Whoosh! Issue 87 - March 2004

REVIEW OF XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS SEASON THREE DVDS
By Mil Toro
Content copyright © 2004 held by author
WHOOSH! edition copyright © 2004 held by Whoosh!
2053 words

Notice:
Whoosh! editor-in-chief and publisher Kym Taborn was a consultant and contributor to the Season Three Xena: Warrior Princess DVDs


Introduction (01-04)
The Ugly (05-06)
The Bad (07)
The Nitpicky (08-10)
The Good (11-15)
In Retrospect (16)
Conclusion (17-18)
Articles
Biography



REVIEW OF XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS SEASON THREE DVDS



Buuuuuy me, you muuuust buuuuy me


Xena: Warrior Princess
Seaason Three DVD Set


Introduction

[01] Season 3 is a watershed season in the course of the series, Xena: Warrior Princess. It was a season in which the producers of the show decided to take a marked turn in the fundamental nature of the show. No longer were Xena and Gabrielle fighting side by side for the Greater Good, albeit with a few bumps on the road (THE PATH NOT TAKEN, season one; THE PRICE, season two). The producers decided to have Xena and Gabrielle fighting each other, placing them in circumstances that pitted them directly against one another in a battle for what constitutes the Greater Good. For many fans, this plot device worked, for many others it was such a departure from the first two seasons, it drove them away from the show.

[02] Personally, I loved Season 3. The dramatic episodes were extreme in their tragedy, but for me, that made for good television. However, I would have been happier if The Rift (as the arc of the 6 episodes were commonly known) had been resolved better than it was. I maintained at the time the episodes aired that there should have been an episode between MATERNAL INSTINCTS, where Xena finds out Hope is still alive because Gabrielle set her free but lied about it, and THE BITTER SUITE. In MATERNAL INSTINCTS, Xena blamed Gabrielle for her son Solan's death and at the end of the episode, their friendship was irreparably damaged. If I had seen Xena and Gabrielle separately for an entire episode, with Xena's rage prodded more and more by Ares' influence, I'm sure I (and perhaps the general audience) would have had a better understanding of why Xena went ballistic in the opening sequences of THE BITTER SUITE. As it was filmed, the leap in plot made little sense. However, I was willing to accept the shortcut, even though an extra episode would have explained (or justified) it better.

[03] I also would have been happier if the issues of the Rift had been directly addressed in ONE AGAINST AN ARMY, the episode that aired immediately after BITTER SUITE. It was a perfect setting to resolve their differences about Solan and Hope, while also bringing them closer together. At the very least, Xena should have asked Gabrielle (on her death bed, no less!) to forgive her for the outrageous violence she committed against her friend (the Gabdrag).

[04] My issues with the resolution of the The Rift and the Gabdrag notwithstanding, overall, I think Season 3 was one of the best in the series. If you can ignore the frivolous comedies (WARRIOR... PRIESTESS... TRAMP), some bordering on the ridiculous (THE QUILL IS MIGHTIER, KING OF *SSES...sorry, ASSASSINS), the dramatic episodes far outweigh the lighter ones.

The Ugly

[05] I'd rather get the "ugly" out of the way first. Once again, Davis-Anderson and Anchor Bay Entertainment teamed up with Best Buy to produce separate and "exclusive" DVD sets. I have no idea why they decided to do this after the confusion and uproar it caused amongst fans with the Season 2 sets. As it turned out, Best Buy's "exclusive" content was 30 minutes of extra interviews with folks who worked on the show. Personally, I couldn't be bothered trying to figure out how I could get Best Buy's "exclusive" version here in Canada. Their American website delivers only domestically, and I would have had to arrange for some one else to buy the set for me. Never mind. There was a time where I would have done anything to get something Xena, but I'm tired of the run-around. I ended up with the Amazon.ca version, which is the same one being sold everywhere minus the extra 30 minutes offered by Best Buy. It would even be somewhat understandable if the prices were more for the "extras" or the "exclusive content", but they weren't. All the prices seem to be the same, except for Creation Entertainment, who charged a lot more but offered an autographed photo from one of the stars.

[06] Added to the confusion was that Best Buy's website pre-sold numerous DVD sets without any "extras" at all. They stated that the website was a different company than the stores at your neighborhood mall. So many fans were forced to return the DVDs for the extra goodies. Why a company would not properly advertise what exactly they were selling on their website is nothing short of fraud.

The Bad

[07] Why do R.J. Stewart and Robert Tapert INSIST on calling our favorite bard, "GOBrielle"??!! Just a question. GOBBLE GOBBLE GOBBLE, GOBRIELLE. Yeesh!! It was distracting, not to mention really annoying.

The Nitpicky

[08] The Bloopers were boring, mainly because if you paid a lot of money to Creation Entertainment, these exact bloopers were available previously in their fan club kits. However, if you haven't bought the fan kits, then these will seem brand new. The highlight was the practical joke they pulled on Lucy Lawless during the filming of KING CON, where a crew person scared the living daylights out of her!

[09] The Selection Menus could use some upgrading. The layout is fine and the chakrams are a perfect choice. However, when you select a specific item, you can't see it until after you've selected it. Meaning, you're selecting blindly. A minor adjustment could fix this. Instead of making the "highlighted" chakram a light blue (against silver), change the "highlighted" chakram to black, leaving the "selected" item in red. This minor change would help immensely in navigating the menus.

[10] Would it have been possible to put the two part episodes each on their own disk? Given that the series wasn't one long continuous arc like some other shows, and that there were plenty of stand-alone episodes to fill in the gaps, it would have made more sense to put THE DEBT I and II and SACRIFICE I and II on the same disc.

The Good

[11] There are several highlights to this set of DVDs, the main one being the SACRIFICE alternate scenes and retrospective. There were a few alternate scenes that I wished they had kept in the original airing. The main one being the fireside chat between Xena and Callisto. I was glad to hear Callisto admitting that she got no satisfaction from hearing Xena scream when she found Solan dead. In the original airing of MATERNAL INSTINCTS, Hudson conveyed very well the emotions Callisto went through, but it was great to hear her tell Xena how she felt. I was also pretty amazed that Xena said she understood. Then again, that would fit with her character because Callisto was being so honest with her and she knew exactly what Callisto meant. I doubt Xena had very much "satisfaction" during her warlord days. But admitting this to Callisto made Xena that much more human.

[12] The other alternate scene was when Callisto kept interjecting with barbs when Gabrielle was trying to convince Xena to let Callisto help them. If they had left it in, it would have been appropriate comic relief in an otherwise intense episode. I miss THAT Callisto!!

[13] The extended SACRIFICE interviews with Paul Robert Coyle and Rick Jacobson was a highlight for me. Rick gave some insight as to how they filmed Gabrielle and Hope at the same time, even though I still can't figure out how the two twisted in front of the camera for the final plunge into the fiery pit. Paul's secret script page was a great idea. I didn't read "spoilers" back then, so I don't know if Gabrielle's death leaked out or not.

[14] Another highlight of the set was that every episode had an interview with the people who made the episode. It was quite interesting to hear where they came up with their ideas and how they went about producing it.

[15] Any commentary with Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor is always fun to watch or listen to. Their commentaries on ONE AGAINST AN ARMY and BITTER SUITE was a real treat. More of them, please!! IN RETROSPECT

In Retrospect

[00] Season 3 is one of my favorites of the series. Unfortunately, I can't watch these episodes without remembering what ultimately happens to Xena and Gabrielle, and painfully recalling how the series ended. With the slim possibility of a theatrical movie being made, which may or may not "fix" the events of FRIEND IN NEED, I have to go with the assertion that the last episode is the end of their lives together. Ultimately, SACRIFICE I and II and ONE AGAINST AN ARMY only highlights how to make sacrifices for the Greater Good worthwhile, and FRIEND IN NEED just illustrates how not to. In SACRIFICE, Ares calls in his favor to Gabrielle for helping her get to Chin first in THE DEBT. Gabrielle doesn't want to lose her friend, so she delays telling Xena she will die if she kills Hope. However, when Xena finds out about the Fates, she says she doesn't care if she has to die, she'd rather die than let "that thing" into the world. She's right and it's a noble cause. It's something worth dying for. In ONE AGAINST AN ARMY, Gabrielle repeatedly insists that her life is worth sacrificing for the Greater Good. Xena disagrees with her for a time, because she can't bear to lose her friend, but in the end, she realizes Gabrielle is right. Dying to save Greece (and ultimately the world) is a noble cause for the Greater Good. Willingly dying to pay a "debt" to a vengeful mob of people who tried to kill you when you were drunk and defenseless (as what happened in FRIEND IN NEED) certainly is not.



Conclusion

[00] On a production scale, this set is certainly worthwhile. Major kudos to everyone involved in the entire production. There are plenty of extras to keep a Xenite happy for hours on end. On the other hand, how much you enjoy the content will largely depend on whether you are a fan of The Rift or not.

[00] Four out of 5 Chakrams



Articles

Mil Toro, LYRE LYRE, HEARTS ON FIRE Music CD. Whoosh #49 (10/2000)
http://whoosh.org/issue49/toro1.html

Mil Toro, Convention Thoughts. Whoosh #57 (06/2001)
http://whoosh.org/issue49/toro1.html

Mil Toro, A FRIEND IN NEED Is Not A Friend In Deed. Whoosh! #59 (08/2001)
http://whoosh.org/issue59/toro59.html

Mil Toro, Review of Xena: Warrior Princess Season One, Anchor Bay DVDs. Whoosh! #79 (07/2003)
http://whoosh.org/issue79/toro6.html

Mil Toro, Whoosh! Film Reviews: Signs (M. Night Shyamalan, 2002) (08/05/2002)
http://www.whoosh.org/films/reviews/signs.html

Mil Toro, Whoosh! Film Reviews: Star Trek: Nemesis (Stuart Baird, 2002)
http://www.whoosh.org/films/reviews/stnemesis.html

Mil Toro, Whoosh! Film Reviews: Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (Jonathan Mostow 2003)
http://www.whoosh.org/films/reviews/t3.html

Amy Murphy, Inside the Head of Mil Toro (Lucyfer). Whoosh! #63 (12/2001)
http://www.whoosh.org/issue63/itoro1.html



Biography

Mil Toro Mil Toro
http://webhome.idirect.com/~lucyfer/index.html

I am a converted Canuck. I was born in New York City, raised in Philadelphia, lived in Washington DC, Los Angeles, San Francisco and now for the last 15 years, in Toronto Canada. My job as a banker pays my bills, but writing is my true love, and I have written a few Xena stories and skits. They can be found through my website at - One in A Mil Xena Page http://webhome.idirect.com/~lucyfer/index.html
Favorite episode: THE DEBT (52-53/306-307)
Favorite line: Xena: "I like to be creative in a fight, it gets my juices going" Gabrielle: "Can we cook with your juices?" A DAY IN THE LIFE (39/215)
First episode seen: THE PRODIGAL (18/118), but the one that got me hooked was IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE (24/124)
Least favorite episode: FRIEND IN NEED (133/134-621/622)




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