Lexx: Complete Collection

Monday, 09 May 2011 10:26

Recent space-faring sci-fi series have tended to be either stuffy or dark, gritty and grown-up. Lexx is different. It is a Canadian-German co-production that lasted four seasons between 1997 and 2002, and features a whole host of psychedelic, risqué, funny and thoroughly eccentric adventures. Widespread gore and sexual references mean it is not for kids, but rather for adults who want to let their hair down.

The Lexx of the title is a living, thinking insectoid spaceship grown by His Shadow, the evil, hooded ruler The Cluster, a league of 20,000 planets. It was supposed to a Death Star-style weapon for destroying entire worlds, but like The Liberator in Blake’s 7, it is stolen by a small band of miscreants searching for a new home and who encounter all manner of weird, wonderful and generally disturbing races and characters.

Lexx - Complete DVD collection out nowThe ragtag crew is made up of Zev (German actress Eva Habermann), a bio-engineered love-slave infected with lizard DNA, Kai (Michael McManus), last of the Brunnen-G race crushed by His Shadow, and who happens to be undead and practically indestructible. Next up is bumbling ex-security guard Stanley Tweedle (Brian Downey – “Hobo with a Shotgun”, Millennium) and finally 790 (voiced by Jeffrey Hirschfield), the immobile head of a robot obsessed with the delectable Zev.

From early on in the second season, Zev becomes Xev and the role is taken over by the equally luscious Xenia Seeberg (Annihilation Earth, Total Recall 2070). Lucky attendees of Cult TV’s Festival Weekender in 2000 might remember her!

Part of the charm of the series is the irreverent interplay between the crew. For example, Stan has the hots for Zev, but Zev is only nice to him because he is the only one who can pilot the ship. 790 is envious of Stan and besotted with Zev (so much so that at the beginning of early episodes he recites Vogon-standard poetry about her). Zev likes the steely Kai but because he is dead he cannot satisfy her sexual cravings.

The closest analogy to a British TV series would be Red Dwarf, with 790 being a more prominent (but equally irritating) version of Talky the Toaster.

The first season comprises four feature-length specials, after which the remaining three seasons settle down into a more standard episodic format (assuming ‘standard’ is a word that can ever be applied to Lexx!). Fans of arc plots that span many episodes will find much to sink their teeth into, especially later on in the series.

It takes at least a couple of episodes to adjust to Lexx’s world, not least for reasons mentioned at the top of this review. Thanks to the likes of Star Trek – Enterprise, the Battlestar Galactica re-imagining and most recently Stargate Universe, fans of TV SF expect their shows to be presented in a particular way. Though it was made a decade or more ago, Lexx was unusual even for its time, with the possible exception of Farscape.

It is steeped in black humour, blood and sauciness, and never takes itself too seriously. It does touch upon grave themes such as dictatorship, genocide, personal freedom and organ harvesting, but these are normally glossed over or milked for their comedic and excitement value rather than as topics for considered debate. Blake’s 7 is the place to turn to if you want slightly more earnest drama (at least during the pilot).

I had already lost count of the number of limbs and heads lopped off by the end of the first season, sometimes in quite graphic detail. At least one episode features female nudity, and not only are some of the costumes highly revealing, but also the ship itself is quite phallic internally and externally. For example, the on-board shower and food dispensers look like dangling penises!

For reasons I will not divulge here, the ship is home to a large number of living, disembodied brains. As the story progresses, more and more of these brains are mushed, eaten, burnt, or otherwise destroyed in delightfully icky ways. Not one for the overly squeamish, then.

As you would expect by now, sophistication is not high on the agenda, and in many ways the series resembles a more extreme version of classic Doctor Who. A typical episode goes something like this: The Lexx arrives at a new planet, the characters get separated and stumble into perilous situations, somehow managing despite their best efforts to survive (more often than not thanks to Kai saving the day).

It is a simple format dressed in gaudy visuals and populated by deranged characters. Entertaining the audience is the primary concern, and in this regard Lexx succeeds. You might find that it is an acquired taste, though.

From a visual perspective, the series is hugely ambitious, and time and budgetary constraints are presumably responsible for the wild variations in quality. The production uses a blend of real and virtual sets, scale model-work and heaps of CGI. Sometimes it looks fantastic, other times it looks cheap and crude, especially when the actors are poorly overlaid onto CGI backgrounds.

Most of the time, the fevered imagination of the series helps to overcome any such misgivings. The CGI is very reminiscent of Babylon 5 in terms of style.

Guest stars include “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” legends Tim Curry and Barry Bostwick, as well as Rutger Hauer and Malcolm McDowell. They all seem to be having a ball playing wildly camp and unhinged baddies, gleefully embracing the galactic pantomime that is Lexx.

The box set includes a number of special features, including making-of featurettes, cast and crew interviews, on-set footage, a message from series creator Paul Donovan and a stills gallery.

The “Lexx: Complete Collection” 19-disc DVD box set is out now, courtesy of Mediumrare. The package has a total running time of 2992 minutes approx (or 50 hours), carries a ‘15’ certificate and retails for £59.99, or less from www.culttvstore.com

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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