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.
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.