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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Lexx - The Complete Second Season
Lexx - The Complete Second Season
Acorn Media // PG-13 // August 27, 2002
List Price: $99.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Holly E. Ordway | posted August 23, 2002 | E-mail the Author
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"I am the Lexx. I am the most powerful weapon of destruction in the two universes." That line is spoken in the opening credits of Lexx by the eponymous gigantic spaceship, which bears a striking resemblance to a wingless dragonfly. Captaining this fearsome engine of destruction is Stanley Tweedle (Brian Downey), who is as soft-willed and ineffectual as his name suggests; for crew he has the half-human love slave Zev / Xev (Eva Habermann / Xenia Seeberg), a bodiless robot head named 790 (Jeffrey Hirschfield), and Kai (Michael McManus), a 2,000-year-old former assassin who also happens to be dead. The Lexx is, as it happens, stolen property; the crew use this mighty ship like a bunch of teenagers in a stolen hotrod, jetting around the universe causing trouble and looking for a good time.

Lexx is certainly... different. The problem is that it's right on the cusp between being "different... and I like it" and "different... and I don't like it." The overall look of the show is indeed very distinctive: it's very arty and moody, with exaggerated costumes and sets, minimalist decor, and evidently intentionally abstract science-fictional trappings. There's no intent here to make viewers see Lexx as a realistic science-fiction future, in the style of Babylon 5, or even Star Trek. This is a fever-dream of a future world, with a slightly hallucinatory quality to it.

The second season of Lexx is obviously intending to be a comedy, with a generally slapstick approach combined with plenty of jokes about sex (or the characters bemoaning the lack thereof). The utter absurdity of some of the incidents in the film also appears to be done for comic effect, as in the sendup of the doctor-patient relationship in "Terminal." But despite the actors' best efforts, Lexx's humor never takes off, perhaps because there's never a satisfying balance between the dark and light elements of the series.

If the truth be told, I found the show viscerally disturbing; it's the kind of thing that would have seriously given me the creeps had I watched it as a kid. I couldn't put my finger on what bothered me about it, at first, but it gradually became clearer. There's a lot of truly unpleasant stuff going on in Lexx, from protracted rape scenes that verge on the unwatchably unpleasant to explicit torture to the offhanded killing of people and the destruction of entire planets. I can imagine a response being "Lighten up! It's a comedy!" but the veneer of silly humor on top just makes it worse by trivializing it.

The show is weirdly irregular, in a variety of ways. The storyline, for instance, wavers between having an interesting story arc and simply being a string of the crew's adventures. The opening episode appears to promise a momentous and interesting story developing from the previous season's events, but the story swiftly falters and only delivers trivialities. Some story development does take place over the course of the season, but it doesn't live up to its potential. Apart from this, there's also a fair amount of plot material getting recycled from episode to episode... up to and including the complete plot of an earlier episode, from beginning to end.

Acting falls under the same umbrella of unevenness as the script. The character of Stanley Tweedle is OK; he's supposed to be a bit of a loser, and Downey manages to get that across with a touch of pathos. The original Zev (Eva Habermann) was a reasonably interesting member of the crew, but Xenia Seeberg, the actress who replaced her (as Xev), just doesn't cut it. Pouty lips and a short skirt do not an interesting character make. Both of these characters would have been better served by a better script. However, the less said about 790, the better. The show would have been better served not by writing him better lines, but by writing him out entirely.

The one consistently bright spot in the series is the character of Kai (Michael McManus), the former assassin with a stylish black outfit and deadpan delivery of his lines, which is of course appropriate, since the character is dead. Somehow the creators of Lexx managed to strike just the right combination of the absurd, the intriguing, and the melodramatic with the character of Kai; if only they'd been able to bring that balance to the rest of the show.

Fans of Lexx will be interested to know that the DVD set contains the original, uncut episodes; the show was edited for sexual content before being broadcast in the U.S. on the Science Fiction channel. Don't get the idea that there's any NC-17 material on the DVDs, though: the uncut version has a PG-13 rating. The Season 2 set also contains the episode "The Web," which was never shown on U.S. television, not because of sexual content, but because it has the same plot as the episode immediately following it, "The Net."

Video

Lexx is presented in its original television aspect ratio of 1.33:1. Colors are reasonably natural-looking (insofar as anything looks natural in the weird Lexx universe) and clean, and contrast is also generally satisfactory. The main faults with the image quality are that the image is not particularly sharp, and that there's a lot of noise throughout the picture. Overall, Lexx checks in at about average for a transfer of a television program, and should be reasonably satisfactory to fans of the show.

Audio

The Dolby 2.0 track tends to be a bit muffled at times, so dialogue isn't always as clear as it should be. Other than that, it's a workable track that sounds perfectly fine.

Extras

Acorn Media has done a nice job of including special features for fans of the series. Each of the five DVDs includes some combination of storyboards, character and cast bios, trivia, and production sketches. In addition, each disc has a short interview with one of the cast or crew members (actors Michael McManus, Brian Downey, and Jeffrey Hirschfield (790), series creator Paul Donovan, and director of photography Les Krizsan), and a "Rated Lexx" segment from the Sci-Fi Channel that provides some background on the characters and their story. There's also a behind-the-scenes featurette split between the first two DVDs in the set.

The packaging, however, is less than stellar. The five Lexx discs are included in a lightweight glossy paper slipcase that's not one of the sturdier ones I've seen. The DVDs are in individual plastic keepcases, but the design is poor: the button in the center of the spindle has a very weak grip on the disc, and two out of five of the DVDs in my set had come loose and were badly scratched. Usually this only happens when the grippy part of the spindle is broken, but in both cases nothing was broken; the disc had just come loose on its own.

The DVD menu design ranges from absolutely terrible to annoying, as the menu style varies among the discs. For instance, on Disc 1, you won't want to play the episode from the first menu screen shown on the DVD, because it skips past the opening of the episode, so you'll have to navigate backwards from there to get to the main menu. That's not as easy as it sounds, since it's difficult to tell what choice you've actually selected. The menus overall are plagued by "interactivity," consisting of unskippable clips from the show inserted between various menu functions. Helpful hint to menu designers: what seemed like a cool clip to the designers rapidly becomes enormously irritating to the viewer when seen five or six times in succession while trying to select and play an episode.

Final thoughts

I give Lexx credit for being most certainly different, but in the end the balance tipped to the negative for me. Had there been a more compelling storyline, I might have been better able to stomach the unpleasant elements; had the unpleasant elements been absent, I might have enjoyed the show in a light-hearted way. What do I suggest for viewers who are new to the series? For viewers who prefer more traditional science fiction, Lexx is most likely not for you. If you are interested in trying something that's genuinely different, and perhaps if you've really enjoyed shows like Red Dwarf, you might want to give it a try, but I'd suggest starting out with a rental.
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