Season 3, Episode 10
1 August 1998

Reviewed by SLK

RATING: 7 chakrams.

thequill.jpg (103561 bytes)SCRIBES & SCROLLS:
Written by Hilary Bader,
Edited by Jim Prior,
Directed by Andrew Merrifield.

Kevin Smith (Ares);
Ted Raimi (Joxer);
Alexandra Tydings (Aphrodite);
Allison Wall (Minya).

Aphrodite enchants one of Gabrielle’s scrolls making whatever fiction she writes in it come true. She inadvertently summons Joxer, sends Xena fishing, gains warrior skills and robs Ares and Aphrodite of their powers.

No naked Gabrielles were harmed during the making of this motion picture.

The amazing bardic skirt (complete with stitched-up crotch) that never gets above tush height despite the fact Gabrielle does triple backflips and Wonder Woman spins in it; the awkward moment between Gabrielle and Ares after they realised they came horribly close to bonding; the sudden appearance of three naked Gabrielles getting down to 1960s music behind the washing line (as one does); the look on Xena’s face after describing seeing the three naked Gabrielles jog on by; the look on Minya’s face after Aphrodite’s potion wears off and she realises she has just kissed Joxer; and Joxer just getting the “awoke with a jerk” joke during the fun fishfight.

“We will go west; yes, we will go west...No, we go east...Er, this way to the boats, we’ll become pirates and kill all who sail the seas...Wait! To the caves.” Gabrielle exercising her rights to change a barbarian’s mind.

“Leather...mention the leather,” Ares’s drooling on about his two favourite fetishes.

“Who’s the stud, the dork and the bottle blonde?” Minya gets to the point.

“I took it off a pedlar who was being chased by barbarians who was being chased by three...naked...Gabrielles and Minya. (She’s still chasing them by the way).” Xena suspecting something’s fishy. (er, sorry.)

“I really hate to be the one to break up a major lovefest but look at me!” Aphrodite, who obviously didn’t read her job description closely, to Xena and Gabrielle after they’re reunited.


Hilary Bader just loves those situational comedies and in her The Quill Is Mightier she couldn’t squeeze any more sightgags in if she had a shoehorn and the All Blacks behind it. Bader, you may remember, penned the very amusing Been There Done That repeating day episode. She relies this time on the more outrageous visuals, well actually downright farce, to get her chuckles, rather than the tight script and acting prowess of her stars (Lucy in particular in BTDT) or in any witty dialogue (such as in Warrior Priestess Tramp).

For the most part, it works if you switch your brain off and ignore the rather glaring plot holes. For instance: writing “Xena finishes fishing and goes to meet Gabrielle” isn’t going to work? And “Ares and Aphrodite get their god powers back” isn’t going to do the trick? But I guess if it did, there’d be no story.

Well speaking of that story, I guess the score is now even - we’ve had three Xena lookalikes (plus Xena) and now we have three Gabrielle lookalikes, complete with nose-scrunching, winks and ‘60s bopping, plus Gabrielle. They could have had a field day with that one, but, almost regrettably, everyone played it down a bit - probably in great contrast to what was going on behind the scenes, I’m sure.

A few small things bugged me during this episode. At several points I was jarred with a deja vu feeling, like I was watching a poorer ripoff of A Day In The Life: When Minya first arrived in that show she made a big deal out of meeting Xena, as though she was her hero: “Ooooh Xennna’’ etc. She does exactly the same thing here with Ares and Aphrodite, in the *same* tone of voice. Also in ADITL, Minya couldn’t work out who Gabrielle was and in The Quill is Mightier she does pretty much the same trick with Joxer. And in the line here, where Gabrielle realises Joxer has used her scrolls to write on, she berates him using *exactly* the same furious, incredulous tone - almost the same line (“You WROTE in my scrolls?!”) - as she used with Xena in ADITL when nature called (“You USED my scrolls?!)

To cap it all off in the minor irks stakes, Minya, who was such a great character in ADITL, here comes off with some pretty lame lines and is a bit underutilised. (Although with all the competition for screen time, I’m not surprised.) For example, she gets the hots for Ares and so Gabrielle asks (surprisingly, for she shouldn’t even know what hormones are) “How are those hormones, Minya?” “Raging” replies Minya. Boom boom. Nah, Minya deserved better. I recall she was very popular with fans last time because she asked the interesting questions the fans wanted to know (What *does* Xena sleep in) and had some in-your-face fun with the subtexters (“Hower’s mine... she’s yours”) while addressing Xena about Gabrielle. But to rock up just for the sight joke about Xena’s whip; rework stuff she’s done once before, kiss Joxer then utter a few more unfunny exit lines... what a waste. Another tiny downer for me was the campy Scabbarus chasing his kinsmen sword - the whole entirety of the joke being, oh, ha ha, he’s gay. But *what* a frightful caricature. I’m sure gay men would have been utterly cringing. But it was just easy, I suspect, or maybe Hilary just kinda liked him. Unfortunately there were so many easy options taken in this episode when Hilary Bader could have pushed the envelope and gone for something really original. Heck, she had it all at her feet - you don’t get a more open charter than a scroll that allows *anything* to happen. But to have it degenerate into the usual madcap cave chasies was a little uninspired.

Still, she did make up for it elsewhere. It was hard to pick what was coming next and the sightgags were funny. The fishfight at the end (complete with running commentary) was unusual to say the least and showed yet another of Xena’s many skills. I guess that swordfish was the origin of the game we currently know as darts, while the eel made history as first frisbee. (In case you’re wondering at the long-running fish motif on the show, Xena topdog Rob Tapert is a huge fishing fan - so much so, he and Lucy Lawless went fishing while on their honeymoon!)

There was also some pretty clever directing going on in this episode - check out the shot in the cave with the stack of barbarians that Joxer suddenly appears over; three heads all lined up. Very nifty effect.

Meanwhile I actually felt sorry for Joxer - when he tried to give Gabrielle a gift only to have her slap it back at him because he sold his scabbard *unknowingly* with the scroll in it. Heck all she had to to do was tell him she was hiding it there. She actually came off looking pretty mean - unusual for Gabs.

We do get a tiny peek into Gabrielle’s dreams this episode. Her first choice of fiction was to write herself in as the “warrior bard” who does kicks and jumps and has abs of steel. So maybe she does secretly wish she could be a warrior of sorts? If so, an unusual choice for one who spurns all killing. And her first reaction after whomping barbarian butt was to say: “Xena will be very proud when she comes back”. Still trying to impress Xena, I see. Interesting.

My incongruity alert went off on one point - and I’m open to debate on it. Remember The Reckoning - the episode where Xena is on trial for murders she does not commit and does a sneaky deal with Ares whom she double crosses? In that episode, quite clearly, it is the first time she meets the God of War. Xena says things like: “I used to wonder what you looked like.” In The Quill Is Mightier, Ares says “When she first came to me, she was just a lost warlord hungry to kill. I gave her a purpose.” I suppose “came to me” might not be meant literally, rather, Ares could mean when she was in his fold. But he does make it sound like they had a direct and personal link during her bad old days. This doesn’t at all align with the events of The Reckoning where Ares is a complete stranger to her.

And, finally, you just had to love the scene with Ares and Gabrielle. The Xena Mutual Admiration Society dialogue was very cute: Ares: ...She does it all with that steely gaze. Gabrielle (nodding knowingly): Seen *that* a few times. Hehehe, nicely done. I figure it was in The Furies that Ares first spotted Gabrielle as the key to getting to Xena and he now seems to be doing something about it. I wonder if he will continue to try to target Gabrielle? Still on that scene - I could have done without that stupid “what’s that” silliness

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