THE XENA SCROLLS: An Opinionated Episode Guide (507 & 508)

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.

 

97. Season 5, Episode 7: “Back In The Bottle” (Aired: 11/15/99 | Filmed: 07/07 – 07/16/99)

Xena must master Lao Ma’s powers to save Gabrielle, Joxer and the people of Chin from a militia led by the evil spirits of Pao Ssu and her brother, Ming Tien.

Story by Rob Tapert & Steven L. Sears | Teleplay by Buddy Williers | Directed by Rick Jacobson | Production No. V0909

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JACKSON SAYS:

I featured this episode as one of the eight worst episodes of the entire series. Read my thoughts here.

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CAST & CREW COMMENTARY:

Rob Tapert (Executive Producer/Writer/Director): “[These] two China episodes, which I felt should have been great, were disasters. They were done during a time of transition of the staff of the show and we tried to shore up the second one, but it didn’t work. A pregnant Xena facing the decision that the only way she could protect herself is to kill 100,000 people is a great emotional moment. And nothing was made of it. That was the whole story. Xena saying, ‘Gabrielle, I can’t kill all these people and bring somebody into this world and not have it affect my child.’ That was the story and it got lost and changed into things that didn’t matter… I think if those two episodes had been better, it would have changed a lot. They were just two letdowns. [This one in particular] was one of the weakest shows we’ve ever done… and there was no passion [between Gabrielle and Lin Qi]. Renee came to me and said, ‘This is not going to work.’ I told her to do her best and I’d try to rescue it in the editing room. But the story between Gabrielle and Lin was such a bad idea. It needed to be about Xena and Gabrielle and the weight on their shoulders.” (The Chakram Newsletter: #11)

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Renee O’Connor (Actor, Gabrielle): “Anthony [Wong] is a terrific actor, but I don’t think he was the right love interest for Gabrielle and I guess I’m not the only one who thought that. He’s a brilliant actor, though. He’s the sort of actor who reacts off what you do – completely natural and honest in the scene and I really enjoyed working with him. It’s unfortunate he was cast in a role that couldn’t eventuate into anything.” (The Chakram Newsletter: #10)

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Rick Jacobson (Director): “[This episode] had problems right from the get-go. And I can’t remember exactly what was going on. I don’t know… I look back on it and I can’t really put my finger on what the problem with [the episode] was from a script development point. But it had 15 different hands in it… [We’d] give them notes… and send it back. And of course we always got the delay of dealing with the two time zones and stuff, cause all the writers were back here in the states. So we’d fire them off our changes, they would get it, it would take a day or so to translate, [then] we’d get it and by then we’d have other problems or we’d solved certain problems. And so there was this constant [back and forth]. And for some reason, it was particularly bad on this episode. And one thing, which was also a problem, every time we sent it back and got revisions, it came from a different writer…Thankfully I was doing the second [of a two-parter] so I could watch their dailies [on “Purity”]. I sat in on some of their production meetings, I sat in on the read through, I’d go down to the set and just kind of watch and see how characters and stuff are developing. So the transition was pretty easy. I knew the characters; I knew what they were doing… [But] I think [Lin Qi] was probably just miscast and Rob [Tapert] raised flags to it right from the get-go… but… myself, Eric Gruendemann, Chloe Smith, we all kind of felt that, ‘No, this guy is good.’… This [story] was from the mind of Rob. He loved the idea that Xena was responsible for these thousands of terra cotta soldiers that were unearthed. And why Xena and how Xena came about the decision to do it, I think it just simply was [a], ‘It’s us or them,’ sort of things. And I know she was really intent on stopping this spread of the black powder, and all of these soldiers had that knowledge of the black powder. And the only way to stop it was to get rid of them all.” (“Back In The Bottle” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Five DVD Set)

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Rob Tapert (Executive Producer/Writer/Director): “[These] two China episodes were an absolute disaster… The whole reason for Xena’s conflict in China… was about how, as a pregnant mother, could she take 100,000 lives in order to save the lives of a few, but that whole concept got dropped out of the show. Alex [Kurtzman] and Bob [Orci] added in Ming T’ien to give it some semblance of order but script wise, those were disasters because nobody was running the show.” (Whoosh Interview – January 2001)

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Here is an on-set report of the production of “Back In The Bottle” from Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #2.

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98. Season 5, Episode 8: “Little Problems” (Aired: 11/22/99 | Filmed: 08/26 – 09/03/99)

Gabrielle and Aphrodite have until sundown to save Xena’s soul from being trapped inside a young girl forever.

Written by Gregg Ostrin | Directed by Allison Liddi | Production No. V0913

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JACKSON SAYS:

I featured this episode as one of the eight worst episodes of the entire series. Read my thoughts here.

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CAST & CREW COMMENTARY:

Renee O’Connor (Actor, Gabrielle): “I think [this one is] fun. I never would have had the opportunity to do these [sorts] of fights if it weren’t for the fact that Lucy is pregnant. It’s been a real treat… [Locking horns with Aphrodite] was an accident. It was very amusing for us. It was all I could do to keep a straight face and get through the scene. I didn’t think they would use it. I was just so pleased we carried on. A lot of times, when things like that happen, actors stop. It was so fun to make ourselves get through the scene. I’m glad they used it.” (The Chakram Newsletter: #10)

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Alexandra Tydings (Actor, Aphrodite): “I’ve heard other people say that Hercules was a much more male-dominated set and Xena was a more female-dominated set. But the only time I ever really felt that way was when we made… [this episode]. Allison Liddi was directing [the] episode and another woman was the First A.D. [assistant director], and the set was full of women in power. I really, really had a ball on [this] show!” (Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #7 – June 2000)

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Here is an on-set report of the production of “Little Problems” from Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #6.

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Come back next Thursday for more Xena! And tune in tomorrow for another Pre-Code Film Friday!

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