Season 2, Episode 10

November 7 , 1998

Reviewed by SLK

RATING: 7 chakrams

The Xena Scrolls

SCRIBES & SCROLLS: Written by R.J. Stewart; Edited by Jim Prior; Directed by Josh Becker .

PASSING PARADE: Ted Raimi (Jacques S'Er/Jack Kleinman/Ted Raimi); Kevin Smith (Ares); Renee O'Connor (Janis Covington); Lucy Lawless (Melinda Pappas); Mark Ferguson (John Smythe); Robert Tapert (Robert Tapert)

STORY SO FAR: In Macedonia, 1942, a descendent of Gabrielle, Dr Janice Covington, teams up with a descendant of Xena, Melinda Pappas, and a descendent of Joxer, Jacques S’Er, to track down the ancient Xena Scrolls. In doing so they unleash the imprisoned God of War, necessitating the real Xena to take over Mel’s body and stop him.

DISCLAIMER: No Hollywood producers were harmed during the production of this motion picture.

REWIND FOR: Oh the pagans. Real archaeologists would doubtlessly wince at the way an excavator, with one hand, picks up his ancient (presumably old and crumbly) tablet in the first scene, and brandishes it about so carelessly.

The look on Janice’s face when her hat gets hit by a bullet; in the same scene, spot Janice ignore fragile signs on her boxes and shoot right at them; also in that scene check out the goons who can’t hit a woman directly in front of them from point blank range (at least she didn’t appear to be trying to hit them).

Keep your eye on the gun Janice hands over to Smythe outside the tomb... it is so fake it hurts - given the lightness (being plastic), Smythe actually effects something of an easy two-fingered twirl with it. This also begs the question: was this the same gun which ran out of bullets; in which case, why did he want it? And was this the same gun Janice later uses to shoot out a light? Is it a magic reloading gun?

Ares’s blondie lines about Gabrielle look a bit dumb when the footage (past and present) is of a very red-haired woman indeed.

Listen for the hollow sound when Mel bangs Jacques on the head with the first scroll she finds when he gets too amorous.

Some unexpected role reversals: Janice giving the hysterical Jacques a mighty slap and telling him to pull himself together; followed by her telling Jacques to "get the girl" in a rescue scene, when Janice looks far more of a "girl" than Mel ever could.

Keep your eye on the brilliant look on Xena’s face when she first reveals she is Xena. Suss out the coolest overhead Hercules/Iolus-like somersault Xena and Ares perform...followed by a rather darling game of tunnel ball involving Ares as the ball.

Speaking of Ares and, er, balls, did Xena just discover a new use for her chakram? If so, he looked like he half enjoyed it.

QUOTABLE: "It sure as hell aint suicide, sweetie" Janice to Mel. being just about as chauvinistic as any woman can get.

"I loosened it for you," Janice gets Excaliber-envy with half a chakram.

"Can a brush salesman from New jersey think he can defeat the God of War?" D’oh. Way to blow a bloke’s cover, Ares.

"I see you’ve kept your family’s reputation for undiluted idiocy intact." Oh gee, and rub it in, too...

"My father’s a thief; my mother she ran out on us, and I’m related to the useless tagalong Gabrielle." And Janice is having a bad hair day. What next? Unleashing the God of War? Oh oops...

"Gabrielle was never useless, She cared for others more than herself. She was the finest friend anyone could ever have..." Call me dense, here, but why is Xena talking about Gabrielle in the past tense? Isn’t she alive in Xena’s reality, just not at this particular moment in history? How does this time travelling thing work, anyway?

"Don’t say it baby, you’re something else. You’re a swell looking tomato, with a nice set of gams." Uh huh, well some things never change. Joxer/Jacques is still a jerk to women in any time frame.

"We can shoot this in some third world country using the locals." Shhh, nobody tell New Zealand or it could spark an international incident.


This is one of the more original, unoriginal bottle shows I have ever laid eyes on. Sure sure it’s a cross between Indiana Jones meets Inspector Clouseau. But I loved it anyway. The ham acting is flying from the opening scene - when Janice lays eyes on her machine gun and says: "AHA" she is only bettered by Mel’s flightless bird impression during the line: "And here I yam." Yes yam was how she said it. A yam ham no less. Ahh those New Zealand Southern belles in Greece.

The over-acting was somehow all okay in the context and it seemed like everyone was having a hoot. But seem is the operative word. Behind the scenes, Lucy was unhappy... a small problem with the director forgetting she was still the star of the show and giving all her closeup scenes away to Kevin Smith (Ares). It may sound petty, and she probably shouldn’t have made that public, but she is right: she is the star, even if she is playing second fiddle to Renee this episode. Certainly, Ares is everywhere and, like those Where’s Wally cartoons, there are some scenes where you’re going, ah, Where’s Lucy?

That said, it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the episode as much as it probably lessened hers. It was very fun to see Renee stepping far, far out of character for a rollicking good time as Indian.. er, Janice. Seeing her smoking was a bit of an unexpected surprise; seeing her without a fringe, and looking a bit older, was a pleasant one.

Amid everyone busily acting the goat, the plot was squeaked over a bit, so I’ll ask a few obvious questions left unanswered: Why did Mel Pappas have the burning urge to leave her safe little home in the middle of a war and travel halfway across the world to Macedonia to see a person who had a telegram correspondence with her late daddy, and whom she has never met? And a person who may not be there when she gets there because she hasn’t told Janice she’s coming and she even admits she found an "old" telegram. For all she knew, Janice had packed up camp months ago. Once there, why would she decide to stay on - especially with such an aversion to danger ("Oh my, I could’ve been killed")? (And how come she hasn’t got a ladder in those stockings after crawling through rubble, tombs and gods knows what else. And is the patent to those stockings available?)

Why is it "written" that only Xena, a mere mortal (we presume) of no other significance than that she was a pretty scary warlord at one point, becomes the only person to release Ares from his tomb?

How does Xena’s soul come to somehow be trapped in her chakram (now there’s an ep that’d make fascinating viewing!) ?

And where on earth did Janice get such tickets on herself and her work? I cite this quote: "The most important archaeological find of the century. Something that will revolutionise the way we look at the ancient world. It has the power to turn myth into history; history into myth - The Xena Scrolls." At this point Janice wouldn’t know anything about a God being buried in the tomb; she just wants to find scrolls proving some warrior woman named Xena really lived. Yet on a world scale, this is more important than, say, the discovery and excavation of the lost city of Babylon carried out only a few years earlier? No offence to Janice, but she’s probably been out in the sun too long.

I loved seeing Renee being an action woman for once and she has a mighty right hook and left backhander in her that makes Xena’s look like mere love pats.

Jacques (or Jack Kliman) is pretty interesting for one reason: he’s actually smarter than Joxer. He gets the jokes the gals throw at him (the mummy one) unlike Joxer who took an entire episode to get the "Gabrielle awoke with a jerk" from The Quill Is Mightier. He also out-logics one of our duo for the first time ever when he points out the ludicrousness of Janice’s dormant embers lighting the torches theory. It seems Ted fancies himself at the accents as much as Lucy, and does a credible job at them.

I was quite fond of Smythe (who you may or may not remember being a recurring Xena baddy with a spiral tattoo on his chin), and his rasped out incredulous delivery during his death: "My...god!" Hey, way to die, man!

At the start I referred to this being a bottle show. Well it is in the sense they were saving money by using flashback footage and it isn’t in that the footage was very carefully chosen to add to the story (unlike 99% of bottle shows) and also the rest of the show probably wasn’t as cheap to make as most bottle shows. It is tough to make anything using flashback footage not feel like a ripoff for fans but this one was quite the opposite. Like Forget Me Not, another flashback show, they somehow gave us far more.

One other aside, I personally believe there was a scene in this episode specifically directed at the fans. The scene where Janice has a serve at Gabrielle and Xena, very defensively almost, leaps in and shuts her up for being nasty. Janice, to my mind, was voicing the concerns and criticisms of a number of Xena fans early on in the show when Gabrielle really was, as Janice aptly put it, "a useless tagalong". Everyone at Xena resented that at the time and then, oila, out pops this episode, with that line from Xena. Almost as if Xena’s telling us: Stop with the Gabrielle knocking, y’all. Of course the Gabrielle of today is anything but useless, but in the context of that time, I do wonder who that comment was directed at: Janice, or the fans? You decide.

Last but not least, I loved the finish: Mel and Janice, off together for new adventures... Note Mel’s breathy pause as she says "Well not if you don’t .... want to". A cute subtexty moment, offset entirely by the rather defining het-text moment of Mel declaring Marcus as Xena’s "one true love". Much as I adore Marcus, that had to be the most short-sighted piece of writing ever devised. If Xena’s one true love is a dead man, she’s destined to be very lonely for the rest of her life. And anyone who may catch her eye in the future - be it Gabrielle or any manner of muscle-bound warrior, we’ll know this is not her true love because she’s already met him already! D’oh. Silly, silly Xena people.

And finally there was Joxer’s descendent, in the present, pitching the show to Rob Tapert. Third world country, my foot. As a former Kiwi myself I almost fell off my chair laughing. Ahh, Xena lads and lasses, keep those chuckles coming.