SEND IN THE CLONES
Season 6, Episode 16
Reviewed by Sheryl-Lee Kerr
RATING: 5.5 chakrams
SCRIBES AND SCROLLS: Written by Paul Robert Coyle. Directed by Charlie Haskell. Edited by Tim Batt.
PASSING PARADE: Claire Stansfield (Alexis Los Alamos/Alti); Allison Wall (Clea); Polly Baigent (Polly); Ian Hughes (Mac).
STORY SO FAR: Alti, with the help of three modern day fans of the TV show Xena, clone the original Xena and Gabrielle.
DISCLAIMER: No Xena fans were harmed in the making of this motion picture.
REWIND FOR: The playback of the sickening scene from Ides of March where Gabs takes out several Roman guards. Keep an eye on the facial expressions - whilst 'Alexis' appeared entertained, Mac and Polly snickered, revelling in the violence. Only Clea had the good grace to horrified. In the minds of TPTB, Xena fans clearly fall into one of two categories - those who love the kick-ass action and those that love the 'lovey dovey crap'.
The lascivious look on Xena's face when she watches vision of herself kissing Gabrielle. Her ribald "All right....." was in direct contrast to the discomfort etched across Gabrielle's face. You had to laugh, snicker at least.
"If you start talking about subtext I'm going to barf." Rob Tapert overheard at a story meeting for the Xena finale. *g*
"If you're talking about their 'special' relationship, I'm into that. Just let me watch." Oh sorry, there is obviously a third category of Xena fan - the male voyeur. And I thought all the eye candy was for the grrls. *g*
"A camp fire scene...a nice campfire scene with Gabby. Like the one from series two, episode eleven, just before the second ad break." There is no such scene of course (the episode being Here She Comes, Miss Amphipolis). Either Paul Robert Coyle is having a joke with us, or he hasn't been studying his Xena bible very well. Most likely the former, knowing writers as we do.
"Besides...the classic was series four, ep seven when she did that poignant little insight...as she's taking her boots off, she sits by the campfire." Another scene (supposedly from Locked Up Tied Down) dreamt up by the writer. Now I know he's yanking our chains.
"...they almost ruined everything with their macho disks. I know...after lights out I'll play 'em a full season of old Ellen tapes. Yeah...." The scary contents of Clea's mind as she plots a little subtext of her own for the revived Xena and Gabby. Talk about your Future Shock.
"Hear you've been busy Xena...missed your fire, your fury." And not forgetting the interesting things she does with vol-au-vents. Formal diagnosis: definite obsessive-compulsive tendencies by Alti, who just can't seem to let Xena go.
Mac: "Shouldn't we have some more Joxer stuff?"
Clea: "You're kidding aren't you?"
Clea: "You were a Trekkie?"
Clea: "You really are a nerd."
Ahhhh the tortured life of a fan... no respect, eh? Chuckle. Well, if you ever wanted to see what The Powers That Be think of their viewers, look no further than Send in the Clones.
Enter the three losers, sorry, I mean satirically-challenged caricatures: The Action Fan (crying out to be played by an actor we know); the Subtext Fan (with "latent" tendencies of course, hence, the enthusiastic thespian Minya lookalike with her dreams of Ellen nights) and your standard issue Leering Man Fan (so obviously needing a Ted Raimi or Michael Hurst for the job to make him, gee, I dunno... FUNNY).
And there we all are, it seems... Nice to know were giving them a giggle over at RenPic....
It really was the flipside of Yes Virginia, There is a Hercules -- this time the fans are being sent-up rather than the staff... albeit in a considerably less funny, less pacy, less interesting romp than Virginia. Even romp is too extreme a word for an over-explained flashback-riddled bottle show which ends in a few spins around a wreckers yard and a too obvious Alti v Xena toe-to-toe slugfest.
That said, first time I saw this ep, I didnt mind it. I snickered at the fans and laughed aloud at the idea of our ever traditional Xena and Gabrielle in the modern day world. I marvelled at all the potential, all the things they might have done with it: Xena and Gabrielle discovering the joys of microwaves or escalators or mobile phones, or trying to take their horse into a shopping centre or go through an airport scanner (a chakram ,a dagger, a sword and a breast plate would light it up like a Christmas tree), or teaching a few leering, modern day misogynists a lesson theyll never forget. Maybe they could have come up with a classic scene with the same irreverent mocking-social-niceties resonance as the kick-ass Tawanda parking scene in Fried Green Tomatoes ("face it girls, Im older and have more insurance...").
Imagine what Xena might have done to someone who tried to mug her...or cut in line in front of her in a queue.
Even discovering the similarities would have been good - Im sure politicians or salesmen are the same the ancient and modern world over... and Salmoneus would doubtlessly be running a few used-car lots by now. Xena would have mocked the hell out of all of them.
And what of the potential of relating old to new? Finding words to describe things they have no concept of. There could have been many more lines like Gabrielles reference to jail being the "city dungeon". Would a car be a chariot?
They had all the ingredients to make a lavish feast here. And what did they serve up? Limp lettuce leaf with a side of three day old sausage. So for this disappointment factor alone, plus the utterly wasted potential, it gets a thumbs down from me.
Now to look at what we did get instead of all these tantalising possibilities: A news report EXPLAINING instead of showing what they got up to; an eye witness with a mouth his mother would be afraid to kiss ... and we didnt even see what would have been a highly entertaining jail break.
Bottle shows must save money, we get that, but if they had the budget to get a couple of two-line extras into cop uniforms to start with, then they sure as Hades had the money to show said extras discovering how to travel the Mycenaean way as Xena introduces them to the frequent fliers scheme, and Gabrielle pointedly explains those arent just cocktail forks shes holding...
Other problems - Claire Stansfield, who can usually really jazz up an episode with her mere screen presence, in this one does a fairly good sleepwalking impression. I am surprised they didnt have to nudge her awake mid-scene every now and then... Hell, maybe they did.
Just one of many examples of her projected boredom was when she "discovers" that someone has broken into the computer to download evil Xena. Yeah, yeah, sure we know it was actually her in the end but we dont at this point and shes supposed to be putting on at least some show for us and her three little friends.
Her zoned out line: "How did that happen?" could have been referring to how the pedestrian script got through in the first place, not the somewhat shocking revelation that what would appear to be her (modern) lifes work has just been tampered with by persons unknown, and presumably could jeopardise the whole project. A complex project that entailed the far-off misty moors at midnight and secretly meeting mysterious people in shadows to get old strands of Xena hair... the whole drama. Its appears all in doubt now and she just says, yawn, "How did that happen?" Yeesh. No one even bothered figuring out it had to be one of the four in the room - the only ones who knew what was happening!
Not explained either is why Alti would UNPLUG the wires on Xena and Gabrielle and THEN attempt to download an evil Xena tape. Thatd really work. Yeah...
Also weird is why someone as cluey as Alti would turn to three people whose minds dont exactly seem on the job most of the time... they would not exactly instil a lot of faith, making you wonder why the heck she keeps them around. Oh thats right, theyre there for the self-mockery value.
Scariest of all is that these parodies of fans, with lines seesawing wildly between funny and flat, actually managed to steal all the scenes they were in away from Claire. An unheard of event!
From a plot point perspective, methinks Alti hasnt quite thought through her evil hijinks too well. She explains shes suffered long enough seeing Xenas good deeds deified on a TV show and that by re-creating her as a clone and setting her loose on an unforgiving society where she wont be loved will turn her bad.
Problem is all the good folks of the modern world will merely think what that cop thought: two screwy fans have gone crazy. It would not change their view of the TV show Xena - even if they realised TV show Xena was based on anyone "real". (I cant even believe I am debating such a dumb plot as though its worthy of earnest thought! Laugh. Forget I said anything, okay?)
On the plus side -- it was amusing watching Xenas reaction to the subtext clips, and Gabrielles not exactly matching expression of "eh??"... The look on the Warrior Princesss face when she comes eyeball to doughnut with this fatty thing called western food is a riot. It was funny her assessment of herself as "kinda sexy". And her and Gabrielles mutual discovery that there are whole rooms now dedicated to doing the same job that a good bush and a torn scroll, had definite chuckle value.
Xenas portrayal though seemed somewhere between Meg and ... well nowhere shes ever been before. Guess thats the life of a clone for you... no telling how theyll turn out, especially with such selective downloading.
The clip selections were actually annoying. In past clip shows they have been very cleverly and carefully chosen. Often beautiful or moving. In this episode they didnt have much thought in them and they really were quite haphazard ...
There seemed absolutely no plausible reason at all to play the Joxer clips, especially since Xena was asleep at the time.... and the choices of some other clips was simply chilling. I mean did we HAVE to see the Gabdrag again? Havent we suffered that enough? It was awful the first time... There are plenty of other ways to mess with Xenas head without messing with ours too!
Two little moments that caused a smirk for different reasons: Alti admitting she created Gabrielle as a gift for Xena... silly woman should know by now that only leads to disaster for her. Gabrielle does tend to make Xena do good stuff not evil stuff. Duhhhh.
And two, Dr Polly doing a fairly good Keanu Reeve Matrix impression before going down for the count in the wreckers yard.
But in all, an episode which started out with some promise, looked like it was going to be pretty good 20 minutes in, actually divebombed atrociously towards a pretty lame, drawn out and obvious conclusion.
In sum: watch it once, have a nice laugh, dont get your knickers in a twist too much about the fan portrayal (it is a joke after all) and file it under the "Better luck next time, Xenabods", category on your video shelf.
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