Friday, September 04, 2015

It Was 20 Years Ago Today

It wasn't Sergeant Pepper that happened 20 years ago today. No, it was the first episode of a Hercules: The Legendary Journey spin-off show.

This was the day that Xena: Warrior Princess, debuted. I was already a Hercules fan and had fallen for the character of the Warrior Princess on the three episodes featured in the fantasy series about the legendary Greek God.

Xena was no goddess. She was a sometimes deranged and damaged woman who decided she had to "do good" to circumvent her dubious and dreadful past. It took viewers six seasons to learn what that past was, and it wasn't pretty.

The first episode was called Sins of the Past and it set up the premise of redemption that ran throughout the entire show. It also introduced us to Gabrielle, Xena's sidekick. Gabrielle was a feisty non-warrior who saw something in our heroine that intrigued her enough to cause her to leave her home to travel with her. The relationship between these two became something of a tease - were they or weren't they lovers? - at a time when such things still weren't overly accepted on television. (It was the late 1990s, remember.)

The show was a campy fantasy, and while Greek gods and goddesses popped in and out, XWP was irreverent with history. The writers didn't care if the Trojan Horse took place when Caesar was alive or not. It had a weird timelessness about it, as if Xena and Gabrielle were constantly popping through some dimensional porthole that the viewers never saw.

I loved it. I loved the characters, the dialogue, the fanciful play with the notion of redemption, the idea of gods and goddesses interfering with lives. I loved the fact that these two women were roaming about ancient Greece all by themselves. I loved that Xena was strong, powerful and quick to fight while Gabrielle was a writer and poet who preferred peace to the sword.  

The show had a different tone from Hercules, which grew darker as the seasons progressed. Xena had some dark moments and a few story lines that were, well, horrifying, but the show eventually always came back around to finding itself (except for the last two episodes, which set up a hue and cry from every Xenite on the planet).

XWP gave me something to look forward to, and it was also the first big fandom to develop courtesy of the Internet. Star Trek fandoms were already in place, but Xena fans took things to a different level. Xena fans had online arguments over shows. They developed the term "shipper" with regards to fandoms. 

By its second season, Xena was the top-rated syndicated show in the United States, and it remained in the top five throughout its run. The show ended in June 2001. It's always had a cult following, which continues to this day.

Okay, yes, I am among those followers. I became a weekly contributor to Whoosh!, an online magazine devoted to all things Xena.

Around the Xenaverse, I was Bluesong: Spoiler Princess. I had a C-Band satellite back then, and on Sundays the show would "feed" to the various shows that would then play the episode at some point during the week. I watched the feeds, making me among the first folks in the U.S. to see the episodes, and I wrote a synopsis for nearly each and every show. At first they appeared in a newsgroup, and then after Whoosh! became established, they showed up there beginning with episode 19 in the first season. After that, I did most of the synopsis updates. Folks waited anxiously for those things to go up.

Eventually I was given the title of Associate Editor at Whoosh!. You can find me listed on the "Staff Emeritus" page.

More importantly, I made friends. I can't believe I have known some of these folks online now for 20 years. They're on my Facebook feed. One of those Xenites is my email pal, writing to me nearly every day for 15 years. We've talked about everything from the show to the state of the world. We even exchange Christmas and birthday presents.

No TV show has captured my imagination as much as this one. There are others I've enjoyed (Buffy, the Vampire Slayer), but this is the show I would watch multiple times. It's been about six years, though, since I last pulled out the DVDs. Maybe its time for a reunion of me and Xena?

"You are what you do. You can recreate yourself every second of your life." - Xena in Forgiven.

Opening lines of the show:

"In a time of ancient gods, warlords and kings, a land in turmoil cried out for a hero. She was Xena, a mighty princess forged in the heat of battle.

The power.
The passion.
The danger.

Her courage would change the world."

1 comment:

  1. Though I would occasionally catch bits and pieces of episodes, I was never a big Xena fan. Sounds like a show you quite enjoyed! :)

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