I thought it was a strange coincidence that

Joyce died so soon after Dawn/the Key showed up.

Are the two incidents related?

I got the impression that

the altered timeline that resulted from Dawn being "created" somehow affected Joyce's brain, especially since she was able to see that the photographs in the house had been altered just before she collapsed the first time.

Has anything ever been said about this?

  • 3
    Joss said that Joyce needed to be out of the way because Buffy had to step up and take charge of everything - move from girl to woman. While that would include paying the bills and doing the drudge work of a job, that would also include taking care of Dawn. So the focus on Joyce was more about Buffy having to grow up in ways she had not yet matured. It may be that he held off on killing Joyce until Dawn was there to make it harder on Buffy, though. I don't have links, so I'm not posting this as an answer.
    – Tango
    Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 17:46
  • @Tango, that's definitely the out-of-universe answer. Hints and plans for Dawn and Joyce were planted as early as season 3.
    – phantom42
    Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 19:28
  • @phantom42: I know about the hints for Dawn, I didn't realize there were hints about Joyce. I thought that was intended to hit suddenly and be a shock.
    – Tango
    Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 19:32
  • @Tango, it was more plans for Joyce. Apparently Kristine Sutherland knew that far back that she would be written out during S5.
    – phantom42
    Commented Mar 29, 2013 at 19:35
  • 1
    FWIW, following is a Salon article which addresses both Joyce’s death & Dawn, from March 2001 about two weeks after “The Body” initially aired: salon.com/2001/03/12/buffy_mom Commented Nov 29, 2021 at 21:37

2 Answers 2


I haven't seen this elsewhere, but I've always had a pet theory about this that is rather dark ...

The whole linchpin to the theory is an exchange at the hospital, in the Season 5 episode "Shadow," between Buffy and a doctor:

DR. ISAACS: (OS) Well, just let me know as soon as possible. And I could use some information regarding your mom's lifestyle and home environment. For instance, does she use a cell phone?

BUFFY: (frowns) Uh, I think so. Uh, yeah, she um, she-she has one of those ear things.

DR. ISAACS: OK, is your house near any power lines, chemical plants, waste disposal facilities?

He's asking about (among other things) electromagnetic radiation sources like cell phones and power lines. And it's established throughout the season that the key is mystical energy. I think Dawn, being the key, was full of concentrated energy and that her mere presence in the Summers home is what gave Joyce her cancer.

(Quotes from BuffyWorld)


Watching the show, it's easy to draw that conclusion. I've never read anything specifically confirming or denying that theory, though there may be something mentioned in the commentaries I haven't yet watched.

The issue is slightly complicated by the fact that brain tumors, such as the one Joyce had, can cause hallucinations.

The Buffy Wiki is generally pretty reliable and Joyce's entry makes the assumption that everything regarding Joyce's health and death were completely natural, but they don't source any of the references in question.

Joyce's diminished mental state (i.e.: the hallucinations) brought her to a similar state as Glory's other victims, enabling her to occasionally see the truth regarding Dawn.

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