Buffy The Vampire Slayer Reviews: Bad Eggs

Well, the name of this one pretty much sums it up.

While Bad Eggs is the comparative calm before the storm, it's still a disposable, throwaway episode that's the equivalent of an overdone omelette.

If Ted looked at the problems of the substitute father, Bad Eggs has a looser theme of responsible parenting. It's sex education time at Sunnydale High. Whereas your average blushing teacher will shove a video cassette of a patronising, awkward schools programme into the machine, Sunnydale's Mr Whitmore takes a far blunter approach. Teaching the dangers of teen pregnancy, he elects to give paired up students their very own baby egg to look after. Whether or not the students want to call the egg a name, give it milk and buy it an egg cosy is presumably up to them. It's not the most orthodox approach to teaching responsible parenting, but this being Sunnydale, naturally, there's more sinister forces at work with the eggs.

The eggy parenting runs parallel with Joyce's somewhat kamikaze attitude to parenting. Perhaps she's been rattled by the events of Ted, but Bad Eggs isn't her finest hour. She's on a mission to destroy Buffy's social life, and in theory, her tactics are far more damaging than Buffy's Slayer duties. “No after school socialising, no Bronze, no nothing!” she tells a crestfallen Buffy. It's hard to know exactly what's caused this heavy authority kick. Fair do's, Buffy forgets to pick up a dress from the local mall, but then she's been saving a doe-eyed bimbo from the clutches of an idiot cowboy vampire. When she's caught up at night fending off an alien parasite thing, Buffy is caught still wearing her clothes and jacket. Although it's possible that Buffy maybe gets cold in the winter season.

At the end of the story, despite Buffy saving the day, an oblivious Joyce tells her that she can only leave her bedroom to go to school or to the bathroom. That's the price that Buffy pays for keeping her mum out of the loop. If Joyce has been feeling bad about Ted, unfortunately her heavy-handed parenting in this story comes across as a bit OTT. Compare the portrayal of Joyce in Bad Eggs with the far more reasoned, sympathetic Joyce of stories like Prophecy Girl or Passion, and there's a gaping chasm of difference.

Writer Marti Noxon can produce some of the highest quality Buffy around (think of Surprise or Bewitched, Bothered And Bewildered from this season), but inexplicably, she can also churn out half-baked, uninspired clunkers, and Bad Eggs is a notable offender. Ironically, the following Surprise proves that Noxon can concoct a masterpiece of mature, gripping, witty drama – so quite what happened with Bad Eggs is a bit of a stumper.

One of the main problems with Bad Eggs is that it's too simple: A by-the-numbers tale of monster invasion by stealth. Basically, a great big blancmange thing is hanging around in the school basement and is laying eggs that contain mini-blancmange things that attach to and take over any luckless sap in the vicinity. The blancmange thing goes by the name of a Bezoar, and the Mother Bezoar is even more of an unappetising proposition than Joyce's current power trip. An annoying part of the Bezoar subplot is that no real explanation is given as to how or why it came to be under the basement. I guess that the viewer can take it for granted that where there's a Hellmouth, there's a monster.

Possession isn't exactly earth-shatteringly new either. Virtually all of the regulars bar Buffy and Xander are recruited zombie-like to the cause. They are all drafted into taking up axes and hammers to dig their way into freeing the Mother Bezoar. Whether or not the Mother Bezoar has legs is never revealed – presumably she slithers around to get from A to B. Or she has a mobility scooter. The possessed recruits don't even get a chance to stop for tea and a biscuit, or even a quick shower. It's slave labour at its finest.

In a puny attempt to liven the plot up, Noxon has created two gormless cowboy brothers called the Gorches. Fair play, their combined IQ is Mensa standard when compared to the apemen Braxton brothers from Home And Away, but they serve no real purpose in Bad Eggs. They are just a run-of-the-mill thorn in the side – as Giles points out: “They're not amongst the great thinkers of our time”, so they don't pose any threat. Or entertainment value either – just petty sibling bickering and clichéd cowboy speak along the lines of “Giddy up son!” Knowing what Buffy The Vampire Slayer is capable of when it comes to witty humour, the Gorches are disappointing small fry. Incredibly, Lyle, the surviving Gorch, will be back next season in Homecoming, in a vain attempt to avenge his goofy brother Tector who's gobbled up whole by the Mother Bezoar.

Even the regulars are poorly catered for this week. Xander and Cordelia do get the lion's share of bitchy lines, and some of these are admittedly quite funny. “'Capisce??'” sneers Cordelia. “What are you, world traveller now?” It's incredible that two people who seem to despise the backsides off of each other would actually want to play tonsil hockey in a dark cupboard. “We're repulsed by each other, we hide from our friends...” complains Xander. “All in all, this is not what I'd call a big self-esteem booster.” It's a game of verbal insult tennis in Mr Whitmore's class and it's a close call as to who wins. If Cordelia lambasts Xander's 'hoover technique' of kissing and his general doltishness, Xander responds by criticising Cordelia's halitosis (what, the coolest girl in Sunnydale doesn't eat chewing gum?) and her “vapid little chit chat”. It's deuce, stalemate, whatever you want to call it: these two could bitch about each other until they are old and grey.

Growing old together seems to be a topic of conversation between Buffy and Angel – well, for about two minutes any road, given that they seem to be sucking each other's lips off for a good portion of the episode. Poor old Buffy looks into the future and can only see Angel – even when she's a little old lady with chilblains and false teeth, Angel won't have aged a day, which is something she obviously hasn't factored in to the equation. Never mind the whole 'One true moment of happiness' schtick, which is about to rear its ugly head in the next story. It's a quiet moment that at the time of transmission, probably seemed like filler. In hindsight, it's a quietly poignant moment that will come back to haunt Buffy with devastating consequences.

That's about the highlight of the episode. Production-wise, I got the feeling that maybe the Buffy production team were saving the money for future biggies of the season. It's not bad-looking by any means, it just lacks the vitality and excitement that other Buffy stories have in spades. The monsters look plastic, and the shot in which the egg hatches and unleashes its tentacles on a sleeping Buffy is obviously filmed backwards and then played back accordingly. Mind you, the little hatchlings do move around like greased lightning, and there's a very atmospheric bit of music in the background as Buffy hunts the little tyke in her bedroom.

Not so sure about the strange choral music for the possessed victims marching to their work. It sounds like the annual Father Christmas festive shindig singalong. You can almost picture the Santas clutching their ale and bopping in time while chanting “Bom! Bom! Bom! Bom!” It's music that's too OTT and pompous for such a routine monster, but I guess the producers had to big up the threat somehow. The music for the Gorches is more effective, with a bit of old hillbilly rock guitar working out as the dopey cowboys pummel either themselves or Buffy into the ground.

All told, Bad Eggs is a disappointing episode of this season. While the regulars give it their best shot, the dialogue is largely ordinary and laboured, the monster of the week is poor and the cowboy vampires are neither funny or scary. There are surprisingly no explanations as to how Mr Whitmore discovered the Bezoar or what it's doing under the grounds of Sunnydale High – although I wouldn't be too surprised if a certain Principal Snyder had this little secret hushed up.

About the only positive to take away from Bad Eggs is that it's the last truly duff episode of the season. Starting with the next story, Season Two of Buffy is about to get a lot darker, a lot more gripping and considerably more brilliant.