Anchor Bay // 1995 // 720 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Maurice Cobbs (Retired) // September 21st, 2005
Gabrielle: Another one's fallen for you.
Xena: Again? What is it?
Gabrielle: Oh, the blue eyes...the leather. Men love leather.
Xena: I think it's time for a wardrobe change.
Gabrielle: Yeah. You could try wearing chain mail.
Xena: Nah. That'd just attract a kinkier group.
-- From "A Day In The Life"
The people behind Xena: Warrior Princess seem to have always been very aware and very grateful for the program's large and devoted fandom; while the owners of other properties with extensive fan followings, like The X-Files and Star Trek, seem to jealously guard those properties, Xena has allowed her fans almost uninhibited access to the characters, creating a sort of synergy with the people who make the show such a success. For the 10th anniversary of the wildly popular action/adventure show, Anchor Bay has turned to those fans to select, by vote, the very best episodes of the series. The result is this impressively expansive boxed set, featuring 16 of Xena's most popular adventures:
* "Sins of the Past"
* "Is There a Doctor in the House?"
* "A Day in the Life"
* "Been There, Done That"
* "The Bitter Suite"
* "One Against an Army"
* "The Ides of March"
* "Fallen Angel"
* "Lyre, Lyre, Hearts on Fire"
* "Amphipolis Under Siege"
* "Old Ares Had a Farm"
* "When Fates Collide"
* "Many Happy Returns"
* "A Friend in Need," Parts 1 and 2: Director's Cut
I'm not gonna even try to convince you that this isn't one of the sweetest boxed sets I've seen all year, from the rrrich corrrinthian leatherrr case (okay, it's only imitation) to the superb 5.1 audio mix to the almost endless supply of special-features material -- half of disc six and all of disc seven is nothing but. But you might be wondering just who this collection is aimed at...won't you have to know tons of backstory and character history to enjoy them if you're new to Xena? Since these are all episodes culled from previously released season sets of the show, which die-hard fans doubtless already own, even the siren song of some pretty sweet special features material may not be enough to convince them to pay the price of the set.
Some of the best episodes featured here are the episodic ones, and the most fun to watch, like "Callisto," which introduces Xena's arch-enemy, or "One Against An Army," in which Xena must protect a mortally-wounded Gabrielle while holding off a Persian invasion force. The more comedic turns taken in episodes like "A Day In The Life" and "Been There, Done That" are also delightful, as are the musical episodes "The Bitter Suite" and "Lyre, Lyre, Hearts on Fire." New viewers shouldn't have much trouble sinking their teeth into Xena's world for the first time with this set, and the storylines are for the most part easy enough to pick up on. Of course, they're all better watched with a veteran fan of the show -- most TV shows of this type are -- but all in all, this is a great way to find out whether or not Xena is something you'd enjoy, especially since the wide variety of included episodes do present an accurate picture of what it is. As for those of you who are already down with the Warrior Princess, there's plenty for you as well: this set is crammed nearly to busting with commentaries, interviews, featurettes, and documentaries. Rarely has a show been so thoroughly examined, and rarely has a studio assumed that the fans of a show were so interested in the behind-the-scenes workings. Accordingly, nearly every episode featured has a commentary by Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor, and producers Rob Tapert and Eric Gruendemann and writer R.J. Stewart are also on hand for the occasional commentary. Five of the episodes even feature video commentaries as well. These episodes are examined, explored, and remembered fondly, and it seems almost impossible for the actresses to take their characters seriously as they coo and giggle and -- let's just say that there's a lot of self-depreciating humor and almost MST3K-style banter. To be fair, these are the same commentaries that were released with the episodes in their respective boxed sets, so if you own them, you've already seen them, but there are brand-new interviews with assorted cast and crew members -- ranging from Ted Raimi to Hudson Leick -- as well.
But the real value in this set to fans will no doubt be the brand-new documentaries and featurettes. The Xena season sets have become known for being packed with goodies, but this set takes the cake with hours and hours of entertaining, informative, and offbeat extras. The Fan Tribute section directs a great big smoochy kiss towards the fans, starting with a featurette filmed at the 2005 Xena Convention that has fans naming off their favorite episodes, and why they like them. The tribute section also focuses on the contestants in the "Xena Fanatic" contest, a montage of fan-submitted videos as fans make their case to win the coveted title of "Xena's Biggest Fan," and the "Xena Reenactments" contest has fans recreating their favorite scenes from the show.
But these tidbits are only the beginning; unlike other DVDs, which offer skimpy, rushed, tacked-on features, Xena goes the other way and nearly overwhelms the viewer with informative and insightful material. "Comic Relief," for instance, allows series regular Robert Trebor nearly an hour to talk about his role as con-man Salmoneus on both Xena and Hercules; "Seeing Double" focuses attention on Xena's stunt double, Zoe Bell, and "Extras" is a fantastic mini-documentary that throws the spotlight on people who mostly spend their time milling around in the background. "Xena's Hong Kong Origins" is a round-table discussion with Rob Tapert, Liz Friedman, Doug Lefter, and David Pollison, discussing the influence that Hong Kong martial-arts cinema had on the direction of the series. "Mythology vs. Xena" is an insightful exploration of the use of Greek mythology on the show, featuring commentary from not only Alexandra Tydings (Aphrodite), but from Sheila Briggs, a professor of religion and gender studies at the University of Southern California, and Amy Richlin, professor of classics and women's studies at USC. Classy, although the feature pretty much focuses on Aphrodite and no other gods. And finally, "B is for Bruce" is a friendly sit-down with The Man himself, Bruce Campbell, as he looks at his life and career and experiences. Groovy!
With all of the season sets of Xena already available, it's tempting to regard this set as a cheap marketing ploy -- especially nowadays, when studios feel little compunction about tacking on a couple of cheap and skimpy "extra special features" to justify double dipping. But that ain't the case with this set. Some real thought and effort was put into making this a great buy for fans and newcomers alike. Battle on!
Review content copyright © 2005 Maurice Cobbs; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Anchor Bay
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 720 Minutes
Release Year: 1995
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Interviews with Lucy Lawless & Renee O'Connor, Ted Raimi, Hudson Leick, Josephine Davison, Adrienne Wilkinson, Director Andrew Merrifield, Post-Production Supervisor Bernie Joyce, Supervising Producer Steven L. Sears, Producer Eric Gruendemann, Co-Executive Producer R.J. Stewart, Editor Robert Field, Costume Designer Jane Holland, Writer Kay Foster, Writer Adam Armus, Director Rick Jacobson, Executive Producer Rob Tapert, Writer Katherine Fugate, and Writer Liz Friedman.
* Audio Commentaries with Lucy Lawless, Renee O'Connor, Robert Tapert, Eric Gruendemann, and R.J. Stewart
* Deleted Scenes on "Motherhood"
* Final Episode B-Roll Footage
* 2005 10th Anniversary Xena Convention Featurette
* Fan Contests: "Xena Fanatic" and "Xena Reenactments"
* "Comic Relief" -- Interview with Actor Robert Trebor
* Xena's Hong Kong Origins
* Mythology vs. Xena
* Seeing Double
* "Extras" Documentary
* "B" is for Bruce
* Official Site
* The Mammoth Index of Xena: Warrior Princess Fan Sites
* Amphipolis Village