Portals have played an important role in both Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel: the Series. Portals have been used as plot devices in (from my count) at least six separate seasons of the two shows. However, what isn’t always addressed is the way the portal affects the character that deals with it. So when using the plot device, one must remember all the times it has been used, which characters were involved and how they would potentially deal with another portal popping up in front of them. (For the purposes of this essay I am not going to go into extreme detail about the events surrounding the portal opening or closing. If you’re interested in more info check out BuffyWorld.com.)
Buffy Season 2
Seasons 2 of Buffy, namely ‘Becoming- Part 2’, is when we first see the existence of a portal into another dimension. In this case, it is a portal to hell, opened by Angelus to bring about the end of the world. To stop the world from ending, Buffy must run a sword through Angel to stop the portal and the vampire is then sent to the Hell dimension (though we don’t know it is a Hell dimension at the time). Earth was safe from Acathla, but Angel was gone.
Buffy Season 3
In the opening episode of Season 3, 'Anne', we see Buffy jump through a oil-like substance (in appearance at least) and come out in another world. The Big Bad of the episode explains that one day will pass on Earth while a hundred years pass in the demon dimension. This shows that time does indeed occur at different rates in different dimensions. Buffy, while rescuing a few unfortunates, leaves behind many others when the portal inexplicably closes behind her. One must take into account that those lost souls will weigh heavily on her conscience, even if she doesn't realize it.
Buffy Season 5
Perhaps one of the most memorable events in Buffy was in Season 5 when Dawn’s blood was used to open a portal between dimensions (‘The Gift’). Doc, a character who was loyal to the hellgoddess Glory, cut Dawn and that act ripped a hole in the trans-dimensional space between the two worlds. Unfortunately, when one portal is opened with the Key’s blood, more follow. Soon the fabric of reality was being torn by more and more pathways to other dimensions. Once again, to stop the end of the world as they knew it, Buffy was forced to make a sacrifice. However, this time it was not someone else who was the victim, it was Buffy herself. By throwing herself off the tower in ‘The Gift’, Buffy is able to close the portal and mend the ragged edges of her reality into one cohesive hole. The world was saved, but Buffy was not.
In both Season 2 and Season 5, to close the portal required blood. And although both Angel and Buffy ended up being returned to the reality in which they originated, the scars inflicted upon those who cared for them had far-reaching consequences. Buffy ended up running away after Season 2 and in Season 6, Sunnydale was in danger of falling to the monsters. Both Angel and Buffy returned to their original reality changed. Angel spent centuries in Hell while only a few months passed in the Jossverse, proving, once again, that time came flow differently in different dimensions. Buffy, on the other hand, was not in an alternate dimension, she was truly dead and thus spent the months she was dead in Heaven. The portals that opened changed both forever. Buffy was no longer the happy-go-lucky Slayer she was of Seasons 1-5 and Angel spent months recovering from his sojourn in Hell.
Angel Season 2
In Season 2 of Angel, we discover that a scientist named Winifred (Fred) Burkle disappeared from a library in Los Angeles five years ago. We later discover that she was sucked into a portal to the world of Pylea. Furthermore, we discover that portals to Pylea have been opened before to bring Krevlorneswath (Lorne, the Host) to Earth. When Cordelia is also sucked into the portal, Angel, Gunn, Wesley and Lorne open a portal to Pylea to save her. It closes behind them, leaving them to discover another way home. This is the first time blood or death is not needed to close a portal. They eventually find their way back home, but their lives are also changed by the portal. Fred has returned to Earth and she is quite changed from her five years in the alternate world. She was treated as a slave (a “cow”) and was on the run. Five years alone from anyone who cared about her, caused her sanity to slip. She was still the brilliant physicist, however she now had trouble relating to others, especially those who cared for her. She spent the first several months locked in her room, writing on the walls. Her road to recovery was slow, though she eventually recovered enough to join Angel Investigations as a full team member.
Angel Season 3
In Season 3 of Angel, a demon named Sahjhan opens a portal to the hell dimenion of Quor-toth (‘Sleep Tight’). A vampire hunter from the eighteenth century named Holtz takes Angel’s son, Connor and disappears when the portal closes. Angel is told by Lorne in a later episode that it would require dark, black magics to open another portal to a dimension such as Quor-toth. Although he tries, he is unsuccessfully in going to Quor-toth himself.
However, Connor himself, aged eighteen years, appears in Angel Investigations through the use of yet another portal (‘The Price’). Yet again, we find that time in different dimensions flows differently. It has only been a few weeks since Holtz took the baby to Quor-toth and yet here he is, all grown up. The years spent with Holtz have had an enormous impact on Connor and he has learned to hate his birth father. Angel is devastated and although he tries to have a normal relationship with his son, it is almost impossible.
Angel Season 4
Season 4 of Angel also uses the plot device of portals frequently. Fred, upon discovering that her mentor, Professor Seidel, was the one who sent her to Pylea is bent on revenge. Her fury at discovering he is the one who took five years of her life away shows a new dimension (if you’ll excuse the pun) to the character. Previously she was seen as a meek, good girl, however now she wants to send him to another dimension, exactly like he did to her. Although Gunn ends up murdering Professor Seidel before throwing him into the portal, the damage is done. Their relationship flounders as they try to deal with the consequences of their actions.
Further on in the season, in second-to-last episode ‘Peace Out’, Angel uses a mystical artifact to go to another world inhabited by bug-like demons. They worship Jasmine, a goddess who consumes dozens of humans a day. He finds what he looks for (a demon who knows Jasmine’s true name) and brings it back to Earth, using the same artifact. He is able to defeat Jasmine and her hold on the world is over (though whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is up to the viewer).
However, the ultimate effect of the portal on Connor becomes evident when he realizes he never really had a family to care for him. The loss of Jasmine proves to be too much on top of the fact that his childhood was taken from him and he loses his grip on sanity, taking people hostage and threatening to use explosives. Although this is more a product of his relationship with Jasmine and Cordelia, the fact that he was kidnapped through a portal when he was a baby also weighs heavily on his mind. His childhood is one we cannot fathom and it is rather surprising that he hasn’t been affected more than he’s shown.
The use of portal in both shows is both positive and negative for the characters. In Buffy, the portals were used to end the world, being closed only with blood. In Angel, the portals both took characters away from their home worlds, but they also returned them. They provide the means of revenge and the means to defeat enemies, but as we’ve seen, this doesn’t always lead to positive outcomes. Like almost everything in the Jossverse, how one uses the knowledge of portals can be a two way street. The portals themselves are neither good nor evil. Like knowledge, it is the way it is used that decides whether it will be beneficial or detrimental to the characters.
Now that we have the background sorted out, let’s discuss how to use portals in your fanfic. Obviously, the use of a portal makes writing some crossovers a great deal easier. By having a portal bring someone from another universe (Anita Blake, Lord of the Rings, X-men, etc.), it eliminates the necessity of compromising the different ideas behind the worlds. You don’t have to figure out how Buffy can still stake vampires when vampires are legal, or why the Sunnydale gang doesn’t know about mutants. However, before you send Fred off to Hogwarts via a portal, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
Portals in Buffy and Angel leave an indelible mark on those who have dealt with them. Every character in the Buffy and Angel universes has been affected by a portal in some way. Some have spent years in alternate dimensions, others have lost their lives to close the portal. If the character of Fred or Connor gets sucked into a portal, it will be significantly different if the character of Xander or Anya do.
A few questions to ask yourself …
What is the character’s history with portals?
Were the outcomes positive, negative or both?
How would the character deal with confronting another portal?
Are there circumstances concerning portals where she’d refuse to do something if she were forced to use a portal? Or, conversely, could he be made to do something for fear of being sent through a portal?
If he’s sent through a portal, does time flow different in the new universe? If so, does it go slower or faster? Will knowing that matter to your fic (in other words, is the character going to go home again?)
Is she or he willing to go through yet another portal to get home or is she or he too fed up with the whole thing?
Mainly, stay true to the characters and don’t forget their history. Well, unless it’s AU and then you can do pretty much anything you want. :)
The authors own nothing. Joss, UPN, WB, etc. own Buffy, the show, the characters, the places, and the backstory. The authors own any original plots.