In the interview, Whedon explains that seeing “Nosferatu” (a character that The Gentlemen resemble) scared him as a child. “I just have always been afraid of bald, smiling men who float! They just creep me out.” This is fair. There’s nothing worse than seeing a grin from someone who is about to murder you.
Whedon is, of course, known for writing quippy, quick dialogue, from his TV work in “Buffy,” “Angel,” and “Firefly,” to the film “The Avengers.” You know what you’re getting if someone’s dialogue is called “Whedonesque.” This episode was a big departure for him in terms of what we saw (and didn’t hear). Whedon spoke about what drove him to do an episode that didn’t rely on dialogue. He said:
“And the inspiration for the episode … part of it came from my feeling that I had started to fall into a hackdom, if you will. I’d been directing for three years, I’d directed, like, 10 Buffys, and I was sort of falling into a very predictable visual pattern, which is what TV mostly does. It’s radio with faces. I thought if I had no dialogue, I would be forced to tell the story visually.”
Whedon said he was worried he wouldn’t be able to convey the fear visually and that though it was difficult, it was “the most fun imaginable.” Oh, he got the fear across, alright. I know that when I watched it originally, all I wanted to do was talk to the person I was watching with, just to fill the silence. Even all these years later (the episode aired at the end of 1999), I usually skip this episode in my re-watches. It’s not that it’s anything less than brilliant. It’s that I don’t want night terrors.