Welcome to another Xena Thursday! Today, we’re continuing our chronological coverage of every single episode of Xena: Warrior Princess — both the episodes that I have previously highlighted AND the episodes I’ve yet to feature. Complementing my thoughts are the thoughts of those who worked on the series: mostly actors, writers, directors, and producers. I have done months of research for the acquisition of the quotes you’ll see over these next 67 weeks (as there are 134 episodes and I’ll be covering two episodes per week). They come from a variety of sources, including the original special feature-laden DVD releases, The Chakram Official Newsletters, both the Topps and Titans Official Xena Magazines, the fan kits, and other assorted print and video interviews. So in addition to sharing my thoughts, these posts will also contain information and musings from the Xenites that matter most — the ones who brought this exciting series to the small screen.
07. Season 1, Episode 7: “The Titans” (Aired: 10/30/95 | Filmed: 08/22 – 09/01/95)
When Gabrielle unknowing utters a chant that releases three imprisoned Titans, Xena must figure out how to save the innocent villagers.
Written by R.J. Stewart | Directed by Eric Brevig | Production No. 876904
Though Xena experienced growing pains throughout the majority of its first season, there were few episodes that truly didn’t work. In fact, the closest episode that we can label as a misfire from the initial 13 episodes is “The Titans,” which was one of the earliest scripts written, and the first to give Gabrielle a lot to do. (Remember, “Dreamworker,” though shot and aired earlier, was written after.) The usage of the character here leaves a lot to be desired. Basically, she’s annoying, she’s foolish, and she’s more nuisance than sidekick. Her function: induce the conflict and force Xena to come to the rescue. It’s amateur storytelling, and a far cry from the way Gabrielle would be written in, well, for almost the majority of the series.
However, we can argue that the character’s immaturity here is perfectly in line with her depiction in the first episode. And since the series, in addition to focusing on Xena’s redemption, is also about Gabrielle’s growth, then perhaps an episode like this is necessary. Problem is — it’s not great viewing. Especially since, with an under-developed Gabrielle (and three pedestrian guest stars) at the focus, Xena doesn’t get a lot of quality material. And, though Gabrielle will eventually become a superbly crafted character, any episode that doesn’t properly utilize its titular heroine is flawed by design. So, cheesy writing aside, this is where the episode most loses points.
Like the two episodes written before this one (“Cradle Of Hope” and “Death In Chains”), there’s little in the premise that makes it distinctly Xena. This could have easily been a Hercules episode. Surely, the inclusion of the Titans and the rather sophomoric plotting indicates that it maybe would be better suited for that series. Again, this is a common complaint with some of these early episodes — as the series was still figuring itself out. As a result, some myth-loving fans may appreciate this episode, but, by and large, it’s an underwhelming installment — especially since it follows two episodes (“The Path Not Taken” and “The Reckoning”) that were almost uniquely Xena.
CAST & CREW COMMENTARY:
Lucy Lawless (Actor, Xena): “[On this episode,] I met the director I liked most as a person of all of them, Eric Brevig. He had experience with special effects, so he came in to do the ‘forced perspective,’ [where] characters who are up close to the camera appear bigger. He was just a wonderful man, but had never directed before. And he produced an episode that didn’t have enough heart in it. Also, it was the first episode I had done where it was not Xena’s story [so much as Gabrielle’s], and I didn’t know what to do with it. I just kind of stumbled through it. It was more a Hercules-type structure [fighting the giants] and I was lost. So I felt crummy about that. Eric did a wonderful job with the effects. And we sort of sold it on that.” (The Official Guide To The Xenaverse by Robert Weisbrot – 1998)
08. Season 1, Episode 8: “Prometheus” (Aired: 11/06/95 | Filmed: 09/04 – 09/13/95)
Xena and Gabrielle team up with Hercules and Iolaus to free the kidnapped Prometheus, the god responsible for making fire available to Earth.
Written by R.J. Stewart | Directed by Stephen L. Posey | Production No. 876910
I featured this episode during my coverage of the Hercules & Xena crossovers. Read my thoughts here.
CAST & CREW COMMENTARY:
Lucy Lawless (Actor, Xena): “… [This episode] turned out great. It was so nice to work with Kevin again. It’s really like an ensemble cast, because everybody knows their characters and you’re not mucking around trying to find something in a scene, so filming went much faster.” (Starlog Magazine #222 – January 1996)
Michael Hurst (Actor, Iolaus): “It was on Xena [that I injured my arm]. You can’t spot it because in ‘Prometheus,’ there’s a fight we do in the barn, and there’s a move I do on this guy. It’s the end of the fight where I fall on my back, and I’m pulling him over, and he has to go over the top, and he ends up upside of that. Then I reverse-flip back onto him, his chest… The take they’re using is the one that worked. The second take is the one where… my arm got stuck on the floor… and his whole weight came down on it, and it broke across [here]…. And then in the one that works, I punch him and then flip into a close-up and do something like ‘errrr.’ And in the one that doesn’t work, I flip up into a close-up, it’s all perfectly in focus, I’ve seen it, but my face is… white, and I’m screaming without making a sound, and I’d broken it. And on the take that the break is happening, you can hear it go [snap].” (Whoosh! Interview – September 1999)
Renee O’Connor (Actor, Gabrielle): “I love Michael Hurst. I think he’s one of the most knowledgeable actors I’ve ever seen. He’s incredibly talented, and we had this chemistry that clicked right from the beginning. I guess because of the demands of the two shows and our age difference too, it’s probably something that won’t be developed. Too bad!” (Starlog Magazine #236 – April 1997)
Robert Field (Editor): “I will tell you the real story behind the bird. That was a big, big, big effects sequence, especially forXena. When I came on the show I was told, ‘Herculeshas a lot of effects but Xenareally isn’t going to have many effects at all. There might be a chakram effect here and there, but that would be it.’ Next thing you know I am hit with[this episode].I had never done an effects show to that point. As you probably know from looking at the [episode[, it [the bird] did not even exist in the original photography. The shots of the bird flying and so forth in the first cut of the show ended up being title cards like ‘Bird Flying Toward Camera’. I had to guess at what the proper length for that title would be. The animators created the creature and filled the space in. The shot of the bird falling was really an idea of Kevin O’Neill’s and the effects people, because I had never planned on having that shot. He said, ‘Gee, wouldn’t it be funny if in the background the bird whistles down and plops in the background.” We did not have the budget for any additional effects shots so I could not authorize it. O’Neill said, ‘Ah, never mind, we’ll just go ahead and do it.’ We also did not run it by Rob Tapert so he had no idea it was going to be there. The show got finished and the shot was finished. We all looked at it and we knew it was hysterical and it would have to go in. Rob Tapert, when he finally saw the shot just before the show went to delivery thought it was hysterical when we showed it to him. He loved it as well. The only person who was not happy with that shot going into the show was Bernie Joyce, the coordinating producer… She is primarily responsible for the sounds as well as the whole post-production process in general. Her complaint to me was, ‘Gee, you could have let me know that bird was going in there so I could have put a sound effect on it!’ She thought it was funny as well but sorry she could not have done something more with it. But it was all done at the last second.” (Whoosh! Interview – August 1997)
Lucy Lawless (Actor, Xena): “[This] was a crossover…where Hercules came into our show and… [it is] the one where I’m riding on the back of a pterodactyl. And they had these eggs of the pterodactyl… or whatever the hell this bird was… There were big eggs and they hatched out and these stuntmen in these horrible costumes with their face painted green and some sort of stupid hats on. They looked like they were out of Lost In Space. It was like like something made from the ‘60s or ‘70s, it was such poor technology. And even we knew, it was like ‘This is embarrassing.’ We clearly ran out of money this episode. So I always felt embarrassed about those hatchlings. I’m sure the episode was fine, but it was pretty dumb, man. Pretty dumb.” (Archive of American Television Interview – 2013)
R.J. Stewart (Writer/Producer): “I just saw [this] episode again recently and thought, ‘Gee, I would like to get those guys back together for an episode.’ I was wonderfully pleased when I saw how well Renee played [her scenes with Michael], and how well it was received. [This] was another exploration point for the series.” (Starlog Magazine #236 – April 1997)
Lucy Lawless (Actor, Xena): “[But] those ‘egg men’… oh my God! The worst costuming ever, like something out of an Ed Wood movie.” (The Official Guide To The Xenaverse by Robert Weisbrot – 1998)
Come back next Thursday for the next two episodes! And tune in tomorrow to read about another 1929 film!