Many new series can take a while to hit their stride, but Xena:Warrior Princess has an advantage; as a spin off from Hercules, the production team were already used to the format, and working together. Both shows are filmed near each other in New Zealand, and while the characters are very different, the storylines and pace of an episode is similar. Plus, the producers had a fair idea of their audience and what the audience would expect, because of the Hercules links. Of course, they now have to be careful that they don't repeat themselves in the two shows, but maybe its pedigree is one reason why Xena:Warrior Princess worked almost immediately.
The show has a number of strengths, chief of which is the casting of Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor. The actresses are perfect physically and are both talented actresses. Of course, Lucy Lawless' 3 episode appearance in Hercules had established her and Xena in viewers' minds. She looks just right, and is completely believable as a warrior. She has the right stature- not too musclebound to be overly butch, but not too skinny or girly!- and looks convincing in the fight scenes, which is very important. A big part of her 'rightness' for the role is not just her stature, but the way she plays Xena. She does an excellent sneer and can look pretty mean and menacing. Lucy Lawless doesn't get a chance to get bored though, as she does a lot more than fight or give her steely glare. In the first season she gets taken over by evil, does some exotic dancing, plays Xena's double, the drippy princess Diana, meets a few old lovers, apparently dies and brings Gabrielle back from the dead. And of course we get to hear her very nice singing voice, even if it is the same song each time so far.
The character of Gabrielle goes through a lot of changes in the course of this series. Renee O'Connor's outfits get smaller and smaller as her character gets more depth! At the beginning she is a talkative, innocent young girl. Travelling with Xena certainly widens her experiences. She falls in love with assorted young men, none of which works out, but more meaningfully for her character, she gradually gains fighting skills after becoming an Amazon princess, but always retains her blood innocence, that is she won't kill. Gabrielle is first and foremost a contrasting character to Xena. Her optimism and friendliness are in sharp contrast to Xena's brooding guilt and suspicious nature. It is the differences that make them an interesting team. Gabrielle helps Xena see the brighter side of life, while Xena protects and teaches Gabrielle about her world.
One of the best things about the series is that it can be
enjoyed on several different levels. If you like action, or
drama, if you are a fan of mythology and heroism, or maybe you
like the humour and finding out about the characters. I like all
of these aspects, although I have to say I love the humourous
episodes. Warrior..Princess was a
hoot, I loved Xena and Autolycus as a double act in Royal Couple of Thieves, and Altared States had Gabrielle high
on laced nutbread. However, I also loved the drama of The Greater Good, and Is There a Doctor..? Two
emotionally charged episodes featuring wonderful acting from the
This first series of Xena:Warrior Princess has lots of very good, well written episodes. Lets have a closer look now...
Guest stars: Jay Laga'aia (Draco), Darien Tackle (Cyrene), Willa O'Neill (Lila).
Xena makes her first appearence on her own in this episode. We
also meet Gabrielle, Xena's companion for the rest of the series.
The episode opens with Xena travelling back to her home town of
Amphipolis to make her peace with her mother. Along the way, she
is suffering pangs of guilt over her warrior past and removes and
buries her armour, sword and chakram. However, almost instantly
she comes across a band of slavers who are trying to take
Gabrielle, her sister and others from their village of Poteidaia.
Xena quickly rediscovers the joys of fighting as she saves them.
However, on learning who the warrior is, the villagers ask Xena
to leave, despite Gabrielle's protests. Xena goes on to
Amphipolis, while Gabrielle secretly follows. Xena gets a chilly
reception in her home town- even her own mother rejects her. A
stoning mob gathers, but Gabrielle arrives at that moment and
shows her bardic skills as she talks them out of the attack. When
the slaver decides to attack Amphipolis, Xena returns to fight
and save her town in a one on one combat, to begin her
This was an important episode, in that the tone for the series was set here. Certainly the characters must establish themselves quickly. A quick change from the Hercules episodes was a change in Xena's armour. The black outfit was thought to be too dark and evil looking, so it's brown leather now. Shame, I liked those big claw like epaulets! However, this outfit is more appropriate I suppose for the penitent but still kick-ass Xena. Lucy Lawless has to wear a horrid headband thingy that thankfully disappeared by the next episode. Renee O'Connor immediately made a strong impression as Gabrielle. She is a bit of an over eager puppy here, although her reasoning and arguements show her to be a girl of verbal skill. Her words save Xena, and also talk a cyclops out of trying to eat her.
Another feature of the series, and indeed of Hercules is the humour. This isn't the funniest of episodes, but Xena and Gabrielle's encounters with that cyclops are amusing. 'Maybe you should think of another career,' says Xena to the giant . 'another career, I'm a blind cyclops for crying out loud!' he replies. Also very well choreographed and ridiculously implausible is the staff fight between Xena and Draco. It involves the most gravity defying feats of balance from both fighters, and is a highlight. Gabrielle's attempt to secure a ride to Amphipolis are also quite funny.
The relationship between Xena and Gabrielle, and the actresses' portrayals are clearly still in the embryonic stages in this episode. Of course, Xena and Gabrielle have just met, and it takes a bit of time for their relationship to be established. Also, the character of Gabrielle develops a lot throughout series one and into series two. Here she is the fairly weedy young girl, with the gift of the gab. Even her bardic skills aren't mentioned that much. One more thing- Xena's horse is male here, yet soon becomes female! This was a solid episode to begin the series. It sets the scene well and introduces Gabrielle, Xena's mother, and the idea of Xena having to pay a price for her past. A couple of funny scenes, and a great fight scene. 7/10.
Guest stars: Nick Kokotakis(Darius), Jeff Thomas(Sphaerus), Stuart Turner(Cycnus)
While scouting on ahead away from Gabrielle, Xena helps save
some small children belonging to a peaceful single father.
However she is shot with an arrow and must stay and be helped by
the rather handsome man and his three supposedly cute children.
Yet again, Xena's brand of problem solving is unwelcome, as she
tries to save the village from another attack by the chariot
driving thugs. Meanwhile, Gabrielle is waiting at an inn, and to
avoid the lecherous creeps, she gets to know a young man who
turns out to be the one who shot Xena. When our favourite pair
meet up they soon come face to face with the young man and his
warlord father. After a frantic chariot chase, and a fight, Xena
defeats the father, and the son turns out not to be so rotten
after all. Xena has a touching farewell scene with her adopted
family, that is a bit soppy frankly.
More of Gabrielle as comic relief in this episode, as Xena seems to be growing fond of this family, although no romance is evident. The children, particularly the boys are bratty, but the father is very attractive, gentle but with inner strength. He even persuades Xena to wear a dress. However, Xena hasn't got time for that sort of thing in episode 2! The climactic chariot chase is fun, as Xena picks the men off, and Gabrielle has to leap from Argo into the chariot. This is the first of many unsuccessful romances for Gabrielle. Sphaerus is pretty hopeless as a warlord really. 7/10.
Guest stars: Nathaniel Lees(Manus), Desmond Kelly(old mystic)
An excellent episode that mixes high drama with some good giggles. Gabrielle and Xena mix with some thugs leading to a discussion on fighting. Gabrielle is keen to learn to use a sword, but Xena doesn't want her to as she knows how it can change things. They enter a town where Gabrielle is kidnapped by priests of Morpheus. She is given tests that should result in her losing her blood innocence and killing. This will result in her own death. Xena attempts to save her by entering a dreamscape that involve her facing her many victims. She must make it through to save Gabrielle.
The early humourous moments, including Gabrielle's famous dangerous breasts joke are a sharp contrast to the peril that follows for our favourite bard. Xena again has to reflect on her past crimes, a common theme for the whole series, but her reaction to the 'ghosts' that she meets in the dreamscape show that she is trying to come to terms with it. Her words to Gabrielle at the beginning and the end of the episode seem at odds with the Warrior Princess; she tells Gabrielle to run if she can rather than fight, and talks about how killing someone changes you forever. Xena does NOT have a casual attitude to killing, but it is a necessity at times, and one that she is prepared for, whilst also being aware of the implications of taking a life. This theme was picked up in season 2's Remember Nothing. Guest star Nathaniel Lees appears in future episode Destiny, he was also in a Herc movie with Renee O'Connor and The Gauntlet. Shopkeeper Sydney Jackson reappears as Vidalis in Blind Faith A good episode. 8/10.
Guest stars: Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (Pandora), Edward Newborn (King Gregor), Simon Prast (Nemos)
Xena and Gabrielle find a baby-Moses syle in a basket in the reeds by a river. They also meet Pandora-although not the original one- and her box. This episode features Xena's exotic dancing- very memorable and a funny scene where Xena gets information Mata Hari fashion from the chief baddie, Nemos, excellently played by Simon Prast, who is a good old fashioned sneering smug nasty.There is also a hilarious baby throwing final fight scene- sounds daft but it is this great tongue in cheek humour that makes the series so good. A strong story that has a number of nice twists and turns involving Pandora's box and Xena's working out of a strange prophesy involving the infant. Lucy Lawless really did that fire eating/blowing herself by the way. This was one of my favourites of the first series. I liked the multi layered story, and those scenes that I mentioned. The biblical theme (Moses-baby in the bullrushes), and the mythology theme(Pandora) arise quite often in future episodes to varying degrees of success. It is a feature of both Hercules and Xena that at times, they use well known Greek legends, or other stories. It makes the characters seem more real somehow, to think of them interacting with well known characters like the Gods, Prometheus, Ulysses, Daedelus or Pandora. I think it worked particularly well here, as this is a very well written story. Comedy, action, drama. A good one. 8/10.
Guest stars: Stephen Tozer(Mezentius), Bobby Hosea(Marcus)
Xena meets up with an old friend, Marcus on an undercover job to recover a girl who has been kidnapped by the evil warlord Mezentius. Mixing with her old cronies, Xena plans the rescue but is discovered by Marcus. He is by no means evil, and Xena tries to get him to help her. However, his noble deeds don't help him as he is shot and killed trying to protect the girl.
This episode is notable for Xena's funeral song for Marcus which was written and sung by Lucy Lawless, and is very beautiful and haunting. It is also the first appearance of the man supposed to be Xena's real love. The story is OK, but I found Marcus a slightly dull partner for Xena, but I am not sure if I would lay the blame with the script or the actor. He has a certain attraction, but is an unremarkable warrior. The beginning with Xena punching and kicking her way to a table at a tavern is amusing. Mezentius would reappear in Remember Nothing and Marcus was also in Mortal Beloved. 6/10.
Guest stars: Kevin Smith (Ares)
Coming across a group of villagers being attacked by a hooded man, Xena tries to help, but finds the fighter a match and then when he disappears into thin air, she is the one left standing holding a bloody sword when help arrives. The other villagers think Xena is the murderer and after a brief escape attempt she is arrested and put on trial with Gabrielle as her advocate. It turns out to be the first appearance of Ares, God of War, and he tempts Xena to become his consort. Xena almost gives in and cracks a few heads- including Gabrielle's! However, she is too clever for Ares and manages to restore the murderered men and escape Ares- for now.
This is a very dark episode examining Xena's attitude to her
past. We rarely see her paying for her past crimes- Callisto is
the main vengeance seeker later on. Xena doesn't appear to fight
to free herself, or make a run for it because she realizes that
she cannot spend the rest of her life running. She admits at one
point that it doesn't matter if she did this crime as she has
done a lot worse and could do again. It is Gabrielle's belief in
Xena that helps pull her through, that and the fact that Xena
doesn't like being tricked of course!
The other notable thing about this episode is Kevin Smith as Ares. He plays Ares as very seductive and attractive. Ares will reappear many times in the future each time seeking to reclaim Xena as his and to get her to return to her warlord past. We see Gabrielle is a positive light in this episode too. She makes an able lawyer, but her arguments aren't what saves Xena. After Xena strikes her in her Ares induced rage, Gabrielle shows her true friendship for Xena and returns to try and help her escape. She even tries to get a punch in as payback at the end but ends up with bruised knuckles for her trouble! Xena and Gabrielle's bond of friendship is strengthened in this episode. 7/10.
Guest stars:Mark Rafferty(Hyperion), Amanda Tollemacha(Thea), Edward Campbell (Crius)
After getting ticked off by Xena, Gabrielle happens upon a group of people trying to say some sort of prayer. Their Greek is a bit off so Gabrielle helps, but her words bring trouble; Three Titans are released from their tomb of rock and bow down to this goddess that released them- Gabrielle. Initially Gabrielle gets them to help the villagers, but soon the giants rebel when they realize she is no god, and they begin to kill people. Sheltering in a temple, Xena and Gabrielle have words ond Gbarielle goes off to try and save the situation, but gets captured by the Titans and they want her to say another chant that will release lots more of them. Xena arrives to save the day and the pair make up..
This story has a few good moments, but it is not a favourite among fans due to Gabrielle's extreme silliness and Xena's very superior and condescending attitude in this episode. They aren't acting as we might expect- although in a series like this, anything goes really. The Titan effects are quite good, and there is another unlikely romance for Gab with a characterless young boy. A little humour with Gabrielle and Argo, and the Titans does help a bit, but this is a lesser episode. 6/10.
Guest stars: Kevin Sorbo(Hercules), Michael Hurst(Iolaus)
Kevin Sorbo and Michael Hurst as Hercules and Iolaus appear in this story that is one of the best series one stories. In Greek mythology, Prometheus stole fire and other gifts from the gods and gave them to man. In this story Hera captures and binds Prometheus and man gradually loses Prometheus' gifts beginning with the ability to heal ourselves. Therefore a small cut could be fatal. Xena goes through a bit of an Indiana Jones adventure to get the information and weapon she needs to free Prometheus, but then Hercules and Iolaus turn up. Initially Xena and Hercules fight over who will strike the blow- much to Gabrielle's amazement, but she then learns that whoever strikes will be killed. Xena and Hercules don't want the other to be killed. After Iolaus is injured, Xena and Hercules make the final ascent to Prometheus and an outrageous fight with a bunch of green egg men(!) and a flight on a very large bird end with Prometheus freed and Xena and Hercules surviving- now there's a surprise!
This episode has a very good story, with many memorable scenes including Xena's trip inside a tomb to get the special sword, Gabrielle's first meeting with Iolaus, those egg men and Xena's trip on the big bird. I didn't really think the double pair up of Xena and Herc and Gab and Iolaus was necessary. It was just a bit too neat and Iolaus is too old for Gabrielle anyway. Also making an appearance in this episode is the cheapo salesman Falafel who has popped up in quite a few Hercules episodes(I think I spotted him in Cradle of Hope too) 8/10.
Guest stars: Kieran Hutchinson(Talus), Ray Henwood(Sisyphus), Kate Hodge(Celesta), Erik Thompson(Hades)
Conniving King Sisyphus wants to cheat death, and so when
Death herself- Hades sister Celesta comes for him, he tricks her
and takes her captive. This means that no one can die and
Sisyphus only needs to keep her captive for a while until her
candle goes out and Death will disappear altogether. To avoid
this, Hades himself calls on Xena to helpfree his sister and
restore order to the mortal world. Along the way Xena mixes it up
with Toxeus and Gabrielle falls for another young man,Talus-
although this one is quite nice for a change. Eventually, Xena
makes it to Sisyphus' castle and gets stuck in a few booby traps
before convincing him that he must free Celesta, although Toxeus
and his cronies have something to say about this!
Charles Siebert is one of the most frequently used directors. He took over the acting role of Sisyphus for Ten Little Warlords.) Sisyphus is a good character, and although the story seems pretty way out, it has its origins in genuine Greek myths where Sisyphus tricked and chained Hades himself, and later tried to escape death. (The wierdest stories are usually the ones with elements of the Greeks myths in them.) This episode sees another God appear in X:WP; Hades played by Erik Thomson and was probably filmed after Hooves and Harlots as Gabrielle is wearing her rather fetching Amazon outfit here. Look out for lots of large rats jumping over Lucy Lawless- I bet that was fun! The story is quite a dark one really. Death is seen as a necessary part of life and its absence is shown to have serious consequences. We see those who deserve to die, like Toxeus; sick people like the frail old lady who welcome death, and the unfairness of it also as Gabrielle's young man has a mystery illness-that looks like a heart problem- and is another of Celesta's subjects. One thing though, you would think the Gods might intervene themselves in a situation as serious as the one Sisyphus causes. Interstingly it was Ares that freed the captive Hades in the myth, and here we have Ares' favourite girl Xena doing the job. 7/10.
Guest stars: Alison Bruce(Melosa), David Aston(Tyldus), Colin Moy(Phantes), Danielle Cormack(Ephiny), Mark Ferguson(Krykus)
Probably the most important episode for the character
Gabrielle in the series so far, as she finally becomes something
more than a tag-along. The episode also introduces the Amazons-
recurring characters that have become favourites with many of us.
Xena and Gabrielle enter Amazon territory and are apprehended by
a group of the legendary warrior women. On the way back to their
camp they are attacked by a mystery archer. One of the Amazons,
Terreis is mortally wounded, but Gabrielle tries valiantly to
save her. In recognition of Gabrielle's bravery she asks her to
accept her right of caste. On arriving at the Amazon village and
meeting Queen Melosa, Gabrielle soon learns that she has
inherited all Terreis' things, including her rank as Amazon
Princess. Meanwhile, Xena tries to avert a war between the
Amazons and Centaurs.
Gabrielle's development as a character is one of the themes running through the series, and although her rank as Amazon Princess comes about almost by accident, it is a storyline that has become an important part of the show. She chooses a weapon- her fighting staff, no swords or bows and arrows for Gab. However when it comes to the fighting, Xena is still the champion, and fairly easily bests the queen. Ephiny(Danielle Cormack) is introduced, and she will reappear several times in the future, another popular character. She is at first quite hostile to Xena, and the pair have a few tussles, but she proves to be a valuble ally to Xena and Gabrielle.
A few points though. How did that one treacherous man manage to fire all those arrows? If Xena as Gabrielle's champion beats Queen Melosa in a fight, doesn't that make Gabrielle queen? How come Xena takes over the role? If Xena hates Centaurs so much, how come she left her child with them?(See Series 2's opener Orphan of War.) Lots of women in tight and skimpy leather, Gabrielle finally ditching the peasant girl blouse and long skirt, Eponin's flashy staff tricks, slightly dodgy centaur SFX, but an enjoyable episode. 8/10.
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