Can any reader actually recall how many times Xena travelled, even for the smallest amount of time, into supernatural realms? Be they landscapes made up for the occasion by someone like Ares, at a moment when he was having one of his numerous hissy-fits; to the several times Xena explored the boundaries of various Lands of the Dead; to those times when she was wounded or ill and flickered from the real, with Gabrielle, to the supernatural and back again. And yes, this does include the last two episodes of series 6 (spits contemptuously), as well as those somewhat confusing episodes centred around ‘The Ides of March’, ‘Fallen Angel’, and ‘Chakram’; plus the ‘India’ episode-arc, resulting in Gabrielle for a time losing her fighting mojo.
Let’s see if I can list them, more or less in order. Series 1, ‘Dreamworker’—Gabrielle is taken to a fantasy land where she has to fight for her life, till Xena arrives to save her—Whew, close call! Series 2, ‘Remember Nothing’. “Ah”, you’ll say. “That was a time-travel story, backwards.” Wrong, it was Alternative History, so it fits my criteria (who’s writing this essay? You, or me? Right, just don’t forget it!) Then comes ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’. Now that’s a story after my own heart. Rock music, vampires, and Gabrielle rocking down (Oh Gods, how many times have I rewound that part of the DVD!). Completed, of course, by Gabrielle’s luscious neck-bite on the tall dark one! (Ooooh! Sorry, just having a, er, moment). Where were we? Oh, yes. Series 3, ‘Been There, Done That’. I know ‘what goes around comes around’—but, so many times? I really began to worry that my DVD player had developed a fault, like a record player jumping the track.
Then comes ‘The Deliverer’ and ‘Gabrielle’s Hope’. Seriously disturbed scenario’s, in my view. This is where it all began to go to Hades and Damnation. But let’s not get bogged down in existentialist criticism; instead we soldier on. ‘The Quill is Mightier’, Ha! Ha!, there’s an episode I enjoy. Has anyone else had trouble pausing the player at just the right moment, with the three Gabrielle’s? I mean, it’s so difficult to actually see anything! And then comes ‘The Bitter Suite’; perhaps the culminating artistic achievement of the whole 6 series?
We jump forward to series 4, and ‘Adventures in the Sin Trade I & II’. I know a lot of viewers have some reservations about these episodes, but I thoroughly enjoyed them. The barren landscape; the atmosphere of being adrift in a moral world that had lost it way; the Amazon scenario’s; the whole supernatural element which, for once, seemed entirely appropriate to the story: all these contributed, I thought, to a classy drama. And, to add the finishing touch, Xena was more than half out of her mind for the duration; what more could an avid ‘Xena’ fan want?
‘Paradise Found’, for some reason I find myself continually returning to this episode. The colours are brilliant; the settings are perfectly achieved; the conversational and personal inter-changes (I nearly said intercourse, but who’d take that in its early meaning?) between Xena and Gabrielle are absolutely spot on. And Gabrielle is stunningly gorgeous throughout. Scenes to drool over—Gabrielle in the steaming bath, her head rising above the water’s surface; Xena in the bath, surrounded by little floating candles and flowers; Gabrielle doing her morning calisthenics, while the camera glides sensuously round her; Gabrielle being given a back massage by the Warrior Princess; Gabrielle lying on the ying yang bed, seen from above, with Xena on the floor doing pull-ups; Gabrielle turning into a blue statue (why do I find that peculiarly erotic? Should I be mentioning this in public?); Xena going doolally, and turning into the woman you most do not want to go out on an evening date with; Gabrielle naked, back in the cave once more, searching for her clothes while Xena protects her decency. Ah, happy days. Now, if only all the episodes had been like that!
However, to return to the business in hand. Series 4, ‘Devi’, ‘Between the Lines’, ‘The Way’; here we go again, Gabrielle becomes embroiled on a religious path which threatens to absorb her every particle of Being. Cue exotic Gods, supernatural battles, and the triumph of our fighting ladies over several Religious Entities. There were many voices raised at the time to the effect that this was ‘a step too far’; but, whatever, life goes on—it’s only a TV drama; butch up, or take up cross-stitching.
Then, at the borders of series 4 to 5, comes the ‘Endgame’—‘Chakram’ episodes. Heaven, St Michael (who always appears to be having a bad day, but then who wouldn’t dealing with Xena?). Hades, or is it Hell, and Callisto changing from everyone’s favourite psycho-babe to a wimpy nonentity in a white sheet and the most appalling sugary smile ever to be captured on camera. Horrors! Let’s swiftly move on, averting our eyes as we go.
Series 5, ‘Them Bones, Them Bones’, The Land of the Dead; Alti, Xena drinking blood and going to the realm of Alti, to have the crap kicked out of her. Gabrielle drinking blood and going to the realm of Alti, to have the crap kicked out of her. Xena returning to face-off Alti, or should that be ‘everything off’ down to the bone for them both? Now that’s a strange little episode.
The author at this juncture takes a look at his hurdle, walks back some yards for a good long run-up; speeds down the track and jumps, legs high in air, over—‘Married With Fishsticks’—landing cleanly on the other side by a large margin; Whoopee, a new world record!
Series 6, ‘The Haunting of Amphipolis’. An old abandoned Inn; spooky corridors; hanging cobwebs and piles of dirt; threatening Demons; and an underground bathing pool full of green gunge and scrabbling ‘things’! Oo-er! Gabrielle going for the underwater breath-holding record; then, when Xena wasn’t looking, turning into the most gorgeous demon. Whaor! Didn’t Gabrielle look great as a demon? She had such a perfect snarl.
And, of course, the last two episodes. Hi-Ho, isn’t Life just a bummer, when you’re least expecting it? Xena comes over all ‘I have the sins of the World on my shoulders, an’ I’m guilty as Hell!’. She’s conned by a nasty self-seeking baggage named Akemi; brow-beaten by a shaggy Japa seer who blames her for an accident that could have happened to anyone (OK, so a whole town burned down with the loss of 40,000 lives; happens every day, get over it). Xena lets herself be topped (in every sense of the word) by the least convincing baddie in the history of the whole 6 series; then leaves Gabrielle to get on with the business herself, only offering moral asides at inappropriate moments which are no earthly use to the Amazon warrior; and finally works on Gabrielle’s conscience to stop her bringing the Warrior Princess back to life, when there was no logical reason why she shouldn’t have. And so Gabrielle sails off alone into the sunset, towards Egypt. But don’t cry; after all, what does Egypt have that’s useful? Yep, that’s right—the most powerful set of Gods in the Ancient pantheon. Gods who are wholly focussed on the Land of the Dead; with potent spells and incantations for the immortality and continuation of the soul and body. Obvious surmise?—Xena’s coming back, or Gabrielle’ll know the reason why.
I’ve skipped one or two episodes of interest, no doubt; but my ink’s running out, my goose-feather quill is blunt, and my scroll’s nearly full. Oh, here’s a scroll-shop. What’s that, my good man? You have no fresh scrolls left? A young blonde Amazon woman with green eyes, short skirt, wonderfully defined six-pack, and a snarky attitude, just bought your entire stock. Damn, these Amazons are so pushy. She’s heading over to the Amazon nation, eh? The author at this point turns about-face and points in the opposite direction to the Amazons. What’s down that road? Ah, Scythia! Well, beggars can’t be choosers. What’s that, shop-owner? Why don’t I visit the Amazon nation? Have you ever lived with an Amazon? Well, I have. Scythia, here I come.
Summary:— This is an Uberfic set in Great Britain in 1943. Zena Mathews and Gabrielle Parker, are both pilots and members of SOE—Special Operations Executive. It is Sunday, and they struggle for something with which to occupy themselves.