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.
47. Season 3, Episode 1: “The Furies” (Aired: 09/29/97 | Filmed: 03/28 – 04/08/97)
At Ares’s prodding, the Furies curse Xena with madness for failing to avenge her father’s death. But lifting the curse may prove troublesome when she learns who the murderer was.
Written by R.J. Stewart | Directed by Gilbert Shilton | Production No. V0224
I featured this episode as #36 on my list of the 60 best episodes. Read my thoughts here.
CAST & CREW COMMENTARY:
Lucy Lawless (Actor, Xena): “I remember [this episode] because it was really, really pressured. We were under a lot of pressure. The director was Gil Shilton and I had huge long scenes… with a lot of blather, which was all sort of stream of consciousness – nutty stream of consciousness – that you have to find the [rational] thread through in order to be able to act them kind of organically… Kevin and I did this fight that took days and days to finish, and it was a multi-level fight and it was really hot. And I remember Kevin and I sort of walking off in our leather, which was [squeaking], and Kevin going, ‘Scungy.’ We felt very ‘scungy’ doing that fight. There was a lot of stuff; we had to be up on poles right at the top of a studio, which is just the hottest place on Earth.” (“The Furies” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Three DVD Set)
Robert Gillies (Production Designer): “All of those sort of pole fights and things are basically pillaged from the Hong Kong genre of action films. We would watch those and go, ‘How do they do that?’ You know, and [we would] come up with a nutty way of our version of how we would do it… And pretty much they all involve wide shots where you would see the jeopardy and then little rigs where we would have half poles, stubby poles, soft poles, to do all of the stunt work that had to be done.” (“The Furies” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Three DVD Set)
Liz Friedman (Producer/Writer): “I do think that some of the reason there was a mixed reaction to this episode is that it starts off feeling like it’s going to be a full-on comedy and then it gets much darker as it goes along… Usually… we tended to go one way or the other [in tone].” (“The Furies” Commentary – Season Three DVD Set)
Rob Tapert (Executive Producer/Writer/Director): “We cut scenes. We reshot scenes. This was a troubled episode. The star and the director did not get on particularly well. We had to go back and do a couple of days of reshooting.” (“The Furies” Commentary – Season Three DVD Set)
R.J. Stewart (Writer/Producer): “In [this episode], I borrowed a quotation from Shakespeare, slightly paraphrased – pretty much exactly as Shakespeare wrote it, which is, ‘We are to the gods as flies to wanton boys; they kill us for [their] sport.’… And that was definitely a theme we were setting up [for the next season]…” (“The Furies” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Three DVD Set)
Liz Friedman (Producer/Writer): “The issue in [this episode] about whether or not Ares was Xena’s father… there was a lot of debate over that. And, you know, initially in the script, all the way up, I believe, to the production draft, Ares was Xena’s father. I definitely was very divided about it. I don’t want to believe that the only way that Xena can do these amazingly cool stuff is because of, you know, godly sperm…” (“The Furies” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Three DVD Set)
Rob Tapert (Executive Producer/Writer/Director): “I believe at the time, the studio had a few notes that they wanted to make sure we didn’t say that ‘cause they thought, and rightfully so, that to infer that Xena had any… immortal blood in her would make her character… too much like Hercules, but also not as approachable.” (“The Furies” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Three DVD Set)
Liz Friedman (Producer/Writer): “I actually think it was a good note [that the studio gave us about Xena’s paternity]. Because, really, all the sort of sexual tension between Xena and Ares… we never would have been able to do that, and there always was that quality to their relationship: a real sexual charge.” (“The Furies” Commentary – Season Three DVD Set)
Kevin Smith (Actor, Ares): “They played with [Ares as Xena’s father] for a little while and it seemed to jump one way and then another. We first saw hints of that in [“Ties That Bind”] originally. At first it was, ‘I’m your father.’ Then it got softened to, ‘I’m like your father.’ Then we got that weird [“Intimate Stranger”] deal [with Ares and Callisto], and by the time we got to [this episode], I don’t know how close we actually came to saying it, but I still think it’s ambiguous…The line I had was something like, ‘If I was your father, I’d be very proud.’ I was told to say that with pride, as if it might be true. I suppose ambiguity is best to keep consciences clear…” (Whoosh! Interview – May 1999)
Eric Gruendemann (Producer): “It was determined very early on that Ares would be Xena’s father. I mean, we hinted at it occasionally, and we never cemented it for the audience… I think it made a lot of sense. Once again, we’re dealing in the fantasy realm, and it really, not only deepened the relationship between Ares and Xena in so many different ways, but it also really gave us a lot of insight into why Xena is who she is.” (Best Buy Bonus Featurette – Season Three DVD Set)
Steven L. Sears (Writer/Producer): “We left [the paternity issue] up to the audience. We played it. Quite honestly, R.J. [Stewart, Producer] and I would sit there and talk about it and say, ‘Why not? Why can’t?’ [But] I was actually against it. We talked about it a lot, [and] the reason I was against it was that it would make her half-god. And I really wanted to believe that, no, this was a mortal who was special because she had the strength to stand up for herself.” (“The Furies” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Three DVD Set)
48. Season 3, Episode 2: “Been There, Done That” (Aired: 10/06/97 | Filmed: 04/09 – 04/16/97)
Xena realizes her day is repeating itself so she can break a cycle of death that hinges on two lovers’ warring families.
Written by Hilary J. Bader | Directed by Andrew Merrifield | Production No. V0227
I featured this episode as #8 on my list of the 60 best episodes. Read my thoughts here.
CAST & CREW COMMENTARY:
Andrew Merrifield (Director): “[This] was a fairly intimidating sort of a script. You looked at it and went, ‘God, this is Groundhog Day. How can you better that or do anything like that?’ And the speed we had to work… we had seven days to shoot 42 minutes of television… It looks kind of easy; you just throw them together, film the thing, but actually the complexities of repeating the day… everyone was confused about which day they’re in… Fortunately with brilliant continuity people and terrific directing, we managed to work our way through it… But, no, actually it’s my favorite episode. I really enjoyed it, and I still think it holds up pretty well today. It’s still fairly funny and [there are] some [great] performances from all the cast.” (“Been There, Done That” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Three DVD Set)
Lucy Lawless (Actor, Xena): “What I remember about [this episode] is that it’s an incredible amount of mental gymnastics that you have to be doing because you’re shooting out of sequence. You have to know what part of what day you’re in and what the point-of-view of your character was at that time. I mean, I had to make this crazy kind of chart up about what my character knew at this point on any given day… And I can just see that Bill Murray is the genius of the world for Groundhog Day,‘cause we were really ripping off that idea, but Billy Murray’s the ultimate in keeping that [film] all in line. Boy, is that challenging… and so fun! So fun; oh, we loved that episode… Lots of laughs…” (“Been There, Done That” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Three DVD Set)
Ted Raimi (Actor, Joxer): “I thought [this episode] was going to be the most fun episode, and so did Lucy [Lawless], because we thought, ‘It’s going to be very easy. We have one-third as many lines to learn because the lines are the same… [and] the same set-ups, so it’ll be fast to shoot.’ We were really excited. But halfway through that episode, Lucy and I were like, ‘Man, this is really hard to do!”… [And] that line, ‘Is that a hickey?’ was an add-in from Lucy… it was a very funny line and I had nothing to do with that.” (“Been There, Done That” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Three DVD Set)
Renee O’Connor (Actor, Gabrielle): “I love [this] episode… That was so funny… because we did sort of, ‘Take the piss,’ the New Zealand term of having a great time with the subtext and enjoying it… Truly, [Lucy] and I were laughing and having fun with the playing of the cocoanuts [sic]… [in] the freeze frame… But how much fun was that?” (“Been There, Done That” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Three DVD Set)
Ted Raimi (Actor, Joxer): “Of course, Joxer… gets killed. It’s funny because we knew that would appeal to a lot of the fans… [N]ot only was Joxer killed, but he was killed by Xena while he was being obnoxious. I think [the moment] was very popular for that reason… [But] getting the chakram to the chest… was fun. It doesn’t just bounce of rocks, I guess, and hit bad guys in the face, it also like impales your ribcage.” (“Been There, Done That” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Three DVD Set)
Andrew Merrifield (Director): “It was great fun being able to kill the main characters on an American TV show, because it just doesn’t happen until the end of season or end of series… I think it’s great to keep the audience thinking that there’s in some way a possibility that Gabrielle might not come back, depending on how the next day goes… A lot of people were a bit scared about killing Joxer because he’s so harmless and bumbling and foolish, but his death was very well received. Fortunately, he didn’t die at all; it was just a terrible mistake… [As for the chakram toss], it was all computer generated. So all we did was put spark hits for where the chakram would hit.” (“Been There, Done That” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Three DVD Set)
Bernadette Joyce (Producer): “[This episode] had I believe 21 chakram hits… and we wanted to make sure that each one of those hits had their own unique sound of the chakram and the whoosh. I think we did a good job on that. Xena was known for whooshes.” (“Been There, Done That” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Three DVD Set)
Lucy Lawless (Actor, Xena): “One of the best episodes…” (SYFY Marathon – April 2020)
Come back next Thursday for more Xena! And tune in tomorrow for another Miriam Hopkins Pre-Code!