Screen shot of Xena: Warrior Princess
On Monday, rumors surfaced that Xena: Warrior Princess would get the reboot treatment from NBC. According to Hollywood Reporter, the network and executive producers Rob Tapert and Sam Raimi are looking for writers to give the 1990s fantasy series an updated spin.
Of course, these are just rumors at this point, something that star Lucy Lawless tweeted herself. Just the mention of a possible new Xena gets fans heads spinning with what should or shouldn’t be in the show. Yes, we’re weighing in with our own thoughts on the subject.
Xena is beloved by a lot of people, as conventions dedicated to the show might indicate. With that in mind, it’s entirely possible that a reboot would crush the hopes and dreams of former Xena watchers and spark much Facebook moaning in the same way that Jem and the Holograms movie has. On the other hand, it could turn into a project that captures the hearts of the old school fans, much in the way that Sailor Moon Crystal did. If the powers that be do want to breath some life into the 20-year-old franchise, here’s what we think should be included.
1. Bring Back Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Connor.
It’s not Xena without Lucy Lawless. Sure, another actor can probably kick, elbow and flip her enemies to the ground just as well as Lawless. However, the Warrior Princess’ true power is in Lawless’ pale blue eyes. That’s a hard thing to replicate. As Xena, Lawless’ stares are as sharp as her swords. Then there are those side-eye glances that she throws whenever Xena doesn’t have time to deal with someone’s crap. There are whole lessons in “How to Give Attitude” that could be based solely on this show.
But, it’s also not Xena: Warrior Princess without Renee O’Connor’s Gabrielle. Even if the two weren’t to return to their original roles, they should have some sort of cameo.
Lawless’ Xena and O’Connor’s Gabrielle are a perfect team in that they, on some level are opposites. Xena is cynical, hardened by the bad that she has seen in the world and burdened by the mistakes of her past. Gabrielle is naive and truly believes that good will win. They need each other to give the adventures a sense of balance.
Moreover, the chemistry between Lawless and O’Connor as Xena and Gabrielle is intense. Even early in the first season, they give the travel companions a more-than-friendship vibe. (See the scene when Xena hangs chained in a prison in “The Reckoning.”) That connection only gets stronger as the seasons progress. This leads to our second point.
2. Xena and Gabrielle’s Relationship Needs to Be Explored Further.
Xena: Warrior Princess is as much about the relationship between the titular character and her trusted sidekick as it is about the constant fight for justice. In that respect, the show is similar to another ’90s cult hit, X-Files, in that there’s a “will-they-or-won’t-they” element that kept the fans watching. The difference, though, is that in Xena, the two characters in question are both female. At that time, just the suggestion that two might also be romantic partners was enough to make it quite progressive. But, times have changed. Same-sex marriage is now legal in the U.S., as well as other countries across the world, and portraying gay and lesbian couples on television, even in commercials, is no longer a controversial decision. It’s a smart one.
That said, if Xena: Warrior Princess were to return in a rebooted form, Xena and Gabrielle’s relationship needs to be a big part of the show. The ambiguity of their friendship/possible romance makes for nail-biting TV and when Xena makes comments like “Gabrielle, you are a gift to me” (in “A Solstice Carol”) you can’t help but wonder what she really means. By the end of the series, though, it’s obvious that the two share a connection far deeper than even the most intense of platonic friendships. Now, it might mean a lot to fans to come out and say, “Yes, Xena and Gabrielle are in love with each other” from the start of the series.
3. Keep It Campy.
Television has changed drastically since Xena: Warrior Princess first popped up on the small screen. Back then, a show like this was best suited for syndication as the major networks weren’t airing big, epic fantasy tales and cable television hadn’t quite cornered the original series market yet. Xena was for people who didn’t want to spend their weekends watching sports. It was fun and campy, with over-the-top fight scenes and special effects. That’s part of why it worked on so many levels. When you have something that’s made for a cult audience who appreciates these elements of the show, you can have a show centered around two women concerned with much more than their dating lives.
Now, however, the television industry takes fantasy seriously, and while that could mean that a new show would work with greater financial support, it might also take away what was beautiful about the original. Do we really want a Xena that resembles Game of Thrones? I don’t. In fact, a super-serious approach to Xena would likely suck, forcing fans to exist in a world littered with spoiler alerts and thinkpieces about how Xena’s butt-kicking isn’t really feminist. If the show stays campy, we might be spared of this horrible fate.
4. Keep the Anachronisms Too.
I assumed that Xena: Warrior Princess was set in ancient Greece, given that it’s a spinoff of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and there are references to Greek cities and mythological figures. But, maybe it’s the beginning of the Roman Empire since Caesar and Brutus figure into the season 4 episode titled, naturally, “The Ides of March.” Seasons earlier, though, the show gives its own version of the Santa Claus legend, which would have taken place long after the founding of the Roman Empire.
Part of the charm of Xena: Warrior Princess is that if you’re looking for at historical cues, nothing will make sense. It might make the logical part of your mind spin with confusion, but, sometimes you have to shut off that part of the brain and just enjoy the story.
Since Xena went off the air, there have been some really interesting shows that at least strived to capture a certain period of of history, even if they too weren’t completely accurate. While Xena is based more in fantasy than fact, there might be an urge to update it with a vibe that’s more like Rome than the original series.
5. Please Don’t Change the Episodic Structure.
I probably haven’t seen every episode of Xena: Warrior Princess and I definitely didn’t see them in order. However, that doesn’t ruin the experience of watching the original show. Like Highlander, the early seasons of X-Files and a host of other genre programs that existed in the ’90s, Xena wasn’t made for binge watching. You could tune in whenever you had the chance and still make sense of what was happening. Back then, if I wanted to watch a soap opera, I would tune into One Life to Live or All My Children. Now, nearly everything that isn’t a sitcom is a soap opera.
I want a return to shows that we don’t have to watch in order, to genre series that we can enjoy at face value without constantly trying to solve guess who will die or whose identity isn’t what he/she says it is. Not everything has to be a quest for an Iron Throne or the slow-motion demise of a complicated antihero.
6. Never Lose the Girl Power.
There are a lot of bizarre episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess – actually, the show is overall pretty weird – but one of the strangest is “The Xena Scrolls.” It’s an Indiana Jones-style episode filled with awkward accents and centered around two archaeologists played by Lawless and O’Connor who are the daughters of archaeologists and, on first meeting, don’t particularly get along well. The interesting moment comes when Lawless mentions, “maybe we’re both living in our daddys’ shadows, as different as those shadows are.”
Regardless of how odd and, sometimes nonsensical, the stories in Xena: Warrior Princess gets, there’s always these theme of female empowerment. These are well-rounded female characters, the type that people often say don’t exist in great numbers on television and in film. Xena and Gabrielle live independent lives and they make lots of mistakes, but still show a lot of strength and courage as their characters grow with every passing season. Moreover, they constantly fight for the underdogs, people whose voices aren’t heard and whose lives are negatively impacted by those with power.
If there’s a time to bring these themes back to television, it’s now. That could happen with a reboot, but then again, it might not. Let’s make sure it does.
7. Hang on to The Classic Xena Costume.
It wasn’t the only outfit Xena wore, but the Warrior Princess’ leather and metal battle gear was integral the look of the show. When the opening sequence hit with close-ups of the costume, it was a sign that Xena was about to kick some butt.
No doubt, an updated costume would fuel some Internet rage, as has happened in the comic book world who knows how many times. Because there’s really no need to change Xena’s look. Those boots and armbands look as fierce now as they did in the late ’90s.
While we’re at it, please don’t ever change Xena’s battle cry.
Previously by Liz Ohanesian