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.
129. Season 6, Episode 17: “Last Of The Centaurs” (Aired: 04/30/01 | Filmed: 01/15 – 01/24/01)
A young centaur is being hunted down by Lord Belach, and Xena and Gabrielle must save him while preventing a war.
Written by Joel Metzger | Directed by Garth Maxwell | Production No. V1420
I featured this episode as one of the eight worst episodes of the entire series. Read my thoughts here.
CAST & CREW COMMENTARY:
Joel Metzger (Writer): “What this one ends up being is a kind of Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner?, except that instead of Sidney Poitier, it’s a horseman… Putting [Xena] in a dilemma that’s impossible to solve is the hardest thing to do in the series. Superman had his kryptonite, so that comes in handy, but with Xena, what we end up doing is putting other people in jeopardy or a huge army of forces against her. So the trick is to put her in a dilemma where she’s forced between two things that she can’t pull off at the same time… I didn’t really know what to do with the [script]. I originally wrote it as a drama, which is what they wanted, but the whole thing is about this girl who basically had sex with a horseman. So it’s hard to keep that image out of your mind and take it seriously. And then you have Ephiny’s ghost in there too, so I put in some jokey moments where no one could see or hear her. That was my first draft and then Rob [Tapert] said, ‘Let’s make this a tragedy, these are heavy stakes – let’s lose some of the jokes. So I did. It still has some pretty heavy themes: whole races being wiped out, and Xena has this painful backstory to deal with and her friends are in jeopardy because she can’t bring herself to kill the son of Borias. There’s a lot of tragedy there, but the image of a woman having sex with a horseman is tough to get out of your head when you’re writing dialogue, because you feel like cracking up! So that was a challenge, but we definitely went with the tragedy. It is tragic, because the guy never really gets his daughter at the end. But it’s also uplifting because the centaur race is saved, even though there are only two left… There was a lot of real Shakespearean stuff to milk out of killing that last centaur. What I’d done was create this prophecy that they would all die and be born again of a new father, and the whole time you’re thinking Xenon is the father. So the prophecy comes true in a way you didn’t expect, which is great stuff.” (Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #22 – September 2001)
Renee O’Connor (Actor, Gabrielle): “I remember Lucy and I were on a hill [at the end of the episode]. We had some time to kill and we were watching Geoff Short take photos of Danielle Cormack. That’s when I told Lucy [I was pregnant]. Couldn’t help it – I was dying to tell her.” (The Chakram Newsletter: #17)
Joel Metzger (Writer): “Xena was driven by [her] guilt [towards Belach]. This is one of those episodes where it wasn’t ‘destory the enemy,’ it was ‘enlighten the enemy’ and solve things from the past. So she ends up not killing the guy, but I think she was loaded with guilt. [Meanwhile,] Gabrielle did jump on the ‘kill Belach’ train pretty fast. I remember we talked about this in the room, it did seem a little un-Gabrielle like. But we needed that voice. I think we wanted to play the tension between Xena and Gabrielle. In this case, Xena wanted to do the Gabrielle thing and Gabrielle wanted to do the Xena thing. And the guy did commit genocide, and he wasn’t apologetic and he wasn’t going to stop. So I think she was justified. [But] we gave the more enlightened view to Xena in this episode – sort of the reversal of their usual dynamic.” (“Last Of The Centaurs” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Six DVD Set)
Here is an on-set report of the production of “Last Of The Centaurs” from Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #20.
130. Season 6, Episode 18: “When Fates Collide” (Aired: 05/07/01 | Filmed: 01/25 – 02/02/01)
Xena becomes the Empress of Rome with no recollection of her past when Caesar chains up the three Fates and cuts the strands of time to alter his destiny.
Written by Katherine Fugate | Directed by John Fawcett | Production No. V1421
I featured this episode as #44 on my list of the 60 best episodes. Read my thoughts here.
CAST & CREW COMMENTARY:
Katherine Fugate (Writer): “I came to Rob [Tapert] and R.J. [Stewart] with a very specific belief on their series. Their series touched me deeply because it was a woman’s search for redemption based on something in her life that she felt was a bad choice or wrong. So she was righting a wrong for herself. And that period is commonly referred to as the Evil Xena period. And I came to Rob and R.J. in a room and said, ‘What I’d like to do is have Xena realize that all of that was necessary. As opposed to hating that part of herself, to look at life as a balance of all things. And what I think so many people do is sit in judgment about the choices they made instead of realizing they all led them somewhere. And the Warrior Princess that Xena became would never have come about had there not been the Evil Xena period of her life. And for her to see both of them, I proposed an alternate timeline where she never became the Evil Xena and chose a different path, which then never led her to Warrior Princess, which it didn’t. And as I started thinking about that, I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be interesting to do each character that way – a twist on all of their choices in life?’ And if I remember correctly, Gabrielle had always wanted to be a playwright and dreamt of going to Greece and being a famous playwright, so I thought, ‘Well, we’ll give her that dream [and] give Xena the dream she had in “Destiny” when she wanted to be an empress and rule with Caesar – give her that dream. But let’s see what they’re missing at the end of the day.’ So I made them both successful with what they wanted career wise and goal wise, only to find out they didn’t have each other, and that was the greater thing that was meant to be. So by that lesson, I was hoping Xena and everyone would apply to their lives sort of a kindness to themselves in realizing every step they made had a reason. And that’s kind of how I pitched it… Ultimately for Xena, what she needed to be was a person who recognized Gabrielle, and being the Warrior Princess got her to recognize Gabrielle when she saw her… We realized, now [that] you have a specific timeline, if you take off from “Destiny” and I also started thinking who was most interested in power in this show other than Caesar… and Xena, of course, in certain incarnations. And Alti was the other person who sought power in every form. And that’s how we got Alti. And I also realized, Alti was a better conduit to the two worlds. She was our mystic shamaness in our series, and she’s the only person who, through some mystical power, could get you to see both images in both lifetimes, so that’s how we used her. I think the thing about Alti that was interesting to me [is that] everyone’s lives were linked in this show. Caesar was going to crucify Xena in any lifetime. Xena was going to meet Gabrielle in any lifetime. And Alti was going to die because of Xena in any lifetime. This was a big surprise to her. She thought she’d finally won and she conquered her own destiny, so to speak, just like Caesar thought he’d conquered his destiny by killing Brutus, who’d killed him… in the real life, but that didn’t work because his destiny was to die by an unexpected hand. It was the irony of Julius Caesar’s life. So here comes Alti… only to realize in the last second of her life that Gabrielle and Xena’s love still was her demise, just as it was always meant to be.” (“When Fates Collide” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Six DVD Set)
Rob Tapert (Executive Producer/Writer/Director): “We wanted to do an episode [thinking], what if we went back to the moment that made Xena, which we always said was Caesar’s betrayal of her – turned her from a petty thief into a psycho… and revisit[ed] that moment. [So] Caesar never did that, and Xena and him became a couple, an item for Rome, [and] got married. And then said, let’s toss Gabrielle in the mix. First kind of go-around we talked that Gabrielle had kids and this and that, but felt no, she couldn’t leave her family… We very much knew what we wanted to do. [Katherine Fugate] came in and said she was interested in doing something about dead parents or grandparents or something and we knew pretty much that we wanted to do… something along this line. [But] we actually had other characters [in it too]… This was an episode I really wanted to direct, and I got the script just before I went on a long fishing trip and sat in my little bunk aboard a boat on my 14-day fishing trip, and went, ‘Ah, this would be great to direct. It has all this heart and emotion.’ But you can’t direct everything. And what was great when reading it is you know right away when you read a script if it’s going to be good or not… One of the things we thought would be fun for the fans is to know that Caesar was going to march East to China and deceive, and betray and destroy… Lao Ma. Of course, this wouldn’t be in 25 years in the future. This would be Lao Ma at the height of Lao Ma-ness, when Xena did “The Debt” [episodes]. It’s one of those things that slightly serialize[s] a show… We originally had other villians and Katherine, when she went off, decided to make the catalyst that caused this to happen Alti. We had Ted [Raimi, Joxer] from the other side, all different kinds of things that tried to influence [the events]… We had the production meeting like eight days before shooting and Ted wasn’t in it at that time and there was that part and I went, ‘Oh, what a great little part for Ted.’ Called and were able to make a deal, and he came down like the day before they were going to shoot. But they had all his sizes and everything… In the first draft, [Gabrielle] was married to a guy with vineyards and had kids and she had to have the realization that her life wasn’t working so… [and] had made the playwright unfulfilled even though she had achieved notoriety and success in her career. That was something we really worked on, I remember… The whole fight [on the hill] was never really scripted. [Xena] showed up, drove [Alti] off, and got shot instantly. John [Fawcett, director] came up with all that fast motion for [Alti]… Many people thought the series should have ended with this episode [but] they were wrong. We had a 22-episode order… There was a kiss written [in the jail scene] but nobody ever planned to shoot it. It was written. You can tell the writer one time, ‘We’re not gonna film that kiss,’ and they keep writing it… I can’t believe we got away with [the Alti and Caesar bedroom scene]… This is a sequence I’ve shown people to try and get John Fawcett work on other things, [with the] intercutting and all that. And everyone comes back and says, ‘I can’t believe you got away with this on television!’ When I thought about, well, it’s really R-rated.” (“When Fates Collide” Commentary – Season Six DVD Set)
Robert Field (Editor): “[This episode] was perhaps my favorite episode of Season Six, primarily because I felt that a lot of the elements from the stories that had been told through the first five seasons and into Season Six somehow reached an interesting conclusion through the parallel world of [this episode]… If you watch that [climactic] sequence as it plays, all of the moments between Xena… about to be crucified are all done in slow motion sequences. And all the shots in the bedroom where Alti is seducing Caesar are all shot in slow motion. And the ones that weren’t were slowed down again… [I was hoping] to give the sequence a surreal, almost dreamlike quality. We’ve seen the death of Xena before. We’ve seen the death of Xena by crucifixion before. It’s not a pleasant thing to watch. And I felt by making it more ethereal, it took some of the pain out of it… At the moment that it’s revealed that Alti has the knife… then basically the cutting goes into high speed… to build the intensity and the ferocity until the sequence reaches the climax. And a very specific choice was made by me to mirror the execution sequence in “The Ides Of March” by having Caesar react to Xena’s hammerings and having Xena react to Caesar’s stabbings, which again pulls those two characters together in a very dynamic way.” (“When Fates Collide” Interviews w/ Cast & Crew – Season Six DVD Set)
Claire Stansfield (Actor, Alti): “[This] episode was the most fun I’ve ever had. Lucy has always been pushing me to take my clothes off and be more sexy, and she got her way! Alti gets to really play sexy with Karl Urban… I have a fantastic scene with him in which we’re both naked, which is hot hot hot! There’s license to flirt and be naughty when you’re acting, so that was really fun for Karl and I. I adore Karl and we have great chemistry, and we both know each other’s partners… And Karl is such a strong actor, he’s really really come into his own lately, and he was just going for it in [this] episode… Lucy and I are such good pals but we really love to wind each other up. That’s what we do. We’re always ribbing each other and saying really horrible things, but all in jest. So we just turned up the heat in [the] show and played it as Alti and Xena. It’s all about Caesar and she imagined he was Rob [Tapert] and I imagined he was my boyfriend. In reality, if Claire was coming on to Rob Tapert, you’d have to look out! So the scenes that Alti has with Xena are really fun, because it’s them basically saying, ‘Hey, are you messing with my guy?’… They gave [writer Katherine Fugate] a choice of villains, and God love her, she chose Alti. She really wanted Alti to be redeemed. It was funny in script meetings because Rob Tapert kept turning to her and going, ‘What’s the name of the show? Oh yeah, it’s Xena: Warrior Princess. She’s got to win!’ Katherine wanted Alti to win!” (Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #21 – August 2001)
Renee O’Connor (Actor, Gabrielle): “I love that they brought [Alti] into this Caesar world… Quite Shakespearean…. I liked [the prison] scene. I thought it was well-written too. [It’s] just about trying to figure out the identities of each other and why we are so familiar and comfortable with each other… I remember John [Fawcett, director] wanted to play [the final scene] in a really weird voice… It was some sort of style of a certain director or certain filmmaker… I think he wanted us to show that we could remember, but we weren’t letting on that we did.” (“When Fates Collide” Commentary – Season Six DVD Set)
Lucy Lawless (Actor, Xena): “A lot of smoldering looks going on [here], cause Xena doesn’t know why she’s attracted to [Gabrielle], but [Caesar’s] looking for any hint of recognition. It’s a parallel universe. It’s not like the other one never happened; it’s happening at the same time… [And then] Alti’s gaydar is up. ‘I saw the way you looked at her!’… [But] it’s quite interesting. There’s quite complex stuff going on here with everyone not quite knowing what the other person knows. It’s interesting to watch… It was well written. When things are really easy to learn, it’s well written. Cause every thought is naturally out of the last one.” (“When Fates Collide” Commentary – Season Six DVD Set)
Here are scans of an interview that writer Katherine Fugate gave on “When Fates Collide” for The Chakram Newsletter: #26.
Here are scans of an interview that writer Katherine Fugate gave on “When Fates Collide” for Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #23.
Here is an on-set report of the production of “When Fates Collide” from Titan: The Official XENA Magazine, Issue #19.
*Click whooshjul01 fugate 618 to download a pdf copy of an interview that writer Katherine Fugate gave on “When Fates Collide” for Whoosh!, published in July 2001.
Come back next Thursday for more Xena! And tune in tomorrow for another Pre-Code Film Friday!