..

XENA:  WARRIOR PRINCESS
Season One

Review by Chastity Campbell

Stars: Lucy Lawless, Renee O’Conner
Director: Various
Audio: 5.1 Dolby Digital
Video: Full Frame1.33:1
Studio: Anchor Bay
Features: See Review
Length: 1080 Minutes
Release Date: April 29, 2003

Film ***

What’s 5’11” tall, covered in leather, and handles a battle sword with enough skill to make the Gods of Olympus tremble in their temples?   Ayi yi yi yi yi yi yeah, that’s right, it’s none other than that hard hitting, butt kicking Warrior Princess Xena!!  

Xena: Warrior Princess will be back in action when you get your hands on this season 1, six disc, digitally mastered DVD box set from Anchor Bay. 

The year was 1997, it was a rainy 10th of February, and I was working the day shift at K-Mart.  I had just settled down to enjoy my tuna on whole wheat when someone walked in and turned on the television.  All I wanted was to be alone and eat my pitiful excuse for a lunch, and that’s when it happened.   I heard the words that would ultimately change my life forever…

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

Well, I can’t say for certain if this series changed the world, however, it definitely made its mark in the hearts of fans everywhere, including yours truly.  It changed the face of the Internet somewhat, with a record number of websites, and message boards dedicated to everything Xena.   It also altered the stereotypical view of a woman in a leading role.  

In the 70s we had Jamie Somers and Diana Prince as the Bionic Woman and Wonder Woman.   In the 80s we were left with the third string replacement squad of Charlie’s Angels.  Then the 90s came, television and young girls all around the globe were in serious need of a role model to carry them into the new millennia.  What they got was a Chakram wielding Warrior Princess, who showed us the true origins of the Vulcan Nerve Pinch. 

Lucy Lawless was tapped to play the part of Xena after Vanessa Angle (Weird Science: The Series) got sick and couldn’t make it to New Zealand in time to take up the roll.  Looking back at the series, and comparing the two actresses I can’t imagine the part of Xena being played by anyone else but Lawless.  She brought her own brand of attitude, and sex appeal to the role that, in my opinion could not have been accomplished by anyone else. 

Now, you can’t have a hero without a sidekick.  Filling this role was definitely going to be a challenge, but series creators Rob Tappert (Hercules: The Legendary Journeys), and Sam Raimi (Spiderman, Evil Dead), showed they were up to the task, when they cast Renee O’Conner as Gabrielle, the battling bard of Potedia.  Playing the sidekick is never easy.  You’re always in the shadows, lingering around to offer help and advice but you hardly ever get a chance to shine.   O’Conner went above and beyond to prove that she was an actress and a good one at that.   She earned her spot at Xena’s side, and a place in the hearts of fans across the globe. 

The very first episode in the series, “Sins Of The Past” introduces us to Xena at the lowest point in her life.  She had spent the last ten years on a murderous rampage in her attempts to conquer the known world.   A recent encounter with Hercules taught her the value of fighting for the greater good.

After saving Gabrielle and her village from the evil warlord Draco, Xena sets off on her path of redemption shadowed by her very new and talkative sidekick.   

Season one is a continual series of ups and downs, as Xena encounters mythical and biblical characters that range from Amazons Warriors to Abraham and Isaac.  No one is able to resist the Warrior Princess…not even Ares, God Of War is immune to the power and strength she posses.

Now, your history books won’t tell you this, but if you own this series on DVD, you’ll come to realize that both Xena and Gabrielle played a huge role in some very familiar historical events.  When Homer faltered on his path to the Odyssey, Gabrielle was there to urge him on.  Before Hypocrites wrote the Hippocratic oath, Xena showed him the importance of a good bedside manner, as well as teaching him CPR, after performing the first Cesarean section in history.  

This show was an amazing blend of humor, drama, and kick butt action that has yet to be rivaled.  Each episode can be viewed as a stand-alone adventure or you can allow yourself to get caught up in the entire experience as Warrior and Bard fight to preserve all that is good in the world they know. 

Allow Anchor Bay to enhance your DVD collection with this six-disc box set so Xena can battle on for years to come!

Video **

This six-disc box set is presented in a 1.33:1 Standard Fullscreen format.   The vivid colors, and very nice use of natural lighting go a long to helping this box set shine.

The first season of Xena as with all new shows, went through a testing phase.  They had to figure out how to shoot, what type and style of filming to use etc.  This, coupled with a shoestring budget, left the original prints of the show with a very grainy and texturized appearance.  When transferred to DVD there is not a lot you can do if the master prints are not of the best quality. So these DVDs do appear quite grainy, however you will notice as you progress from episode to episode, the beginnings of a crisper, cleaner image. 

I’m sure as the latter seasons are released on DVD you will be able to see the level of quality rise.  The budget for the show got bigger, as did the quality and work that went into its presentation.  

Audio ***

Xena: Warrior Princess was a series about a Warrior and a bard roaming all over the countryside.   With that in mind, a lot of the dialogue had to be looped in after the principal filming of each episode was complete.   That said, the audio on these DVDs was very well balanced and mixed.   There were no drops or obvious fluctuations between the secondary audio bed, and dialogue, which allowed for a very nice, full, and rich sound on each disc. 

I also have to note that the sound effects used throughout most of the episodes were very nicely done.  The attention to small details, like the sound of Xena’s sword being removed from its scabbard helped give the show that little extra touch of realism.

Features *

The features with this box set were not huge but what was included was very nice.  Again, with a new show, and a small budget I’m sure the least of their worries were capturing extra features to put on a disc.  However, they do give us fans a nice little bag of goodies to play with.

My set of DVDs came with six episode-laden discs, and one special features disc.  The only thing is, the features disc is a CD-Rom that you will have to put into your PC to view. 

The CD-Rom contains, director & actor bios, and a Xena Trivia Game, (which I scored 10/10 on, thank you very much).

The Xena Chronicles are an extra special treasure trove of information for you to peruse.  It begins with the full opening credits for the show, then, the menu opens up to reveal five Chakrams.   Each one is an interactive link to information on show regulars, mortal guest stars, Gods of Olympus, Creatures, and special treasures in the Xenaverse.

A downloadable screensaver brings to a close this box sets extras!

Summary:

In my opinion, anything Xena is worth a try.  Whether you’re an old fan of the show, or just beginning your adventure, you’ll be glad you took the time to watch this show on DVD. 

Complete Season One Episode List:

Sins of the Past

Athens City Academy of Performing Bards

Chariots of War

A Fistful of Dinars

Dreamworker Warrior...Princess
Cradle of Hope Immortal Beloved
The Path Not Taken The Royal Couple of Thieves
The Reckoning The Prodigal
The Titans Altered States
Prometheus Ties That Bind
Death in Chains The Greater Good
Hooves and Harlots Callisto
The Black Wolf Death Mask
Beware Greeks Bearing Gifts Is There a Doctor in the House?