Best Sci-Fi TV Mockumentaries
From Buffy to Supernatural – when SF TV goes postmodern
With Apollo 18 and Troll Hunter hitting cinema screens, it feels like mockumentaries and the “found footage” genre are more popular than ever before. But it’s not just film that enjoys a good bit of juddering hand-held shooting (bonus points if you get the boom mike lurching into shot for added realism). Here’s our list of some of sci-fi and fantasy’s best mockumentaries. Some of them are more rigidly entwined with all those cliches than others, but they all have nods to the genre, whether it’s with full-blown Blair Witch-style filming, a video blog, or the classic – someone putting a hand up in front of the camera and demanding people stop filming…
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
(Season 7, episode 16)
Premise: Former supervillain Andrew, now a hostage (though he prefers the term guestage) in Buffy’s Potenials-filled house, decides to make a video documentary of Buffy’s latest attempt to save the world. Buffy is none too keen on starring, but the other members of the extended Scooby Gang are less camera shy. Okay, Spike pretends to be all, “Get that camera away from me,” but outtakes prove it was all an act, as he prepares for “Take Two”. Andrew’s incisive (or maybe downright rude) interviewing techniques even bring Xander and Anya’s rocky relationship to an amicable end.
The footage in Andrew’s head (which we also get to see) is somewhat better shot, lit and edited than the actual video footage. But Andrew’s hand-drawn graphics to illustrate the story so far have a charm all their own. Andrew hasn’t decided yet whether the final documentary will be called Buffy, The Slayer Of The Vampire or Buffy, The Slayer Who Knew No Fear, but Xander prefers the latter title, so he’ll probably go with that one.
What? You didn’t realise Andrew has a secret, unrequited love for Xander? You won’t be able to deny it after watching Andrew’s video footage. Sometimes it less of a documentation of Buffy’s battle preparations, and more of a Xander stalker movie. Anya didn’t know how close to the truth she was when she asked, “Why can’t you just masturbate like everybody else?”
Best in-joke: In a season where Buffy seemed to spout a Henry V-style “Once more unto the breach…” monologue every week to inspire the Potentials, “Storyteller” pokes fun at what was fast becoming a cliché: “Honestly, gentle viewer, these motivating speeches of hers tend to get a little long,” says Andrew to camera, walking out of the kitchen. “I’ll take you back in there in a little while.” A scene later, Andrew wonders, “Shall we see if Buffy’s still talking…?” She is. “She’s not done. Even Willow looks bored…”
Andrew: [filming the room where Willow and Kennedy are passionately kissing on the sofa] “Hey, here’s something I think you’re going to be interested in, gentle viewers…” [Zooms in on the window behind the sofa] “Look at the fine work Xander did on replacing that window sash. You can’t even tell it’s new, it blends in so well. He’s extraordinary.”
Verdict: A truly great episode that moves from Monty Python lunacy (Andrew imagining himself, and his former supervillain mates Jonathan and Warren skipping through Elysian Fields singing, “We are Gods! We are Gods!”) to tender, moving moments (Xander and Anya’s heart to heart, Andrew’s redemption) without a hint of a crunch in the gear change. It’s a concept episode that grows organically from the characters, and also pushes the arc plot onwards. A forgotten gem in the Buffyverse that remains as fresh and funny today as it did when it was first broadcast.
Tags: Babylon 5, Battlestar Galactica, Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Doctor Who, Featured, Ghostwatch, Smallville, Stargate SG-1, Supernatural, The War Game, The X-Files, Threads