new series could touch on existing plans he had for the Buffy mythos.
But whether the new series acknowledged the comics or dismisses them, there’s certainly a canonical basis in the first show for an entire series that focuses on a new Slayer without taking the original ones off the table. And the prospect of a 20-years-later update to the series sounds exactly like what a lot of fans on social media demanded when the reboot news first broke. A sequel series that returns to the same world but breaks new ground and has its own specific tone and interests would at least have a slight chance of escaping the “This isn’t the Buffy we grew up with!” backlash.
Now it’s just a question of whether it comes to fruition or dies on the vine, like the planned Whedon-free 2011 Buffy film project that fell apart in the scripting stage. And if it does see the light of day, it still remains to be seen whether fans are willing to give the new show a chance, even if it isn’t named after or intent on replacing Buffy herself.