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Season 2, episode 9
Series 209
1st release: 12/09/96
2nd release: 08/11/97
3rd release: 12/15/97
1st strip release: 09/17/98
2nd strip release: 12/24/98
Production number: V0209
Script number: 210
Approximate dates: July 1996
Last update: 12-30-00

COMMENTARY 1 by Beth Gaynor
COMMENTARY 2 by Carmen Carter

Joe Berryman (Senticles)
Peter Vere-Jones (King Silvas)

Daniel James (Lynal)
Sheri Booth (Melana)
Gennieve Lucre (Orphan #1)
Jamie Karie-Gatalli (Orphan #2)
Nicko Vella (Orphan #3)
Junior Chille (Orphan #4)
Tony Bishop (Donkey Owner)
Lucas Young (Bearded Guard)
Mike Howell (Guard #1)
Johnny Glass (Man)
Karen Morgan (Wife)
Heme Rudolph (First Guard)

Written by Chris Manheim
Edited by Robert Field
Directed by John T. Kretchmer

(Xena flips to get chakram on tree)
Xena: Where's your holiday sprirt?
Silvus: You know what I say to that!
Guard: Attack!!
(Kids and Senticles fighting with toys and stuff)
Senticles with toy on bow: Make my day.
Kid: Fire!
Xena: Great stocking stuffers!
(Holiday style Xena music playing in background)

Xena and Gabrielle try to bring the warmth and spirit of the holiday season to a cold-hearted king (Peter Vere Jones) who has outlawed the annual winter-solstice celebration.


1st RELEASE: 12/09/96
An AA average of 5.4
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(1) HERCULES 13th with 5.5 ("A Star to Guide Them" 46/309)
(2) XENA 14th with 5.4
(3) STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE 9 16th with 5.1 (""Rules of Engagement" 90/418R)
(4) BAYWATCH 24th with 4.1

2nd RELEASE: 08/11/97
An AA average of 5.2
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(1) XENA 7th with 5.2
(2) HERCULES 10th with 4.6 ("A Star to Guide Them" 46/309)
(3) STAR TREK DS9 14th with 3.9

3rd RELEASE: 12/15/97
An AA average of 4.7
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(1) X-FILES 6.3
(2) WALKER 4.8
(3) XENA 4.7
(4) STAR TREK DS9 4.5 ("Empok Nor" 522R)
(5) HERCULES 4.3 ("A Star to Guide Them" 46/309)


This synopsis is by Bluesong.

It's a Dicken's of a story for Xena in this show! Raimi & Co. give us another frolicking romp and a deranged version of a holiday classic as Xena takes on a scrooge of a king.

The show opens with Xena and Gabrielle shopping for Solstice presents for one another. They can't spend more than 5 dinars apiece, however. Xena, in her practical manner, says, why don't I just give you the 5 dinars and let you buy what you want? To which Gabrielle responds indignantly: then it wouldn't be a gift! Meanwhile, Xena notices a boy of about 12 watching her; he steals her chakram and makes a run for it. Xena follows him to the orphanage. She sees her chakram atop a pine tree, where it's decorated to look like the king's crest. Suddenly soldiers burst in with an order to pay 1000 dinars in taxes or be evicted by midnight; Xena takes on the soldiers and shows the children just what the shiny thing atop the tree can do.

Meanwhile, the scribe who arrived with the soldiers is taken aside by Gabrielle. His name is Senticles; once a toy-maker, but since toys and the winter solstice are banned, he works for the king. Gabrielle tells the children a story about a miserly king who's life was divided up by the entwined strings of the 3 Fates, but it didn't have a happy ending. It gives Gabrielle an idea, however, and she asks Xena to try it her way. And if it doesn't work, "then we clobber them."

Xena reluctantly agrees. Like Marley, she visits the king in his chamber to tell him he's in for a restless night. Gabrielle, meanwhile, goes shopping for the items they need to pull off this ghost trick, and instead rescues a donkey from an unfortunate fate.

Xena leaps from the window of the king's chamber into the room below, where she finds a cob-web covered solstice tree, with unwrapped presents beneath it. She sees a picture of the king and his wife, Analia. Xena then convinces Senticles (S.C.) to help her get in and out of the castle; she also finds out that he's been reducing the king's sentences and edicts so that people do not spend their lives working to pay off their taxes. Gabrielle again convinces Xena that the plan to change the king's mind will work. "If the plan fails, we punch faces," Gabrielle acknowledges.

Xena dresses as Clotho, the 1st Fate, and province of the past. She takes the king to the cob-webbed room. Gabrielle, hanging from a rope, pretends to be the spirit of the king's wife. Xena and Gabrielle thought Analia had died on a solstice eve, but she really simply walked out on the king and disappeared. Xena gives the king an herb; he sleeps and she takes him back to his chamber.

Gabrielle goes to find S.C. and sees all of the toys he has left over from when he was a toy maker. She finds a carved sheep that is like the one she played with as a child. She convinces S.C. to take the toys to the orphanage, so the children will have something to play with. S.C. disguises himself in red and a white beard and hair; they put the toys in a great big sack.

Xena appears to the king as the 2nd Fate, the present. She has him dress in common clothing and they go to the orphanage. The children tell him what a miser the king is; then they sing for him. The king becomes disgusted and tries to leave, but the soldiers are outside, ready to evict the children at midnight. Xena gets the king back inside; he's so indignant that his guards tried to attack him that he faints from shock. Xena and the orphanage keeper take the king to a stark chamber; Xena sees a necklace with the royal crest fall from the bosom of the orphanage keeper, and then tells her to stay with the king.

The soldiers enter the orphanage just as Gabrielle and S.C. fall down the chimney. Xena attacks; there is a wonderful fight with toys (including a Hercules puppet). Gabrielle uses a "hula hoop" to entice some soldiers toward her; S.C. helps conk them on the head. The king, meanwhile, regains consciousness and sees a hooded woman by his bed; he thinks she's the Fate of the future. He hears the screams from below and says they are tormented souls. Finally he goes downstairs. The soldiers are trying to regroup after the children have blasted them with food. The king picks up a stuffed animal or a pillow; Xena, Gabrielle and S.C. do the same, and a pillow fight ensues. The soldiers flee; the king says the children will not be evicted; his wife reveals herself and the king begs her forgiveness.

Xena and Gabrielle head off again, with Argo and the donkey. They meet a man and woman traveling, with a baby. Gabrielle gives them the donkey. The woman says "May God smile on you always for your kindness." Xena then gives Gabrielle a Solstice present; it is the carved sheep like the one Gabrielle had as a child. "I don't have a gift for you," Gabrielle says as she thanks Xena. "Gabrielle, you are a gift to me," Xena replies. The camera cuts to the sky, where a star shines in spite of the daylight.


This commentary is by Beth Gaynor.

I had dreaded this episode. I wasn't looking forward to a bunch of smarmy, pseudo-politically correct Christmas cutesyness, or holiday-style buffoonery. But as it turned out, I really enjoyed the show. Sure, it descended into the depths of sugary sweetness occasionally (I'm going to be wiping syrup off my TV for weeks after that kids' choir song), but for the most part, it stuck to parodying A Christmas Carol and had fun with Christmas props.

Xena's theme expression for the episode: bemusement. The poor warrior spends half the show looking like she can't believe she's doing the things she's doing. See what all this greater good stuff leads to eventually?

Some excellent parallels with Dickens' Christmas Carol. Many lines that were taken almost verbatim from the stage show. Some of the ones I noticed immediately:

"You know what I say to that?" (I was WAITING for the bah, humbug!)

"You're nothing but a dream, probably brought on by indigestion."

"I am the fate of the past." "Long past?" "Your past."

"Am I to understand that you are..."

"Take me home."

"What is this place? Tell me.. why am I here?"

"Does it have to be?"

So King Silvus is Scrooge and Senticles is Bob Cratchitt. Xena is both Marley and the first two ghosts. Would this make Gabrielle Tiny Tim?

The kid, Lynal, tries to steal something from a well-armed, heavily- leathered warrior woman, even if he doesn't realize at the time that it's the Warrior Princess. That guy's either got the greatest cajones known to Greece or is too stupid to survive past his 16th birthday. Maybe both.

Speaking of which, was Lynal not in on the scam when the king was brought to the orphanage? He sounded surprised when Xena revealed herself. I'm starting to seriously lean in the "intelligence-challenged" direction for Lynal.

Xena's turning absolutely mushy. She's a sucker for cute pleading from Gabrielle, a softie for smudge-faced orphan kids, and isn't above putting a lot of extra effort into a problem in order to keep both of the above happy. And her present for Gabrielle and "you are a gift to me" line are just so darned sweet it's scary. I guess we can forgive the usual warrior persona being put on hold for an episode in the name of holiday holiday-warm-and-fuzzy-ness. But Solstice only comes once a year!

Gabrielle's soft spot, on the other hand, seems to be for animals, which is surprising given her usual attitude toward Argo. But apparently she can relate more to something that's closer to her height. Best Supporting Actor of the month award goes to Tobias, the donkey with warhorse aspirations.

Xena does a remarkable bunch of zigging and zagging to trail Lynal through the marketplace, and then Gabrielle ends up in front of her! Way to go, sidekick! You missed your true calling as a tracker [Editor's note: Which is foreshadowing for Gabrielle's incredible appearance at the end of THE DEBT I, where the wily wascally sidekick beats Xena to the land of Chin!]

Watch how everything those kids in the orphanage do is in unison. Instead of a studio audience's "APPLAUSE" sign, they must have had signs off-camera for "OOH AND AAH," "SCREAM," "GIGGLE," and "BEG FOR A STORY AND LOOK CUTE."

Gabrielle cannot comprehend Senticles running away from the castle. She can understand hiding, but cannot even imagine completely leaving them behind. That speaks something for the bravery of the bard and for the courage she's so used to seeing from Xena.

We break into Gabrielle's story about solstice with the explanation that solstice has been celebrated "from that day on." What event was this that was supposed to precipitate the celebration of the shortest day of the year?


This commentary is by Carmen Carter.

I'm a first-class curmudgeon when it comes to cheery holiday shows filled with rosy-cheeked orphan children...so why did I like this episode so much? Must be because it was written by one of my favorite writers, Chris Manheim, who has a clever way of turning old standards inside out and giving them that nifty Xena spin. This was a warm, funny, whimsical script that embodied the spirit of the season it was portraying.

Among the gifts SOLSTICE CAROL bestowed on this viewer were Gabrielle as Bard (we've missed you!) and our favorite guest star of second season, Tobias (we want you back!). Gabrielle's interaction with the donkey ranks as a season highlight -- he was a cross between Argo and Lassie -- and Tobias had considerably more screen presence than some of the human actors who have appeared on the show. Plus, there were the stocking stuffers of several fond scenes between Xena and Gabrielle, reaffirming their friendship in a quiet, understated manner that has always moved me. Although the comedy was broad at times, it never veered into Three Stooges slapstick humor [Editor's note: A strange thing that pops up periodically on XWP is revisits to the Three Stooges-verse; these visit became more prevalent in the third season], and the general casting was sufficiently solid to keep any of the sentimental scenes from becoming unbearably cloying.

And what Xena show is complete without a visual metaphor! The dissolve from the portrait of the King's wife to a close-up of Gabrielle was a deliberate forshadowing of her coming impersonation. However, it also drew a subtle parallel between the queen and Gabrielle as a humanizing influence in Xena's life.

I also enjoyed the ecletic, anachronistic and surreal mixture of pagan, Christian and commerical holiday traditions. XWP has never been about ancient Greece, anymore than STAR TREK was about the future. Both shows have been colorful morality plays about contemporary times and present-day people; so SOLSTICE CAROL is about the importance of this holiday season for us as viewers.

For that same reason, I had no objections to the oblique reference to Mary and Joseph at the episode's conclusion. On the contrary, I rather liked the allusion to the best that Christianity has to offer: compassion, charity, and generosity to others. Those are virtues that I applaud at all times, in any faith, in any philosophy. Unlike GIANT KILLER -- in which the Biblical basis for the story was overt, heavy-handed and pedantic -- both SOLSTICE CAROL and ALTARED STATES draw on Christianity in the same deft way other episodes have drawn on Greek/Roman mythology: as a basis for exploration of human issues that apply to all people.



12-26-00. Robert Tapert, in an interview with WHOOSH to be released January 1, 2001 (#52), stated the original airing order of the episodes after DESTINY (36/212) were to be EXECUTION (41/217), BLIND FAITH (42/218), and then A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215). Because of Lucy Lawless' accident on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the producers retooled or recast some shows in the can and wrote a couple more shows to cover for Ms. Lawless' incapacity. The resultant airing order was INTIMATE STRANGER (31/207) [retooled to keep Xena in Callisto's body], TEN LITTLE WARLORDS (32/208) [retooled and re-cast Xena with Hudson Leick], SOLSTICE CAROL (33/209) [not changed], THE XENA SCROLLS (34/210) [not changed], HERE SHE COMES...MIS AMPHIPOLIS (35/211) [not changed], DESTINY (36/212) [retooled to have Xena remain dead], THE QUEST (37/213) [new show], A NECESSARY EVIL (38/214) [new show], A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215) [not changed], FOR HIM THE BELL TOLLS (40/216) [new show], EXECUTION (41/217) [no change], and BLIND FAITH (42/218) [no change].

01-31-99. Chris Manheim was interviewed by WHOOSH in the February 1999 issue. Here's what she said about HERE SHE COMES...

[64] Then you got selected to do A SOLSTICE CAROL (33/209).

[65] You notice most of the softies get thrown to me. "We can't have a lot of fighting and it's gotta be a six day show." Yes, that was our Christmas episode. That was another fun one. It has everything but the kitchen sink in it. Christmas, the very first Santa Claus. The donkey story was from R.J.'s childhood, "Here, throw this one in." Once I got the key to the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future being the Fates, the mythological hook into it, that really opened it up.

[66] I had heard that John Kretchmer, the director, was taking credit for a lot of the funnier bits in the script.

[67] [laughs] It was a pretty good collaboration. I really like John and he did an excellent job. He was constantly on the phone, which I really appreciated, asking "What if we did this, could we do that?" He was always in touch with me.

[68] I also heard from other people that John Kretchmer does not like violence and he's very sensitive to that.

[69] This would be news to me, although he's a very sweet man. I believe he has children, but I hadn't heard that quite honestly. But it wouldn't surprise me.

[70] A SOLSTICE CAROL (33/209) for Christmas and GIRLS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN (28/204) for Halloween are really the only two holiday-themed shows we've seen.

[71] We wanted to get A FAMILY AFFAIR (71/403), your generic monster tale, into the Halloween spot this last year but that didn't quite work out. I always wanted A COMEDY OF EROS (46/222) to fall on Valentine's Day.

12-22-98. From John Kretchmer, director, at the Burbank II Con (01/98) talked about SOLSTICE CAROL. He said that Solstice Carol took 8 days with the first unit and 3 with the second unit. The most takes was in the scene with Renee on the rope, and Lucy and the king in the foreground. He only uses close-ups for emphasis, and tends to shoot an episode widely. He claims responsibility for several of the stupid jokes/gags. In Prodigal he did the rake between the man's legs. In Solstice Carol he did the toy fights including the horned Unicorn attack.

12-22-98. From the WHOOSH interview with XWP Script Co-ordinator Maggie Hickerson (02/98): "That was one thing in the episode where she went to England and she produced the toy from the SOLSTICE CAROL episode. I remember asking how can she produce this toy, we have to show her with a bag or something to carry it in. So they went back to the first episode where they were getting on the boat to go to England and we wrote in she had to have a bag with her but that scene had already been shot. So she did suddenly come up with this toy."

Remember, even STAR TREK had it's "pro-Christianity" episode. Be nice.


Highlights by Beth Gaynor.

Gabrielle apparently carries a thesaurus with her to provide plenty of euphemisms for violence:

"If we can change the king's mind without changing his anatomy..."

"The plan fails, we punch faces."

"I guess we have to slash and crash."

Listen to Xena's attempt at accents for Clotho and Lachesis (meta-acting!). I particularly like Clotho's giggle and Lachesis' throaty chuckle. Great voice varieties, but listen to her lose them whenever the anticipation of potential violence comes up.

Gab on a rope! Gab abs in a hoop! Gab has the taste to pitch the tune to "Jingle Bells." (Too bad some fool picked it up again later.) Great episode for the sidekick.

Even Hercules' action figure kicks b*tt! The benefits to being a demi-god just never stop. I also love Xena's affectionate "thanks" to the puppet.

The whole final battle is a great popcorn-muncher. Those guards' hearts just must not have been into clearing out an orphanage. Watch the laughing guard during the pillow fight, and look for a couple of great smiles from Renee. (Yeah, I'm attributing them to Renee more than Gabrielle. Everyone obviously had a lot of fun shooting that battle, and I love watching the actors enjoying the heck out of themselves occasionally.)


Things by Beth Gaynor.

The rope that Gabrielle hangs from suddenly becomes the length of a football field. Gabrielle gets lowered to the ground, Tobias shows up without the rope still visibly connected to him, and he and Gabrielle start walking off without getting untied. I half expected them both to be yanked backwards like they were on bungee cords.

In the portrait of Analia and the king, you can just barely see the pendant that Xena later spots on Melana.


Coming soon


Prepared by SheWho.

There's a reference to the color of Gab's eyes, an interesting wording change, and a couple of other little tidbits.

A SOLSTICE CAROL. By Chris Manheim. Directed by John Kretchmer. Shooting Script July 15, 1996

Since there's not much to report in this one, I'll take anything: In the script, when Xena sees Gabrielle about to snag the escaping Lynal, she motions her to wait. In the screen version, Xena grabs Gabrielle's shoulder and they share a look, then proceed together to follow the kid.

Xena relents on Gab's non-violence strategy because she is "unable to resist Gabrielle's beseeching face."

In the script, Gabrielle has a full basket of purchased goods when she approaches the owner of the disobedient donkey. She offers him 25 dinars, removing an item from her basket. With each change in bid, she removes more things from her basket. When the owner demands 35 dinars, she looks down at the last item . . . .

Does this answer the question of Gabrielle's eye color? Having discovered the secret Solstice room, Xena gazes up at the portrait of the queen, "who wears a distinctive jeweled pendant, though her veil shows little else except her blue eyes and blonde hair. As Xena gazes up at it thoughtfully, hold on the Queen's half-concealed face, as we . . .

"Close on Gabrielle who sweeps her blonde hair from her blue eyes, looking earnest."

Some omitted dialogue: When Xena approaches Senticles again after leaving the castle, he responds to her comment about changing the sentence by asking, "What're you doing here? I thought we had a deal."

Xena: "We do. I'm just proposing we extend it, that's all."

Senticles (nervous laugh): "Ho, ho, ho . . . You been hitting the holiday punch?! Look, maybe you haven't noticed, but when it comes to being heroic, I'm not."

Xena: "No?" (re: parchments) "Then what's all this?"

Senticles then says that it's nothing . . . .

Xena's little monologue about time as the hourglass turns in Silvus's bedroom is not in the script. Neither are the subsequent lines spoken while she and Sylvus are walking toward the Solstice room, "Where are we going?" "To a place you have forgotten, though it haunts your every thought."

On screen, Gabrielle's comment when she figures out that Tobias knows how to find Senticles ("Let's find him. Smart donkey.") is scripted less interestingly as "Well, c'mon then. Let's go!"

An interesting wording change: When Gabrielle finds Senticles and confronts him about leaving them at the castle, he admits that he was afraid of being imprisoned. In the script, he says, "And it's like I told your partner, I can't do that." In the screened version, he says "your friend".

An omitted line: In the script, when Gabrielle tells Xena she guesses her plan didn't work but thanks her for trying, she adds, "It meant a lot."

The great hoola-hoop scene in which Gabrielle mesmerizes the guards with her gyrations ~ [sorry, mind wandered for a moment] ~ isn't in this version of the script. Praise the goddess of script changes . . . .

Xena's line, "Gabrielle, get me a sword" line, in response to which Gab hands her a wobbly toy, isn't in the script. Actually, quite a lot of the toy fight isn't scripted.

In the script, the woman at the end is named Mary, and the baby's name is Jesus. In the screened version, their names aren't given. [Guess they figured out we could take a hint without being hit over the head.]

Just because it's so wonderful, here's how the final "gift" scene is described:

Xena is reminded by Gabrielle's comment that it is Solstice. "Reaching into Argo's saddlebag, she withdraws a small, wrapped present, and hands it to Gabrielle."

Xena: "Happy Solstice."

"Taken totally by surprise, Gabrielle unwraps it, tears welling as she sees it's a little wooden lamb (like the one she'd had as a child). Overwhelmed, she looks at Xena."

Gabrielle: "But I don't have a gift for you."

Xena (eyes her warmly) [I'll bet]: "Gabrielle, you *are* a gift to me."

"And, as distant bells ring in the Solstice, the two friends embrace . . . ."

[Of course, on screen we just get a little shoulder squeeze, and then they start walking again, perhaps scanning for a convenient bush . . . .]


Click here to read a transcript of A SOLSTICE CAROL.


Senticles was not harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, several chimneys are in dire need of repair.


The following WHOOSH! articles discuss this episode:

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The following links discuss this episode:

  • Mania.com review 12/19/97.

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