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.
35. Season 2, Episode 11: “Here She Comes… Miss Amphipolis” (Aired: 01/20/97 | Filmed: 12/06 – 12/13/96)
Disguising herself as a contestant, Xena enters the Miss Known World beauty pageant in order to flush out a saboteur.
Written by Chris Manheim | Directed by Marina Sargenti | Production No. V0212
Not much to say about this moderately entertaining standalone installment from the second season, which boasts one of the few X:WP appearances of Salmoneus, who calls upon Xena and Gabrielle to infiltrate a beauty pageant and help solve a mystery. There’s some humor, there’s some heart, there’s some preaching – this episode was the only one from the series nominated for a GLAAD Award – yet, despite it seeming at times like “a very special episode,” the installment retains its sense of fun and remains a lighthearted early Xena adventure. O’Connor struggles a bit with her role, but Lawless outshines everyone as the beautiful Miss Amphipolis. Certainly not a classic, but it still has its moments.
CAST & CREW COMMENTARY:
Chris Manheim (Writer): “When they told me, ‘You’ll be writing the beauty pageant episode,’ my heart sank. It was over lunch and Rob said, ‘I think we should do a beauty pageant.’ It took me a while to get a handle on it, because I really didn’t see Xena in any way connected to a beauty pageant, so that took a lot of thought. I was glad to have a murder mystery background since we were supposed to keep the real villain a secret. It started out being very nebulous for me, but it turned out pretty well. We were actually alerted by the fellow who played the transvestite [that we’d been nominated for a GLAAD award]. His agent or publicist called us and asked if we knew the episode was nominated, and actually we didn’t. Because it was such a different kind of Xena episode, it was hard to get a handle on it. Again, it probably came out the best it could be, but believe me, it’s nobody’s favorite episode.” (Starlog Magazine Yearbook – August 1998)
Rob Tapert (Executive Producer/Writer/Director): “We did a beauty pageant episode, and I didn’t care for that…. just middling…” (Starlog Magazine #245 – December 1997)
36. Season 2, Episode 12: “Destiny” (Aired: 01/27/97 | Filmed: 06/17 – 06/27/96)
A fierce battle with Sitacles and his men leaves Xena lying near death and dreaming of the past encounters that have shaped her into a warrior princess, including her adventures with Julius Caesar and her relationship with a mysterious girl.
Story by Robert Tapert | Teleplay by R.J. Stewart & Steven L. Sears | Directed by Robert Tapert | Production No. V0207
I featured this episode as #22 on my list of the 60 best episodes. Read my thoughts here.
CAST & CREW COMMENTARY:
Steven L. Sears (Writer/Producer): “Rob had always been fascinated by two things: One was a true story that came out of Caesar’s past, and that was when he was younger and had been kidnapped by pirates. The other thing Rob has wanted to do was chart the different degrees of Xena’s turning from being a peasant girl to a warrior; from being good to totally evil. The thing that was so blatantly missing from what we set up was that we set up the peasant girl and when she turned back from evil, but we never said exactly when she became evil. The distinction is there’s a difference between being George Patton and Josef Stalin, and there was a moment where that had to have happened. Rob came up with this story about Xena becoming tired of being a warrior and trying to find someone to trust. Not only does that person betray her, though, it seems like life, the gods, the fates, betray her, because of her affection for this girl who had been helping her. That person was taken away from her, so it’s a story of utter betrayal.” (Starlog Magazine #246 – January 1998)
Rob Tapert (Executive Producer/Writer/Director): “[This episode was] originally called “Why And Where,” [in] which myself and R.J. tried to answer the question: what made Xena so mean-a? … I think it’s the first backstory [flashback] that we told as to who Xena was and why she got to where she was. I also elected to direct it, although it caused a little family strife…” (“Destiny” Commentary, Season Two DVD Set)
Lucy Lawless (Actor, Xena): “I was working with Rob [Tapert], which I’m still not sure I like, because when Rob’s working as director, he’s not my Rob. I have to work out a new relationship with him… Working together was slightly uncomfortable to me until I realized, ‘Ah, it’s simply that I have to [adjust] in the way I deal with Rob during the day.’ And then it was fine. [However,] I would have liked this to be a two-hour script. It just got pared down and pared down, and it would have been great in an hour and a half, if that’s possible. But it was not to be. But it also left open a lot of doors for us to go back to if we do revisit Julius Caesar. I just started [reading] a script and there is mention of him. So he will turn up again.” (The Official Guide To The Xenaverse by Robert Weisbrot – 1998)
Rob Tapert (Executive Producer/Writer/Director): “One of the things that both R.J. and myself liked about Xena was that it was kind of a world without color. There was all kinds of people. So we thought it would be interesting that even though it was Gaelic was… to find a way to have a black Gaelic character who taught Xena the pinch. And I kinda said, ‘R.J., I’d like to do this.’ And he found a way in the script and the writing to kinda cover that, so we were able to have this young girl with a Gaelic connection and the Gaelic sounds backing her, who was still black. We found Ebonie Smith and I just thought she was a wonderfully charming young actress, and kind of filled the bill as the person you’d least expect to teach Xena her trademark. … [M’Lila’s] little broach – that Celtic thing – was the same thing the young girl Xena was trying to save in the opening teaser was wearing, and what caught Xena’s eye was that little broach. And I don’t think the audience ever got that. I tried to sell it with the young girl as to why Xena cared about her – because she came from the same area or tribe as the person who taught her the pinch, but it never really paid off. It was too subtle.” (“Destiny” Commentary, Season Two DVD Set)
Karl Urban (Actor, Caesar): “[Shooting the seduction scene between Xena and Caesar] was really funny actually. We were on the bed and Lucy [Lawless, Xena] was wearing that stunning red dress. She start[ed] doing this seductive, tigress-like crawl across the bed, and I’m watching unblinkingly as she comes towards me. But just as she got halfway across the bed, one of my contact lenses flipped off my eye. I had a blinking attack as I tried to get it back on my eye, and Lucy just cracked up laughing. It was her shot and the camera was just on her, so everyone started yelling at Lucy for running the shot. And she was going, ‘It was him! It was him!’ It was a very funny moment.” (Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #6 – May 2000)
Rob Tapert (Executive Producer/Writer/Director): “[The ending of this episode] was actually closer to “[Is There A] Doctor In The House?” But after Lucy’s accident, we all went, ‘No, she’s going to stay dead; we’ll do a whole episode where she inhabits Bruce Campbell!’” (“Destiny” Commentary, Season Two DVD Set)
Here is an on-the-scene account of the Production of “Destiny” from Weisbrot’s The Official Guide To The Xenaverse.
Come back next Thursday for more Xena! And tune in tomorrow for another Clark Gable Pre-Code film!