I Worship His Shadow - Part 4
This is the fourth part of my series of articles covering the sci-fi series LEXX. In this article I'll be reviewing season 4 of the show, the final season, which consisted of 24 45-minute episodes - making it the longest season yet, almost twice as long as its predecessor. However quantity does not always equate to quality, and season 4 is typically the worst-received of the lot.
Whereas season 3 concerned itself with the Lexx trapped in the orbit of binary planets Fire and Water, season 4 concerns itself with the Lexx trapped in the orbit of present-day Earth. Still lacking the energy to go anywhere interesting, the crew are faced with a moral dilemma - blow up and eat our pathetic planet, or try and find themselves a home there.
Although the setting of this season is without a doubt it's most contraversial feature, LEXX wouldn't be anything without it's cast of characters, as they ground the show and provide the central core of the content, no matter where they happen to find themselves in a particular episode or season. Similar to season 3, the crew are rather limited in the places they can go, so this results in a larger group of core characters for the season. Following their ordeal on planets Fire and Water, the bonds between the main crew members are also a lot stronger this season, to the point where they even have trouble deciding whether to get rid of the increasingly dangerous 790.
|790 on his trolley|
Having survived the ordeal that befell the planets Fire and Water, Isambard Prince has managed to find his way to Earth. More than just a regular human, Prince has caused the crew no end of trouble in the past, and continues to do so throughout this season. But he isn't all they have to worry about, as a much larger threat looms on the horizon.
Everyone's favourite robot head takes the front seat this time. Although he is ship-bound for much of the season, he manages to help the crew out of trouble on numerous occasions by hacking into computers on Earth's surface. Although he's always had quite a dangerous personality when it comes to protecting the one he loves, this time he starts to lose his mind completely and on several occasions almost gets everyone killed.
I could easily say a lot about Vlad here, but there's one very large plot point that I've been keeping secret in the rest of these articles, so I'm going to try and keep it a secret here too. Needless to say, Vlad isn't a very nice woman. Like Kai she is dead, but unlike Kai she likes to go on murderous rampages in search of more protoblood to keep herself 'alive'. As the story reveals, somehow she found her way to Earth, and spawned the Dracula and vampire legends. This nod to mythology is in some way similar to that used by Stargate - that the pyramids were built as alien landing sites and (in Stargate: Atlantis) it seems pretty clear that the wraith are meant to be where vampire mythology came from. The best way I've thought of describing Vlad is Anne Robinson on steroids. Yes, she's that scary, and Minna Aaltonen gives an excellent performance in her role. If you see an episode with her name on it, you can guarantee on it being good.
|The key fleeing Xev|
As evidenced in my previous article, the Lexx has a key. The Lexx will only respond to comands issued by his captain, and the key makes it clear exactly who that captain is. The key is actually a symbiotic entity that lives inside the captain's body. Of course, if the key was to die with the captain then it wouldn't be very useful - hence the key can be transferred between people, either at the state of (near) death or at the height of sexual ecstasy. Both techniques are used extensively this season, making the key an important character - even if the crew do lose track of it fairly early on, trapping them in Earth's orbit for much of the rest of the season.
President Priest and First Lady Bunny
Priest - Prince's right-hand man from Fire - and Bunny, one of the residents of Gametown - have also managed to find their way to Earth. In order to better manipulate the planet to his bidding, Prince rigs the US election so that Priest becomes president. He then meets Bunny, an aerobics instructor, and they enjoy many bouts of snuggling. Bunny is rather 'blonde', and Priest isn't particularly clever either, and together they help to provide a fair amount of light-hearted comic relief throughout the season. Although Priest is a rather bad man, Bunny is good-natured, which also causes problems when Prince tries to manipulate Bunny to do his bidding like he does with Priest.
This is where things get a bit nasty. As previously stated, the Lexx has managed to find his way to present-day Earth. Although this was part of the master plan on how the show should end, it doesn't answer the question as to whether it's the right thing to do. Whereas season 3 was very serious in nature, season 4 brings back (or at least attempts to bring back) many of the comedy elements that were contained in seasons 1 and 2. This, combined with the change in locale, results in a very jarring experience, and for me results in the first few episodes of the season being very weak. The Earth is apparently in the darkest part of the dark zone, the worst part of the universe. It's allegedly a 'Type 13' planet - one which is on the road to self-destruction. In the first episode, Little Blue Planet, a joke is made about how the space shuttles are controlled by a steering wheel and pedals, like a car. This is a fair enough joke to make, and was given an OK setup, but is it the right thing to do? This episode left me feeling very confused - how much of this season can be taken seriously? Is this meant to be a carricature of our planet, or are we meant to feel like it's the real thing? Should we feel any emotional attachment to the people there, or worry when the crew debate blowing us up? And what about the Earth being stuck in the darkest part of the dark zone, the center of all evil? OK, they don't explicitly state that the Earth is the most evil place in the universe, but the implication is there.
It's only until a few episodes in, when the stage has been set and the characters are back to their old selves, that I got into this season.
Unfortunately I don't have a full set of episodes recorded for this season. No region 2 DVD's for season 4 have been released, and the set of episodes that I've recorded from TV is incomplete. The good news however is that I have actually seen all the episodes, so with a little help from Internet guides I should be able to piece everything together. For the record, the episodes I haven't been able to rewatch are 4.04 to 4.09, and 4.11. Some of those episodes were good, some of them not so good; much like the whole season.
Since I have a rather monumental collection of notes about this season, I'm going to forgoe trying to classify everything into categories and instead just rattle through some of the more important points I've noted. While trying to avoid giving away any of the major plot points, which is always a hoot.
LEXX 4.03 - P4X
For me, this episode is still stuck in the 'twilight zone' of trying to work out exactly where the season is heading. Actually the last few minutes of this episode were the first bits of LEXX that I ever saw (followed by the remainder of season 4), so I guess in some respects it was good enough to get me hooked (Although as stated in a previous article, I'd already heard of, and became interested in, LEXX several years before even seeing an ep). I have a few notes about this episode - the first is that it contains a couple of Dwarf stars, Hattie Hayridge and Craig Charles. Craig is good in his role (in particular the visual joke in the car near the end of the episode), but Hattie's Texan accent makes my skin crawl. Also of note for this episode is the kniving Digby, who very much reminds me of Norb from season 2. There's also a rather odd bit with Kai asking someone to read a few words ('any words') from a newspaper, in order for him to understand written English. To me this seems a bit of a half-hearted attempt at dealing with the issue of language translation/understanding, especially since Kai didn't even see what words the kid read from the paper. The other crew members (save 790) aren't able to read English, and this is exploited numerous times throughout the season. But was that scene really necessary? Couldn't we just assume that Kai's vast knowledge and enhanced brain allowed him to work out what the newspaper said, without having to rely on an unknown excerpt being read to him?
LEXX 4.08 - Vlad
...Simply to remind you that episodes with Minna Aaltonen in them are FAB. Although I can't remember that much of the episode to verify anything else.
LEXX 4.10 - Magic Baby
What's that? Another with Minna Aaltonen?
But regardless of her involvement, I do have some other things to say. While stranded on Earth, the crew encounter rocker turned monk Uther (aka Alun Lewis, aka Darryl from Birds of a Feather/Vic Windsor from Emmerdale). He acts the part well, perhaps moreso than I can say about Xev - her perfermance seems a bit off in this episode, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Also in the realms of dodgy performance (although more from a stunt acting standpoint than character acting) is to be found in Vlad's fight scene with Kai. Kai gets thrown very hard against the walls multiple times, but the closeups of him hitting the walls never show him hit them with any significant force. I think the cast always do their own stunts (save when CGI is used), and all that was needed to make this look convincing would have been a bit of time compression to speed up the impact. The CGI special effects, on the other hand, are perfect for this episode. In fact, I'd say the only problem with CGI in this series is that they've used it for all of the gun battles. I'm guessing Salter Street don't have much of a pyrotechnics department, and so are forced to give the guns CGI muzzle flashes, and sometimes CGI bullet holes. The muzzle flash in particular looks shit, and consequently the guns have no recoil, making it look even more fake.
LEXX 4.11 - A Midsummer's Nightmare
This is a fantastic comedy episode, and as the name suggests it's based roughly around A Midsummer Night's Dream. Following on from their encounter with Uther in the previous episode, the crew head to Glastonbury and the feast of Mograth, where they encounter Oberon, King of the Fairies. The joke here of course is that he's gay, and proceeds to use his magic powers to try and woo Stan into marrying him - and very nearly succeeds. Also of note is that Kai (and later Xev) get turned into happy singing trees - but Kai will stand out strongest in my memory, simply because being happy (and a tree!) is such a departure from his usual state.
LEXX 4.12 - Bad Carrot
|Priest and Bunny|
I can't say much about this episode without revealing the larger storyline, but I can say that it contains some good comedy moments.
LEXX 4.13 - 769
Continuing the comedic streak, 790 manages to make a deal with Prince to get himself grafted onto a human body, in a similar vein to what happens in 791 in season 2. There's a smattering of slapstick comedy, some cleverness from Prince, and finally Geoff McBride gives an excellent performance as 790's 'puppet'.
LEXX 4.14 - Prime Ridge
Alas, this episode isn't as good as the previous, and is the start of the mid-season downhill slump. There are a few good comedy moments with Kai, but they aren't enough to carry the episode. The poor special effects are also in full view in the climactic gun battle. This episode does nothing to further the main story arc (unlike the previous few), so loses out on further brownie points.
LEXX 4.16 - Moss
This is still in the bad patch, but I'm mentioning it for the character of Moss, and his theories to do with the number 666, and the courtroom scene. He's a very odd guy, which is usually enough to guarantee a good episode, but in this case it fails. I just see it as more pointless filler. At the start of Prime Ridge the crew leave the Lexx for Earth, and at the end of Mort the crew make it back onto the Lexx. But have any major plot points occured? No, just some filler episodes that have a hard time trying to justify their existence.
LEXX 4.17 - Dutch Treat
Ah, back into the good stuff. This isn't the best episode in the season by a long way, but it's certainly better than the previous 3, and moves the main story arc forward a good deal. Unfortunately this means I can't say much about it, except that it contains the return of Prince, a 'new look' for the Lexx as he turns green while almost starving to death (If perhaps a little unrealistic in regards to how much of him changes colour), some good comedy with Bunny and Priest, and unfortunately a very crap sped up scene where they search for the key on the Lexx.
LEXX 4.18 - The Game
|Human chessboard in The Game|
...Contains Minna Aaltonen. Yeah.
But there's more!
This episode is perhaps the most original and unique out of the entire 4 season run of the show. Kai joins Prince for a game of chess in the 'other zone', an unstable proto-universe where normal rules do not apply. The pieces on the chess board are characters from the show, and they regularly hurl abuse at the opposing team or talk about the actions of their controllers. The pieces all retain their original personalities, so, for example, Prince's pieces are arrogant whereas Kai's pieces are wary of losing yet willing to charge in and sacrifice themselves for the greater good. The CGI used for the mechanical action of the board is good, and would be perfect for something like Knightmare. Furthemore, as an extra finishing touch, the landscape Kai and Prince find themselves in changes colour depending on who has superiority in the game - from white snow to black ash. The only thing that lets this episode down is the slightly dodgy CGI gore effects as the pieces are slaughtered. The only question is - what could you possibly offer a dead man that would make him gamble the lives of his friends in a game of chess?
Actually, a bit of research on the Internets shows that this idea isn't unique, as it was cribbed from The Seventh Seal. If you haven't seen or heard of that film before, and value your spoiler-free experience of these articles, I wouldn't advise reading any further into it.
LEXX 4.19 - Hayley's Comet
While it obviously can't beat The Game in terms of original and unique content, Hayley's Comet still makes for a good episode. This episode is really only filler, but it's worth it for the way that 790 finally finds someone he can manipulate to do his bidding, in an attempt to kill off anyone who would come to stand between him and the one he loves.
LEXX 4.21 - Viva Lexx Vegas
Is unfortunately another pointless filler episode, and a fairly poor one at that. While in Las Vegas, the crew encounter a zombie, complete with pathetically bad costume. I'm not sure if the bad costume was intentional or not. Regardless, the comedy of this episode doesn't do it for me, and Kai's actions of taunting the zombie seem a little out of place considering his usual state of character.
LEXX 4.22 - Trip
Thankfully we're back into the good episodes. This time the crew are back on the Lexx, where they inadvertantly end up on a powerful halucinogenic trip. I won't say much about this, so as not to spoil it, but it again features 790 trying to manipulate the crew to do his bidding. Also: Minna Aaltonen.
LEXX 4.24 - Yo Way Yo
This is it. The big finale. And I can gladly say that it doesn't disappoint. This episode is a masterpiece. It ties up several loose ends and unanswered questions, and the 'big meanie' is suitably big and mean. The CGI is good, and there are a couple of comedy moments to help break up the tension. I can glady admit that I cried during this episode, but can't say any more so as not to spoil it. The only bad point I'll raise is with the use of the number 13 - you'll know it when you see it.
A few of the filler episodes not mentioned above are references to movies. These are 4.15, Mort, which was derived from Bride of Re-Animator, 4.20, Apocalexx Now (Apocalypse Now), and 4.22, Lyekka vs. Japan (An amalgamation of any number of giant-monster-on-rampage movies). These episodes are intended to be comedic in nature, but as with most of the comedy in this season it has mixed success. The character Mort is sufficiently creepy, and Xev and Stan are sufficiently inept in the funeral parlour, but there's not much else that I can say is any good about the episode. The first half of Apocalexx Now is sufficiently weak and confusing, and it's only when Ellen Dubin's character gets back to her usual tricks that the episode becomes any good. It also serves to provide some explanation as to how everything works (Where 'everything' is some considerably spoilerific thing that I can't mention, but you may have been able to guess yourselves by now). Lyekka vs. Japan, in case you haven't guessed, features Lyekka going on a rampage through Japan, as well as some filler-within-filler where Xev encounters some dubious monks. Ultimately I suppose this episode isn't filler, as it does move the main story forward a little, and like the others it's very much a mixed bag of good and bad.
Lexxtreme. We get to see two of them here, the show at its best and at its worst. Perhaps a 24 episode season was a bit ambitious, and they had trouble filling it out - or perhaps they were under the impression that all the episodes they wrote were pure gold. Perhaps budget and time constraints forced them to use CGI for the gunfire, or perhaps they weren't too bothered and thought it looked OK. Who knows. But I do know one thing for certain - it's worth watching just for the finale.