Buffy the Vampire Slayer is one of the most beloved genre shows of all time. Over twenty years after its premiere, it still has a massive, loyal fan base.
The series continues in comic book form, there are still numerous books being written about it, and even a rebooted TV show in the works.
Buffy is famous for tackling serious teenage issues from first boyfriends to addiction to self harm, as well as for being meticulously planned out.
Joss Whedon knew what he wanted to do with the show and planned so many things, like Buffy’s sacrifice in “The Gift” and the introduction of her sister, Dawn, years in advance.
But not everything in Buffy was planned. That’s just one of the realities of television, these shows are produced incredibly quickly and Buffy starred a lot of in-demand up-and-coming actors, so nothing ever turned out exactly as expected.
The cast and crew had to deal with a lot of last minute changes, some of which saved the show and some of which presented challenges that simply proved much harder to overcome.
This happens to every TV series, and how the show deals with these problems is what often separates a mediocre show from a great one.
Buffy, for the most part, handled its curveballs and last minute ideas incredibly well, though there are some ideas that impacted the series for the worse. In this list, we’ll be looking at both examples.
Here are the 10 Last Minute Changes That Hurt Buffy The Vampire Slayer (And 10 That Saved It).
20 Hurt: Oz’s Departure
One of the biggest last minute changes that affected Buffy was Seth Green leaving early in production of season four.
The actor left to go shoot the movie Knockaround Guys and by the time he was able to return, the show had already changed so radically that there wasn’t a place for him anymore.
Originally, his love triangle with Willow and the werewolf Veruca was supposed to last the bulk of season four, but his unplanned exit caused them to tell a very condensed version of that story.
Because of this significant change to the show, Whedon and co. were forced to put a much heavier focus on The Initiative than initially planned.
There were plans to bring Oz back in both Buffy and Angel, but those never materialized.
19 Saved: Ms. Calendar’s Tragic End
Ms. Calendar’s loss in season two was one of the first truly impactful sendoffs of the entire series. But according to the book Joss Whedon: Conversations, it wasn’t originally planned exactly as it appeared on the screen.
The writers knew that Angel needed to take someone out so that viewers could see that he had truly gone evil and wasn’t pretending, but they weren’t initially sure who.
They’d talked a bit about it potentially being Oz before settling on Jenny as the character that made the most sense.
There were plans for her character to make further ghostly appearances, but not long after leaving, actress Robia LaMorte became a born-again Christian, causing her to disavow the series.
18 Hurt: Never Bringing Back the Gentlemen
Admittedly, this could have been for the best, but if anyone could have figured out how to make these villains work a second time, it would have been the Buffy writing team.
This never appeared to have been a fully-fledged idea for an episode, but there were a couple of times when Joss Whedon toyed with the idea of bringing back the Gentlemen due to the overwhelming popularity of the episode “Hush”.
This could have worked because the characters immediately became so iconic that bringing them back would have felt like establishing a horror franchise inside of the successful TV show.
The idea was scrapped and never came to pass, but the Gentlemen did make a return in the comic Spike: Shadow Puppets.
17 Saved: Angel’s Resurrection
For probably a very brief time, there was talk of Angel not returning from the ultimate sacrifice Buffy made at the end of season two.
In Joss Whedon: Conversations, Whedon says that when the time they brought him back in season three, it became harder and harder to find new ways to explore that relationship, leading Angel to leave for Los Angeles and kickstart his own spinoff series.
However, WB had actually seen spinoff potential long before that, and their belief that this character could sustain his own series was one of the chief reasons he was brought back in the first place.
This worked out for many reasons, chief among them being that Angel got to thrive as a character on his own show more than he’d ever been able to on Buffy.
16 Hurt: Turning Buffy into a Rat
“Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered” is a very fun and hilarious season two episode that pushes to the point of absurdity when Buffy is turned into a rat for the bulk of the episode.
While this sets up Amy’s ability to turn people into rats, which she later uses on herself, it’s bizarre for the main character to disappear from a whole episode of her own show like this.
Initially, Buffy was supposed to play a larger role in the episode, but that had to be changed at the last minute.
Sarah Michelle Gellar had been offered the chance to host Saturday Night Live and when she went to do that for four days, they replaced her with a rat in the meantime.
15 Saved: Willow and Tara’s Relationship
Believe it or not, Willow and Tara’s relationship was never entirely planned. In fact, it’s one of the most unplanned things that happened throughout the entire show.
Willow was supposed to still be with Oz through the bulk of season four, though Whedon did say that they would have gotten to the point of figuring out her orientation eventually.
Even after Oz left, Tara was introduced as a new friend for Willow, someone she could practice magic with outside of the main group.
However, it became immediately clear that these two were going to be much more than just friends.
To their credit, the Buffy team saw that and embraced it, leading to one of the Buffyverse’s best romances.
14 Hurt: Never Bringing Back Ms. Calendar
Jenny Calendar was a great character that fans really responded to, which made her departure so harrowing. Angel had destroyed a character that everyone had really loved.
She did return for a season three episode titled “Amends” in which she played The First Evil.
When The First returned as the main villain of season seven, using the faces of characters that had lost their lives, it was very noticeable that Jenny never came back.
The reason for this was Robia LaMorte’s newfound faith. She had serious problems with playing The First in “Amends”, believing evil to be a very real force that she didn’t want to encourage young viewers to trifle with.
13 Saved: Spike Becoming a Main Character
Spike was one of the characters that evolved the most on Buffy. He began evolving right from the very beginning. In James Marsters’ audition, Spike didn’t even yet have a British accent.
The vampire was meant to be a briefly occurring villain for the early part of season two, meant to last four or five episodes at most.
However, people loved him and they kept bringing him back. Spike’s popularity continued to grow and grow and the cast and crew all loved working with him, so in season four they found a way to make him a series regular.
From there, Spike only continued to evolve as a character, making the decision a very smart one on the part of the creative team as viewers got to see a villain of the week evolve into a hero by the end of the show.
12 Hurt: The Initiative
There are some good ideas in the Initiative plot line, specifically the notion of science and magic being unable to coexist, but there are a lot of problems with it as well.
Much of the season was changed late in the game. According to Joss Whedon: Conversations, Veruca was meant to be a much bigger presence in the season and Maggie Walsh was supposed to be the main villain with Adam as her right-hand underling, but that changed as well when actress Lindsay Crouse had to leave the show.
After that, viewers got stuck with Adam’s ultimate plan of wanting to create an army of Franken-Creatures like himself.
While there were some neat moments, it’s clear in the end product that the season wasn’t completely what it had been intended to be.
11 Saved: Anya Surviving Season Five
Anya was another character who was never supposed to be remotely as popular as she became. After all, she was created as the monster-of-the-week for a one-off episode in season three’s “The Wish”.
However, then they brought her back for “Dopplegangland” and they kept finding reasons to bring her back.
At the end of season five, Xander proposed to her, but in typical Joss Whedon fashion, she was not actually meant to survive that episode.
In fact, it was only after Anya clearly moved in Xander’s arm during the last moments of the finale that Whedon and crew realized that they didn’t want to let go of her just yet, and wanted to keep Anya around to the end of the show.
10 Hurt: Dawn Not Appearing on Angel
In the Angel episode “The Girl in Question,” Angel and Spike’s feud over Buffy peaks to absurdity when they journey to Italy after learning that she has started dating an old rival of theirs known only as The Immortal.
During their time there, they run into Andrew who tells them to grow up and move on with their lives.
This was initially supposed to be Dawn, according to Joss Whedon: Conversations, but Michelle Trachtenberg was busy filming Eurotrip at the time.
It’s unfortunate, because this would have made for a much more endearing moment had Buffy’s sister been the one to give them the lecture.
It also would have been noteworthy because, despite the characters having memories of one another, Angel and Dawn never actually shared a scene together.
9 Saved: Not Bringing Back Tara
Tara was meant to return on a couple of different occasions, as Whedon states in Joss Whedon: Conversations, but one of them was meant to last.
In an episode initially conceived for season seven, Buffy would have been granted one wish, which she would then spend the bulk of the episode deciding on, with all of her friends weighing in on what she could do for herself.
At the end of the episode, Willow would have asked Buffy what she wished for, with Buffy joking that she wished for shoes before actually revealing that she wished Tara back to life.
The major problem with this idea is not just that it undoes the weight and impact of Tara’s loss, but that there had been an entire episode revolving around why wishing someone back to life shouldn’t ever be done.
8 Hurt: Never Bringing Back Whistler
Whistler was a character introduced in the two-part season two finale “Becoming”. He was established as a sort of guardian angel meant to guide Angel on the right path, bringing him out of the alleys and trying to give him a sense of purpose.
He was even there when Angel saw Buffy for the first time. He was built up as an incredibly important character, but then he never appeared again after that two-part episode.
Initially, the character of Doyle on Angel was meant to be Whistler before the decision was made to go with an original character.
Doyle’s role as a servant of the Powers That Be still helped to explain a bit about Whistler’s role in things, at the very least.
7 Saved: The Title Buffy the Vampire Slayer
For some, Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a stupid title, but it’s a very direct one that gets the witty nature of the show across rather well.
It’s at the very least much better than the title of Whedon’s original concept (before it evolved into Buffy) Rhonda the Immortal Waitress.
One, it’s just a silly title. More than that, though, it doesn’t bear the weight of the legacy of horror legends and tropes that Buffy made fantastic use of.
Buffy gave viewers a character who was equal parts valley girl, peppy blond and supernatural stalking superhero.
There’s a power conveyed in the Buffy title that Rhonda the Immortal Waitress doesn’t have, so the series was far better off for evolving into what it eventually became.
6 Hurt: No One Ever Mentions Jesse Again
Buffy did a smart thing in the pilot by establishing right out of the gate that absolutely no one was safe.
When Buffy comes to Sunnydale she makes a new group of friends with Willow, Xander and Jesse.
However, Jesse is turned by a vampire almost immediately, forcing Xander to stake him, albeit accidentally.
No one ever mentions the character again despite him being one of Xander and Willow’s best friends growing up.
However, Jesse was originally supposed to return in the season seven episode “Conversations With Dead People”, according to Joss Whedon: Conversations, which was a series of vignettes of characters talking to people who had passed on or who’s losses had affected them.
Actor Eric Balfour was unable to return, so his conversation with Xander was scrapped, leading it to be the only episode of the show that Xander does not appear in.
5 Saved: Bringing Back the Show for Season Six
There were serious plans at one point to potentially end the show at season five. Joss Whedon had left hints building to Buffy’s sacrifice for years, foreshadowing what was meant to be the end of the show.
This was partially because they knew that the WB was dropping the series to instead focus their money on the spinoff series Angel rather than trying to keep both afloat at once.
When UPN offered to keep Buffy going, though, Whedon and crew readily agreed.
Season six became one of the most controversial, maligned and overall dark seasons of the show.
Over time, however, people have come to understand it as one of the most important seasons of the show, tackling major themes like depression and addiction while still keeping the spirit of the show alive.
4 Hurt: Tara Not Returning
While not bringing back Tara from the grave was a smart decision, there were plans for the character to return as The First in “Conversations With Dead People”, just as there had been plans for Jesse.
Unfortunately, Amber Benson could not return and even felt uncomfortable with the script, thinking that it would be to devastating for fans to see Tara being impersonated by this force of evil telling Willow to take her own life.
Unfortunately, because Benson did not return, Willow’s scene was changed at the last minute to be with the character Cassie, who had appeared in only one episode and whom Willow had never met.
It didn’t have quite the same impact, at the end of the day.
3 Saved: Oz and Willow’s Totally Unplanned Animal Crackers Conversation
Buffy was a show with very little improvisation. The script was the script, and that was that. It made sense, not just for the reasons of tight TV schedules, but also because the dialogue on Buffy was so specific.
One major exception to this rule, however, is Oz’s conversation with Willow about animal crackers in “What’s My Line? Part Two”.
This whole monologue was completely off-the-cuff from Seth Green, according to the actor in the book Seth Green: An Unauthorized Biography.
These scene might seem small, but it went a long way toward establishing the romance between Oz and Willow, which fans were not on board with at the time, as they were demanding to see Willow wind up with Xander.
2 Hurt: Oz Never Returning for Angel Season 6
Ultimately, none of the plans to bring back Oz on either Buffy or Angel ever materialized.
The character had been meant to come back for the sixth season of Angel, but that never wound up happening given that Angel never made it to a sixth season.
It was cancelled at the end of season five. During that season, Angel decided to test the waters of a new relationship with a young woman named Nina, who was a werewolf.
There were big plans for Oz, according to Joss Whedon: Conversations, and those plans seemed to include that Oz was meant to return for season six to help Nina adjust to her new life as a lycanthrope.
It would have been a very smart way to bring Oz back, had the show continued.
1 Saved: Not Writing Off Faith
Like many characters, Faith was not intended to last nearly as long as she did. In this case, it’s surprising as she forms so much of the main drive of the show’s third season.
However, initially, she was only supposed to be around for a few episodes. This changed after casting Eliza Dushku and seeing the potential that the character truly had.
Instead of letting Faith possibly come to an end in the episode “Bad Girls”, they turned her into the bad slayer and then set her off on a much longer and bumpier redemption arc.
Faith is one of the most compelling characters in the entire show, so to see her blossom was only a blessing for fans and proved just as smart as the decision to keep Spike around as well.
Can you think of any other last minute changes that hurt or saved Buffy the Vampire Slayer? Let us know in the comments!