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 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.