If last week was Ingmar Bergman, this week is what you’d get if you handed Ingmar Bergman a tab of acid and a copy of the script for “Journey to the Far Side of the Sun”. Before you can say “aren’t the planets Fire and Water metaphorically like Hell and Heaven?” we discover that not only is this literally true, but a) you can’t have one without the other, b) Prince is Satan (leading to some nice speculation on what motivates him and why he even exists)… and c) in the season-ender cliffhanger, both he and the LEXX have now been unleashed onto the Earth.
Oh, and Xev gets dry-humped by a skeleton. Just in case all the metaphysics was getting to be too much and you needed to go back into the Pornography Zone.
I’m probably not going to cover LEXX season 4, because 1) it’s not on Amazon Prime, so I’d have to buy a box set, and 2) it’s Season 4, which I remember as not being remotely good in the slightest, and I have yet to see any evidence that it’s worth a re-visit, except possibly to be amused when various German actors who have since become known for other things turn up as guests. So my next set of TV reviews for this blog, at least, will be “The Starlost.”
Stanley is stranded in the sea on Water, and before you can say “he’s in the opening credits so they can’t kill him off,” they do. It’s obvious from early on that this is a clip-show episode, but the framing premise is better than most such stories, as Stanley discovers where people in the LEXX-verse go after they die. At first it seems like he’s going to be judged for the same crimes that kept haunting him in Season Two, but in the end what damns him is something much more personal and relatable.
The premise is reminiscent of the Red Dwarf episode where the characters are judged by versions of themselves, but there’s also an eerie Ingmar Bergman element to the staging and the imagery of Stan walking along a beach in the company of Prince and the mysterious judge.
Gigguratha’s back! Hooray! My favourite recurring grotesque is-this-clever-or-is-this-offensive character! And before you can say “I wonder what form she’ll take in the Dark Zone?”, we learn that she’s Queen, ruler of Girltown, where men toil over sewing machines and women form a parliament that’s less useful than Boris Johnson’s government.
The other guest star this week is Jimmy Somerville. Jimmy. Somerville. Of. Bronski. Beat. This is what I love about LEXX, it casually drops in an appearance by major figure in the history of techno music and LGBT+ rights, like it was nothing.
This is another of those episodes where I’m not sure if it’s exploitative and crass or clever and subversive, but Jimmy Somerville’s participation suggests that any potential homophobia or gender-shaming is to be taken ironically. Plus there’s a techno-dance-party sequence that, if I’m reading it right, says that in a world full of totalitarian fascists, the way to true freedom is to stop playing their games, don a frock and boa, and dance.
Before you can say “is this another filler episode?” the series, recognising that we’re going into the end game, ramps up the tension to give us the sort of corking, brain-twisting action we’ve been missing for the past couple of episodes. Prince kidnaps Xev, Kai and Stan stop lotus-eating in the Garden (euphemisms!) to give chase in a balloon, and airborne steampunk mayhem ensues.
This is also a great characterisation episode for Xev, as she gets to explore her feelings about her upbringing in the Wife Bank, and reflect on the way in which everyone in the empire of His Shadow was, to a greater or lesser extent, exploited, while also kicking a satisfying amount of ass. Prince also gets to come into his own as a villain, verbally sparring with her during the balloon chase.
In sum, Xev gets all the lines but Prince gets (almost) the last word.
The crew find themselves in a magical garden that’s uncomfortably like an X-rated version of a children’s show, and before you can say “that sounds like a lot of fun,” I’m here to warn you that it really isn’t. While that could be the premise for one of LEXX’s more audacious soft-porn romps, in fact we’re really in filler episode territory, with 45 minutes of not much happening. Not sure what the optimal length for a LEXX story is, really; 2 hours is too short, 22 episodes is way too long, and even 13 episodes seems to contain a fair bit of hang time. The main thing this episode has going for it is a welcome return cameo for Lyekka, but unfortunately she doesn’t do much more than titillate Stan and eat a few of the people of Water.
Stan wants to feed the twin planets to the LEXX, and before you can say “hang on, this is a thirteen-episode season, there’s no way he can go through with that,” Xev apparently decides she’s going to relieve him of the key to the LEXX, since it seems it can transfer during orgasm as well as on the death of the possessor (would have been interesting if they’d known about that in Season Two).
Initially I thought this was another dragged-out filler episode, but five minutes before the ending there’s a twist that retrospectively justifies the slow build up and makes you want to watch it again with the knowledge of what’s actually going on. It’s also definitely one of those episodes where “unbelievably clever” and “unbelievably offensive” overlap on so many levels.
Kai is stuck in Hogtown, a city of tedious bureaucrats and insurance claims people, and before you can say, “isn’t Hogtown one of the less flattering nicknames for Toronto?”, the rest of us have noted that LEXX is one of the three pieces of filmed theatre for which Nova Scotia is famous (the other two, if you’re interested, are Trailer Park Boys and Hobo With A Shotgun, both of which, incidentally, feature Brian “Stanley Tweedle” Downey), so yes, this is undoubtedly a swipe at the city Canadians love to hate.
Meanwhile Xev, Stan and Prince escape K-Town through the eponymous tunnels, ducking madly sadistic ballerinas and transvestites (stay classy, LEXX: it really was not a simpler time).
A pretty boring episode, so I’lll just say that Prince is shaping up to be a really good character, who I’m never sure whether I want to love or hate.
The LEXX crew are forced to from the inhabitants of K-Town (whose schtick is that they like throwing rocks at people) through a warren of brutalist tunnels, and before you can say, “has this series made enough of the concept of everyone in the Light Zone having a Dark Zone double?” they’ve encountered the Dark Zone double of Mantrid, and have to enlist his help in rebooting Light-Zone Kai.
For me this was the weakest episode so far, partly because it’s the first one that’s had serious continuity with Season Two, and I confess I’m starting to forget some of the details.
On the plus side, the location footage is great, and there’s some, erm, pornographic surrealism as we find out that Kai’s control switches are located in an area which for most men is simply a *metaphorical* control switch, and Xev, well, literally turns him on.
All the regular and recurring characters bar our-universe-Kai and May are attempting to fly over the deserts of Fire in an air balloon that’s sinking rapidly, and before you can say “isn’t this the LEXX version of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1944 survival movie Lifeboat?” they’re facing the problem of which of them to throw overboard so the rest of them can survive. There’s some good twists, particularly regarding the identity of the inevitable traitor. I’m rather liking how the longer series-arc format is allowing the writers time to take diversions, and the practice of reincarnation on the part of some of the people of Fire and Water is shaping up as a surprisingly versatile recurring plot device.
And before you can say “Didn’t Russell T. Davies write a story by that name?” I can answer, “LEXX beat him to the punch by eight years”. Also, even though there’s at least once instance of LEXX doing a story which anticipates a RTD one surprisingly well, this one has nothing in common with the Doctor Who episode bar the name.
Anyway, this one does have more of a plot than last episode. Civil war breaks out on Fire as Duke squares off against Prince, and we learn that everyone in the Light Universe has a Dark Universe double, yes, even Kai. Meanwhile, on Water, the crew of the LEXX have sex with the locals in various ways and combinations. I’d say this one was entertainingly bonkers, in all senses of the word.
Also: shoutout to Bunny, who will be one of the few reasons to watch Season 4.