Shiny Shelf


Xena: Season Six: Box Two

By Mark Clapham on 08 November 2002

WARNING! Contains spoilers!

With the release of these last episodes of  Xena: Warrior Princess on DVD (although perversely seasons three to five haven’t been released yet) it’s worth having a look at how Lucy Lawless’ famous amazon ended her travels.

Certainly, for anyone who missed their edited, buried and barely promoted broadcasts on Sky One the main reason for picking up this box-set is the series finale, ‘Friend In Need’.

Unfortunately it’s not the most interesting of Xena stories, another replay of the ‘Xena travels to exotic land to avenge an old girlfriend’ story that has dominated these two-parters since as far back as season three’s ‘The Debt’. Thankfully the producers have fired all the budgetary clout they could manage at these episodes, giving them a visual breadth and level of action that keeps  the audience entertained. Japan is surprisingly well executed in New Zealand (just as well as Ancient Greece in fact!), and there’s some very impressive
effects work and some unusually large-scale battles to enjoy. It’s a satisfactory, although sometimes slow-moving and ponderous, conclusion to a series in which death isn’t usually a barrier. It’s just a shame that in concentrating on the emotional sides of Xena and Gabrielle the producers lose the lightness of touch and sheer silliness that characterises the show’s best episodes.

Thankfully there’s more to this boxset than the finale, and among the usual chop-socky time wasters there are a few gems. ‘You Are There’ is one of the most wildly deranged episodes yet, a mockumentary where Michael Hurst plays a TV presenter interviewing the regular characters. No explanation is ever given as to how a modern day TV crew is wandering around the ancient world, and the characters never act as if this is an unusual state of affairs. Just so that no-one can say it isn’t part of standard continuity, the episode also sees a vital plot-point come about! ‘Send In The Clones!’ is very silly, a present day-set clip show where Xena and Gabrielle are resurrected through cloning, and sit around watching bits of old episodes. Best of all though is ‘Soul Possession’, another present day episode which, rather than being a clip-show, uses the format to flash back to the beginning of season four and close up a couple of plotholes, as well as resolving the present day threads running through both Hercules and Xena in recent years. It’s theme of reincarnation also softens the blow of ‘Friend In Need’, showing that nothing ever really dies…

So it’s bye-bye Xena, a series with some of the most ludicrous and inventive episodes TV has ever seen, a series which rarely forgot that it was primarily action entertainment, a series which survived the challenges of wooden acting, occasional budget collapses and bouts of repetitive plotting due to sheer charm and a willingness to try and get away with any old nonsense if it seemed a good idea at the time. By its end the series had pretty much run its creative course, but Xena will still be remembered fondly for its highlights.


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By Mark Clapham

Mark Clapham is a Devon-based writer and editor. You can find out more about him at the egotistically named markclapham.com.




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