I Worship His Shadow - Part 3
This is the third part of my series of articles covering the sci-fi series LEXX. In this article I'll be reviewing season 3 of the show, which consisted of 13 45-minute episodes - giving it a significantly shorter runtime than the second season. However this shortness is offset by a change in style, as the show discards its comedy episodes in favour of the drama of one single story arc.
The story picks up a mere 4332 years after season 2 left off. After fleeing to the dark zone, the Lexx drifted through empty space for millennia, before finally resting in the orbit of a planet. From there the story unfolds, as the crew discover that the Lexx lacks the energy to move, and the only way to feed him would be to bring back food from the surface. To make matters worse, they later discover that he is in a decaying orbit, and it's only a matter of days until he becomes the biggest bug-splat in the two universes.
Heaven and Hell
|The planet Fire, with Water clearly visible in the sky|
Whenever I think of season 3, I always think of Black Sabbath - Heaven and Hell. And there's a good reason for this, because that's exactly where the crew find themselves. It's not one planet that they find themselves in orbit of, but two - a binary system. The planet Fire is a desert planet with deadly heat and rivers of molten rock, while the planet Water is covered in water and has a more temperate climate. On Fire water is a scarce commodity, while on Water it is in abundance - and so the inhabitants of Fire regularly send balloons out to Water to assault the peaceful inhabitants and lay waste to their utopian island cities, with the eventual aim of taking the planet over.
For untold centuries this conflict has raged on, with the occupants of Fire attacking and the occupants of Water resisting, with little overall progress being made. However all this changes the day a curiously-shaped comet is sighted in orbit of the planets.
Disregarding the impossibility of having two planets in such a close orbit, the setting of this season is without a doubt one of its strongest points. In particular the 10km-tall stone towers which Fire's cities perch atop give a real sense of the hardship that the planet's inhabitants endure, and a sense of exactly how long they must have been living there to build towers so tall. This is in direct contrast to the beautiful island cities of Water, and the idyllic lives enjoyed by their inhabitants.
Apart from thew crew, there are several other major characters for this season. For starters there's Prince (Nigel Bennett) and Duke (Ralph Brown), the two people vying for control over planet Fire. They both use a similar acting style, and give off a very Crystal Maze vibe. Well, I guess you'll have to see them for yourselves to understand.
Also, despite being long dead, several other characters from seasons 1 and 2 manage to make an appearance on the two planets, including Giggerota, Schlemmi, Mantrid and Lyekka. And they're all as excellent as ever, although Ellen Dubin will always have a special place in my heart:
Queen: Queen desperately wants your body, Captain Drumsticks!
Stan: Hey, just call me Stanley.
As previously stated, the writers have done away with all the standalone episodes in favour of one over-arching storyline. The story starts as the crew arrive at the planets, and ends as they drift away - but what happens inbetween?
For starters, there's love in the air. Both Xev and Stan fall madly in love with two different people in the first few episodes. Xev loves Prince, who is from Fire, and Stan loves May, who is from Water. But their love for these people threatens to tear their own friendship apart, and places both planets in the balance as threats are made to destroy them. This results in some good character growth, as for several episodes we see a grieving Xev and a troubled Stan. The episodes themselves seem to have a slower, more deliberate pace, which serves to set up the atmosphere for the cerebral and emotional drama that unfolds.
In episode 3.03, Gametown, the crew decide to try and feed the Lexx by bringing him food from the surface of Water using moths. Moths - incase you haven't seen the show before - are small two-seater insectile craft that are used both for travel inside the Lexx and from the Lexx to any nearby planet. Equipped with wings and a rocket engine, they are biomechanical creations like the Lexx himself, and this episode finally reveals where they come from.
Of course things don't go to plan when they reach Gametown, as one of the inhabitants steals all the moths and makes his way to Fire. This then kickstarts the chain of events that keeps the crew trapped on the two planets for much of the rest of the season, as they are forced to constantly return for missing crewmembers or to fight their way out of captivity and back to the Lexx.
In episode 3.05, Gondola, the crew are forced to make difficult decisions when they discover that the balloon they are in does not have enough fuel left to reach the next city - or to even pass over the river of molten rock that lies ahead of them. With no option but to lose weight, they have to decide who to throw overboard in order to save their own lives. Luckily the decision isn't all theirs, as not everyone in the balloon is working to the same agenda.
The next episode, K-Town, deals with what happens when the crew make it to one of the cities and how the 'unruly' inhabitants react to their arrival. To make matters worse, Kai isn't feeling himself, and the crew are forced to try and enlist Mantrid's help in repairing him. This also leads to us seeing Kai naked for the first (and only) time, and gives concrete evidence for exactly why he can't fulfill Xev's fantasies.
Kai: I have a lot of equipment, as you can see. But it is not all functional.
After Kai gets captured and is taken to a neighbouring town, Xev and Stan set out to rescue him in Tunnels, the following episode. As the name suggests this deals with an alternate mode of transport available on Fire - the maze of subterranean tunnels that runs below the surface. And where it's possible to live, there will be life - in the form of the dregs of society that aren't even fit for life in Fire's cities. These dregs come in the form of Dr. "They scream when I first cut them" Rainbow (aka Lex Gigeroff, one of the show's writers, who has a habit of turning up in episodes as characters), and some psychopathic versions of Gwen Stefani's Harajuka Girls. With Kai still at the mercy of his captors (and not enjoying the experience), it's Prince's turn to save the day. But what's his motivation for helping the crew?
In The Key, after making it back to the Lexx, Stan starts to seriously consider blowing up both planets and having the Lexx eat the chunks. But Xev starts to question exactly why Stan should be the captain all the time - after all, there are many ways of transferring the key between people. And although Kai is back with them, he still isn't feeling himself, as he seems to be experiencing unnatural (for a dead person) thoughts about Xev. Apart from this mystery as to Kai's actions, the episode also features some inspired 'girl talk' between Xev and 790, and Kai muttering his immortal line as to what major bodily function the dead do without.
..I'm starting to go into a bit too much detail here, aren't I? Well, let's skip ahead a bit, to episode 3.10, Battle. After abandoning the Lexx and settling down in the idyllic city of Garden, a troupe of balloons lead by Prince locates the crew and assaults the city. The episode is an aerial battle of wits as Kai and Stan attempt to rescue the captured Xev using a stolen balloon.
Stan: OK, what are you suggesting.
Kai: Engage the other balloons in battle, to save Xev now. On our own.
After a brief detour to Girltown, the season comes to a close in the final two episodes, where the secrets of the two planets are finally revealed. And in the final few minutes of the final episode, the scene is set for the start of the next, and final season - which I will of course be covering in the next article.
Due to the setting of this season, an awful lot of green screen has been used. This does sometimes give the actors a green glow to their skin, but you're only likely to notice it if you look hard. Which I obviously was doing. But all the on-location bits (in the dunes of Nimibia and the gothic architecture of Berlin, no less) are excellent. The special effects, for the most part, are great, save perhaps for some of the earlier episodes - in particular flame and fire effects.
There isn't much that I dislike about the content, direction, or acting of the episodes - however with the exception of Ellen Dubin, I do dislike episode 3.11, Girltown. The council scenes and the drag queen party seem particularly unentertaining, and the zooming, spiraling shots of Girltown at the start of the party scene seem particularly shit. Luckily the remainder of the season does not disappoint.
Another episode worth mentioning here is 3.09, Garden, in which Stan tries to have his way with the attractive, innocent, and completely sexually ignorant female inhabitants of Garden. This episode is designed to be almost entirely comedic in nature, in stark contrast to the drama of the rest of the season. The gardeners water the plants with brightly-coloured phallic watering cans, and Kai, struggling to come to terms with his state of death, decides that the best course of action is to lie in the ground and compost his body.
Lexxtravagant. The setting and style of the episodes are indeed a departure from those that came before, helping to keep the show feeling fresh and new. The new characters introduced are well acted, and the single overarching storyline goes to highlight the degree of planning that has gone into the show. In fact, the outcome of the final season had been decided shortly after production of the first season had finished, as revealed by one of the interviews on the first season DVD's. But that's perhaps a story for the next article.