Lexx: The Complete Series (1997 – 2002)
By: Paul Ryan on March 1, 2012  | 
DVD
Beyond Home Entertainment | Region 4, PAL | 4:3 | English DD 2.0 | 2911 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Creator: Paul Donovan
Writers: Paul Donovan, Jeffrey Hirschfeld, Lex Gigeroff
Cast: Brian Downey, Michael McManus, Xenia Seeberg, Eva Habermann, Nigel Bennett, Patricia Zentilli, Dieter Laser, Rolf Kanies, Louise Wischermann, Ellen Dubin
External Links
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The 1990s were a true banner decade for telefantasy series, thanks to the likes of The X-Files, the multiple Star Trek spinoffs, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Babylon 5 (to name but four). While a good number of the decade's genre series did their best to ape the style of The X-Files - and usually got canned after a single season for their trouble – there were still plenty of series that stood out from the oft-imitative crowd. Of all the telefantasy series ever made, there is truly nothing like the Canadian oddity Lexx. Created by filmmaker Paul Donovan (probably best known 1985's DefCon 4) in tandem with writers Lex Gigeroff and Jeffrey Hirschfeld, Lexx is a subversive, rude and often blackly funny spin on the ship-bound sci-fi TV formula. Recalling elements of Douglas Adams, Monty Python, Russ Meyer, and Blake's 7 (to name just four), this is the best kind of pastiche, where familiar points of reference are reworked into something unique and distinctive. Running from 1997 to 2002, Lexx was put together by various production partners across Canada, Germany and later, the United Kingdom, and accordingly reflects a different cultural sensibility to other science fiction/fantasy shows.

Your travelling companions for this series are:

Stanley Tweedle (Brian Downey, Hobo With a Shotgun): A meek, sexually-frustrated, middle-aged loser, Stanley lives in perpetual shame as the man who inadvertently betrayed a resistance movement, leading to its extermination. Living out his days as a Security Guard Class 4 (the lowest possible rank in the Light Universe), Stan is endlessly pilloried by all around him. Stan's life changes forever when, during a prison break, he inherits the key to the Lexx, the most powerful spaceship in the two universes.

Zev (Eva Habermann) and later, Xev (Xenia Seeberg): Raised from birth in a mechanised box, Zev was bred purely to be somebody's wife. Growing up into depressed, homely adulthood, Zev (initially played by Lisa Hynes) is set to be married off to a snotty twelve-year-old. When he rejects her at the altar, she punches him out, a criminal offense in the Light Universe. Sentenced to have her mind wiped and her body reconfigured, Zev is set to be transformed into a mindless Love Slave. The transformation goes awry however, and while Zev is physically transformed, her mind remains intact. Her DNA also gets mixed with a carnivorous Cluster Lizard in the process, amplifying her senses and physical strength. Later in the series, Zev is reconfigured in a newer, bolder form as Xev (Xenia Seeberg).

Kai (Michael McManus): Kai is the last survivor of the Brunnen-G a race almost entirely exterminated 2000 years earlier by the forces of the Divine Shadow. Kept in an undead form by His Shadow, Kai is kept in suspended animation and periodically thawed out to be used as an assassin. Kept running by a substance called protoblood, Kai is capable of regenerating from any wound. Initally sent by His Shadow to exterminate Stanley and Zev and retrieve the Lexx, Kai's link with the His Shadow is severed. By now incapable of feeling emotion, Kai nonetheless seeks to atone for centuries of misdeeds, and agrees to help Stan and Zev find a new home. Zev becomes infatuated with him, but being undead and all, Kai can't make her, uh, "happy".

790 (voiced by Jeffrey Hirschfeld): A sentient robot head, 790 received the Love Slave programming intended for Zev. Now he (it?) is completely infatuated with Zev despite his lack of a body with which to consummate his lust for her. 790 regards any competition for Zev's affection with almost psychotic jealousy. Occasionally doing his best to get Stan and Kai killed, his database of galactic knowledge nonetheless makes him a vital member of the Lexx's crew.

The Lexx (voiced by Tom Gallant): A city-sized, biomechanical spaceship, the Lexx resembles a huge, wingless dragonfly. From other angles, it resembles a phallus, but whatever. The most powerful destructive force in the two universes, the Lexx is capable of destroying entire planets, which it does on a regular basis. It is fuelled by organic matter, and can eat land masses, space debris, and so on. The only person who can control the Lexx is Stanley Tweedle, who possess the biologically-implanted key to the ship. Though immensely powerful and partially-sentient, the Lexx isn't terribly bright, and often misunderstands Stan's commands, usually resulting in lots of accidental deaths.

Together, the crew straddle parallel universes, battle hunger (of both the digestive and sexual variety ), bicker constantly, throw societies into disarray, and blow up many, many planets along the way.

Due to the many different financing and distribution partners involved, Lexx has had a chequered, series of DVD releases around the world, with different distributors releasing different seasons. In Australia, we've been lucky in this respect, with Beyond's release marking the first time a single distributor has released the entire series in the one country (though Britain and Canada have since followed suit).

Season One (Four 90-minute episodes): In a far-away galaxy, the Light Universe is dominated by the Divine Shadow (voiced by Walter Borden), an insectoid tyrant who has survived for thousands of years by transferring his essence from body to body. Ruling over the League of 20,000 Worlds, the Light Universe stands in contrast to feared parallel Dark Zone. Based on the homeworld of The Cluster, His Shadow rules with an iron fist. People live in cramped, polluted conditions. Minor infractions are punishable by organ harvesting, as Stanley Tweedle discovers when he fails to pay a set of fines. Meanwhile, a small resistance movement, led by Thoden (Barry Bostwick, in his second-silliest costume ever, behind Megaforce) plans to break out of captivity and steal His Shadow's new ship, the Lexx (which is being fed by all those harvested organs). Falling in with Stan, newly-transformed sort-of-Love Slave Zev and lustful robot head 790, Thoden is killed along the way, and Stan inherits the key to the Lexx. Sent to kill the escapees Divine Assassin Kai is freed from His Shadow's control as the ship passes through a fractal core and emerges in the Dark Zone, a universe feared for its barbarity and lawlessness (relatively speaking). Dogged by demented cannibal stowaway Gigerotta (Ellen Dubin, Napoleon Dynamite), and a host of conniving talking brains (His Shadow's "Divine Predecessors") the crew attempts to find a new home to settle on. Along the way the crew battles murderous holograms, parasitically-controlled crazies, and the concentrated might of His Shadow.

Structured as four telemovies, this first season establishes the world of the show very vividly, with imaginative design – the combined efforts of seven production designers – gung-ho performances and dollops of memorable black humour (exemplified by the opening scene of "Super Nova"). Though entirely studio bound, the show makes effective – and generally impressive - use of of CGI "virtual sets", and the outer space FX are consistently fine, having aged better than some other shows of the era. Each episode features a noteworthy special guest star. As mentioned earlier, Barry Bostwick appears in the opener, "I Worship His Shadow". Tim Curry makes for a memorably smooth holographic baddie in "Super Nova", while Rutger Hauer goes full-tilt crazy in "Eating Pattern. Lastly, the fabulous Malcolm MacDowell turns up as a put-upon cleric in the final episode "Giga Shadow".

The movie-length format of the first season has it's pros and cons. The extra running time gives Donovan, Gigeroff and Hirschfeld plenty of space to establish the parameters of the Lexx world. There are lots of enjoyable little details dotted along the way that might not have found their way into a one-hour format. On the downside, there's some pronounced padding in order to justify the format, most noticable in "Super Nova" and "Giga Shadow", and it's mostly in the form of characters running around from place to place. Overall though, this first season gets things off to a solid - if imperfect – start.

There's a minor censorship issue on the version of "Super Nova", with Eva Habermann's brief topless scene absent from this release. Being the only instance of nudity in the season, the uncut scene is actually jarring in terms of tone, so honestly, it's not that big a loss here.

Season Two (Twenty 45-minute episodes): Briefly under the control of the Divine Shadow again, Kai manipulates Stan and Zev to travel back to the Light Universe to replenish his protoblood supplies. In the ensuing fracas, the crew unleashes the wrath of His Shadow's nefarious Bio-Vizier - or, chief scientist - Mantrid (Dieter Laser, later of The Human Centipede). Tainted by His Shadow's all-consuming hatred of humans, Mantrid – or, more accurately, a corrupted computer copy of Mantrid personality – sets about destroying the entire Light Universe, via an all-consuming army of sentient robot arms. It's up to the Lexx's bumbling crew to stop him, but there's plenty of adventures to be had along the way...

Settling into an hour-long format, the second season of Lexx immediately feels more streamlined and less padded than it's first. The overarcing plot for the season is integrated smoothly among many stand-alone stories, and the world is expanded and deepened impressively. The tone is neatly balanced between jet-black humour, amusingly blatant raunch and serious(ish) drama.

One major change occurs on screen early on in the season, with the departure of Eva Habermann in episode two ("Terminal"). The second-year renewal of the show took longer than expected, so Habermann had already moved on to another show by the time it came through. Getting a surprisingly emotional send off, it's a shame to lose one of the key cast so soon, but the following episode ("Lyekka") sees the character reincarnated and re-cast, now played by Xenia Seeberg. Appropriately re-named Xev, Seeberg tackles the character in a very different manner to Habermann. Whereas Habermann's Zev had something of the ingenue about her, Seeberg brings a lusty, almost Russ Meyer-esque gusto to Xev. Uninhibited, flirty and occasionally ferocious, she's great fun, and elevates the energy level of the show. Another great addition to the show is Lyekka (Louise Wischerman), a sweet, pretty and cheerfully cannibalistic plant-babe, as adorable as she is deadly.

Among season two's highlights: "Woz", a fabulously cracked reworking of The Wizard of Oz; "Luvliner" in which the crew have an eventful stay at a space bordello; the deliriously imaginative TV satire "Lafftrak"; "Brigadoom", an emotional musical episode which tells the story of the fall of Kai's people in opera form; and the all-stops-out season finale "The End of the Universe", with imagery that recalls the best of Chuck Jones. Even a dreaded dip into clip-show territory is handled with flair in the two-parter "The Web/The Net". Essentially, the first part tells the main story (the Lexx is ensnared in a giant, sentient space net) , with the second part presenting the same episode completely re-edited, with additional scenes, trims and different outcomes. As blatant budget-saving goes, it's the best of its kind. Budget issues are evident at times in some occasionally under-done CGI (mostly early in the season), but generally the visuals are of a high standard throughout.

Familiar guest stars this season include Stephen McHattie (Watchmen), an hilarious Maury Chaykin (Dances With Wolves), Louis del Grande (he of the famed exploding head in Scanners), Page Fletcher (host of 80s anthology The Hitchhiker and later Alex Murphy in Robocop: Prime Directives) and John Dunsworth (Trailer Park Boys, and a voice of the Divine Predecessors in season one). Behind the scenes, there are notable contributions from new production designer David Hackl (who later worked in various capacities on the Saw series) and creative consultant/director Jorg Buttgeriet (of the infamous Nekkromantik films).

Season Three (Thirteen 45-minute episodes): Dangerously low on fuel (as the ship hasn't been able to find any edible planets in a long time), the Lexx and its crew go into a period of suspended animation. Some 4000 years later, the Lexx drifts into the orbit of the binary planets Fire and Water. As the names suggest, Fire is an arid desert world, while Water is covered in the titular liquid. Ruled over by the charismatic Prince (Nigel Bennett, Forever Knight), Fire regularly launches attacks on Water, itself led by the angelic May (Anna Kathrin Bleuler). When the Lexx is boarded by one of Prince's raiding parties, 790 is damaged and the crew awakened. Upon rebooting, 790's love slave programming becomes fixated on Kai instead of Xev (he also believes he's a woman, not that it matters when you're a robot head without a body, but whatever...) and regards Xev with intense jealously. His ongoing hatred for Stan remains unchanged. Unable to leave the system, the crew become torn between the leaders of the two worlds, with both manipulated into almost destroying the other's planet. Separated and ultimately cut off from the Lexx, the crew find themselves banding together with various inhabitants of each planet in order to escape, but the scope of Prince's power transcends life and death and "reality" is frequently turned inside out, making it hard to know who to trust. And why do the crew keep running into reincarnations of old foes from millennia ago...?

With a single, season-long plotline, Lexx's third season is both its most ambitious and its most successful. Structured like an old chapter serial, each episode segues into the next, with cliffhangers and action aplenty. Though the visual effects are at times uneven, there's a breathless pace and urgency to the arc, and lots of twists and turns. It requires more attention than previous seasons, and it's occasionally exhausting, but it's pleasing to see a show that demands such a level of concentration from its audience. The core characters are used in ways both dramatic and comedic, though this season dials back the humour somewhat. Mind you, only in a show like Lexx could you have a scene of Xev smothering Stan with her bust and successfully play it seriously...

The concentrated storytelling leads to a larger roster of colourful supporting characters, such as Prince's nefarious offsiders Duke (Withnail and I's Ralph Brown) and Priest (Rolf Kaines), the endearing gym bunny, er, Bunny and the cowardly Fifi (Patricia Zentilli and Jeff Pustil, both of whom appeared as different characters in season two), while Dieter Laser's Mantrid, Louise Wischerman's Lyekka and Ellen Dubin's Gigerotta make amusing return appearances. Former Bronski Beat/Communards lead singer Jimmy Sommerville has a rare acting role in the episode "Girltown".

The one real stumble in an otherwise excellent season comes with "The Beach", which engages in that most annoying of TV cliches, the Clip Show. Unlike the previous season's "The Web/The Net", there's little cleverness in the way old footage is reused. While there is a solid story reason for it – Stan, caught between life and death, is forced to re-examine key moments from his life – it still feels annoyingly chintzy, though the framing location footage – shot in Namibia – is certainly nice. This aside, this is the show's best season by some way, and Bennett's regal, calculating villain is an absolute delight.

Season Four (Twenty-four 45-minute episodes):

Drifting into a suspiciously familiar – to the audience, that is - solar system, the Lexx comes into orbit around a "little blue planet" known as Earth. Identified as a "Type 13 world" - one whose weaponry has advanced to the point where its own destruction is inevitable – the crew discovers that the government of a region known as the "United States of America" has been infiltrated by Prince, who has become the head of the bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms. Moreover, he has influenced the presidential election, installing a thoroughly bewildered Priest as the leader of the Free World (to say nothing of another reincarnation of Gigerotta as the Pope). Still low on food, the Lexx is stuck in orbit, allowed to eat the odd snack (an island here, Holland there), but can't go too far. As such, Xev, Stan and Kai find themselves caught up in the apocalyptic machinations of Priest, a doomsday cult of eggheads, a swarm of carrot/robot alien anal probes (yup), long-dormant Divine Assassin Vlad (Minna Aaltonen), multiple versions of Lyekka, and so on...

At a drawn-out 24 episodes, the final season of Lexx is also the weakest, with much repetition, padding, worn-out catchphrases and belaboured character tics. You'll quickly lose count of the number of times you hear the phrase "Type 13 planet in its final stage", or variations on "lets leave this horrible system once and for all" (followed by something that keeps the Lexx in Earth's orbit, natch). There's a nagging feeling that Donovan and co have run out things to do with the core cast, often reducing them to superficial sketches of their former selves. Kai constantly reminds us that "the dead don't feel [insert emotion here]", Stanley somehow becomes even more cowardly than usual, Xev's "cluster lizard curiosity" is leaned on a weak instigator of plots and 790's psychosis becomes more irritating and tiresome than funny.

This said, the new Earthbound setting does shake things up for a while, as the crew struggle to adapt to the "little blue planet". Many of the episodes take swings at American mores and culture (from a bemused Canadian perspective, that is), with varying degrees of success. Instant fame and reality TV are roasted in "P4X" and "Xevivor"; white picket fence suburbia is bloodily eviscerated in "Pine Ridge"; "Moss" looks at Waco-style survivalists, while mass consumption and consumerism are satirised in such episodes as "Fluff Daddy"and "Viva Lexx Vegas". Canada comes in for a poking when Stan is made king of Newfoundland in "The Rock"; the crew visits Vietnam (actually Thailand) in "Apocalexx Now", while Lyekka goes all Godzilla on Tokyo in "Lyekka vs Japan".

While the sense of fatigue is palpable (Q: How many episodes can end with a bloody shootout? A: Most of them.), there are still some instalments which embody the series at its most imaginative. As "Woz" dementedly reworked L. Frank Baum, "A Midsummer's Nightmare" is a clever variation on Shakespeare, and surprisingly affecting in places. "The Rock" and "Fluff Daddy" give Brian Downey and Michael McManus a chance to play distinctive variations on their characters. The high point of the season is "The Game", in which Prince and Kai play a game of chess with the dead assassin's soul as the prize. Wildly imaginative (partially shot in Iceland!), and highly theatrical (the chess board is populated with the heads of all the main and supporting characters, whom each attack in ways representative of their personalities), it's a deliriously clever, quite funny episode that shows what Lexx is capable of at its best.

Again, many guest stars from previous seasons return in new incarnations. Walter Borden recurrs as the Stephen Hawking-esque doomsday cult leader Dr Ernst Longbore. Patricia Zentilli returns as a new (and far ditzier)version of Bunny, this one married to - and carnally obsessed with – Priest. Stephen McHattie turns up again as a paranoid survivalist. Jeff Pustil repeats his Fifi/Schlemmy schtick as a sleazy TV producer in "Xevivor". Notable guest stars include Space: 1999's Tony Anholt, Red Dwarf's Hattie Hayridge and Craig Charles (the former doing one of the worst yank accents ever, the latter not even bothering to attempt one), Britt Ekland (delightful as a boozy, horny divorcee in "Pine Ridge"), Birds of a Feather's Alun Lewis, Alien 3's Peter Guinness, and veteran British character actor Lionel Jeffries (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Camelot) in his final role.

As an ending to the series, the final episode, "Yo Way Yo" goes some way to tie up character and story arcs, but despite a "The End" card at the end, it still feels as though Donovan and his writers were keeping things open for a possible continuation down the track. It's a satisfying enough finale, but you suspect this isn't the last we've heard of oddballs from the Light Universe. Only time will tell...
Video
The video is reasonably consistent across the entire series, which isn't to say that it's reference quality, but it certainly does the job. The PAL transfers look to have come from tape masters – unsurprising, as much TV of the time was post-produced on videotape - with very minor wear and the odd tracking error present in the first two seasons, along with small film artefacts. The latter two seasons are bereft of these particular issues, while colours are generally strong across the entire run. No subtitles are included.
Audio
Serviceable across the entire series, the 2.0 audio is perfectly fine given the age and budget of the programme. Marty Simon's episodic scores come out with particular smoothness.
Extra Features
Season One: Each of the telemovies is accompanied by a fifteen-minute featturette (produced as part of the production's contractual obligations with their UK video distributor). Each covers a separate element of the production. The first explores the genesis of Lexx, including an original promo short Donovan produced to sell the concept – with Downey already present as Stanley – while Donovan, Hirschfeld and Gigeroff discuss their careers and approach to the show. The second looks at the design elements of the show, and how CGI is used to create virtual sets – still a new concept at the time – and the way multiple designers were utilised to create the show's visual style. The third featurette focuses on the cast, with comments from Downey, McManus and Habermann , and yes, one of the three drops the old cliché of the crew being "like a big family", but it sounds genuine enough. Doreen Jacobi talks about her tight leather costume and getting the part of Wist after the original actress broke her leg. Rutger Hauer calls his character "a dressed-up Dennis the Menace", while Hirschfeld discusses the challenges inherent in being the voice, eyes and mouth of 790. The final segment looks at the participation of Malcolm MacDowell ("These Canadians are a pain in the ass! I can't wait to get home!") and the boundless enthusiasm of "Giga Shadow" director Robert Sigl. The three head writers also tease where Lexx might go as a weekly series.

Season Two: The three-part featurette, The Making of Lexx: The Series is spread across the discs, and covers cast changes, writing, makeup and visual effects. It's more formally-structured than the featurettes on the first season and more of the EPK talking heads stuff that you'd find elsewhere, but it's full of interesting info, particularly how the field of human heads in "Lyekka" was achieved. Short interviews are included with Michael McManus, Paul Donovan, Brian Downey, director of photography Les Krisan and a reliably bitchy, in-character chat with 790. Lastly, a season three teaser rounds things off.

Season Three: Another making-of featurette (this one in four parts, and produced for the season's Canadian broadcast), again spread across the discs. This looks at the challenges in structuring the season as one long story. Downey, Bennett, McManus and Dubin discuss where their characters go in this season, along with the physical issues involved in playing their parts. The unpleasantness of acting while suspended from harnesses (or underwater, for that matter) is discussed, along with the technical challenges of depicting convincing nipple-clamping on film and the erotic sensation of acting while buried in dirt. No, really. Episode directors Bill Fleming and Bruce McDonald talk about production logistics, and the show's move into location filming for the first time. The experience of filming in various environmental conditions in Nova Scotia, Berlin and Namibia are explored at some length. There are brief but informative interviews included with editor Stewart Dowds (which features a few glimpses of season four), videomatics director Peter Gaskin (exploring the pre-visualiastion of the VFX sequences, mostly using glued-together crud from flea markets) and visual effects director Alex Bushby.

Season Four: Surprisingly, the longest season gets the smallest batch of extras. There's a couple of deleted scenes from "Fluff Daddy", an eleven minute wrap reel (featuring bloopers, crew shenanigans and a dog manning an edit suite), and a closing message from Paul Donovan, which sums up his philosophy behind the show.
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
With its unique mixture of unapologetic raunch, black comedy and periodic gore, Lexx won't be to everyone's taste, but if you connect with it, you'll have a fine old time. It's uneven, to be sure, but well worth watching from start to finish. Beyond's box set (which often goes quite cheap from certain retailers) is a comprehensive presentation of the series, and should leave fans with few complaints.

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