So, what is this Xena programme then? If you are a new viewer, you may be wondering what the fuss is about. Why has Cath bothered setting up a UK page-must be a sad nutter! Well, that may or may not be true, but if you are here, then I hope you'll give Xena:Warrior Princess a go.
I came across it by accident when there was nothing much on TV, and I thought I'd see what it was like. I was instantly hooked. But why? Well, to give you the back story, the series is set in Ancient Greece, although there is no real attempt to stick to historical facts, it isn't that sort of show. Xena herself is a former bad girl, turned good after an encounter with Hercules in the series Hercules:The Legendary Journeys. She was a warlord who rampaged around Greece conquering all in her path. After showing a little compassion, her army turn on her and she barely escapes with her life. With Hercules' help she defeats her evil former subordinate and embarks on a new life-and a series of her own.
Xena has a companion on her travels, a young bard named Gabrielle who is as talkative as Xena is taciturn. It is the combination of personalities that helps the series work so well. Xena and Gabrielle help those in need and fight evil where ever they go. (For more information on the characters see My Who's Who Page)
So it's an all action show?
Well there is a lot of action. Xena has a fighting technique that is reminscent of those kung fu movies of the 70s. She somersaults and high kicks, aswell as the more conventional sword skills. She also has a special weapon, a metal frisbee-like skimmer that she flings at opponents called a chakram. Xena herself really looks the part. The outfit IS striking isn't it? The leather and twisted metal armour, high boots and short skirt are memorable.
However, it is not just an action show. For a start off, the whole tone of the show is camp tongue-in-cheek. There is a lot of humour, both verbal and visual. Also, there is a surprising depth to the characters. Xena herself is interesting as someone with a genuinely shady past. No, more than that, she has done many terrible things. That darkness of character is what makes her intriguing. Gabrielle is also a very attractive character as the ordinary girl who helps the warrior princess begin to put right the wrongs she has committed.
Are the stories any good?
Of course! You might want to have a look at My Episode Guide or Episode Reviews for more details. Series One quickly got into its stride with some terrific episodes, a mixture of drama, action, and tongue in cheek comedy. Near the end of the series a really nasty villain named Callisto was introduced in an episode of that name, and at the start of series 2 she returns with a vengeance. We also meet various Gods like Ares and Hades, and other mythical figures like Hercules, the Titans, Prometheus, Baccus, David and Goliath and Orpheus.
Comedy characters include the used-car-salesman like Salmoneus who also appeard in Hercules:The Legendary Journeys. Joxer, a bumbling wannabe warrior is makes a lot of appearances in series 2. Comedy episodes like Warrior..Princess, and the follow up Warrior..Princess..Tramp are highlights for me. In these the shows star Lucy Lawless doubles and then triples up as Xena lookalikes, yes, a princess and a tramp.
Who is in it?
You won't have heard of them before, but the stars are Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor. They are the main reason the series works, because both are such good actors. In action type shows, acting skills are sometimes lacking, but Lucy Lawless constantly surprises with her subtle delivery. The character of Xena is pretty deadpan much of the time, but Lawless conveys so much of Xena's feelings. She is equally good at drama, tragedy or comedy and makes Xena fully believable when she could so easily have been a caricature. She has a great ear for accents, as a New Zealander herself, but does a perfect (well it sounds good to me) US accent. She also does Xena's voice much deeper than her own. See Warrior PrincessTramp for a selection of her accents. It is also intersting to see the Hercules and the Amazon Women tv movie where Lawless played an Amazon, and the Hercules episode As Darkness Falls, where she was a centaur's girlfriend. Then compare with the three episodes Xena was introduced in. Lawless has a different voice for just about every one!
Renee O'Connor has fine comedic timing, and is a perfect foil to Lawless. She is constantly described as 'the irritating blonde', when she is actually very likeable for a sidekick-type character, and is anyway a redhead!(although the shade varies from blondish to auburn.) Another strength of the series is that the characters of Xena and Gabrielle do change. Gabrielle does not remain the innocent, eager youngster for long, and Xena is mellowing out a bit-although not too much!
Didn't Xena fall off her horse?
A much publicised event in America, Lucy Lawless was filming a skit for Jay Leno's Tonight Show when her horse slipped and she fractured her pelvis (ouch!) This resulted in a body swap for Xena, as arch enemy Callisto took over Xena's body which meant actress Hudson Lieck took over Xena's body, enabling Lucy Lawless to recover, although she is apparently wary of horse riding now.
So who does the show appeal to?
All sorts of people. A strong kick-ass heroine is someone women will like. No one messes with Xena, and it is great to have a tv character that we would like to have as a pal on a dark night. I know quite a few men that definitely appreciate Xena's leathers, and the statuesque Lucy Lawless, while quite a few also are Gabrielle fans, particularly when she switched to the short, bikini style top that bares quite a bit of flesh! Xena is popular with children who like the cartoon-ish slap bang action and a no-nonsense heroine.
Then of course there is the whole subtext question! This is a big issue amongst subscribers to the alt.tv.xena newsgroup, and the cause of much debate. To find out more about it read Part 1, and Part 2of the FAQ about subtext. Briefly, it is thought by many fans, and acknowledged by the producers and stars that Xena and Gabrielle are awfully *close* and that there are many hints of a deeper relationship between them. Check out the FAQ, but don't worry, if you don't like that sort of thing, you won't even notice!
So is it any good?
YES! You think I'd bother with all this if it was rubbish? The show has style and flair, humour, drama and action, attractive and intelligent stars, interesting characters and great New Zealand locations. (You can play spot the Kiwi accent with the guest stars!) Xena rules!!
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