SFX - - Contents - Ian Ber­ri­man, Re­views Edi­tor

Ian Ber­ri­man to­tally re­calls Xan­der Har­ris from Buffy.

Iguess it’s no great sur­prise that Xan­der is the Buffy The Vam­pire Slayer char­ac­ter I em­pathise with the most. He’s not a fighter – how many hours must ac­tor Ni­cholas Bren­don have spent be­ing tossed into cor­ners? He has no su­per­nat­u­ral abil­i­ties, no com­mand of magic. On the face of it, his only skill is his ver­bal dex­ter­ity. He’s clearly a sur­ro­gate for Buffy cre­ator Joss Whe­don, who’s con­fessed he was “a pa­thetic loser” in high school. His ro­man­tic life is gen­er­ally a dis­as­ter. He owns a col­lec­tion of Baby­lon 5 com­mem­o­ra­tive plates. Yes, it’s all a bit close to home…

Yet in other re­spects… what would I give to be more like Xan­der? He’s a far bet­ter per­son than I am. Al­though his feel­ings of use­less­ness – that he’s the Scooby Gang’s fifth wheel – re­cur, time and time again he proves him­self. Sea­son three’s Xan­der-cen­tric “The Zeppo” – which in­ge­niously makes the apoc­a­lypse the B-plot, while Xan­der’s mis­ad­ven­tures play out in the fore­ground – is one of my favourites. In it, Xan­der saves ev­ery one of his friends from be­ing blown to pieces, just by be­ing pre­pared to die to save them. That’s real brav­ery. And when Wic­can Wil­low goes Dark in sea­son six, con­sumed with a thirst for mag­i­cal vengeance af­ter her girl­friend’s death, it’s Xan­der – in a heart­break­ing scene – who talks her down, by sim­ply telling his friend over and over that he loves her, and will al­ways love her, no mat­ter what. Gulp. It’s the sort of role which looks easy, but watch “The Re­place­ment”, in which Xan­der’s split into two per­son­al­i­ties – one klutzy, one con­fi­dent – and sud­denly you be­come aware of all the hard work Ni­cholas Bren­don’s do­ing to in­fuse the char­ac­ter with ner­vous en­ergy and charm. The guy has tal­ent. That makes it all the more sad that Bren­don’s life has gone off the rails since the show ended, with strug­gles with de­pres­sion and al­co­holism re­sult­ing in failed suicide at­tempts and mul­ti­ple ar­rests (most trou­blingly, the ac­tor last year pleaded guilty to chok­ing his girl­friend dur­ing a fight). If only it was as straight­for­ward to achieve re­demp­tion in real life as it is in a TV script. Let’s hope he can earn it. That doesn’t af­fect how I feel about Xan­der, though. You can call him the au­di­ence iden­ti­fi­ca­tion fig­ure, la­bel him as the comic relief, but that’s do­ing the char­ac­ter a huge dis­ser­vice. He’s the beat­ing heart of Buffy, and I can’t imag­ine it work­ing with­out him.

Ian laughs in the face of dan­ger, and then he hides un­til it goes away.

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