Guest blogging on “Gangsters”

This month, I’m guest blogging for the Oxford Doctor Who Society about one of my very favourite series: “Gangsters”, the Birmingham-made surrealist postcolonial crime drama you might not have heard of, but which runs through the DNA of every series you love, including Doctor Who! Read it here— you can buy a print copy of the society magazine at the link too!

LEXX 3.02: May

I’d expected the series to play with parallel storylines– Stan and Xev on Fire, Kai and 790 on Water– for longer, but Kai finds a damsel in distress, the titular May, and before you can say “that makes sense in the context of developing parallel narratives, Prince as a love-interest for Xev and May for Kai,” Kai is off Water and meeting up with the others pretty fast, so that’s the end of that.

We don’t actually learn a lot about Water, and certainly it’s unclear which, if any, of the narratives the characters spin about it are true (May, apparently the Water equivalent of Prince, is no less manipulative). We do learn that Prince can regenerate, and possibly May can too. Kai definitely gets all the lines this episode, but Xev seems to have developed a terminal case of naivete, apparently falling in love with Prince despite him being clearly dodgy AF. I should say, though, that I’m really being won over by Xenia Seeberg’s performance as Xev; she slithers about like a lizard and sniffs people and things in a credibly non-human way.

Finally, the crew of the LEXX appear to have abandoned their mission to roam the universe trying to get laid, presumably because they’ve got enough opportunities where they are.

LEXX 3.1: Fire And Water

And before you can say, “isn’t LEXX’s third season the point where they find the right series length, and the right balance between mind-twisting space opera and occasionally tasteless body horror?” we’re back! The opener to this leaner, shorter season is an amusing riff on the Sleeping Beauty legend, as the LEXX crew have been drifting in cryogenic suspension for millennia, only to be wakened by a Prince– arguably handsome, depending on how you feel about a young Nigel Bennett. Personally I think Bennett is one of the most watchable actors of his generation, but I also watched “Fire and Water” suffering some whiplash from having recently seen Bennett as the police chief with the Dreadful Unspeakable Secret Life on Murdoch Mysteries.

The setup for the season, the war between the desert planet Fire and ocean planet Water, are well set up and the crew get separated off to their destinations nicely; there’s the usual body-horror grotesquery, rather toned down from the telemovies, but much in line with what we saw in Season Two.

Overall the only thing wrong with this one is that it was rather heavily padded out with flashbacks to explain a setup which was clear from five minutes’ worth of expository dialogue.

The Least of the Mohicans?

With some trepidation I’ve been watching Hawkeye And The Last of the Mohicans. Trepidation, because it was made in 1957 and clearly is going to warrant TPTV’s Contains Racist Language And Depictions title card; however, it’s one of the oldest, if not THE oldest, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation television programme still viewable, so I felt I should give it a try for historical reasons.

My takeaways:

  1. While the brownface is indeed shocking to a modern audience (Cec Linder in makeup and a war bonnet as an “Indian Chief”, no kidding), and the depiction of Native culture ridiculous (e.g. Hurons living in tipis), one point in its favour is that the Native characters are all given fully rounded characterisation and interesting motivations; their resistance to colonisation is presented as fully legitimate, and they have as complicated internal power politics as you can depict in a 30-minute episodic series. So not to apologise for, or forgive, the other parts, but at least it didn’t go the route of having the Natives as the unreasonable faceless horde of cowboy movies or Laura Ingalls Wilder.
  2. Clever old CBC, making a “settlers and Indians” series which is set before the American revolution, and in a vaguely defined “Huron territory” that could be anywhere from New York to Eastern Ontario. That way you can sell it on both sides of the border without having to deal with the sticky political wicket of rebellion against/loyalty to the Crown.

LEXX 2.20: “End of the Universe”

The season finale, so before you can say “this is going to have to involve Mantrid, the portal to the Dark Zone and Lyekka, assuming they haven’t actually forgotten she exists,” it does.

I liked the idea of combatting Mantrid by merging 790 with a Mantrid drone, resulting in a counterforce of armed-and-horny self-replicating cyborgs. It’s also a nice callback to “791”.

Lyekka’s ending was arguably a bit of a sacrifice-the-redshirt one, but then again the point was made that it wasn’t really self-sacrifice; being a plant, she was dead from lack of nutrients anyway, and was just completing the cycle in a way that ensured that the rest of the crew survived. Although I think they could have made more of her as a character and crew member, I do have to say that at least the episodes she had, she never felt particularly shoehorned-in, so it’s a shame she didn’t make it to Season 3 and the Dark Zone. Which of course the rest of the crew do.

And yes, I did too! More micro-reviews later…

LEXX 2.19: “Brizon”

The crew of the LEXX decide that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, so seek out Brizon, the only survivor of His Shadow’s regime capable of taking on Mantrid, and before you can say, “is there really much to choose between the two of them?” Brizon has managed to hijack Kai’s brain, Xev’s liver, and Stan’s penis. By the time the inevitable final confrontation happens, the audience are rooting for Mantrid. Who wins, of course, or there wouldn’t be an end-of-level boss fight next episode, but it’s always fun when the LEXX team are in full bizarre body-horror mode.

LEXX 2.18: “Brigadoom”

The LEXX encounters a theatre floating in space, and before you can say “Hooray! It’s 1999 and that means there’s a musical episode!”, the crew find themselves participating in an opera about the life of Kai, staged by deathless beings outside of time and space who just want to put on a show. There’s more to it than just a novelty concept and a bit of backstory, though, as we see the crew work through the analogies between the doomed Brunnen-G people and their own situation with Mantrid, and in the end, given the choice of eternal life as part of a theatrical chorus, or certain death fighting to save the universe, they, for once, choose the latter.

LEXX 2.17: “The Net”

Heading for the centre of the universe, the LEXX flies into a giant space web and before you can say “isn’t this identical to the previous episode?” it literally is. At least two-thirds of this story is footage from the previous episode, telling the same story over again but with the single twist that we now know that Stan is in fact under the control of the parasite/spider organism; the original material covers how Xev and Kai find this out and get rid of it. I’m not sure if this is terribly clever and postmodern, or just the team admitting that they really do have more season than story (and at that, it’s arguably a more interesting way of dealing with that problem than DS9’s endless run of two-characters-stranded-somewhere filler episodes) but at least next week is “Brigadoon”, which should be fun.