Monday, September 26, 2005

10 years of Xena: from an unabashed fan

It's the 10th anniversary of Xena: Warrior Princess. My article, What We Owe Xena, appeared last week in (If you have trouble accessing the content as a non-subscriber -- Salon requires you to watch an ad -- you can also read it here.)

I suppose I could have prefaced this with a disclaimer like "A little frivolity to cap the weekend," or "we all have our guilty pleasures." (In linking the article, ms. musings calls yours truly "an unabashed fan," and Tim Cavanaugh at Hit & Run an "out-of-the closet Xenaholic.") But I have no apologies. It was a great show -- campy, yes, but also smart, funny, well-written, well-acted, feminist in the best sense of the word (women on Xena were simply human, no better or worse than men, and the show never beat the viewer over the head with a female-empowerment message), and at times capable of greater depth and complexity than critical favorites like, say, The West Wing.

In related news, Xena is No. 12 on's list of Top 50 sci-fi shows (a definition that obviously includes fantasy as well as sci-fi). A few of my other favorites rank high as well: The Outer Limits, No. 13; Sliders, No. 10; The Twilight Zone, No. 7; Stargate SG-1, No. 6 (though I lost interest after the first three seasons); and the original Star Trek, for which I have a quaint affection, No. 1. No Prisoner or Farscape, though, which is a shame. But nice to see Xena get her due.


Joan said...

The lack of Farscape on that list is bizarre. Do they really think that Logan's Run was better? In fact, I can't believe they thought Logan's Run was better than, say, Space:1999, which wasn't all that great itself. It's hard to understand how they could completely omit Farscape while including Firefly, which was widely recognized as Farscape-inspired when it came out. Maybe now that when Farscape is hitting syndication it will stop being left off lists like this. It lasted 4 seasons plus an extremely well-done mini-series, and many of the shows on's list barely lasted 2 seasons.

Cathy Young said...

Sliders really went downhill for me in Season 3 when they had the characters chasing Col. Rickman from dimension to dimension for 6 or 7 eps, and killed off the Professor. I also didn't like the Kromagg storyline, and particularly disliked that whole "Quinn Mallory is from another dimension originally" plot twist. They still had good episodes in the last two seasons but overall it was a bit of a disappointment.

Joan, totally agree about Farscape. I've never heard of Logan's Run, the show -- thought the movie was pretty good, though.

Cathy Young said...

Oh, good suggestion about Sliders, Eric!

The superhero syndrome afflicts a lot of shows. Xena, admittedly, was supposed to be a superhero, but I felt that she too was more interesting when she was fallible, and less so when they made her a little too superhuman at times.

I still thought the first 3 (or more accurately, 2 1/2) seasons of Sliders were great. Some excellent eps in the later seasons too.

John A said...

I watched Xena almost religiously, enjoying the camp and even the relatively unobtrusive philosophy (my main obection to the original Twighlight Zone was the explication of the "moral" of the story by Serling).

But I didn't appreciate how good Ms. Lawless was until the episode where she and Leick traded characterizations. I expected Hudson to do well (she is highly regarded), but I was pleasantly surprised by Lucy's performance - outstanding!

Minor quibble: Gabrielle did not start out to learn how to be a warrior, her ambition was to be a bard and record Xena's escapades in poetry/song. As her own experiences accumulated, she cane to believe that a dead pacifist was a useless pacifist.

And I have a soft spot for Ms. O'Connor in The Xena Scrolls spoofing Indiana Jones. For quite a while, my PC Wallpaper was a snap of her in that role chomping on a cigarillo.

Cathy Young said...


I find it interesting that Gina Torres, she of "Cleopatra 2525" fame, has done more than either Lucy Lawless or Rene O'Conner since the demise of their individual series.

I haven't followed Ms Torres' career that closely; what has she done besides Firefly? Part of the reason Lawless hasn't done very much was her own choice. Right after Xena ended, she turned down several offers of a starring or co-starring role in a TV series, mainly because she was exhausted after 6 years of Xena and wanted to spend more time with her family. (At the time the series ended, she had a one-year-old child and had just suffered a miscarriage; she had another baby in 2002.) She also turned down a part in Lord of the Rings. At present, she's getting her career back on track -- she starred in the CBS movie Locusts, no masterpiece but good cheesy fun, and was asked to do a sequel which airs October 30.

The real shame is that Hudson Leick has done so little career-wise; she is an outstanding actress.

john a: nice to meet a fellow fan! I too love that shot of Indiana Gabby. *g* And I certainly agree with you about how impressive the body-swap episode was.


Minor quibble: Gabrielle did not start out to learn how to be a warrior, her ambition was to be a bard and record Xena's escapades in poetry/song. As her own experiences accumulated, she cane to believe that a dead pacifist was a useless pacifist.

Sorry, but your recollection is a bit off. *G* In the premier episode, Sins of the Past, Gabrielle leaves home saying that she wants to be a warrior and she wants Xena to teach her everything she (Xena) knows. (There's actually some very funny dialogue there, where Gabrielle tells her younger sister Lila that she wants to be a warrior and Lila replies, "A warrior? Gabrielle, I can beat you up!" Gab: "Yeah, well, you're very strong for your age.")

At first Gabrielle keeps pestering Xena to teach her how to fight with a sword, which Xena declines to do saying it will make her a target. Then after her encounter with the Amazons she learns how to fight with a staff, and develops an identity as a "fighter who doesn't kill" (while doing the bard thing on the side). Eventually she does turn to complete pacifist, and then to being a full-fledged warrior.

Cathy Young said...

Wow, thanks! I didn't realize Gina Torres has done that much. I do think that Lucy is now starting to get her career back on track, at least I certainly hope so!

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