Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Unaired Pilot is perfect for spooky season

It’s October 1st, and in my mind, that’s the official start of the spooky season. If you’ve read this website before, you know Buffy: The Vampire Slayer occupies a significant amount of my headspace. So what better pairing than to talk about a rough and, some would say, downright “spooky” unaired Buffy pilot?

Most of us know Buffy from the 1997 show with the same name or perhaps the 1992 movie starring Kristy Swanson. But before there was the iconic show that helped make Sarah Michelle Gellar a household name, there was the pitch. 

How to watch

If you’re going to have an opinion about the thing, you should view it. (Unless, of course, you like to comment on an article before reading it.) Watching an unaired pilot is a tricky thing. The Buffy pilot is from 1996 and is officially a pitch video – Joss Whedon and co. used it to try to sell the show to pitch it to networks. It’s important to note that the pilot had studio backing – 20th Century Fox produced it, so it’s not like Whedon shot it alone in a cave with only scraps. The pitch to networks is the next part of the journey to getting a show made. The unaired Buffy pilot is on YouTube. I won’t link to it here, but you can seek it out for educational purposes.

Production quality 

One of the chief complaints by fans and even Whedon himself is that the pilot is “rough around the edges.” While that is true, it won’t look out of place if you’ve been lucky enough to see the first cuts of shows or even dailies. And if you’re a film critic, it may remind you of the vaunted screeners sent out for advanced review, often without splashy VFX and post-work.

The biggest difference 

The most glaring difference (besides SMG’s hair color) between the unaired pilot and the aired pilot, “Welcome to the Hellmouth,” is the actress who plays Willow. In the unaired pilot, Riff Regan is Willow. The aired version has Alyson Hannigan in the role. Regan’s take on Willow is much more confident than Hannigan’s insecure and budding witch.

There’s also a noticeable chemistry difference between the two Willows and Xander Harris, played by Nicholas Brendon. The Scooby Gang and their friendship is essential to the success of the show and the success of Buffy, the character in the world of the show, so it makes sense that chemistry would have to be perfect. Hannigan’s Willow has grown to be such a popular character in fandom. It shows that casting and acting interpretations make a difference – even if the writing is the same.

Other minor differences

Another noticeable difference between the unaired pilot and the actual pilot is that the unaired pilot is a self-contained story. The real pilot was a two-parter and introduced us to the creepy character of Mark Metcalf’s The Master. Instead of tying up everything with a neat little bow, it sets up the big bad for the season and beyond. 

Is it worth watching?

If you’re a student of television or just a fan, the pilot is worth watching. The underlying message about high school being horrible is still there. You’ll understand why decisions may have been made in one case versus the other and also see a neat bit of television history. 

Have you heard of the mysterious Buffy the Vampire Slayer pilot before this post? Did you watch it? Which pilot do you like better? Please feel free to leave a comment below or share your thoughts with us on X @MoviesWeTexted.

If you’re interested in more Halloween stories, check out all of our Halloween reviews. 

(Note: This post originally appeared on AylaRuby.com before the hosting went poof. Since that site no longer exists with hosting, you get to visit the archives here. Please mind the cobwebs.)