Season 3, Episode 19
10 October, 1998
Reviewed by SLK
RATING: 5 chakrams
SCRIBES & SCROLLS: Written by Chris Manheim, Edited by Robert Field, Directed by John Laing.
PASSING PARADE: Bruce Campbell (Autolycus); Todd Rippon (Macon); Stephen Tozer (Thadeus); Angela Dotchin (Soraya); Toby Fisher (Petrodes); Stephen Hall (Captain); Joy Watson (palm reader).
STORY SO FAR: Xena, Gabrielle and Autolycus are stuck on a ship with convicts which gets hit by a tidal wave and sinks to the bottom of the ocean. They must find a way to escape, while one thuggish prisoner fights them all the way.
DISCLAIMER: No cast or crew were singing "Tanks for the Memories" during the production of this motion picture. However the phrase "Strike the set" was given new meaning.
REWIND FOR: Some very good special effects: a fantastic tidal wave; geyser swimmers heading up through the bubbles and some pretty neat underwater, upside down, boat straight to Tartarus shots; Watch for the rather odd moment of Petrodes calling out for help and Xena immediately responding: "Gabrielle? Gabrielle!" (I mean we knew he was a bit of a wuss but thats cruel); A stolen hand-holding moment of support (or was that possibly goodbye?) from Gabrielle to Xena as they are standing over a patient; Gabrielle being the one to pluck a worse-for-wear spluttering Xena out of the water for once.
QUOTABLE: "Were trapped in here until we run out of air or worse..." Huh?! Was that our sweet, happy, always look on the bright side Gabrielle? Ah well, everyone has an off day.
"I dont know". Not a great quote in itself, but hey, its not often you hear Xena say that when someone asks for a plan... admittedly she did think of one three seconds later. She must have been having an off...er...minute, too.
Fortune teller: Theres danger, great danger. And death.
Gabrielle to Xena: You hear that? She just described every day of our lives.
Macon: Im a killer. Whyd you come back? Whatd you expect?
Xena: From you? Nothin. From me, nothing less.
I see Xena writer Chris Manheims running low on ideas again, so after the Sting ripoff... er, I mean tribute episode of King Con, we now get 1972s The Poseiden Adventure rehashed, complete with similar overturned boat, reluctant passengers who dont want to play follow the self-appointed leader and the usual cough, splutter, wheeze, will-they-make-it? casualties. Unfortunately, unlike that cheesy but tension-packed cinema epic, no one dies in this episode or even looks like theyre going to, giving it all the drama and tension of what happens when the Grecian community spa springs a few leaks and the bathers are locked in overnight.
A show of hands, fellow Xenites: Who else wanted Macon bumped off? Oh come on, he had it coming. But I suppose if hed gone down for the count we wouldnt have gotten to hear Xenas lovely closing line to the big thug, which shows why shes our hero.
I liked the ending more than most of the entire episode. Yep, Xena has it clear in her mind what shes about these days: not just being seen to do good, but doing good even when no one else is around to see it to. Thats the stuff that matters. It shows what a person is about. A lot of people can put their life on the line when the cause is noble and they can see the glory at the other end. How many people would risk their lives to save a killer no one would miss and, even if they succeeded, the act would earn them no thanks? Thats a hero. Xena impressed the heck out of me with her line about expecting "nothing less" from herself. Thats her pursuit: reaching the goals she has set for herself; not trying to impress others or aim for other peoples expectations. Good one.
The absolute shine in Gabrielles face as Xena said it left me under no illusions that the bard more than wholeheartedly approved.
As for the rest of the show, well it was tired. The dialogue was getting close to being as swanky as that cliche-fest King Con. For instance: "Theres been a mistake!"; "Yes, you made it"; "What does it matter, were all going to die anyway"; "Whos gonna stop me? You? Buncha losers..."
We also know from the moment of the tidal wave impact pretty much whats going to happen, so lamentably, there are no surprises, except how theyll get out of there. Well that and that blather boy couldnt swim. But I was waiting for Petrodess sob story from the first and when it came it sure didnt disappoint. Drowned brother? His ball thrown into the waves cost his brothers life? Puh-lease. They should have left it at "I cant swim; never learnt how."
I have to say, though, the actor, Toby Fisher was a veritable cowering inferno - a pretty believable performance. I am surprised about one thing: the kids young, innocent, good looking, and most of all seemingly destined for death: so why wasnt Gabrielle making eyes at him? (*Duck*... kidding, I was kidding!)
Okay, back to the show: did we all get the moral of the story? It was like the Wizard of Oz.
Petrodes, the boy who was always afraid, learnt to face his fears and find courage within.
Thadeus, the man who prejudged convicts as animals learnt that you cant stereotype people. He also learnt that you cant buy everyone. (And that his wife wields a mean 4x2 when riled.)
Soraya, the woman cloistered and condescended to by her husband, learnt to stand up to him - even if it was only because she needed him to look after her now she was a mother and all.
And Macon, the cynical, angry thug, learnt that not everyone lives down to his expectations.
There now - Disney wouldve been proud.
Hard to believe this is the same writer who penned Maternal Instincts.
I did note two rather ironic passages of dialogue in this episode that, taken alone, mean nothing, but put side by side are quite amusing:
Xena to Gabrielle: Were expecting trouble; get down below.
Gabrielle: Whats the problem? Maybe I can help.
Xena (brooking no discussion): GABRIELLE!
Soraya to her husband: Youve got to stop shielding me from things and learn to trust that I wont break or melt or die, at least not yet.
Frankly both Xena and Thadeus have been showing, in part, the same condescension and patronising tones to their respective partners throughout this episode. And yet only Thadeus is questioned about his overly-protective presumptions. Xena, always being right, naturally wouldnt have even noticed her own behaviour. I think its time the bard took careful note of what Soraya said and practised it a few times.
But then again, it was Gabrielle who got Xena in another fine mess, now wasnt it, thus proving she cant be trusted, right... or was it?
Tides do not go from high to low in a minute. It was laughable in this storyline that the captain of the boat was so worried about getting underway to catch the tide that he could not have paused the ship-ahoying business for long enough to dispatch one unwanted bard back on shore.
It was also ridiculous that Autolycus couldnt have immediately hissed to Gabrielle that his capture was all part of a plan so she wouldnt try and save him. Instead we get, later, Autolycus, King of Guilt needing to be reminded yet again that he indeed has a heart of gold. Sheesh, this is really getting tedious. Cmon Chris Manheim, freshen up those plots, Xenites are dropping like flies here from paint fume inhalation (from opting to watch paint dry).
Some bits and pieces: weve seen Xenas somersaults onto boats before - The Lost Mariner established that this, along with looting and pillaging, are, historically, her preferred methods of boarding boats. This time she actually had a bit of momentum thanks to her windup on the high bar... and yet she did not go nearly as far as in that earlier episode (I think that was a 30 somersault effort). I guess her somersaults are like her chakram, they just know when to stop.
Speaking of chakrams - mighty fine piece of work it staying on her hip during a swim through a geyser. She also kept her sword, which should have weighed her down substantially, not to mention a scabbard full of water. (Gabrielle, alas, lost that spiffy staff. I sense a wooden resurrection ahead.)
Speaking of geysers, good thing no one knew about the divers bends back then or all that motley bunch would have been having decompression heaves on the beach like you wouldnt believe. Wait a minute... did someone say beach? Er, dare I say it, but what beach? Where? There wasnt land anywhere in sight when that wave struck... they must have done some bonzer underwater cruising speed to conveniently get close to land like that.
Another niggle: it was a miracle the spear stuck into the rudder didnt pop back out of the rudder or bend at right angles with everyone leaning on it. Still, nice bonding moment, that, too. (I was all acquiver, waiting for the group hug.)
On that note, one thing I just didnt get: Why was it necessary to change the direction of the boat against the current? They had no idea what was outside the boat, they only knew they wanted to snag a reef. Wouldnt the odds of snagging a reef be the same going with the current as against it?
And, curiously, turning the rudder had the effect of implementing a sudden submarine dive instead of turning a slow sluggish, sinking circle. Boaties will have to explain this all to me slooowly. I am obviously missing something. Like logic.
It was progressive of Xena to invent time: "Meet you at noon", she tells Gabrielle.
And it was funny watching the disaster flick role-reversal here where the screaming hysterical young man gets a wake-up slap from the in-control strong (female) hero.
It was a little too convenient to have exactly the right number of water skins below deck waiting to be used by everyone.
I know these are all minor silly quibbles which alone dont make the episode stink. But together and everywhere, they do start to add up and irritate. And thats what got me. This is tired concept, not improved on but just wearing in the same groove. And it is complemented with an infestation of flea-like niggles in everything from plot pinpricks (not big enough to be holes) to corny dialogue and stereotyped characters.
Frankly, the episode, lifted marginally by the special effects, still sank faster than their doomed boat.
But at least Xena and Gabrielle appear to have discovered the anti-pruning secret to long-term water exposure so it wasnt all bad.
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