In the realm of iconic television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer stands as a groundbreaking masterpiece that redefined the boundaries of the fantasy...
In the world of cult-favourite television series, Buffy the Vampire Slayer remains an unforgettable gem, cherished by fans worldwide. Among the show's ensemble of characters, the vampire Spike stands out as a captivating and enigmatic figure.
With his Rockstar charm, devil-may-care attitude, and undeniable allure, Spike quickly became a fan-favourite (much to Joss Whedon’s disappointment!). However, delving beyond the surface of this charismatic vampire reveals a complex and problematic persona.
Spike’s Early Life
Born in 1853 in London, William Pratt’s (Spike) early life was shaped by his mother, Anne Pratt, who would sing the haunting English folk song "Early One Morning" to him. As he grew into adulthood by 1880, William found himself struggling to fit into London's high society despite his poetic aspirations. Unfortunately, his poetry earned him the unflattering nickname "William the Bloody" due to its abysmal quality. Little did he know that this title would take on a far more sinister meaning in his future as a vampire.
One night, after enduring the heartache of rejection from Cecily Addams, William's path crossed with a trio of terrifying vampires: Angelus, Darla, and Drusilla. William found solace in an alley where Drusilla, captivated by his vulnerability, approached him. Seeking a companion and "knight" to be hers for eternity, she seduced the young poet and forever changed his fate, transforming him into a vampire.
William Pratt’s life took a dark turn, setting him on a path that would lead to his rebirth as the notorious vampire known as Spike. From sentimental poet to bloodthirsty immortal, Spike's journey would become one of the most captivating and complex arcs in the legendary series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Becoming A Vampire
After Drusilla transformed William into a vampire, she laid him to rest in a makeshift grave, where he emerged anew from the depths of his rebirth. The pair indulged in a hedonistic spree, revelling in the taste of human blood and the intoxication of alcohol. Eventually, they decided to return to William's mother's home.
Despite his undead state, William's deep love for his mother persisted. Unfortunately, Anne Pratt was plagued by tuberculosis, and William couldn't bear the thought of her demise while he possessed eternal life. In a misguided act of love, he sired his own mother, hoping to grant her the gift of immortality and a shared afterlife. However, the transformation robbed her of her former self, leaving behind a twisted and malevolent being devoid of her former maternal warmth and affection. Stripped of her humanity, she tormented William with cruel taunts, falsely claiming that she had always despised him and insinuating disturbing thoughts about their relationship. Unable to endure this nightmarish version of his mother, William staked her.
The profound trauma of this event haunted William for over a century, resurfacing later when the malevolent First Evil exploited these memories to torment him once more.
Spike’s Relationship With Angel
Initially, Spike held Angelus in high regard, admiring the elder vampire's power and charisma. Yet he didn't hesitate to defend Drusilla when Angelus insulted her in his presence. To William, Drusilla was not insane but rather innocent, and he displayed unwavering loyalty towards her. Angelus shattered William's romantic notions, teaching him that in the vampire world, concepts like "belonging" were inconsequential. As a vampire, one could take whatever they desired but never truly possess anything.
Encouraged to embrace rebellion, William adopted a working-class North London accent, embracing impulsiveness and violence. Shedding his former identity, he adopted the moniker "Spike," a name inspired by a critic from his human days who proclaimed he would rather endure a railroad spike through his head than listen to William's poetry. Spike's newfound persona led him into a life of criminal activities for the better part of a century. Alongside Drusilla, Darla, and Angelus, Spike wreaked havoc across Europe and Asia as part of the infamous "Whirlwind."
Despite Drusilla turning him into a vampire, Spike acknowledged Angelus as his sire and mentor, attributing his transformation to Angelus's influence.
Spike employed a pair of Fyarl demons as his muscle and impressively learned to communicate in their language.
He found himself entangled in legal trouble, serving time in prison for tax evasion, a scheme orchestrated by the Immortal.
Always one for indulgence and adventure, Spike ventured to Woodstock, where he partook in a peculiar experience by drinking blood from a flower child. The psychoactive effects of the drugs in their bloodstream led him to spend hours mesmerised by the movements of his own hand.
Amidst his adventures, Spike crossed paths with the British punk rocker Billy Idol, whose admiration for Spike's distinctive look led him to emulate it, becoming inspired by the vampire's undeniable style. While playing Spike, James Marsters expressed his dislike for the bleach blond hair he had to maintain for the role. The peroxide treatment caused his scalp to blister, leading to pus running down his face. Initially concerned for his safety, the cast and crew eventually got used to the regular occurrence, but it required constant wiping down.
Obsession With Slayers
Spike developed an intense obsession with Slayers, finding thrill and excitement in challenging these formidable adversaries. Introduced to the concept of the Slayer by Angelus, Spike actively sought out battles with these chosen warriors, considering them his kind's greatest adversaries and relishing in the life-and-death struggles that ensued.
Throughout his long existence, Spike had encounters with Nikki Wood, a fierce Slayer based in New York City. Their rivalry played out twice, with the initial confrontation resulting in Spike's temporary surrender, though not without admiring Nikki's distinctive coat. The second clash occurred aboard a subway train, culminating in Spike's decisive victory as he ended Nikki's life by snapping her neck. On that fateful occasion, he claimed her iconic black leather duster, a cherished wardrobe piece that he proudly donned for decades to come.
Much like Angel, Spike possessed an impressive array of martial arts skills, combining Judo, Karate, Muay Thai, Kung-Fu, street-fighting, and boxing. He could even identify Taekwondo and Brazilian jiu jitsu as the fighting styles mastered by Illyria.
Throughout both series, Spike's impressive slay count includes over 27 vampires, around 26 humans, and 20 demons, resulting in a total of 73 kills.
Spike's familiarity with modern technology surpassed Angel's, enabling him to convert a mausoleum into a comfortable home complete with electricity and cable television. He effortlessly handled video game systems and operated a computer.
His past experiences in criminal activities bestowed him with a range of useful skills, such as picking locks, hotwiring cars, and pick-pocketing. Spike proved himself adept at driving various vehicles, including cars like a DeSoto and a Citröen, a Harley Davidson motorcycle, and a Winnebago.
Beyond his native English, Spike showcased proficiency in Latin, Luganda, and Fyarl, adding to his diverse linguistic repertoire.
After Sunnydale Was Destroyed
Nineteen days after his apparent death in Sunnydale, Spike made a mysterious reappearance in Los Angeles. His battle-worn amulet, worn during the conflict against the First, strangely arrived at Wolfram & Hart in a parcel. Startled, Angel opened the package, only for Spike to materialise from a cloud of dust before him. Spike found himself unable to physically interact with anything - he had become incorporeal. Despite his initial intent to reunite with Buffy in Europe, he discovered a mystic binding to the city, rendering him unable to leave its confines. Reluctantly, he chose to remain at Wolfram & Hart, haunted by a lingering resentment towards Angel.
Spike's connection to the human realm was precarious, causing him to dematerialize randomly and with increasing frequency. In his distress, he confided in Winifred "Fred" Burkle, revealing that each vanishing instance transported him to Hell. Fearful that his past sins would condemn him despite his status as a Champion, Spike implored Fred to find a way to make him corporeal again. Unravelling the mystery, they discovered the cause of his disappearances—Matthias Pavayne, the ghost of a sadistic killer tormenting trapped souls within Wolfram & Hart to delay his own journey to Hell.
As Spike slowly adapted to his ghostly state, an unexpected package arrived, unleashing a flash of light that restored his corporeal form. Although he was no longer bound to Los Angeles, he chose to forgo his plan to seek out Buffy in Europe. Instead, he wanted her to remember him as a hero who had sacrificed himself to save the world, preserving the memory of his noble act. In a mockingly playful manner, he imagined a hypothetical conversation with Buffy, opting to bide his time before considering any reunion, aware that rushing such a meeting would be unwise.
Spike’s Human Qualities
Spike's essence as a vampire bore a captivating paradox, setting him apart from his soulless brethren. Even in his pre-soul state, he defied the conventional emotional and physical boundaries associated with vampires, challenging the very nature of his kind. What truly distinguished him was his embrace of certain human traits, particularly love and loyalty, which were viewed as offensive and "too human" by other vampires. The Judge, a resurrected demon meant to fight Buffy, detected and mocked Spike's capacity for love and loyalty.
While Spike could be perceived as primarily self-serving, he possessed an extraordinary capacity for acts of selflessness and unwavering loyalty towards those he deeply cared for, even without a soul. Throughout his existence, he demonstrated a strong sense of honour and devotion: doting on Drusilla for over a century, honouring his promise to Buffy by initially leaving Sunnydale with Drusilla, and standing by her side despite his breaking of that promise later on. He expressed respect for Joyce Summers after her passing, endured intense torture to protect Dawn for Buffy's sake, and continued aiding the Scooby Gang even after Buffy's death to honor her memory.
Love held a profound romantic conviction for Spike, and he deeply believed in monogamy. Each instance of Drusilla's infidelity devastated him, leading him to sink into states of drunken despair. He embodied the notion of being a "fool for love" entirely, as his actions, whether benevolent or malevolent, were most often driven by his intense affections for either Drusilla or Buffy.
He humorously referred to himself as "love's bitch" on several occasions, acknowledging the self-consuming obsession he held for both women. His loyalties and passions resided in the same place, and unlike Angel, he did not engage in philosophical contemplations about "good" and "evil."
Spike acknowledged his role as an ambiguous hero at best and did not seek to justify his actions as a vampire, recognizing that it was his love that compelled him to strive for improvement.
Despite Spike's love for mindless destruction, he possessed a remarkable intellect and education. His sharp insight and analytical skills, particularly concerning relationships, set him apart. Regularly making references to literary works, he showcased a deep appreciation for literature and demonstrated an impressive knowledge of magical rituals and items. In his human days, he had been a poet, and this background seemed to have equipped him with a broad understanding of literature. He once humorously parodied a line from Shakespeare's Henry V quoted by Giles, showcasing his wit and familiarity with classic works. Additionally, Spike's grasp of history further showcased his erudition.
With a penchant for nicknaming people in his life, Spike used terms both as insults and terms of endearment. For instance, he affectionately called Dawn "Little Bit" and "Nibblet," while addressing Drusilla and Buffy as "Pet" and "Love”. He often referred to Buffy as "Slayer," acknowledging her identity.
Spike had a unique nickname for various individuals, such as "Red" for Willow, "Peaches" and "Captain Forehead" for Angel, and "Charlie Boy" for Gunn. His encounters with Illyria led to playful monikers like "Blue Bird," and "Blue Meanie."
He referred to himself as the "Big Bad," a nod to the nickname given to the major enemies faced by the Scooby Gang, which showcased his self-awareness and sense of humour. Spike's multifaceted personality, combining intelligence, literary prowess, and a penchant for colourful nicknames, contributed to his captivating and unique character within the Buffyverse.
Spike In Popular Culture
Spike's affinity for pop culture was evident, and even when held captive by the Scooby Gang, he couldn't bear missing his favourite soap opera, Passions.
His conversations were peppered with references to movies and TV shows, including Star Trek, Star Wars, Dawson's Creek, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Ghostbusters, Knight Rider, and The Nightmare Before Christmas. After his hands were reattached at Wolfram & Hart, he used video games like Donkey Kong and Crash Bandicoot for physical therapy, even enjoying the nostalgia of a Game Boy Advanced.
A fan of punk rock music, Spike enthusiastically sang along to Sid Vicious's "My Way" and Ramones' "I Wanna Be Sedated." He even expressed his admiration for Pink Floyd's "Brain Damage."
Spike's birth name, William Pratt, shares the same name with the iconic horror actor Boris Karloff. Joss Whedon, the creator, drew inspiration for Spike's distinctive platinum blond hair from a mix of sources, including Billy Idol, Kiefer Sutherland's character in "The Lost Boys," and other mysterious men in black coats. Whedon believed that the peroxide look would add definition to the character's face, even though actor James Marsters humorously cursed Whedon's name for the burning sensation on his scalp during the bleaching process. Whedon envisioned Spike as "the Sid Vicious of the vampire set," while Marsters preferred drawing inspiration from Johnny Rotten, as he saw Vicious as an "idiot."
Casting James Marsters
James Marsters' real-life scar on his left eyebrow, a result of a mugging incident, was creatively incorporated into the show by makeup artist Todd McIntosh. To make the scar more prominent, McIntosh decided to shave out Marsters' eyebrow and also included it in the design of Spike's "vamp face" prosthetic, making it appear slightly altered as if the skin had stretched.
Interestingly, while Joss Whedon originally envisioned Spike as an English punk rock vampire, James Marsters auditioned for the role with a Southern Louisiana accent! Marsters even wore an old black T-shirt for the audition, which ended up being used for many episodes in Season 2.
Spike’s Unprecedented Popularity
Spike was initially intended to meet his end in Season 2, with the plan being that Angel would kill him after turning evil and teaming up with Drusilla against Buffy. However, the character's overwhelming popularity with the audience changed the course of his fate. Marsters revealed in a podcast that Whedon, acknowledging the audience's response, cornered him physically and said, "I don't care how popular you are, kid, you're dead!"
In "School Hard," Spike's first appearance on the show, he initially claims that Angel was his sire, leading to an apparent contradiction with Drusilla being portrayed as his sire. Creator Joss Whedon clarified this confusion in an interview, explaining that in vampire terminology, the term "site" refers to anyone in their bloodline, not just the direct maker.
In 2017, when asked about Spike's potential romantic fate with Buffy, Marsters revealed that he would have loved to see that storyline play out, but recognized that it would have required many more seasons to reach that point. However, Marsters did get the opportunity to explore Spike's journey towards maturity in a comic book where the character finally becomes ready for Buffy.
In 2021, Marsters disclosed in an interview that the Angel TV series had briefly faced cancellation after Season 4. Joss Whedon pitched the idea of having Spike as a regular in Season 5 to secure a renewal, which worked, but Marsters suspected that his inclusion may have resulted in Charisma Carpenter's departure due to budgetary concerns.
Whedon has praised Spike as the most fully developed character in the Whedonverse, considering his transformation and growth throughout the series.
Spike is one of three characters who served as main characters on both Buffy and Angel, the others being Angel and Cordelia. He is unique in this distinction for not appearing in Buffy's first season and not being a regular in Angel's first season.
Spike's character has an impressive on-screen meeting record, as he is the only Buffyverse regular to have interacted with all the others at least once.
As a beloved character, Spike has been commemorated with a total of seventeen licensed action figures, as well as various statuettes and variants in figurine collections.
Few characters have sparked as much intrigue and debate as Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. His combination of charm and then problematic behaviour has left an inerasable mark on the show's legacy.
While fans continue to hold a deep affection for the vampire, it is crucial to approach his character with a critical eye due to his violence, evil and later sexual assault storyline. By acknowledging both his allure and the problematic aspects of his actions, fans can appreciate Spike's place in television history.
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