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.
We’re in LEXX: The Soft-Porn Zone this episode, and before you can say “isn’t that every episode?”, the series answers “not this porny, it isn’t,” as Kai takes a shower with a naked lady, Prince gets up close and personal with Xev, and Xev stops Stan saying something he might regret with her breasts. No. Really.
Plot? Oh, yes, there was one. Kai visits Gametown, whose inhabitants spend all day playing Pyramid (the sportsball game from Battlestar Galactica, and yes, it is the same sportsball game) with very few clothes on, and May turns out to be working for Prince. That’s about it.
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.
In which Stan and Xev are enticed by an erotic advertisement to visit a sex satellite, and before you can say “isn’t this an obvious satire of those 1-976 ‘party lines’ that were constantly advertised on late-night television in the 1990s?” (get off my lawn, you kids) the station’s manager is hijacking the LEXX.
Xev once again gets the best lines (she’s not the love interest, she’s the comic relief), but Kai is barely in it at all (did Michael McManus have another gig?), and there’s some unusually ropy CGI.
The episode’s refreshingly padding-free, but the “hijacking the LEXX” plot is getting so repetitive that Xev even makes a joke about the similarity between this episode and “Terminal.”
One thing LEXX consistently does better than any other space opera is to convey a real sense of strangeness about its alien creatures, even if they may look human, and the title character is a good example: just when you start to forget that she’s not actually a human being, but the part of a carnivorous plant that lures in its prey, she does or says something to remind you.
She’s also heavily teased as a replacement for Zev, which might have worked, but the rebirth of Zev as Xev is also given credibility by the fact that it’s Lyekka who re-generates her, using Stan’s memories (so as to explain any physical or character differences with the original).
And then, three astronauts from the planet Potatoho turn up, and before you can say “…and Lyekka’s a potato-ho, get it?” the whole thing has turned into a sort of erotic-horror-comedy version of The Quatermass Experiment. There’s a bit of obvious padding to keep the episode to length, but the body horror/comedy is well done, and the (brief) return of Mantrid sets the stage for future adventures nicely.
The episode name isn’t the only thing they’re ripping off from Blake’s 7 this week, as the crew travel to a medical space station dominated by a psychopath of a surgeon who decides to steal the LEXX as soon as he sees it. There’s some pointed satire about American for-profit healthcare systems from a German and Canadian perspective, and Zev gets one of the funniest lines of the episode, interrupting the villain’s rant about his plans for universal domination with “…can’t we just have sex?” Definitely an improvement on last week’s episode, though still not quite as gloriously bonkers as S1 or S3.
And now, on with the episodic series! Not a promising start to the new season, with an episode with way more length than story (Kai is possessed by His Divine Shadow; Kai attempts to re-embody His Divine Shadow with the aid of Mantrid; Kai fails to do so and His Divine Shadow is still on the loose). Plus, for the story to work, both Xev and Stanley have to not suspect that Kai is possessed by His Divine Shadow, and, given that Stanley at least is paranoid to the max, I find it hard to believe the thought didn’t cross his mind.
On the positive side, the special effects to render the titular character, essentially a sentient floating jar full of organs, really are wonderfully grotesque, the cyborg technology of the LEXX universe is consistently well realised, and the digital sets stand up to scrutiny even today.
Eva Habermann, so good as Zev in the telemovies, is really struggling here, hinting at the behind-the-scenes troubles that will force her off the show in a couple of episodes’ time, and her hair looks like a wig.