Nightmares (Buffy the Vampire Slayer)

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Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode
Episode no.Season 1
Episode 10
Directed byBruce Seth Green
Story byJoss Whedon
Teleplay byDavid Greenwalt
Production code4V10
Original air dateMay 12, 1997
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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"The Puppet Show"
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"Out of Mind, Out of Sight"
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (season 1)
List of Buffy the Vampire Slayer episodes

"Nightmares" is the tenth episode of the first season of the television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The episode's teleplay was written by David Greenwalt, with a story by Joss Whedon, and directed by Bruce Seth Green. The episode originally aired on May 12, 1997, attracting a Nielsen rating of 2.5.[1] The episode is about the students at Sunnydale High beginning to experience aspects of their worst nightmares while awake, leading the Scooby Gang's investigation to a young boy with a secret. However, before they can get to the bottom of things, they must face their own nightmares, which are rapidly taking over reality.


The episode begins with Buffy having a nightmare about going to The Master's lair and being choked by him. Buffy's mother, Joyce, shakes her awake, and as Buffy wakes up, she remembers that she is excited to be spending the coming weekend with her father. Buffy confides to Willow that she thinks she might have something to do with her parents' divorce. In a class, when the teacher asks Wendell to read from the text book, tarantulas crawl out of it. Buffy sees a boy standing in the doorway, saying that he is sorry.

The next day, as the Master explains to Collin, the Anointed One, how wonderful he finds fear, Buffy is nervous about being picked up by her father after school, and her mother calms her down. At school, Willow and Xander are worried about the spiders, and want to talk to Giles about it. Giles mutters that he "got lost," seemingly in the stacks of books. Giles has no information on the spiders so the gang goes to talk to Wendell, who explains he has been having recurring spider nightmares.

In the meantime, Cordelia lets Buffy know about a history test that Buffy has not studied for. Buffy has a hard time even finding the class, and the test is over in what feels like a moment; Buffy has not even filled in her name. She once again sees the same boy outside the classroom. As break-time begins, a girl named Laura takes a smoking break in the basement. An ugly man comes out of the shadows and says, "lucky nineteen" before assaulting Laura.

Later, Buffy and Giles interview Laura in the hospital, where they hear about "lucky nineteen." They also find the young boy from before (Billy), in a coma due to a similar attack. More nightmarish instances start to occur, starting with Xander finding that all of his clothing has vanished and he is naked in his classroom. Giles now cannot read but he finds a picture of Billy. Cordelia's hair becomes a disheveled, spiky mess, her designer clothes become horribly drab and nerdy, and she is physically forced to join the school chess club. Buffy realizes that she had been seeing Billy at school while he was still in a coma at the hospital. Giles theorizes she might have been seeing Billy's astral projection.

Buffy's father shows up and calmly tells her that she is at fault for her parents' divorce, because she is such a difficult child and he can't stand being around her. Then he scolds her for crying at his hurtful accusations and tells her he never wants to see her again. The Scooby Gang quickly figures out that their nightmares are becoming reality, including Xander's nightmare of being chased by a clown and Willow's nightmare of appearing on stage, expected to perform Madama Butterfly. Buffy finds Billy's astral body, and then they are both found by the man who assaulted Laura. Nightmares plague everyone and Buffy learns Billy has experienced some sort of punishment for poor baseball skills. They evade the scary man and find themselves in a graveyard where The Master confronts Buffy, and buries her alive.

Meanwhile, Willow, Xander and Giles find Buffy's grave. Giles explains that it is his worst nightmare to let Buffy die on his watch. Buffy then crawls out of the grave as a vampire, revealing her worst nightmare is dying and becoming a vampire herself. The gang decides that they must wake up Billy from his coma to stop the nightmares. In the hospital, they find Billy's astral body near Billy's comatose body. As the ugly man finds him, Buffy confronts him. After knocking him out, she encourages Billy to face him. Billy wakes up and everything is back to normal.

Billy's Kiddie League coach shows up, and refers to him as his "lucky nineteen". Buffy realizes he must be the "ugly man" who put Billy into a coma after they lost the game. He tries to run after Buffy confronts him, but is stopped by Giles and Xander and arrested. The episode ends when Buffy and her father leave for their weekend together, the previous confrontation just an unreal nightmare.

Production details[edit]

A line of Xander's and an exchange between Giles and Buffy was cut from the original script due to length:[2]

Xander: Okay, despite the rat-like chill that just crawled up my spine, I'm going to say this very calmly: Helllppp...

Giles: Are you all right? You look a bit peaked.

Buffy: Hospital lighting. It does nothing for my fabulous complexion.
Giles: Are you... sleeping all right?

Buffy: I'll sleep better when we find this guy. Nothing like kicking the crap out of a bad guy to perk up my day.

Cultural references[edit]


  • Willow's fears of appearing on-stage were seen in the epilogue to the previous episode "The Puppet Show", are again touched on in Season Four's "Restless".
  • Buffy's fear of being buried alive comes to pass in the episode "Bargaining, Part 2"
  • Buffy was born in 1981, contradicting both birthdates shown two episodes previously (in databases corrupted by a demon) in "I, Robot... You, Jane", but matching the date shown in "The Gift" in season five.
  • Willow references this episode in "Once More With Feeling" when she sings in "I've Got A Theory": I've got a theory, some kid is dreamin' / And we're all stuck inside his wacky Broadway nightmare. Additionally, Giles mentions in this episode: "Dreams? That would be a musical comedy version of this. Nightmares. Our nightmares are coming true."
  • Along with "Witch", "The Puppet Show" and "Inca Mummy Girl", this is one of only four Buffyverse episodes in which Cordelia appears but Angel does not.
  • We learn that Giles can read five languages - "on a normal day".

Arc significance[edit]

  • This is the first appearance of Buffy's father, Hank Summers, who appears and is mentioned only occasionally throughout the series.
  • This is the first time that Buffy and the Master have met face to face. Buffy could recognize the Master from her mystically prophetic dreams but the Master had never seen Buffy before (and accordingly comments on her appearance).

Broadcast and reception[edit]

"Nightmares" was first broadcast on The WB on May 12, 1997. It received a Nielsen rating of 2.5 on its initial airing.[1]

Noel Murray of The A.V. Club gave "Nightmares" a grade of B+. He praised the concept but felt that it was a "mild disappointment" due to underwhelming performances by the cast.[3] DVD Talk's Phillip Duncan wrote that "Nightmares" was "easily the most confusing" episode of the season because of the dreams, and concluded that "it seemed like too many things and ideas were crammed into the episode simply because they could be explained away as dreams".[4] A review from the BBC praised Buffy's scenes with her father, as well as some of the more comedic nightmares.[5]


  1. ^ a b "Nielsen Ratings for Buffy's First Season". Archived from the original on 23 August 2006. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  2. ^ Golden, Christopher, and Nancy Holder. The Watcher's Guide, Vol. 1. New York: Pocket Books, 1998.
  3. ^ Murray, Noel (26 June 2008). ""Nightmares", etc". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  4. ^ Duncan, Phillip (21 January 2002). "Buffy the Vampire Slayer — Season 1". DVD Talk. Retrieved 4 June 2013.
  5. ^ "Nigtmares: Review". BBC. Retrieved 4 June 2013.

External links[edit]