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.
25. Season 2, Episode 1: “Orphan Of War” (Aired: 09/30/96 | Filmed: 05/29 – 06/07/96)
Xena comes to the aid of a community of centaurs menaced by a member of her former band, and upon her arrival is reunited with the young son whom she left in their care nine years earlier.
Written by Steven L. Sears | Directed by Charles Siebert | Production No. V0206
I featured this episode as #42 on my list of the 60 best episodes. Read my thoughts here.
CAST & CREW COMMENTARY:
Steven L. Sears (Writer/Producer): “[This episode] came about because Rob wanted to do a story about Xena’s son, and I grabbed it because there was a story I had been wanting to tell, but when I started working on this story, I received a huge amount of flak, mostly from the female members of our group. What I was writing was a story I had read about a woman who was a crack mother and a prostitute and had a child that she gave up for adoption. She got her story straight, redeemed herself, got off crack, got a job, and three years later, wanted her child back. Now, that child has only known one childhood, and I sympathize with what the mother went through, but the bottom line is: She can’t rob that child of his childhood. This is a story I had in mind, because you can’t tell the child his life up to this point has been a total lie. That’s what I wanted to write: Xena as the crack mother.” (Starlog Magazine #246 – January 1998)
Lucy Lawless (Actor, Xena): “I loved the first little fight sequence [in this episode] – all credit to the editor and stuntees and everybody who was in it. I loved the first time I gave the baby up, but I thought the last, parting scene [where Xena refrains from revealing she is Solan’s mother] played way too long… I was disappointed in the way I performed it. I would have kept the lid down harder, held it down tighter, so that the pain was greater. I kick myself about that one… [As for the final shot in the flashback scene] I got the idea that [Xena] should go off to throw up. I had the idea that she was going to go there and just vomit, she’s so sick at what she just did. So if you ever see it again, you know that’s what she’s going to do!” (The Official Guide To The Xenaverse by Robert Weisbrot – 1998)
Steven L. Sears (Writer/Producer): “Xena was obviously a bad mother back then. She gave the child away for two reasons, one, it would have hindered her ambitions, and two, as she said, it would become the target of everyone who wanted to get to her. She chose Kaliepus, because Kaliepus commanded an army, which was the only army that effectively stopped Xena in the field. As you know, Xena has had interactions with the Horde and the Horde has ravaged her. But that was never for an objective, it was never a set piece battle. Yet this army of Centaurs held her army. So she looked upon the Centaurs as being this race who, if they could beat her, they could beat anybody. If they could do that, they could defend her child. Seeing as how that was the child of Borias, hero to the Centaurs, that was the selling point for Kaliepus. So she made a conscious decision to take the child to a place where the child could be protected. Now, when I started writing the story up and writing the script, I wrote down those critical questions because I wanted Gabrielle to say those things. She became the voice of all the people out there who were outraged. I think it worked very well, to be honest. One of the lines in there, I’m paraphrasing this, but someone said to me, ‘I don’t know what it’s like to be a mother without her child, but I know what it’s like to be a child with a mother.’ Something like that. Gabrielle became the spokesperson. And if I hadn’t done that you would have had people screaming at the television set, ‘Well what about this, what about that?’ I gave Gabrielle their voice. By the end of the episode, everyone was wondering how I was going to handle this. I said, ‘You know something, you’re dealing with a hero here. You’re dealing with someone who’s willing to give up something she loves for the love of someone.’ Lucy did an incredible job. She’s walking away in the end toward camera, that look on her face, the look of the mother walking away from her child.” (Whoosh! Interview – July 1998)
Here are scans of an interview that writer Steven L. Sears gave on “Orphan Of War” for The Chakram Newsletter: #26.
26. Season 2, Episode 2: “Remember Nothing” (Aired: 10/07/96 | Filmed: 05/08 – 05/16/96)
The Three Fates offer Xena the opportunity to erase her past — including her younger brother’s untimely death — but only if she vows to never shed blood in anger again.
Story by Steven L. Sears & Chris Manheim | Teleplay by Chris Manheim | Directed by Anson Williams | Production No. V0201
I featured this episode as #30 on my list of the 60 best episodes. Read my thoughts here.
CAST & CREW COMMENTARY:
Steven L. Sears (Writer/Producer): “We were kidding around one day, saying, ‘In our fifth season, we’ll have to do the blind amnesia show,’ but then I thought, ‘How do you do an amnesia show that hasn’t been done?’ What I came up with was that Xena doesn’t forget who she is, the rest of the world forgets her. I wrote out a story, but at that point we didn’t want to explore that aspect of Xena’s past and how things could have been changed yet, so it got shelved. Then, one of our scripts fell out, and we were stuck for a slot, and I said, ‘What about “Remember Nothing?” ‘ I was busy at the time doing other things, and that story was near and dear to me, but Chris is a wonderful writer, so I handed her the script and said, ‘I want to see what you can do with it,’ and even though I have co-story credit on it, Chris deserves all the credit. She changed it substantially and did a wonderful job; she found levels there that I didn’t. I was thrilled.” (Starlog Magazine #246 – January 1998)
Chris Manheim (Writer): “[This] was a premise hanging around from the previous season which had never been worked up into a script. I thought it was such a great premise, to turn around that whole amnesia thing, and instead of the lead forgetting who she is, everybody else forgets her. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to be able to work with that concept… Because I had experienced the death of my younger brother, it was important to me that I make that a really tough place for her to get to, and only when she realizes it is actually better for her brother as well as everyone else in her life that it gets to that point. It simply couldn’t be, ‘Between Gabrielle and my brother, I choose Gabrielle.'” (Starlog Magazine Yearbook – August 1998)
Steven L. Sears (Writer/Producer): “… Chris [Manheim] [c]ould speak more on this because she wrote the teleplay and added so much to the story, [but] the problem [in writing this episode] came down to what is it that triggers Xena to realize she’s got to change things back. After everything she’s been through, what is the one thing that would tell her. Is it the idea that these guys are warlords again and they’re going to enslave humanity? Not really, because she could defeat them, she’s done that before. She could find some way to defeat them without shedding blood. Chris and I were talking about it and that’s basically what came out of the discussion, what is the thing that is the most dear thing to Xena in our real world right now? We thought, well, it’s Gabrielle. But in this timeline is it the same Gabrielle? It was not just the killing it was the look on Gabrielle’s face. No second thought about it, this was justice as far as she was concerned. Once that was in, obviously it worked.” (Whoosh! Interview – July 1998)
Renee O’Connor (Actor, Gabrielle): “I enjoyed [spitting in Myzentius’ cup]. That was funny… [To get into this character] I remember having a Walkman on set, and Chloe, [she’s] one of our producers, came by and said, ‘What are you listening to?’ And I let her listen. It was Alanis Morissette. She was doing, at the time, this rock hard music. And she said, ‘Why are you listening to that? I don’t get it.’ And it was just something different [to get me into this mind frame].” (Lucy and Renee in Pasadena 2003 DVD)
Lucy Lawless (Actor, Xena): “I thought Renee was brilliant [in this episode]. I thought she was really great [playing] such an awful little tramp! And I thought I looked stupid. Too much blubbering in the bloody cages [where Xena and Lyceus are imprisoned]. ‘Potsie Webber’ [referring to the character Anson Williams made famous on the sitcom Happy Days] directed [this] episode, and I remember him yelling like crazy at the boy who played my brother, Aaron Devitt, trying to wring a good performance out of him. It happens with young men, usually, that you can only yell at them so long and they come to a little crisis point where they start. They say, ‘This is ridiculous., this cannot be happening to me.’ And he just started to laugh. Anson was just ragging on him, trying to get some Methody-type performance out of him, which was ridiculous because the boy was untrained. He had all the raw material and no sort of craft. And so I went out the back with Aaron and we talked about acting and I tried to get him to loosen up and have some fun with me and just listen [to my character] and ‘bring me in.’ And I think he did have more fun but it gave him a terrible shock about acting. He said he’d never do another part without going away to drama school… Yes, Aaron was very much like my [real] brother Daniel. And I really like [Aaron]. He’s such a nice young man.” (The Official Guide To The Xenaverse by Robert Weisbrot – 1998)
Chris Manheim (Writer): “[This] was my first script as part of the full time staff. I had to go back in and add scenes [because it came in short]. In one sense it’s challenging, but in another it’s no fun, because everything you write in that case is padding. If it wasn’t, it would have been in there to begin with. I was told I could not use Xena and Gabrielle, they were off doing other shows, and I had to make use of her brother and her betrothed. I had to fill three minutes. I wrote two scenes with them. That worked out so well only because I got to explore the relationship between those two best friends and their relationship with Xena. I think the actors enjoyed working with each other. They were two very relaxed, nice scenes. Sometimes I think our actors get nervous working with Lucy because she’s the star. But these were just two guys having fun together and I think that shows. I don’t think that hurt the project to have those two extra scenes. They could be deleted and the story wouldn’t suffer, but I thought it filled it out nicely and gave you a shot at seeing who that younger brother of hers was…. I had lost my own younger brother and that was another thing that made the episode so special to me. It made me real tenacious about hanging on to the fact that this is an enormous, momentous decision for her. She can’t blithely say, ‘Well I’ll sacrifice my brother because I love Gabrielle.’ I just could not, no matter what, make it that cavalier a decision. To me, that was the most important, pivotal moment. She had to understand what she was doing for her brother’s good as well as Gabrielle’s and for the Greater Good under all circumstances. We went round and round over exactly what should be going on there. I said, ‘You have to keep the brother paramount, you just can’t kill off your brother and not have it mean something.’ I think it came out pretty well. It was a good moment, I certainly intended it to be in the writing.” (Whoosh! Interview – February 1999)
Here are scans of an interview that writer Chris Manheim gave on “Remember Nothing” for The Chakram Newsletter: #5.
Come back next Thursday for two more Xena episodes! And tune in tomorrow for one more Myrna Loy film!