A SOLSTICE CAROL
Season 2, Episode 9
November 28, 1998
Reviewed by SLK
RATING: 5.5 chakrams
A Solstice Carol
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 "youre trying to tell me something?" line to the donkey; a hungry kid, in tough times, who has just made off with Xenas chakram, inadvertently scores a free fish so he... throws it away; a cool Xena/Steven Seagal leap out the window from the royal bedroom down through the shutters of the next floor; the weirdest playing of Jingle Bells ever in the fight with the guards; the invention of the hoola hoop, mastered in seconds by Gabrielle; and 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 Xenas round killing thing.
"I didnt know you did giftwrapping," Boom boom. That was Gabrielle to Xena after the Warrior Princess ties up the current incompetent thug six pack.
"Shirley, you exaggerate?" Xena to an orphan boy who should really complain about being called Shirley. OK so she probably meant "surely" but that American/Kiwi accent sounds too funny sometimes.
"The reinforcements have arrived," Xena eyeing Santa, er Senticles, and his red-haired helpers limb-splayed, sooty arrival.
Gabrielle: I dont have a gift for you.
Xena: Gabrielle, you are a gift to me.
One, two, three, aaaawwww. Cheese doesnt 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 Silvuss 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 Xenas 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 instils 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." Im sorry, trimmings? Kids never say trimmings. Nope, they name names of 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 peoples lines.
This aside, I didnt 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 hes 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 movies 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 schtick 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 for me because by then I was worn out from spotting all the other festive bits and pieces (invention of stocking stuffers and the like) and almost diabetic from the sugar overdose, that I felt they were way overdoing it with one more Christmas icon. Besides, they were also going against their own rules for the Xenaverse by including Mary and Joseph. Any writer or journalist who has ever questioned Xenas time leaping has been told by the shows makers that their rule of thumb is: anything BC is fair game, anything AD is not. Well unless that wasnt 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 the Renee of old - before she had a dark streak (which I do like nonetheless) - 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 much funnier. 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 doesnt 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 cool on the whole Solstice gift-giving idea, pretending she doesnt care. But at the end it is she, not Gabrielle, who produces a gift - and not just any gift, 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 Id like to have seen Gabrielle produce a gift for Xena (I mean what do you buy a Warrior Princess with attitude?), but if she had, we wouldnt have heard Xenas 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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