As a fan of both The X Files and XENA, I was very excited about Lucy having a (possibly recurring) role on the X Files. For XENA fans, it was our first look at Lucy in a post-XENA role. The X Files is in its 9th season, and in many ways, is in a bit of a crisis. Main star David Duchovny is definitely out of this season, with Fox Mulder only likely to reappear if another X Files movie happens. Gillian Anderson was reportedly not that keen to come back, and the main investigators this season are Robert Patrick as John Doggett and Annabeth Gish as Monica Reyes.
The news that Lucy Lawless had been signed up, along with Cary Elwes was seen as an attempt by Chris Carter and The X Files producers to get some big names in to make up for the loss of Mulder. Many hardcore X Files fans were not impressed...well can you imagine XENA without Lucy or without Renee??
Anyway, the two episodes featuring Lucy as Shannon McMahon, Nothing Important Happened Today I & II have aired, and this week it was announced that Lucy would not be returning as she is expecting another baby in April. So now seems a good time to have a look at how successful Lucy was in her first major role since XENA.
In ratings terms, Chris Carter's plan didn't work. The ratings for the two episodes were not good with viewing figures down by about 3 million for part one, and even lower for part 2. Reviews for the episode were lukewarm at best, but generally Lucy Lawless was praised. (Look at this page for links to press reviews.)
E! Online's Wanda had great things to say about Lucy on the show. In answer to the question How is Lucy Lawless in The X-Files?, she said,
"Fantastic. It was a little hard at first to get past her Xena-ness, but she actually pulls off the role amazingly well."
Matt Roush from TV Guide mentions "Lucy Lawless as a terrifically sinister guest star.." in his comment on the show.
As a XENA fan, the main problem was that there was simply not enough Lucy! The first part opened with a great little scene where Lucy - looking very sexy in a slinky black dress - picks up a guy in a bar, and drives off with him. She then forces them off the road into water and we see that she can breathe underwater and grabs his leg to stop him swimming free.
The episode then switched to Doggett, Reyes and Scully and their dealings with the FBI. Scully has her baby, William, but no Mulder. He has "gone". Later, Lucy pops up in a water reclamation plant, making and impressive entry a lá The Debt, emerging from the water. Lucy's stunt double then walks around naked for a bit, before a hapless water employee goes looking for the naked woman, and comes up against Lucy in wet mode. Sadly we don't get to see her punch anyone in this story... it's back to mermaid mode as she drags the guy underwater and presumably drowns him.
We have a few more brief glimpses of Lucy in part one. Firstly, Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) spots her walking out of a lift and sashaying down a hallway. Then later she turns up outside Scully's door. Scully's mum won't let her in or tell her anything though. Later, Lucy appears as Scully and Reyes are leaving an autopsy suite at Quantico. She gets to look menacing in a suit! Finally, we see Lucy underwater (again!) pulling Doggett down..is she going to drown him like the other guys??
Part two has Lucy enjoy a Lao Ma moment, as she breathes into Doggett's mouth - just like The Debt - to keep him alive. He is disconcerted to wake up in his own bed later and to be faced with Lucy who introduces herself as Shannon McMahon - an old marine buddy of Doggett's. She has a tale to tell - that she is a genetically modified super soldier: she doesn't sleep and can't be killed. There is a conspiracy to infect the population by preparing the water supply. Doggett calls in Reyes and Scully to hear her tale. Neither is that convinced, and they turn up evidence that Shannon may be using Doggett to get to a whistle blower she wants to expose the conspiracy. The trio of agents go to a ship, where a secret lab might reveal the truth. When they arrive they are faces with Knowle Roher - another super soldier, who tried to kill Doggett. Shannon arrives in the nick of time to behead him, but as she is helping Doggett up, Roher shoves his hand right through her torso, blood spurts from her mouth (and the wound obviously) and the pair fall into the water. Later, after the ship has exploded and the agents have battled FBI politics, we see the bodies on the bottom of the sea, and Shannon's seemingly lifeless body....just as her eyes open! Oo-er!
To be honest, there were only a couple of scenes where Lucy actually got to act. The opening to the first ep, the scene where she explains herself to Doggett and then the later explanation to Scully. The rest of her appearances were very brief, or non-speaking. Of course, we KNOW that Lucy can do menacing extremely well, and even in this small role, she made a pretty strong impression.
I also thought she did enough in her brief scenes to impress. The style of acting on The X Files has always been very restrained and minimalist. (When it comes to David Duchovny, you might even say expressionless *G*) Similarly, the show is often dark and often fairly static - consisting of a lot of talky stuff. In her scenes, Lucy fitted in well - underplaying it, yet managing to convey something about her character through looks and intonation.
I wonder whether there was any pun intended when Shannon kills Knowle Roher by beheading him? There were quite a few beheadings in the story - nothing to do with Xena's demise in A Friend in Need I am sure though...was it? Other Xena touches were the large amount of water work. I think we saw more of Lucy underwater or in water than we did on dry land just about! In her role as Xena, Lucy also ended up getting wet every few episodes too..
Lucy looked very similar to how she did in Xena in terms of her hair, and when she was unclothed! But it was fun to see her in a smart FBI agent suit and a slinky dress - although I wasn't so keen on the t-shirt and jeans. Gillian Anderson helped make smart suits sexy in her years as Dana Scully, and with Annabeth Gish in there too now, it was quite competitive in the "who looks best" stakes *G*. It was just a shame that Lucy didn't have more scenes with Gillian Anderson, as it would have been interesting to see them together (especially standing up because Gillian is shorter than Renee O'Connor I think!) Was I the only one grinning when Scully entered Doggett's apartment to meet Shannon and she didn't get out of her chair! Bet they didn't want to make Scully look like a shortarse..again. Liked the little snapshot Doggett had of his marine buddies and Lucy as Shannon in combat fatigues. Don't really see her as the military type, but it was fun to see a photo.
The other disappointment was a potentially intriguing medical exam that Scully was going to give Shannon. We saw Lucy stand up and start to take her t-shirt off, but then the camera followed Doggett and Reyes out of the room. Scully comes out about 2 minutes later. Wow, in depth exam there Scully..Not that I wanted to see Lucy take her clothes off, but just that I wish we could have seen the characters interact.
Now, as a X Files fan, I have to say I was not terribly impressed with this story. I don't know if it is going to work this season with no Mulder and Scully not the focus of the series. While the cases are intriguing, it is the characters of Mulder and Scully that ARE The X Files, and while I like Doggett and think Annabeth Gish as Monica Reyes COULD be great, they aren't Mulder and Scully, and I don't know if they will be enough to carry the show. The conspiracy story coupled with the story about Scully's baby was not all that strong. Cary Elwes was introduced as a new Assistant Director, but he was basically the same slimy character he played in the movie "Twister". Frankly, without Lucy Lawless, I would have had trouble sitting through this episode. I hope the rest of the season is an improvement.
As to Lucy Lawless' involvement, I think she aquitted herself very well and livened up what was actually a rather dull and disappointing episode. To be honest, it is a real shame Shannon McMahon won't be back as I thought she was an intriguinging character. To those people who had never seen XENA, I hope they realise that Lucy is a fine actress, but I hope she gets more substantial roles that this one, in the future once the next baby is born.
My X Files wallpaper
See a huge batch of screengrabs on the Haven site
The Official X Files Site
Episode Guide from Official Site for episode 1
Episode Guide from Official Site for episode 2
Pictures from Episode 1
Pictures from Episode 2