Buffy the Vampire Slayer's creator is about to drive a stake through the hearts of the show's diehard fans: According to Joss Whedon, the Chosen One and her trusty gang of Scoobies will likely call it a doomsday in May. "I'm beginning to suspect that it may be [Buffy's] last season," he tells TV Guide Online. "Nothing's official, but it's starting to feel possible. The way people are talking, there's a finality to it."

Might the folks with whom Whedon's been conferring work at A.C. Nielsen? Compared to this time last year, Buffy's ratings are off an alarming 16 percent. In fact, last week more viewers watched Buffy's bloody brilliant spinoff Angel than the mother show itself. "It had a really good seven-year run and it's time to call it quits," implores Mediaweek columnist Marc Berman. "Leave with some dignity."

For his part, Whedon insists his gut instinct is not numbers-driven. "I never check Buffy's ratings," he says. "It doesn't really affect me. It may affect the network." Responds a UPN spokeswoman: "Buffy is an extremely important franchise to UPN. There are a lot of options, whether it be bringing the show back, bringing it back in a different form, possibly doing a spinoff... But really, it's just way too soon to say what's going to happen. We just started our conversations with the producers and the studio." (The rep also points out that ratings for last season's Buffy premiere were inflated because of the show's much-hyped move from the WB to UPN, thus a year-to-year comparison is unfair.)

Another factor that may be influencing Whedon's vibe: Sarah Michelle Gellar's contract expires in May, and the Scooby-Doo star has thus far expressed ambivalence about slaying on. "Everything is one day at a time," she told TV Guide Online last May. "That [decision] is about everyone sitting down and [evaluating whether] there's story to tell and if I think it'll be, you know... interesting." Fast forwarding to present day, Whedon says Gellar remains undecided. "She hasn't told me one way or another, but I know she has movies she wants to do. She has been doing [Buffy] for seven years, so if she did decide that this was her last year, it's certainly a decision I'd respect."

Whether or not Whedon's vampire saga bites the dust, the workaholic says this season's plots will not be impacted. "It doesn't really make a difference to me creatively, because I build every season to be self-contained," he explains. "I do think where we're heading this year is kind of monumental. It's going to be a big finish in May, so that if it is the last season, that's great. And if it's not, if Buffy continues or some incarnation of Buffy continues, it will serve that as well. There's always more stories to tell."

In other words, it's probably no small coincidence that Eliza Dushku will reprise her role as Buffy's Slayer nemesis at season's end. Speculation has it that should Gellar opt to hang up her stakes in May, Dushku may be recruited to headline a spinoff. "That possibility exists," confirms Whedon, adding cryptically, "It's one of many."
Hey, Buffy fans! Read all about Joss Whedon's latest adventure by clicking here!