Episode title: I Robot, You Jane
Original air date: April 28, 1997
“Hey! I got to hit someone!” – Xander
Let me start this week’s revisit by highlighting the fact that this is one of my all-time favourite episodes, an opinion it would seem not shared by the rest of the Buffy critic-universe. The first Willow-centric episode of the series in this episode she finds herself in an online relationship with a boy known only as Malcolm who she has been e-mailing with, unware that he is actually the demon Moloch the Corruptor whose soul has been released into the digital realm after the book holding him captive was scanned unwittingly by Willow.
Back in the 90’s there was quite a few shows which played on the populations fear of technology, with the internet at the time only just starting to gain a foothold and computers generally only an interest of nerds, rather than the essential tool that most of us see them as now which makes it kind of amusing to see the characters throughout the episode fumbling around the technology. It also means we get scenes like this one with Fritz.
Yep back when folks had some unique ideas about this new technology, with many believing it would lead to the collapse of society, let alone the whole Y2K hysteria while the rest were dealing with noisy modems and images that appeared line by line. Nostalgia aside the episode still holds a lot of charm with a fun twist on the usual demon antics with a hint of “The Lawnmower Man” thrown into the mix.
Moloch wastes little time in embracing the power his digital form now has access to, while recruiting a pair of computer nerds. The permanently scowling Fritz we met earlier as well as the socially awkward Dave, both drawn in with Moloch’s promises of power, glory and love and seemingly not questioning the fact that they being told what to do any an anonymous voice on their computer. At the same time he also has a technology company build him a badass robot body in which to further his influence. Bizarrely his end goal doesn’t appear to be world domination, but rather seducing Willow which explains why he spends so much time hanging around Sunnydale High.
Moloch however is let down due to never having any kind of a clear goal on what he was hoping to achieve other than his attempts to seduce Willow, who ultimately seemed more ticked that he wasn’t who he said he was rather than the fact that he’s a cybernetic demon. At the same time we seem him often killing his followers with no reason other than the fact that he can which might explain why he didn’t sit well with a lot of fans.
This episode though is especially noteworthy for being the first appearance of the school IT Teacher and technopagan (surprisingly a real thing) Jenny Calendar, who spends most of the episode butting heads with Giles who is not only her opposite in every way but mainly due to the fact that he hates computers and society’s increasing dependence on technology over real interaction. As such some of the best moments of the episode are when her and Giles are sharing the screen and trading barbs, making it all the better that this wasn’t the last we saw of her, especially when her character could have easily been written in for the solely for this episode.
Sadly this episode would be the sole appearance of Moloch, even though I would have liked to have seen atleast a hint of a possible return like a message appearing on an isolated computer screen, especially when he had the potential to do more. This however wouldn’t happen so for those of us who did like this one will just have to console ourselves with this single appearance.