This Examiner vaguely recalled seeing a few reruns (or perhaps even original broadcasts) of an obscure science fiction show called ‘Lexx’ back in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. It wasn’t especially good, but it had some redeeming qualities. These qualities were enough to warrant a comprehensive revisiting of the series. Would being ten years older and much better versed in television/movies change my perspective of the series?
Stanley Tweedle (Brian Downey) is a cowardly low-level security guard who unwittingly becomes the captain of the Lexx, a giant, living, bug-shaped ship that has the power to destroy planets and sustain life within itself. Zev (later Xev) Bellringer (Eva Habermann for the first season and two episodes of the second and later played by Xenia Seeburg) is a woman who is programmed to be a loveslave, though a cluster lizard makes its way into the process and becomes part of her genetic make up. As such, she retains her free will but is given a physical form that is considered flawless and ideal by her makers. 790 (voiced by Jeffrey Hirschfield) is a disembodied robot head that inadvertently receives the love slave programming and is hopelessly devoted to Zev/Xev for much of the series. Kai (Michael McManus) is an undead assassin who is animated by proto-blood and has exceptional fighting skills, though no real emotions.
These four central characters populate the Lexx and travel all around the universe(s), getting into wacky adventures while trying to find a suitable place to call home. Oh yeah, they also spend a lot of time trying (unsuccessfully) to get laid. Well, except Kai, because he doesn’t have a pulse.
The first series mostly focuses on the Lexx trying to escape their pursuers and introducing a few regular characters. Unlike the other series, it is comprised of four, hour and a half movies. Look for appearances by Tim Curry, Rutger Hauer, and Malcolm McDowell in these installments. The second series sees an important change in the cast and is really the prime of their exploration of space and exotic planets. The third series takes an interesting turn as the Lexx settles between the planets called Fire and Ice. Here, we finally get a consistent protagonist called Prince (Nigel Bennett). He is the ruler of the Fire planet and wants the crew of the Lexx to destroy Ice. The fourth series takes the Lexx to an alternate universe, one that is home to the Earth. What adventures will the crew find on this little, blue planet?
The only word to properly describe most of the special effects in the series is ‘horrendous’ The budgetary limitations are painfully obvious. Much of the action is also extremely set-bound. If only the sets outside of the Lexx weren’t so cheap looking.
Outside of the main cast, the acting is often atrocious. Maybe it’s more a problem with casting, actually. Sure, the show was a Canadian-German production, but there are just some instances when it’s surprising to hear life forms in outer space with thick German accents.
What, then, is there to recommend?
The main cast is superb. Stanley is a sniveling, libido-driven anti-hero. A last name like Tweedle (no offense to any of you out there), evokes an image of exactly what he is. Kai is important because he is the object of many beings’ affections, but he is certainly unable to reciprocate them. Also, without him, there is no way this crew would survive most of the threats that they face. Zev/Xev is really the glue of the crew and let’s be honest, she is there to cause the nerds to drool and tune in each week. Mission accomplished (especially when Xenia Seeburg takes over). While there are some funny situations and plenty of comedy that exists between those three, the owner of almost all of the show’s best lines is 790. He is especially hostile toward Stanley, perceiving him to be the greatest threat though, as a robot head, 790 is in no position to do anything about it. He usually suggests that Stanley (or whoever else is nearby) kills himself so he can be alone with Zev/Xev and 790 has an assortment of great one liners and put downs for anyone who will listen. A lot of those are really quite funny. Later in the series, 790 undergoes a massive change, but that’s for you to see.
The second and third series are by far the best of the bunch. Traveling around the universe is a given for most of these shows and most of the episodes are rather decent. There are certainly some clunkers (fast-forward through the musical episode!), though. Exploring two planets at war with each other really kept things interesting and the consistency was a welcome change. Things got really painful in the fourth series which was surely meant to provide commentary on many facets of humanity. It was far too reliant on American stereotypes a lot of silly concepts. Kai has to go to Transylvania? Really?
Though some of the plots and situations may be silly, a lot of the dialog is very strong. The important characters are very well fleshed out and after awhile, we get to know them enough to know how they would respond to a given situation.
Special features include: trivia, production stills, interviews, storyboards and a few extra scenes. The last disc features a letter from series creator Paul Donovan where he talks about the compromises and obvious budget and time constraints that burdened production.
You should only take a ride on the ‘Lexx’ if you have a lot of tolerance for camp. It isn’t a show for most people. The combination of science fiction, comedy, violence and suggestive sexual situations isn’t a common one. Thankfully, the series is in on the joke or else none of this would be bearable.
If you can lower your expectations and are willing to ‘just go with it’ an awful lot of the time, there is a good chance that you will be able to find a moderate amount of enjoyment.
Unrated Approx 3,110 minutes 1997-2002
When J.J. Ellis isn’t writing as the Allentown DVD Examiner, his Decent Exposure Radio can be heard on the air every Friday night from 10:30 to midnight (EST) on WXLV 90.3 FM or wxlvradio.com!