I Worship His Shadow - Part 2
This is the second part of my series of articles covering the sci-fi series LEXX. In this article I'll be reviewing season 2 of the show, which consisted of 20 45-minute episodes - giving it a total runtime almost twice as long as the first season, but covering many times more material.
This article was somewhat trickier to write than the first one - this is the third revision - simply because of the way that I've watched LEXX and how my opinions have changed over time. Season 2 is actually the last season for me to see in its entireity, which presented me with the problem of already knowing the outcome of the main story arc. In fact I'd known the outcome for several years prior to even seeing an episode of LEXX - but that's perhaps a story for another time.
In this article I will be going into a bit more detail about some of the main characters. Although it will be the truth, and only the truth, it will certainly not be the whole truth - for that you'll have to watch the show for yourself.
LEXX 2.01: Mantrid
Apart from being the name of the first episode of this season, Mantrid is also the name of one of the main supervillain for this season. The episode starts off with an excellent monologue from Walter Borden (aka the voice of His Shadow), explaining how the Divine Order came to be, and how it was eventually destroyed by the crew of the Lexx (in Giga Shadow, the last episode of the first season). There's obviously more to the story than this, but for that you'll have to watch the episode.
|"As you can see, time has not been kind to me."|
Kai: we want your help, Mantrid.
Following Kai's need for more protoblood, the crew search for Mantrid, the man who - prior to his imprisonment for being deemed too dangerous - was the greatest bio-vizier that ever worked under his Divine Shadow. Exactly how long Mantrid has been imprisoned is uncertain, for he has now been reduced to little more than a head atop a floating jar of organs. In return for helping Kai get more protoblood, the crew offer to set him free from his prison.
Things don't go to plan, and after Mantrid's jar is destroyed, Igor, his servant, makes a desperate attempt to transfer Mantrid's consciousness to the artificial brain that Mantrid had been constructing. Igor succeeds, but Mantrid is altered by the process, making him far more dangerous and mentally unstable than before. Realising the danger they are in, the crew destroy the planet Mantrid was imprisoned on, but not before his thought-machine is able to escape the surface. I won't speak any more of this, as Mantrid's exploits are the central theme of the latter half of the season, and have a 'very big' bearing on the finale. One thing's for certain though - Dieter Laser portrays Mantrid excellently, and it's hard to imagine anyone else in the role. In fact, it's hard to imagine anyone in the role - like many of the great LEXX characters, Mantrid is a complete oddball, and only serves to highlight the show's originality and flair.
|Xev and Stan on the bridge of the Lexx|
Note that I'm saying Xev here, and not Zev. There's a very important reason for this - Eva Habermann, the actress who originally played Zev, had a schedule clash when it came time to film season 2 of LEXX. Also the vast quantities of bleach needed to get her hair the right colour for Zev was literally causing her hair to fall out. This meant that the writers had to find a way of killing off Eva, but keeping the character of Zev alive. This answer came in the form of Xev (aka Xenia Seeberg), who is introduced in the episode Lyekka (ep. 2.03), shortly after Eva's departure in the aptly-named Terminal (ep. 2.02). As befitting the change in actress, Xev's looks and personality have also been altered. She has the body and libido of a love slave, as well as the strength and curiosity of a cluster lizard. She's more aggressive than Zev was, and is often the one to take charge of the situation or to come to the rescue of fellow crew members. Her history gives her a very strong emotional grounding, and her looks and libido are a constant source of frustration to her and the other crew members. Although she's able to have almost any man she desires, they often end up being complete scumbags or dieing horrible deaths before she's able to get anywhere.
The other characters
All the main characters in the series - Stan, (X/Z)ev, Kai, 790, His Shadow, Mantrid, Prince (from season 3 onwards), etc. have rich backgrounds and personalities, which help guide their actions and steer the stories. Moreso than a regular scifi series, I'd say - whether this was intentional or is just a side-effect of having such a small main cast. This is very different to, say, Star Trek, where there can be hundreds of people aboard a ship and you have to wait several episodes or even seasons for all the main characters to have been fleshed out. With LEXX you get a whole load of characterisation in the first episode, followed by a whole lot more in many of the other episodes.
But I digress - obviously I could talk all day about the characters and how they shape the show, but this article isn't meant to be about that. It's meant to be about season 2, so that's what I'll be getting back to.
There isn't really enough time to go into detail about each episode here, but I can at least give an overview of what they're like. For season 2 of LEXX, you can put each episode into one of two rough categories: Comedy and non-comedy (i.e. action/drama). The main points of the comedy episodes are obviously their comedic elements, while the other episodes are mostly serious in nature and may serve to drive the central story arc forward.
There are several fantastic comedy episodes in this season, and the comedy takes many different forms - from traditional one-liners and situational comedy to pure oddball moments. This was initially a point of contention for me. The mainly comedic Luvliner and Lafftrak at the end of the first volume were followed by the deadly-serious Stan's Trial at the start of the second volume - throwing me off-guard - which was then followed by the entirely different comedic stylings of Love Grows, White Trash, and 791. This caused me to initially dislike much of the second volume (comprising episodes 2.06 to 2.10), and it was only until rewatching them for this review that I came to appreciate their full worth. It also caused me to rewrite this article for the first time, as it's a bit hard to split episodes into "ones I like" and "ones I don't like" if I end up liking them all.
|Kai in Wake The Dead|
A few specifics about the comedy, then. As stated this takes many forms, the most common of which will be the everyday interactions between the crew members. But for the pure comedy episodes there's usually an added twist. In Lafftrak there's the intentionally oldschool modelwork special effects used for the chase scene at the start, and the various TV programs the crew find themselves trapped in on the reality TV planet. In Wake The Dead, we get to see Michael McManus having far too much fun as Kai is transformed into a slasher movie style killing machine. The episode also answers the question of where astronauts really do go to the toilet in space. Twilight features some similar fun with dead people, this time when the crew visit Ruuma, burial ground for the Divine Predecessors. The radiation from the planets core has remarkable healing properties, including the ability to bring the dead back to life - leading to one angry mob of Divine Zombies, and Kai temporarily forgetting his role as the crew's protector to go and play in the flowers.
Although at the end of most episodes there's a hint of what the main arc will consist of, it's not until episode 2.12, Norb, where they really get into the thick of it. Mantrid's representative has found his way aboard the Lexx, and proceeds to cause havoc as Mantrid starts his 'contest'. This is a fantastic episode, and although it's obvious that the crew must survive in order to go on to do the third and fourth season, it's still riveting stuff to see how close they come to disaster. Norb proves that LEXX is just as capable, if not more capable, of churning out nail-biting storylines as any mainstream scifi series.
There's also episode 2.11, Nook, in which Xev finally gets to do the nasty. Although by reading the synopsis you may get the impression that this episode is just a weak excuse to show Xev having lots of sex, in actuality there's nothing to see, and the sex is only a minor part of the storyline. The main story focuses around how the all-male population of the monastery have been able to live their lives for several generations without even knowing what women are, and how Xev's arrival threatens all that.
Other episodes worth mentioning are 2.16, The Web, and 2.17, The Net. Any smart viewer will immediately know what's going on in The Web, but The Net is a completely different beast. Unfortunately the way they chose to show this difference was to practically repeat frame-for-frame 70% of the footage from The Web. Both episodes are two sides of the same coin, and it's only halfway through The Net that the difference will become clear - and only in the last few minutes where the crew realise what's happened. Repeating half of the previous episode may have been acceptable for weekly TV broadcasts, but when watching the episodes back-to-back on DVD, having so much of The Net as a repeat of The Web just seems pointless.
Lexx: I'm afraid of webs Stanley, they could have spiders on them.
There's also episode 2.18 - Brigadoom - a mostly musical episode in which the crew encounter an extra-dimensional theatre, forever reciting the greatest story ever told, that of Kai. This contains a lot of background information about Kai and his people, and is eventually the catalyst that gives Stan the courage to stop running and go toe-to-toe with Mantrid in the final two episodes of the season.
The finale, for me, felt somewhat slow - definitely slower than the action-packed action of Norb - but this could simply be because I knew beforehand all the major events that would be happening (and so I won't be revealing any here). However there are certainly some very interesting concepts within the episode, answering the question of exactly how Mantrid does what he does. Which I can't really speak about.
Quality and Quantity
Overall, all my niggles with the first season - the occasionally poor acting, poor pacing, poor music, and poor special effects - are non-existant. There are a couple of instances of poor special effects - in particular in episode 2.15, Woz, and the smashing of Mantrid's jar in Mantrid, but all the other effects are fine. Apart from where mentioned above, the pacing is also fine, probably due to the decrease in episode length, and all the acting was perfect. The singing in Brigadoom is obviously a matter of opinion, but I can say for certain that I enjoyed it a lot more than the somewhat pointless singing in season 1's Supernova.
The only plot contrivance I can really think of was the introduction of the crooked prosecutor in Stan's Trial. The only real purpose she serves is to give Stan a way of escaping his death sentence, thus allowing the crew to continue on their merry way.
The only other thing I can think of to mention here is the glaring direction/editing error in Wake The Dead. In the scene near the end where Kai descends from the ceiling, Xev is clearly facing Kai, but somehow doesn't notice the fact he is attacking Enox until several seconds later.
Lexxcellent. Prior to seeing all of season 2, I was starting to think that season 3 was my favourite. But now I'm not too sure.
I guess I'll find out which one I like best in my next article, in which I'll be reviewing season 3.