Creatively Culpable: Paul Donovan, Lex Gigeroff, Jeffrey Hirshfield
I am The Lexx. I am the most powerful weapon of destruction in the two universes. I was grown on the Cluster, which is ruled by His Shadow. The food was good there. My captain is Stanley Tweedle. I blow up planets for him.
By Marilyn Ferdinand
The 61 episodes that comprise the two universes of Lexx, a fiendishly fun space opera from Canada/Germany/UK/US, may be my favorite scifi entertainment of all time. Its brilliantly conceived and executed first season, leading to the inevitable letdown of the second season, and moving on to existential meditations on life and death, heaven and hell, and finally renewal in its final season on the most corrupt and evil planet in the two universes, the “Little Blue Planet” a.k.a. Earth, comprised a year-long adventure I’ll never forget.
Assembling a full set of DVDs of the four seasons of Lexx required the hubby and me to spend a lot of time on e-Bay. Sometimes I wondered at the fast pace and cost of our acquisitions, but after the first season—the single most inventive, entertaining, and audacious visual treat I have ever been glued to—there was no stopping us. We might sit for hours watching two, three, four episodes in a row, then give ourselves a breather of a couple of weeks or even a couple of months. Drawing out the pleasures and frustrations of Lexx was the only way to make it all the way through. Like part human love slave/part Cluster lizard Xev Bellringer (Eva Habermann in Season 1 and Xenia Seeburg for the rest of the series), we were driven by our curious natures and powers of endurance to continue. Like Stanley Tweedle (Brian Downey), former security guard class 4, ex-Austral B heretic, and captain of The Lexx, we were “self-centered, vain, old, unattractive” enough to believe in our own inevitable victory over inertia and the other fads of the day. Like 2,000-year-old zombie assassin Kai (Michael McManus), we’d kill anyone who got in our way “in the service of His Divine Shadow and his predecessors and … never once show any mercy.” And like insane robot head 790, we believed anyone who didn’t support our quest gave “carbon molecules a bad name.”
Lexx presents a dystopia created by the insect wars of the Light Universe that carried on for millennia until the human race destroyed the insects. Under the totalitarian rule of His Shadow (Walter Borden), all humans are assigned a place in the Universe. Difficulties are ironed out through reassignment, banishment, or death. Xev, an enormously fat and homely woman raised to be a wife, is sent for reassignment by her rejecting adolescent husband. She is to be molecularly transformed into a love slave, but rebels against His Shadow break in. Just as she is put into the reassignment machine, a Cluster lizard falls in as well, imbuing the suddenly beautiful and hypersexed Xev with a lizard’s personality and physical agility. A domestic robot model 790 (the voice of Jeffrey Hirshfield)—or rather, just his head—gets the full love slave treatment and falls deeply and exclusively in love with Xev.
Stanley is a pretty disgusting human being, a menial in a red jumpsuit and pillbox cap who basically only wants to get laid. By misadventure, he ends up getting from the rebels the key to The Lexx, a powerful insect/machine created by His Shadow to blow up troublesome planets. Because the key is biologically coded to Stanley’s DNA, he is the only person who can command The Lexx.
Kai, last of the Brunnen-G, resisters who were destroyed by His Shadow’s forces, was killed 2,000 years before and enlisted into the Cluster’s army of assassins. He is kept animated by protoblood and is awakened from cryostasis to retrieve The Lexx. The entire first season is devoted to uncovering the plots underlying the insect wars, the shifting alliances that put Kai in league with Stanley, Xev, and 790, and lead them to destroy the Light Universe and travel into the even more dreaded Dark Universe.
The enormously colorful cast of characters from the first season include Mantrid (Dieter Laser), a centuries-old genius who has systematically replaced his decaying body with robot parts and who keeps a kinky male slave in leather and chains to attend to his needs, and Giggerota (Ellen Dubin), a literally maneating “woman” who wears a suit made of the skins of her victims and calls Stanley “a waste of skin.” I admit I was completely revolted by Giggerota and was happy when she was vaporized by The Lexx. However, like Kai, nobody ever really “dies” in Lexx.
Recasting the part of Xev when Habermann had a scheduling conflict required Xev to be killed and reconstituted. A grieving 790 composes hilariously bad poems to Xev and pines unceasingly. Ironically, his ardor will turn to hatred when a reprogramming gone bad has him fall in love with Kai instead. The sex mania of 790 is unlike any ever depicted. He forces the construction of a body so that he can consummate his love physically and eventually goes stark-raving mad, willing to destroy anyone and everyone to possess Kai. His hatred for Stanley becomes an entertaining running joke. “If I only had an arm, I’d be more than just a head. If I only had an arm, I would strangle Tweedle dead!”
On a more poignant note, Xev’s unrequited love for the lifeless Kai does tug at the heartstrings. A hypersexed love slave, she literally can’t get a rise out of Kai, who feels nothing physically or emotionally. The entire second season deals with sexual frustration and was, for me, very one-note and annoying. The heaps of trouble Stanley and Xev get into trying to get laid make for some entertaining theatre, but it’s more than a tease to have a newly minted love slave with the stamina of a Cluster lizard and keep her a virgin until Season 3.
In Season 3, the crew of the Lexx become involved with a war between two planets in the Dark Universe, Fire and Water. Prince (the formidable Nigel Bennett) is an immortal who rules the evil Fire and wishes to destroy idyllic Water. Hot-air balloons are the ships of war in this system, and we watch as our crew become marooned and must use these airships to go from planet to planet. Stanley falls for a young volleyball player from Water named Bunny (Patricia Zentilli), but she is killed by the duplicitous Fifi (Jeff Pustil), a Water resident who “doesn’t really fit in.” Only slowly does it dawn on the explorers that they (with the exception of Kai) are the only living inhabitants of these worlds. No one on either planet remembers being born—one day they were just there. Individuals the crew remember from other places reappear; for example, Giggerota is now a bodiless Queen of Fire. The battle for survival of The Lexx’s crew becomes existential, as Kai meets Prince for a game of chess in an interesting imitation of Bergman’s The Seventh Seal. Kai will be granted life if he beats Prince, setting up perhaps the most poignantly triumphant moment of the entire series.
Season 4 takes place on Earth, where all of the souls of Fire and Water travel after their planets are destroyed. Bunny becomes the sexpot doofus wife of U.S. President Reginald J. Priest (Rolf Kanies), a toady to Prince, who is now a Dick Cheney knockoff. Conspiracies, rebels, honky-tonk music in a Canadian tavern, and as always, sex (particularly funny is a reality show similar to The Bachelorette starring Xev, who will screw the winner at the end of the series) fill this corruption-happy final season. Putting Lexx in the realm of the familiar dampens the scifi appeal somewhat, but the satire is sharp and the series finale extremely satisfying.
Lexx becomes more profound as time goes on, but its basic staples are food and sex. The Lexx is a living being and must eat enormous amounts of organic matter to keep up its strength. If Lexx doesn’t eat, it can’t produce a gloppy food it expels from a penis-like tube for Stan and Xev. Stanley’s one true love is Lyekka (Louise Wischermann), a plant that not only can take human form but can devour a single person or an entire planet. She would never eat Stanley, but she gets “very hungry” a lot and becomes a threat to Earth in a send-up of Japanese horror films. In fact, the dangers facing the the living often come down to the very primitive concern of being eaten by something bigger and more powerful.
A number of well-known actors appear on Lexx, including Tim Curry, Barry Bostwick, Malcolm McDowell, and Rutger Hauer. I liked the bold, blonde Habermann better as Xev because she seemed to bring deeper emotion to her character. Seeburg just seemed like a preening pair of fat lips to me most of the time, and I never warmed to her. Downey admirably never really redeems Stanley all the way. While he becomes more comradely, particularly with lust object Xev, he is who he is. When he is condemned to Purgatory after a real death he suffers, his task is to keep pedaling a bicycle or risk having a guillotine chop his head off—at which point he is back on the bike repeating the same routine for all eternity. I actually thought this was a fitting punishment for him. McManus is definitely the most appealing character—which is quite a commentary considering he is a dead assassin. When he is cleansed of his loyalty to His Shadow, he helps Stan and Xev primarily because he has no other purpose. He has no real feelings, only shadows of them from time to time, but the writers were smart enough to give him a chance to show some character. When he sings the Brunnen-G fight song, an infectious ditty that the hubby and I chanted with the opening credits to each episode, his beautiful voice is a real treat.
The look of Lexx is very “squishy.” Insect forms, body parts, heads with exposed brains, the dripping innards of The Lexx filmed over with membranes, bloody torture chambers, and ratlike people in elaborately ruched clothing create a tactile, sweaty, junglelike atmosphere you can practically smell. Time has no meaning when assassins can “live” after death and cryostasis can keep the living going forever. Interestingly, one death—a very painful one for me—comes unexpectedly, yet signals the hope for renewal. We’ve been through Dante’s Hell through the fevered minds of the creators of Lexx, and now there is light.