Sunday, 20 November 2011

"We're working on plans for world domination. The key element? Coffee makers that think."

As promised in my last Buffy post, this time around Flowri and I focused on one particular episode - season four's 'Restless'. Rather than go through the good, the bad and the ugly, we'll go through the details of the episode.

'Restless' - First Aired 2000

This episode goes straight into the titles then has some general end-of-season filler at the start, so there aren't any credits over the dream-scenes. The dreams begin with Willow, immediately after the break where the first ad would have been in its original television airing.

Both Flowri and I noted the greatness of the music in this episode - it really is stand-out fantastic, adding such a powerful extra dimension to the episode as a whole. 


Willow's dream opens with her writing in ink onto Tara's naked back. It's Greek and is from Sappho. I'm going to go ahead and presume you don't need me to elaborate on the meaning of that. They talk about their cat and how she doesn't have a name yet - naming and identity are issues that crop up multiple times in this episode. Willow says that the cat isn't grown, that she'll tell them her name in time - in other words, you need to mature to know who you really are. This is something Buffy tells Angel in season seven, that she's not finished becoming the woman she's going to be; the gang are still in college at this point and just beginning to establish their adult identities. Tara says that Willow doesn't "know everything about [her]", which we thought could be Willow's subconscious prompting her that Tara is hiding something. Neat season, we discover that Tara has believed herself to be part demon and this has lead her to interfere with some of the spells Willow has been trying, in an attempt to hide this from Willow. 

Outside their room is a desert scene, with "something" out there - Willow sees this as a threatening landscape, something to worry about. The scene is very wild, echoes the savannah - it's the same landscape used in season seven, to show where the Slayer was first made and it's where Buffy goes in season five to find her spirit guide and connect with the First Slayer. That Willow is worried by this landscape is important, as we'll explain later.

Her dream moves on and Willow is trying to find her way to drama class. There's something very universal about this - who hasn't had a dream where they're late or lost? It's a pretty standard human anxiety. Willow runs into Xander and Oz in the halls of the college, which shows that Oz is still on her mind, in her thoughts. Oz says "I've been here forever"; him and their relationship has shaped Willow and will always be a part of her. Everyone keeps commenting that Willow is "in costume already"; as I touched on in my season four write up, Willow has been trying on a new identity in college, trying to put her dorky high school persona behind her. The nature of her dream clearly shows the depth of Willow's anxiety about this; she's trying to be cool but fears that people see it as an act, a costume, that beneath it all she's still the same. There's also the echo of 'Nightmares' in season one, in which Willow's worst nightmare is based on stage fright. 

Riley is "Cowboy Guy", which reflects how Willow's subconscious sees him - he's a "corn-fed Iowa boy", an old-fashioned hero and good guy.

There's repeated reference to Willow hiding, lying, being "in character already" - she's not confident in herself and her new identity. She then moves to what we referred to as the "vagina corridor" - it's a long corridor of red curtains. I think that kind of speaks for itself.

Flowri wondered if Tara is a bit of a spirit guide for the gang in these dreams; she's seen as spiritual, ethereal; the subconscious interpretation of a goddess/voice of the gods. Willow asks "is there something after me?" and Tara warns her that there is. Willow is also warned that the others will see her "real" self - Willow is afraid of being seen as a nerd, but is eventually exposed as an addict.

Willow is then attacked by the "something" that is hunting her and is rescued by Buffy. Buffy is very predatory here, stalking along. She leads Willow into one of their old high school classrooms and then tells Willow to "take [her] costume off"; Willow says that she "needs it" - she's reliant on the clothes to show the cool new college identity she's trying to portray. Later in the show it will be magic that Willow becomes dependent on; but for now, it's mostly the clothes that she's hiding behind. Buffy then rips the clothes off her - exposing Willow as we first met her in season one.

I have shared this fear.
Willow starts trying to read her book report, whilst Xander, Anya, Oz, Tara and Buffy look on and laugh at her. ANya says that "it's exactly like a Greek tragedy", which is a bit of an echo of season one, 'The Puppet Show', where Willow, Buffy and Xander act a scene from Oedipus. Tara and Oz are getting very flirty and close, revealing Willow's deeper insecurity - Oz left her for another woman, so perhaps Tara will cheat on her, too. Suddenly, she is attacked by the thing that has been stalking her - back in the reality of Buffy's living room, Willow starts choking for breath. We then cut to Xander's dream.


Xander's dream begins with watching Apocalypse Now, except his dream version is slightly different from the real film - again, this is very real-world dreamy, where familiar things become changed. Xander is all about the soldier theme; it's something that crops up repeatedly through the show as a whole. Sex is also a bit of a theme through Xander's dream, which is hardly surprising - although saying to Joyce "I'd like you" is actually pretty sweet.

Xander leaves the others watching the dream-version-Apocalypse-Now and goes upstairs to use the bathroom. He runs into Joyce, Buffy's mum, upstairs - she's wearing a silky red nightgown and is very flirty. Joyce warns Xander "don't get lost" - like Willow, he's also struggling with his identity and who he is, not knowing which way to turn in life. There's a fantastic moment of Xander going to use the bathroom and then realising he's being watched by scientists - the bathroom-issue being another universal dream theme.

Whilst Willow's nightmare was stage fright and exposure, Xander's real fear is his own home life - his basement room is a dark, threatening place with something threatening rattling at the door at the top of the stairs. Xander looks up at the door and says "that's not the way out" - he subconsciously knows that the way for him to escape his basement existence is not by becoming his parents. Xander leaves his basement through the downstairs door and walks into the park.

Giles and Spike are there, on the swings. They're dressed identically, in the traditional Watcher-garb that Giles wore in season one. This both foreshadows the outfit Spike wears in 'Tabula Rasa', season six, whilst also showing that Xander still sees Giles as a Watcher, a stuffy Englishman. There's also a reference to a shark on land, which is done in 'Tabula Rasa'. Giles is now teaching Spike how to be a Watcher; Xander says that he "used to be into that", as in he used to see Giles as a role model, but now he has his "own stuff going on" - he's trying to be his own man, but he doesn't really know how to be a man as he doesn't have the strongest examples - there's his father, Giles and Spike. Spike is a total juvenile, shown by his childlike-role with Giles in this scene; Xander's father is "not the way out"; and he's trying to move on from using Giles as his father-figure, getting his "own stuff".

Xander then sees Buffy playing in a sandpit and there's a beautiful shot where the camera pivots and the scene changes from sandbox to wild desert savannah. Xander is afraid of Buffy playing in there - like Willow, he is scared by this scene, but Buffy is happy there. Xander sees Buffy primal wildness, her Slayer-ness; there's also a lovely moment where Buffy calls him "big brother", which we think is Xander's subconscious finally getting that Buffy will only ever see him as a friend, never as a boyfriend. It also echoes the role Xander will take on when Dawn arrives in season five.

Xander looks up from Buffy and sees himself, serving ice cream from a van. The perspective changes to this Xander, who gets in the front, where Anya is driving. She asks him "do you know where you're going" - Xander's theme is the fear of being directionless, a fear of the future and not knowing what to do with himself and how to grow up. Anya also says that she's thinking of getting back into vengeance, which she will in season six. This, of course, is Xander's subconscious at work and we thought it showed that he still sees her as a demon and worries about her turning on him. 

We then get an hilarious snap-shot of Willow and Tara dressed sexy, inviting Xander to come in the back of the van with them.

One for the fellas. And ladies.
They begin to make out and the camera focuses on Xander's reaction, which manages to turn it from gratuitous to hilarious. Xander tries to go and join them, but on the way to the back the van changes to a tunnel he has to crawl through and then ends up back in his basement - he can never get where he's trying to go. There's also something very subtle: as Xander is crawling, on the wall behind him yo can see the word "sheep". For those of you not as scarily observant as me, this is twofold: one is obvious, Xander feels that he's just a sheep, a follower, not setting his own path but just blithely following the others; second is much less obvious. In 'Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered' in season two, we see Xander's bedroom and the word "sheep" (same colour, same font) on his walls. There's the sense from this that Xander is stuck in his teenage identity, not moving on.

Trying again to escape from his basement, Xander finds himself on the college campus. His version of this is a very scary place; the colours are warped and threatening and it is literally foreign, with Giles and Anya beginning to speak French. Xander can't understand them; they start to pull him along and some commandos join in to help, carrying Xander between them into a scene from Apocalypse Now, where he finds Principal Snyder in the Brando role. Snyder asks him where he's from and Xander says "the basement, mostly" - try as he might, he can't get away from this. Snyder says he's "shepherded", reinforcing Xander's sense of being a sheep. He doesn't know where he's really heading and, in the dream at least, he's just following his sex urges, "trying to get away".

All roads lead Xander back to the basement and this time the door bursts open, to reveal that it's his father that has been such a scary threat, banging on the door. Xander looks so whipped here, dropping his eyes, clearly intimidated. Suddenly he, too, is attacked by the thing from Willow's dream - Xander has his heart ripped out. Cut to Giles.


Giles' dream begins with him and Buffy in Giles' empty apartment - he has no possessions, Buffy is the focus of his life. He's dressed in his tweed Watcher suit and tells her that "his is how men and women have behaved since the beginning", which hints at the origins of the Slayer we will learn more about in season seven. 

Then Giles and a pregnant Olivia are at the fair, taking a very childish Buffy on an outing. Olivia is pushing an empty pram. It's night and the fair is all vampire-themed. Giles is in a very fatherly role here, much more as he was during season three (and as he will be in season five), acting as Buffy's mentor and teacher but also in a very paternal way that is totally endearing. There's a brief cut of Giles getting Buffy to focus on his watch, echoing events of 'Helpless', season three. Giles says that this is his "business"; it's a job, a role that has taken him over, a family he did not choose. Giles also refers to the "sacrificial lamb" which foreshadows the finale of season five. We see a flash of Buffy with her face covered in clay; Giles says "I know you".

The group enter Spike's crypt; we see Olivia crying over the pram, which was fallen over - this is the life Giles could have had, with a wife and family; the life he gave up to devote himself to being a Watcher. Giles looks at her, but is distracted by Spike - vampires, demons and his duties as a Watcher always tear him away from trying to have a life and family of his own. Spike meanwhile is posing for a group of photographers; we wondered if this meant Spike was just a joke to Giles now, a harmless caricature of his old self. Giles asks what he's supposed to do with all this and Spike tells him to "make up his mind"; he needs to choose what life he wants. Tellingly, Giles walks away from Olivia and we don't see her again.

Giles walks into the Bronze, where Xander and Willow are waiting, injured from the attacks in their dream. Here Giles is dressed in casual clothing and the group call him "Rupert" - this is how Giles sees himself. Willow tells Giles that some primal, animal force is after them - these are Giles' words in their mouths, different facets of his subconscious. Even in a dream, Giles is able to figure out what's stalking them. He takes to the stage and begins singing his words, which foreshadows 'Once More, With Feeling'. Giles begins to literally follow the leads as he works it out, going backstage and finding his watch in the tangle. The watch is both a motif of Giles as Watcher and the tool he used with Buffy. The primal thing finds him and Giles says "you never had a Watcher" before she slices open his head.


Buffy is in her bed in college, with Anya whispering at her to wake up - Buffy subconscious is trying to prompt her to wake up. Buffy looks up to find the primal thing over her bed; she jerks awake and is in her bed at home. Then she's in the doorway looking at her unmade bed. "Faith and I just made that", she says, referring to her dream at the end of season three and revealing that Faith is still on her mind. This is also a reference to Dawn, who will appear in the next season; the bed has been made ready for her arrival. Tara is with Buffy in the dream and tells Buffy she needs to find the others. The clock reads 7.30 but Tara tells her it's "completely wrong" - in the dream during 'Graduation Day part 2', Faith says "counting down from seven three oh", which was a reference to the number of days left before Buffy's death (in two years. at the end of season five). As a whole year in Buffy-time has passed since then, the 7.30 is now "wrong" and it's only 365 days to go.

Tara offers Buffy the Tarot card she used during the spell to link her with Giles, Willow and Xander - Manus, the hand. Buffy refuses it; she doesn't want to be just physical, just a weapon. Tara tells her "You think you know; what you are, what's to come. You haven't event begun." Dracula will say these exact lines in the first episode of season five. Buffy says she has to find her friends and goes to leave; Tara warns her to "be back before d(D)awn", which is pretty obvious in retrospect. 

Buffy goes looking for her friends and can't catch up with them; her fear is her struggle with her identity and the Slayer part of herself, her fear that the better a Slayer she is, the less human she'll be and thus less of a friend. Buffy sees her mother, Joyce, living inside the walls of the college with "mice playing with [her] knees" - we suspected this could be a hint at Joyce's death during the next season. Buffy follows Xander up the stairs and finds herself in a very Initiative room, where Riley is sat with a totally-human Adam, a gun on the table between them. Riley calls her "killer" - this is a common theme with the show, Buffy's emphasis that a Slayer is not a killer. Adam says "Aggression is a natural human tendency. Though you and I come by it another way". Buffy insists she's not a demon and Adam challenges her - her own subconscious has suspicions about the origins of her power. Buffy asks Adam what his name was - again, the importance of naming and identity. He can't remember; Adam cannot remember his pre-demon identity, his true name, and has thus lost his humanity. Riley tells Buffy she's "on [her] own", echoing her fears.

Alarms begin to sound. Buffy tries to shout that she has weapons, but can only whisper - a common dream element. The bag is very similar to the Slayer bag that Principal Wood gives Buffy in season seven, the bag that belonged to his mother, a Slayer. The bag here is full of clay and Buffy begins to wipe it over her face. Her true weapon is to give in to the primal element of herself - we see a polarised shot of Buffy, which Giles also saw - the Slayer element is the polar opposite of her personality. Buffy walks down the corridor, which changes to the desert. She says she "won't find her friends here" and Tara appears, telling her "Of course you won't. That's why you came". Buffy's friends won't be here because this is the place they're scared of - in their dreams, the desert was a frightening thing. This is where the primal force lives and Buffy is at home here, while they were scared - which means that they fear a part of Buffy herself and she subconsciously knows it, which is why she knows she will end up alone.

Totally not a desert outside L.A.

Tara is speaking here for the primal thing that has hurt the others in their dreams; Buffy wants her to speak for herself. The creature, a girl with white clay on her face and wearing rags, speaks through Tara and says she has "no name" - she has no other identity, she lives "in the action of death" and is "alone". At this point, Buffy recognises what she is - the First Slayer. Buffy says "I walk. I talk. I shop. I sneeze" - she has an identity beyond being the Slayer, she has modernity and tries to balance having friends and living in "the action of death". They start to fight; Buffy stands up and tells her it's "over". The First Slayer tackles her again but Buffy yells "Enough!" and wakes up on her living room floor. The First Slayer then re-appears, stabbing her arms - but Buffy ignores her and stands up, giving her sassy tips on hair care before waking up for real. Buffy refuses to be drawn into battle and can break out of it where the others can't, largely because she isn't afraid of something that is so closely part of her. Buffy insists "you're not the source of me" - and she's right. The First Slayer may be the source of the power Buffy weilds, but Buffy knows her name, her identity, and balances that power within herself.

The final shot is of the made bed, with Tara's words echoing in Buffy's head: "You think you know; what you are, what's to come. You haven't even begun."

Monday, 7 November 2011

The BCCare Ball ; or, What I've Learned from Organising a Charity Fundraiser

I’m lucky enough to have some pretty inspirational friends – one of whom is battling breast cancer. For the second time. And she’s only thirty. Talking to her and hearing about all the support she’s had from Breast Cancer Care made me really want to do my part to raise money for this fantastic charity. I asked a friend with experience of fundraising for some advice and thought to myself, “Throwing a charity gig – how hard can that be?”

The answer is, very hard.

The support I’ve got from friends and family has been really heart-warming, but the going has been tough and there have been a lot of set-backs. I’ve learned some great lessons from my experience, though, so if you’re thinking of raising money for charity yourself I’ve got some great tips for you. Before I get to that, though, a plug for my event!

The BCCare Ball is on Friday 18th November, upstairs in O’Neills, St Mary Street, Cardiff. Doors open 7pm, tickets are £10 and that includes the buffet, raffle entry, a set from DJ Tom Loud and a live music from The Big What?! Band. Everyone over 18 is welcome to attend! To get tickets just email me - if you can't attend, you can still donate via Just Giving. Dress code is smart, with something pink!

Plug done, I’ll get back to tips for hosting a fundraising of your own. Organising my Ball has been a challenge. The best piece of advice I got was, no matter how much time you think you’ll need to organise a charity event, give yourself more time. Putting together your own event takes a lot of work, a lot of organisation and a lot of planning.  If you’re thinking of raising money for charity here are the lessons I’ve learned.

Firstly, pick a charity that’s close to your heart. The more you believe in the charity the more work you’ll be willing to put in to raise money for their cause and the easier you’ll find it to convince people to donate their money and time as well. If you’re really behind a charity then you’ll be totally committed to raising money for them. Organising an event of your own is a real challenge and you will need to keep reminding yourself how much it means to the people your charity helps, in order to keep pushing on and stay dedicated to putting on the best event you can. Make sure you register with your chosen charity, too! Go to their website, give them a call and register yourself and your event. The charity can then send you letters of authenticity to show people that your event is legitimate, which will reassure people that any money or gifts they’re giving you will go to the charity.

Secondly, pick the right way to raise money. Ask your family, ask your friends, start a Facebook poll, post questions on forums – you may think that a banjo gig is the best thing ever, but if no one else agrees with you then you won’t get anyone turning up to your event and you won’t get many donations. Pick something that you want to do, something that you are happy to put effort into throwing, but make sure that it’s also something other people are interested in, too. Pick your timing as well; if there’s another big event on in the same town on the same day, chances are that your fundraiser will lose out to it. Ask your friends when they’ve got a free night, check that you’re not trying to host a party on Christmas Eve or something and go from there. Remember, too, that big seasonal events can be an advantage – maybe try holding a romantic dinner on Valentine’s Day, or a bake-off on Pancake Day. Just make sure that you think about the time of year and the type of event you want to organise and get the two to match up as best you can.

Thirdly, be prepared for rejection. Asking for donations, asking for venues to let you use their space for free, asking for raffle prize donations – you will come up against a lot of people saying “no”. Get used to it. Try not to take it personally, either; it’s not a rejection of you, or the charity you’re representing. Companies get asked a lot for donations, they can’t say “yes” to all the requests. You’ll have to put in a lot of leg work and make a lot of phone calls. Try calling the head offices and getting in touch with local branches of larger companies.

Fourthly, don’t be afraid to ask for favours. Ask your friends, ask your family, and ask them to ask their friends and family. Know someone in a band? Ask them if they could play a set. Know someone with a talent for art or design? Ask them if they can do a poster or flyer for you. Ask local shops if they can put up your poster; ask people if they can donate their time, a raffle prize, their talent or their money to your cause. After a lot of work getting in touch with different venues in Cardiff, O’Neills were kind enough to offer their upstairs room for free. After much pleading, the band offered do to their set for free because they are lovely people who want to help raise money for this great cause; and as I work with a guy who is also a DJ, I managed to pull a favour there and he’s offered to spin the decks gratis. Swallow your pride and pull every favour you can. I got the lovely Ana Catris to do a poster for me!

 Lastly, don’t forget the power of the Net! Create a Facebook page for your event, set up a Just Giving page so people know they can donate securely to your cause, set up a Twitter account for your event or get a hash tag going so people can tweet about your event and link to it easily. Ask for retweets, share your Facebook page and Just Giving link, go to websites like What’s On In Cardiff and get your event listed – make sure that your event is out there and that as many people as possible know about it. Tell your friends and family and get them to tell everyone they know, too; word of mouth can really boost your event! Make sure you get all the support you can from the charity you’re fundraising for – after all, they want to help you make as much money as possible so they’ll be happy to help in any way they can.

It will be an uphill struggle, no mistake. You might not sell as many tickets as you hoped, you might not be able to raise as much money as you wanted, you might not be able to get as many raffle prizes as you thought. It will definitely be challenging – so why do it? Well, aside from helping a charity in these incredibly tough financial times, there’s a lot you can get out of it, too. It will really move you, how many people are willing to donate their time and their skills to help you; how many people are willing to chip in, to give you money and to help out in any way they can. Organising an event for charity can also help you, too. In today’s world it’s tougher than ever to get a job and throwing a fundraising event shows that you have determination, creativity, perseverance, organisational skills and shows off your social awareness. All of these are the kind of skills that can really make your CV stand out from the crowd and it’s the kind of experience that you can draw on in the workplace. Once you’ve persuaded the manager of a busy pub to let you use their venue for free, facing negotiations in the workplace won’t seem so scary.

So my final advice, if you’re thinking of raising money for charity? Do it. Be prepared for a struggle, but if it’s a charity that really means something to you then you know how important it is that they have enough money to keep up their good work.

To buy tickets for my event go to - hash tag #CharityBall on Twitter.