High on Five
Might as well admit it -- I’m hooked on the adventures of Xena and Gabrielle. After viewing the Deluxe Collector’s Edition Ten-Disc DVD Set of Xena: Warrior Princess -- Season Five, I’m still an avid fan. Although Bruce Campbell’s entertaining “Autolycus” is missing in action from these 22 episodes, there’s excitement galore -- which almost makes up for his absence. Plus, there are plenty of bonus materials to enhance the fun.
Xena (Lucy Lawless) and Gabrielle (Renee O’Connor), courageous as ever, must defeat demons, gods, Roman soldiers and other assorted villains as they ferociously defend the innocent while trying to bring peace to ancient Greece. Adding to the suspense, they must each face their own internal problems as well as the evil forces working to break up their friendship. Xena continues her quest to make amends for her earlier violent outlaw activities, and Gabrielle has to accept Xena’s unusual pregnancy. Xena’s impending motherhood, Joxer’s (Tim Raimi) unrequited love for Gabrielle, Ares’ (Kevin Smith) “thing for Xena,” the wrath of the gods and the fate of a very special child emerge as important themes in many of the Season Five episodes.
Fortunately, it’s not all serious business here. Two episodes in particular are played for comedy. Lyre, Lyre, Hearts on Fire -- my favorite -- spoofs musical comedies, and Married with Fishsticks pokes fun at sitcoms (with some welcome Esther Williams-like water ballet splashed on screen). Another episode, Animal Attraction, is an honest-to-goodness Western reminiscent of High Noon.
Kudos to Lucy Lawless for getting through all this while being pregnant in real-life too. Yes, her wardrobe conceals more of her considerable physical assets than usual, but she lets it all hang out in one brief daring shot while the credits roll. During a bonus interview, Lawless admits to having difficulty with the dance number to “War, What’s It Good For?” And I’m sure her stunt doubles were busier than ever during Season Five, but everything seemed to work out fine.
Ted Raimi, in another interview, also confesses to worrying about the dancing of the two characters he plays in Lyre, Lyre, Hearts on Fire. No problem, Ted. You’ve definitely got the right moves. And O’Connor’s Gabrielle dances up a storm in the same episode.
Speaking of Gabrielle, one of the bonus features does her an injustice. It’s a wardrobe test in which O’Connor stands, turns and pretends to kick for about five minutes -- certainly decorative, but too bland for a Xena DVD presentation.
Among the other bonus materials included are: additional interviews with actors, producers, writers, directors and costume designers; audio commentaries with Lawless, O’Connor, Rob Tapert (executive producer) and Chris Manheim (co-producer); alternate director’s cuts and deleted scenes; a special featurette about bringing monsters to life and one showing the filming of the 100th episode; production sketches; a photo gallery; and a CD-Rom with biographies and Xena trivia.
All things considered, this Season Five Collector’s Edition is a fine follow-up to the Season Four DVD -- and a must-have for Xena fans.
(Released by Davis-Anderson Merchandising Corp and Anchor Bay Entertainment; not rated by MPAA. For more information, go to the official sites: www.davisanderson.com and www.xenacatalog.com.)