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Xena Warrior Princess Episode Reviews
by Sheryl-Lee Kerr

A Solstice Carol
Season 2, Episode 9

RATING: 6 chakrams

Australian Airing: November 28 , 1998

Reviewed by Sheryl-Lee Kerr
slkx@hotmail.com

Scribes & Scrolls

Written by Chris Manheim. Directed by John T. Kretchmer.

Passing Parade

Joe Berryman (Senticles) Peter Vere-Jones (King Silvus).

Story So Far

Xena shows a Scrooge-like king the true meaning of Solstice.

Disclaimer

Senticles was not harmed during the production of this motion picture. However, several chimneys are in dire need of repair.

Rewind For

Gabrielle going for the Lassie classic with her "you’re trying to tell me something?" line to the donkey.

A hungry kid, in tough times, who has just made off with Xena’s chakram, inadvertently scores a free fish so he... throws it away.

A cool Xena leap out the window from the royal bedroom down through the shutters of the next floor. Bruce Willis eat your heart out.

The weirdest playing of Jingle Bells ever in the fight with the guards.

The invention of the hoola hoop, mastered in seconds by Gabrielle.

Xena using a wooden Hercules (I am not saying a word) as her funniest fight accessory to date (although the feathers, scary cardboard stars and gruel are up there).

Quotable

"Funny how the ribbons bring out its shine." Gabrielle on the subject of alternate uses for Xena’s round killing thing.

"I didn’t know you did gift wrapping." Boom boom. Gabrielle to Xena after the Warrior Princess ties up the current six-pack of incompetent thugs.

"Shirley, you exaggerate?" Xena to an orphan boy who should really complain about being called Shirley. Okay, so she probably meant "surely" but that Kiwerican accent is too funny sometimes.

"The reinforcements have arrived." Xena eyeing Santa, er Senticles, and his red-haired helper’s limb-splayed, sooty arrival.

Best comeback

Gabrielle: I don’t have a gift for you.

Xena: Gabrielle, you are a gift to me.

 

 

SLK’s Review

One, two, three, aaaawwww. Cheese doesn’t come any more potent than in this Xena episode, but I can really see how this is one for the kids - and they would love it.

From an adult perspective though, if I see one more cute white-toothed kid from Dimples Casting Inc who smiles while he/she sings, I may well apply for King Silvus’s now vacant position as miserly despot in residence.

Every time the kids appeared, out came the dollops of saccharine which were laid on thicker than Xena’s one-stop-shop bemused/bored look. The worst, and I mean the utter worst moment of sugar sweetness I have ever witnessed on Xena was in this episode when Gabrielle utters those immortal words to a room full of children, "That reminds me of a story..."

The plastic young ’uns immediately leap to attention and, in the finely honed discipline that Dimples Inc instills in them, say, as one: "A story????!!!"

Throw in their Solstice wishes and I am wondering what Malena is slipping into her orphans’ milk. When, oh when, have you ever heard any child declare his or her festive season wish was for: "A Solstice dinner with all the trimmings." I’m sorry, trimmings? Kids can name every specimen of food they can think of liking, but they do not now or ever say "trimmings". A small example of the problems of big people writing little people’s lines.

This aside, I didn’t mind the episode at all. Peter Vere-Jones (King Silvus) did a very good job, bah humbugging his way through a less-than-original Scrooge script, and every time you think he’s finally learned the true meaning of Solstice he reels off another serve for long-suffering Xena. Which was considerably more believable than your average Christmas flick’s conversion-to-goodness timetable. I liked the twist with the wife at the end; and goofy and silly as it was, they successfully pulled off the Hercules-doll throwing, ballbearing-on-the-floor fight scene.

The only thing that seemed to be stretching it a bit was that every Christmas icon made an appearance. Not only was Scrooge there and Tiny Tim (the chakram stealer) but also Santa (Senticles) and possibly Mary and Joseph, complete with newborn child. This latter inclusion ruined it a bit because by then I was worn out from spotting all the other festive bits and pieces (inventions of stocking stuffers and the like) and almost diabetic from the kiddy-heavy sugary overdoses.

They were also going against their own rules for the Xenaverse by including Mary and Joseph. Any TV writer or journalist who has ever questioned Xena’s time leaping has been told by the show’s makers that their rule of thumb is: anything BC is fair game, anything AD is not. Well unless that wasn’t supposed to be a very much alive-and-well baby Jesus, glowing forehead and twinkling sun and all, then we just entered the realm of AD, folks.

On the plus side, it was kind of fun to see vintage Renee, up to her old tricks, complete with hammy comic timing. By comic timing, check out the scene where she is dangling by a rope, the rope drops, she gets hauled back up to full height and is fussing to look right just before the king looks back at her. She cuts it to the barest millisecond, going from panicked to serene and in doing so makes it hilarious. But this has always been her forte, no doubt about it.

I also love how she saved the donkey from the knackery. Then, when she tells Xena she spent all her money to save Tobias (a fine acting performance by the donkey by the way), Xena doesn’t even look surprised, just cocks a sardonic "uh huh" eyebrow. Classic... it so summed them up: Gabrielle being, as usual, too kind-hearted for her own good; and cool Xena expecting this at every turn, and being secretly amused by it.

On the Xena front, I believe there were shades of the yet-to-be created Priestess Leah in her rendition of the first Fate. Lucy did some top-notch fun acting there.

But the saving grace of the show for me was the ending: the gift. It was a nice way to tie it off. At the start of the show, Xena is (again) playing it cooler than a polar bear on the whole Solstice gift-giving concept, pretending she doesn’t care. But at the end, it is Xena, not Gabrielle, who produces a gift - and not just any gift, but a present that is utterly thoughtful and meaningful for Gabrielle. It reveals more than anything else what she really feels about the idea of Solstice, or probably more likely, how much she cares about her dearest friend.

I think I’d like to have seen Gabrielle produce a gift for Xena (I mean what do you buy a Warrior Princess with everything and attitude to boot?), but if she had, we wouldn’t have heard Xena’s somewhat uncomfortable but very sweet closing line.

All in all, great stuff for the kids, some mildly amusing stuff for the grownups and a chance to relive sweet Gabrielle in her nuttier days and Xena in her cool but ever amused Warrior Princess days.

 

 

   

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