SCRIBES AND SCROLLS:
Teleplay by: R.J. Stewart, Story by: Robert Tapert, Directed by:
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 leaving.
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
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
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
"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 of prophesy.
"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.
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.
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
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,
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 – too much.
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
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