The upside of the current dearth of decent programmes on TV is that I’ve turned to my collection of DVDs for entertainment. In the last couple of weeks I’ve been reacquainting myself with random episodes of Xena and Voyager, and finally making a start on Season 5 of Babylon 5. Ahhhh.
The fun of Xena: Warrior Princess
Xena and Gabrielle are fun — apart from a few, rather grim, episodes. I really enjoy the two strong women finding friendship together, of course, but also the fact that as a TV show they generally didn’t take themselves too seriously and were happy to genre-hop: adventure, sci-fi, mystery, comedy, opera, musical, horror, western — they did a bit of everything.
Renee O’Connor and her character Gabrielle both developed enormously over the six years, from the rather naive and idealistic, soft and rounded young woman, to the strong, sculpted, fit, experienced warrior.
It’s also hard to resist those moments when Xena is so clearly utterly overjoyed to have the opportunity to beat up the bad guys. And so often, both actors were clearly having great fun together — it would be hard not to be engaged. Then there are those moments when you see that enchanting smile from Xena / Lucy that you’d crawl over broken glass for.
The idealism of Star Trek: Voyager
I grew up watching the original Star Trek: Kirk and Spock, Uhura and Chekov, Bones, Sulu. One of the things I love about sci-fi is that it can break away from reality and show us futures where the world can be a better place. In the universe of sci-fi all beings can be equal; all things are possible.
In Voyager we see a strong woman at the helm of a starship finding her way home against the odds. Torres is a good strong character, and Kes, in her own way, but it’s interesting to see how the series really took off once Seven, part human, part Borg, arrived.
As with Xena and Gabrielle, the relationship between Kathryn Janeway and Seven is a delight. More than once Janeway goes right to the heart of the beast to stand up for Seven: even into the den of the Borg Queen. Yup, true friendship!
Babylon 5: black, white and grey
[B5 spoilers below.]
B5 remains one of my all-time favourite TV shows. I’ve watched almost every episode half a dozen times and still enjoy watching. It’s a darn good story, well-crafted and well put together. Unfortunately, although there are several good, strong women: Delenn, Ivanova, Lyta, Talia, Lockley, each stands essentially alone in the series, and it’s the men who take more of the centre stage.
Nevertheless, each of the women exhibits courage and strength, sometimes in abundance. Who can forget Ivanova’s “right hand of vengeance” speech1, or Delenn’s bringing the White Star to stand between Sheridan and Earth Force2?
And as for that “almost every episode” — I was so moved by the final episode of Season 5 when I first saw it several years ago that I’ve actually never been able to watch it again. I keep rewatching B5, from beginning to end, but so far have always come to a standstill in the later episodes of Season 5. This time I’m determined to make it through to the end again.
Perhaps the main feature of Babylon 5 is its refusal to draw characters, any of the characters as simply black and white. JMS forces us to consider shades of grey. Even major bad guys like the Shadows have a philosophy behind their actions. They do what they do as a means to progress and improvement.
So, Xena, Voyager, Babylon 5: good friends who bring me great pleasure.
1“Who am I? I’m Susan Ivanova, Commander, daughter of Andrei and Sofie Ivanov. I am the right hand of vengeance, and the boot that is gonna kick your sorry ass all the way back to Earth, sweetheart. I’m death incarnate and the last living thing that you’re ever going to see. God sent me.”
— Ivanova in Babylon 5:”Between the Darkness and the Light”
2“Only one human captain has ever survived battle with Minbari fleet. He is behind me. You are in front of me. If you value your lives, be somewhere else.”
— Delenn in Babylon 5:”Severed Dreams”