Whoosh! Issue 47 - August 2000


By Edward Mazzeri
Content copyright © 2000 held by author
Edition copyright © 2000 held by Whoosh!
1903 words

Introduction (01-06)
Proviso (07-13)
Preliminary (14-21)
Who Said That? (22-24)
Places, Please! (25)
A Word Of Advice (26-27)
An Index (28-31)
Alternatives (32)

Word Count and Meaning in Xena: Warrior Princess: Season One


[1] The Amazons had an affinity with avian fauna. As it turns out, so do the Australian netball teams: the Swifts, Phoenix, Sandpipers, Orioles, Thunderbirds, and so on. It is as if the competitive and airy spirit of Artemis continues to express itself, even after all this time.

[2] If there is a continuity between birds and women, there could be continuity in other things, say, between writers and their stories, so that the scripts would cluster into various tribes according to the words and phrases used and their syntactic dynamics, almost like signatures. Given a script with no name, we could say, "Writer X was the author because of this, this, and this".

[3] This means counting words, and who said them, and in what order. Really tedious stuff. But we would know instantly who said, "Nice Legs" and when (and what their reward was).

[4] A programmer would say that this is turning the entire Xena script base into an object. Even more tedious.

[5] But luckily, 98% of the work has already been done: the Whoosh! transcripts - the most valuable treasure of all. Then it becomes just a minor matter of sifting through them, counting things. Spreadsheets and macros come in handy at this point. Yay.

[6] Actually, the ultimate goal is to answer the question: Is that the sort of thing that Xena and Gabrielle would have said or could have said? This still means counting words; no way of avoiding that.


[7] Firstly, some boring but important stuff.

[8] Not all the words would have been counted into the appropriate categories of spoken and speaker.

[9] In the transcripts, the colon (:) is used as a character name delimiter and square brackets ([ ]) as markers for non-dialogue text. However, square brackets were also used to mark character-name abbreviations, and colons were used in their normal function as pause-markers in speech. These multiple functions were taken into account as much as possible.

[10] Some miscounts are still to be expected, however, though their effect on the averages is probably minor, if they have any effect at all.

[11] In addition to the mechanics of counting, there are also philosophical questions raised, for example, by the lookalike and inside-of episodes: does Xena-as-Diana count as Xena or as Diana, or both? If we count her as a sort of combination character, what do we do when our perception of "She's Diana" changes to "She's really Xena" (or vice versa) as the story unfolds? What about Autolycus talking to his inner Xena?

[12] Plus, as explained below, one transcript was unable to be scanned: so only 23 of Season One's 24 episodes were examined.

[13] Overall, there should be enough data to get a clear enough first impression of how the words are working in Season One.



[14] Given the proviso, in the 23 examined episodes, there were 6,628 turns taken in speaking. Of these, Xena had a quarter (25%) and Gabrielle had a fifth (19%).

[15] There were 75,500 words spoken in total: Xena had 17,500 (23%) and Gabrielle 14,400 (19%).

[16] Xena averaged 10.5 words per speech, and Gabrielle, the more talkative one, averaged 11.2. The other characters averaged 11.9.

[17] Compared to anyone else, Xena contributes more often to the conversation, but says less in each individual contribution. Does this accord with reality? Probably, though it is hard to think of Xena as talking a lot. The "leader in her saying a few words to each of the men in her army" type of talkative would end up saying a lot in totality but only a few words to each individual.


[18] Now to the words. What do they say?

The Chatterbox Index

[19] About the squiggly lines

[20] Umm, there is no number six, because that particular transcript, being based on a shooting script, was too complicated for the macros (so far) to analyze, with lots of description and narrative interlacing with the dialogue.

[21] So, what do we have?

Maxima and Minima


Gabrielle talks the most, more than doubling her usual output, and Xena talks the least



Xena talks the most, doubling output, and Gabrielle talks the least


Gabrielle talks almost as much as usual


Hmmm... chakram futures are up this year

Who Said That?

[22] Looking more closely at Xena and Gabrielle's word counts, we can see how minimalist Xena was in ATHENS CITY (13/113) and THE PRODIGAL (18/118) and what an effort Gabrielle put in.

[23] MORTAL BELOVED (16/116) could almost be called a "traditional" hero-sidekick loading, and to a lesser extent, THE BLACK WOLF (11/111) and even THE PATH NOT TAKEN (05/105), but that way of doing things really stands out by comparison with the more common balanced companion-companion episodes [SINS OF THE PAST (01/101), CHARIOTS OF WAR (02/102), DREAMWORKER (03/103), THE TITANS (07/107), PROMETHEUS (08/108), DEATH IN CHAINS (09/109), HOOVES AND HARLOTS (10/110), TIES THAT BIND(20/120), THE GREATER GOOD (21/121), and CALLISTO (22/122)].

[24] Clearly something different was happening at the end of the season with DEATH MASK (23/123) and IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE? (24/124) Overall, the rhythm in Season One has not settled down yet, and abrupt changes and experimental configurations are still being tried out.



Starts off with about 600 words, increasing slightly


Starts off about the same, decreasing slightly

One-line extras index

Number of speakers per episode.

Places, Please!

[25] There are about 15 or so speaking parts per episode, with SINS OF THE PAST (01/101) and WARRIOR...PRINCESS (15/115) requiring extra amounts of tea and biscuits (and special scones for Diana). This makes it a small show, not that it seems like it. However, the coziness of the ensemble nature does show through.

Writers' paycheck index

Words per episode

A Word Of Advice

[26] If you got to be on an episode in Season One, your agent would have told you that Xena and Gabrielle would use up half the dialogue and, since you would be with about a dozen others, you would probably get to say about 120 words (if they were allotted equally). Chances are, in reality, that you would only get a grunt or two, or maybe a nod.

[27] CALLISTO (22/122) is an exception: Callisto spoke a third of that episode (889 out of 2738 words), more than anyone else in it, and she brought the average well up. She had a lot on her mind, not to mention the point of her sword.

Pre-Mycenean Dow Jones

Xena-Gabrielle Index Season 1

An Index

[28] The idea of a Xena-Gabrielle Index suggests itself, and is based on the analogy of the Southern Oscillation Index used to predict El Nino type weather down under. The question becomes: Is it possible to tell which episodes are going to be wet and drippy, and which ones hot and dry, and which ones will be somewhere dank with foot-rot in between, merely by inspecting a dialogue-index?

[29] Does such an index work? How would it be calculated? One method might be: the difference between Xena's word count and Gabrielle's word count, expressed as a percentage of their combined total. With this method, it is not the amount of words, but how many compared with the other's. If both Xena and Gabrielle had an equal number of words (whether a lot or a few), then the index would be balanced at 0%, and if one had more, then the index would swing into the positive region, and if the other one was the one who had more, then the index would swing the other way, into the negative region. (A bit like balancing on a ladder, yes?)

[30] Is zero the path of true dialogue? Let's see some examples.

The XG Index


(0% means they get an equal share)

Highly negative (Gabrielle talks more)



Highly positive (Xena talks more)












[31] A pretty accurate picture of what represents a typical Xena: Warrior Princess episode.


[32] Or should we rely on a Xena Bad-Hair Day Index, or a Naked Gabrielle's Index instead? Or a Chakram Bounce Index. Or a Whip-Elevator Index. Or the actually very predictive Argo-flutters-her-lips Index.


Edward Mazzeri Edward Mazzeri
Occupation: Living on the bed of an old, long-gone Gondwana river, just across the Strymon from New Xenaland, and now at the same distance from (but on the other side of) the equator as southern Japan, northern Africa and, by an interesting coincidence, Los Angeles, he currently works in a city office where he can look at the time on a Xena clock. Interest 1: "If Tapert's old enough to make 'em, I'm old enough to watch 'em." Interest 2: Recent news that the nail- tailed wallabies are (feebly) bouncing back in numbers (with a little bit of help) has stirred up thoughts of starting a Sugarglider or Feathertail page - not to mention one for bilbies, numbats, wombats, koalas, the various rock wallabies, bunyips, and for things with no name (such as the onychophorans, the turpentines of the shale country, Angophora costata, that flower at the start of KING CON, the banksias and boronias, the just-rediscovered giant roughy, and even Wolf 359...)...
Favorite episode: Some are like video clips, others like lyric poems, some are like epics - interwoven with tragedy, comedy, tragi-comedy, and the visuals, soundtrack, the scenery, the actors, the directors, the props, the enthusiasm. So, which dish at the yumcha banquet is the dishiest? All episodes make some contribution of "delicious wit" (David Martindale, "Xena: TV's Warrior Princess", BIOGRAPHY magazine, April 1999) to the feast. Amazed by the examples of synchronicity arising from the show. For example, IF THE SHOE FITS ... aired the same night as the serio-comic Twanky double-episode of THE BILL, and the next night, there was the talking mirror scene on THE NANNY. Arranging such coincidences deliberately would be almost impossible if consciously attempted.
Favorite line: Gabrielle: "Just because someone wrote that on a piece of parchment doesn't make it true. Tell him, Xena." LOCKED UP AND TIED DOWN (75/407); Gabrielle: "Xena!" Various episodes; Xena: "Gabrielle!" Various episodes.
First episode seen: DREAMWORKER (03/103)
Least favorite episode: None

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