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.
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 LEXX pick up Norb, the child who escaped the hillbilly clans in episode 2.8, drifting in space, and before you can say “it’s been a while since they touched base with the Mantrid storyline,” he turns out to be an undead Trojan horse for Mantrid’s self-replicating autonomous zombie arms.
This story has some great moments of genuine horror, with the sense of strangeness reinforced by the fact that, 790’s usual protestations of love for Xev aside, this is a completely sex-free episode. On the downside, they again have more episode than plot, and while the effects are again on the upward curve there’s some rather obvious repetition of footage.
The LEXX discovers an all-male monastic society who reproduce by cloning and have never seen a woman in real life, and before you can say “party’s at Xev’s place!” it is. A generally cheerful, life-affirming, sex-positive and even queer-positive story (Stan initially rebuffs the advances of one of the monks, but eventually decides, Chuck Tingle fashion, that love is love), with an interesting philosophical twist (the monks are the guardians of all the knowledge in the universe, but only one of them’s allowed to actually know what it is– and he’s the one who disapproves of all this sexual hedonism). I also liked the implication that Stan is getting over the trauma of his previous same-sex encounters and is at least theoretically capable of forming a positive relationship with a man. The CGI backgrounds are outstanding, but Kai seems to be bizarrely in angry mode, and also strangely insistent that only heterosexual sex can lead to reproduction, which is surprising since at least three of the people he shares a ship with weren’t created through it.
The crew find a camper-van full of teenagers in suspended animation. There’s a jock, a fat guy, a bully, a party girl and a virgin, and before you can say “wow, all that setup needs to become an American-style slasher-horror movie is a serial killer,” Kai’s woken up and is butchering his way through them in the classic approved horror movie order. It’s really a lot of fun, particularly after watching “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” last week, to see the tropes in reverse, with the story being from the point of view of the murderer/s rather than the victims.
Finally, this episode we get to see what toilets are like on the LEXX, which really doesn’t disappoint.
The crew of the LEXX find a crashed prison ship and, before you can say “790 doesn’t get much to do this series, does it?” 790 has figured out how to fuse itself with the cyborg pilot of the ship and, in a state of sexual confusion, sets out to rape Stan. Xev and Kai, however, can’t help because they are finding out the hard way that in the LEXX-verse it’s always a bad idea to try and free the prisoners.
There’s some good body horror (the prisoners are physically confined to their cells by having their hearts removed), Lyekka seems to be becoming a full crewmember of sorts (which helps the ostensible gender balance a bit), and the 790 storyline’s actually less offensive than I was expecting, particularly in comparison to the earlier storyline involving Stan and rape. Probably because in this case 1) it’s clear that it’s not 790 who’s behind it, and he’s actively trying to stop it, and 2) it’s not played for cheap homophobic titillation, but as part of the sadistic dominance culture of the prison ship. Your mileage may, however, vary.
The LEXX is hijacked by a family of cannibal inbred hillbillies, and before you can say “Garth Ennis called and would like them back please”, Stan, Xev and 790 have figured out that not only is this not an impediment to their quest to get laid (at one point Stan states that their goal is to “find a home” but we all know better), it’s actually an asset, at least until the father/brother/husband finds out Stan’s banging his daughter/sister/wife, and Xev finds herself caught in a genocidal war between hillbilly clans. Light on plot but heavy on fun double-entendres, and it’s nice to see Lyekka back in the story.
The writing team have finally decided they’re OK with the sole motivating factor for the LEXX crew to seek out new worlds etc. being that they’re looking to get laid, so before you can say, “well, at least their treatment of female sexuality is generally positive, without slut-shaming, misogyny or lack of respect for consent,” Stan, 790 and Xev mistake a transmitted porno film for a genuine distress call from the very hot inhabitants of the planet Orgasmos, and hijinx ensue when they instead find a freighter crew infected with a bioweapon which causes people who come in contact with it to develop the genitals of the opposite sex.
Definitely one of those where you’re not sure if it’s horribly offensive or really very clever, but extra kudos for an unexpected deus-ex-machina that actually works.
The crew of the LEXX go down to a pleasure station and before you can say “isn’t this the third time they’ve done this plot?” it turns out to be a honey-trap, and Stan finds himself standing trial for war crimes, of which he is in fact guilty (not a spoiler if you’ve seen S1).
There’s some clunky bits– it takes Xev 50 minutes of screen time to realise that if Stan is executed, they can’t fly the LEXX, and although the Chief Prosecutor gets all the lines, her delivery’s so wooden you could miss them easily– but the final third is a rather deep meditation on justice versus compassion that’s impressively nuanced and ambivalent. Despite the presence of killer mealworms.
The ship encounters a TV satellite station where hapless travellers must compete for ratings in programmes with android presenters where losers meet a gruesome fate-worse-than-death, and before you can say “did Russell T. Davies watch this series by any chance?” Kai is having to climb out of cold storage and rescue Xev, Stan and 790 from their own libidos yet again.
Kai gets all the lines, for a change, and the Xev storyline does a good job of subverting the usual sexploitation tropes (as she first dominates a harem of handsome male androids and then forces the audience to recognise her humanity in a way they clearly don’t like). Nonetheless, the series still feels like it’s floundering, with the premise for going down to the station handwaved rather than emerging from the characters and situation, and the resulting action predictable.