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A Friend in Need DVD review

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Read Neil's excellent DVD review

I got my copy of the A Friend in Need DVD and wanted to add my views to Neil's in depth review.

I was very impressed with the DVD package as a whole. It puts to shame the VERY extras-lite UK DVD releases by Universal Playback (although at least we *get* DVDs unlike the US.)

The first thing that impressed me was that over the main menu there is some of Joseph LoDuca's exceptionally beautiful music playing. Any DVD fans will know that if you pop a disc on then go to make a cup of tea, the sounds accompanying that main menu can often be intensely grating and irritating! So, a good start - although as Neil said, that main menu *IS* a rather odd colour. I wasn't sure if my TV brightness was set incorrectly.

The main reason I bought this disc was for the extras, and I think they are pretty damn good. I enjoyed that Behind the Scenes film shot by Creation, although I still think they had a bit of a cheek selling those Gold Fan Club kits, when they clearly knew that the Behind the Scenes film would be on the DVD. It's an enjoyable and insightful little film though.

Then it was onto the episode, and the audio commentary from Lucy Lawless, Rob Tapert and Renee O'Connor. Oh, and a fair few gurgles from baby Miles. It was quite distracting until Lucy explained it was the baby! I enjoyed listening to them a lot. Rather surprisingly, I most enjoyed Rob Tapert's comments, because he often referred to things not JUST in A Friend in Need, but how they developed things like the pinch, or other things related to the series as a whole. Fingers crossed that they release other DVDs where Rob does a commentary.

It was especially interesting to hear Lucy and Renee's comments about their approach to the scenes, and I was delighted to hear Lucy taking the mickey out of the guest stars Kiwi accents!! I'm not going to review the episode again here, but this DVD certainly did emphasise what a dud bunch of guest stars they had in this episode. Not Michelle Ang and Marton Csokas (pronounced chor-cash by Lucy - have to add that to the Pronunciation Page!), but the main villains Yodoshi and Morimoto were just poor actors, and the ghost killer guy erm, Harugata was it?? Well, his accent was so strong you can hardly hear what he says. All three are referred to during the commentary, and I am glad because after years of exploring the acting pool in Auckland, with only a few poor actors, they got a whole bunch here, and it was good to hear it acknowledged - even though Lucy tried to make a bit of an excuse for them.

Lucy takes the lead in most of the discussions, with Rob chipping in about how things were filmed. All of them are generous in their praise for the other actors and crew, and sometimes harsh on themselves. Lucy kept giggling and groaning when there were any shots of her with not many clothes on, or what she considered poor acting, Rob commented on a few things he missed or short-comings in the script. Lucy also had a LOT to say about the way it was filmed - technical details that indicated she did more than just act.

Of the more controversial moments of the episode, there were some very interesting discussions and some bits rather glossed over. Fascinating to hear Lucy and Renee's ideas about why Xena hadn't told Gabrielle about Akemi before. It was also interesting to hear how Lucy didn't like the shots of Xena's headless body. Rob's explanation that it was decided on the toss of a coin in editing to put in the extra shots of it will not have pleased fans who hated that scene.

Less statisfactory - in my opinion - was their discussion about why Xena had to stay dead. OK, so it was an episode commentary not a gathering of fans (the new Xena fans mantra "when 2 or 3 are gathered together, they shall discuss/argue over A Friend in Need")
Interestingly, it was Rob Tapert who tried to get a few discussions going. "So Renee, is Xena guilty" he says flat out when Harugata tells Xena she is guilty of killing 40,000 in the town. Renee says yes, no mention from any of them about motives.
It was an accident!!!

Again in that final scene, Rob says "this is the bit where all the fans are yelling 'dump the ashes Gabrielle'". He's right, but Lucy and Renee don't really get into the discussion. Ah well.

I have seen this episode about 6 or 7 times now and yet I still cried at the end - even while listening to the commentary! One of these days I'll be able to watch XENA dispassionately, although I hope not! I think the way the show stirs the emotions is what makes it so special.

As far as this DVD goes, its a great package, worth it for the commetary alone. An excellent Behind the Scenes film (and there have been some very poor ones on other DVD), the Director's Cut of the story of course - so lots of extra footage from the original TV broadcast, a few stills photos, and a screensaver (although I haven't looked at that, I hear it is pretty lame.)

If only it had been in widescreen....

Catherine O'Grady

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