SCRIBES AND SCROLLS: Teleplay by: R.J. Stewart, Story by: Robert Tapert, Directed by: Doug Lefler
PASSING PARADE: Jay Laga'aia (Draco), Darien Takle (Cyrene), Willa O'Neill (Lila), Stephen Hall (Hector)
Linda Jones (Hecuba), Patrick Wilson (Cyclops), Geoff Snell (Herodotus), Anton Bentley (Perdicus)
STORY SO FAR
A reformed warrior princess, seeking redemption, saves a village girl from slavery and the pair later team up.
DISCLAIMER: No Disclaimer
The first throaty laugh we ever hear from Xena, just after she’s used her chakram for the first time to rescue Gabrielle. It’s a wonderful portent of things to come.
The look on Gabrielle’s face when Xena says "You don’t want to make me mad now do you?" You can see the redhead’s brain ticking over with fear, awe and … the possibilities.
The singing harvesting women in Amphipolis’s valley as Xena rides in. Love that town song, gets ya every time.
Just after Gabrielle has secured Xena’s freedom from the villagers about to stone her, check out the "Um, we’ll be going now" hasty smile Gab throws the crowd as Xena takes her own sweet time in
Okay, you all know how long Gabrielle’s skirts are. You all know how tall that Argo is. Just how DID Gabby mount the horse one handed, without a push off, and without shredding the skirt? Gabrielle
has many many more skills than she’s been boasting.
Another sign of the Xena to come – standing on Draco’s chest she announces she hasn’t touched the ground once but – insert gorgeous dramatic pause – "you have". Eartha Kitt does tutoring now?
Now you see it, now you don’t. Breastplate on before Amphipolis, breastplate off in her hometown, back on again as she leaves. Come on, Xena, make up your mind – is it summer or winter wardrobe?
"She’d never let any man close enough to do her – at least not that kind of do her. But a young innocent girl like me, I’ll catch her totally off guard." That bard-to-be really did have the gift
"I feel we’re bonded in our hate of this She Demon." – Gabrielle to the blind ogre. No one sells, er, "hatred" like that Gabrielle….
Gabrielle: You see the guy they want me to marry?
Xena: He looks like a gentle soul – that’s rare for a man.
Gabrielle: It’s not the gentle part I have a problem with. It’s the dull, stupid part.
Gabrielle: I’m going to be a warrior like her.
Lilla: A warrior? Gabrielle, I can beat you up!
Gabrielle: Yeah, but you’re very strong for your age.
Gabrielle: Lilla, you know I’m different from everybody else in this town.
Lilla: I know – you’re crazy.
It was the time of ancient gods, black leather fashion accessories, village girls in seriously long frocks and many many ferns – the hitherto little-known national flora of Greece.
She was Xena, and if you didn’t believe it from the first scene, with that patchy Kiwerican accent when she’s tossing food to a smirky young boy, then you certainly will by the time she’s tossing a
bedroll to a chipmunk-cute equally smirky sidekick.
Never has there been a show where the lead character has stamped her impressive black boots all over the pilot episode with such authority as Lucy Lawless does in Sins of the Past. From the first
moment we see that long dark hair, mannish stride, deep voice, piercing blue eyes, intimidating armour, kick-butt ’tude and a unique grrlpower weapon that reduces men’s big phallic pointy sticks into hilarious little
stumps, you realise there’s never been a hero like this. Nor, sadly, ever will be again. And that’s what makes Xena so great.
The only thing capable of upstaging the divine Ms L. in this excellent opener is the stunning New Zealand scenery, which the camera dwells on as tantalisingly as eyeing a departing lover, and makes
you want to book that holiday to the Shaky Isles before the first commercial break.
While they could have spent a fair bit of time establishing Xena’s back history, and bringing her to the moment where we find her burying her costume and preparing, presumably, to kill herself,
wisely the Xenabods figured, "been there, done that, with Hercules" and instead cut to the chase. They drop enough hints with flashbacks so you get the idea – naughty Xena, killed plenty nice folks, big oopsie, sorry
ma – and then shift to the other half of the show. Namely…
Gabrielle. Now that Renee O’Connor gal can really act. Lucy may have been a rough diamond new to acting but Renee was the old pro from day one and shines as the goofy wannabe in a warrior princess
haze. With eyes as big as saucers she watches the impressive Xena in action and realises what’s been missing in her life. Love the scene where Xena asks her if she wants to make her mad. I strongly suspect she’s
thinking "welllll, maybe…"
Gabrielle explains she doesn’t belong in her village and she’s not the little girl her parents wanted her to be. Who can’t relate to that one? With the gift of the gab, she sets off, spinning tales
and half truths ("I can sing" she tells the cart driver – uh huh, and I’m the Pope) and becomes the talkative half to Xena’s tall, silent, brooding warrior.
Do the pair work together well? Ho yeah. Watching Gabs save Xena from the villagers is hilarious, the to-and-fro looks are superb.
Is it convincing Xena allowed her along in the first place? Ahem. Well, not really. And the decidedly dodgy scene of Xena talking to her dead brother about being alone, and Gabrielle announcing
Xena’s "not alone" (insert hugely cheesy gazes here) is smellier than my month-old eggplant casserole.
But do we care? Nah, come on, if they had Xena decide to take up basket weaving and Gabrielle turned out to be the chief instructor, with a minor in felt-embroidery, I doubt any one would quibble –
Draco is the other character worth watching. The camera loves this guy, played by Jay Laga`aia, who Australians will know as the man who sometimes hosts Play School. Yes, Play School. (ie "There’s a
bear in there and I KILLED IT – BWAH HA HA…" Kidding, kidding. He hasn’t actually said that. Yet….)
Draco cuts a fine figure of a warrior who is amusing, tough, charming and surprisingly vulnerable when he talks about his own attempt at family reunion. He has so much chemistry with Xena it’s
little wonder he was brought back. And back. And back… Yes, he’s the Cher Farewell Tour of Xena characters.
There’s really not much to quibble with in the pilot. I do love the scene with Gabrielle’s sister, Lilla (Willa O'Neill), so many laughs there – but on closer inspection of the redhead’s
darker-featured family I have strong suspicions Gabrielle’s mother may have been getting more than horse shoes from the local blacksmith. Hey, I’m just sayin’…
Perdicus, now then, you have to pity the actor who knows he got hired because he looks "dull and stupid", to quote Gabrielle of her intended. Of course he hadn’t had his extreme makeover then, so
won’t his parents be surprised in a few years’ time? Frankly I think he just upgrades to cuter and stupid, but what do I know.
Gabrielle, I am also certain, must have been repressing her extreme horse-phobia which manifests itself later, here even urging Xena "I could probably get up there behind you". Such is the power of
a warrior princess haze, you forget you’re afraid of horsies.
Speaking of horses, they were pretty progressive back in ancient Greece, so much so they don’t mind giving Argo the sex change operation the stallion always wanted. From "boy" in this episode he
finds his feminine side in later eps. I never found out why the sex got changed, but hey, whatever makes Argo happy.
And then there was Cyrene. Not quite the master of the neutral American accent yet, but Darien Takle was trying womanfully. I think she was a little weak in this episode but, unlike my eggplant
casserole, she does improve with time, finally hitting her strides by Lyre Lyre.
It is a lovely scene though when she forgives her daughter, even though the towering Xena has to awkwardly virtually fold herself in half to hug the smaller woman. Still it’s good practice for
things to come when hanging around the vertically challenged Gabrielle…
Finally, the last scene: a classic Xena moment. Gabrielle giving a funny explanation at her own expense, Xena bemusedly uh-huhing her and pretending to be unimpressed, while being secretly
delighted. And they all hunker down happily together for some zzzs, ready to face a new day.
Come on, it just doesn’t get any better than that.