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Xena: Warrior Princess-Season 1 Volume 2 (1995)
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Details At A Glance
Menu Animation & Audio
Year Of Production
Multi Disc Set (3)
|Cast & Crew
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Universal Pictures Home Video
Joseph Lo Duca
NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.
This is the second half of the first season of Xena: Warrior Princess. To read my background thoughts on the series, see my review of the first half of the first season. The episodes we have on this half of the season are as follows:
- Athens City Academy Of The Performing Bards (42:08) - Gabrielle learns of a competition for places in the Athens Bard Academy, and decides to enter. On the way to perfecting her craft as a bard, she meets a young man by the name of Homer.
- A Fistful Of Dinars (42:30) - An old friend of Xena's is killed for a clue he held to a great treasure. Fortunately, Xena happens along in time to relieve his killer of the clue, before setting off with the bearers of the other clues - a warlord and an assassin - to find the treasure. Xena knows more than she is letting on however, as the treasure contains the key to the temple where the ambrosia - the fruit of the gods - is kept. One bite and the eater becomes a god - exactly the kind of thing you don't want to happen to an assassin or a warlord.
- Warrior...Princess (42:35) - The Princess Diana is in danger, as her impending marriage is set to end slavery across two kingdoms - something that the slave traders are none too happy about. Luckily for the princess, she bares a striking physical resemblance to Xena (couldn't be anything to do with being played by the same actress?). After a switch is performed, Xena goes about tracking down the would-be killers.
- Mortal Beloved (42:30) - Xena's true love, Marcus (Bobby Hosea), returns as a ghost to warn Xena that the wicked have captured Hades (a brief appearance from Erik Thomson, better known to Australian audiences as All Saints' Mitch Stevens) and escaped Tartarus. Xena journeys to the afterlife to help restore order, but discovers that Marcus has been placed with the wicked. If she continues to help, the man she loves will spend eternity in Tartarus. What to do?
- The Royal Couple Of Thieves (42:31) - Xena enlists the help of Autolycus (Bruce Campbell in yet another brilliant slapstick turn), King of Thieves, to help her steal the greatest weapon known to man (hmm...last time I looked stone tablets weren't an enormously powerful weapon).
- The Prodigal (42:28) - Gabrielle freezes in the face of danger while travelling with Xena. Following that, she loses her nerve and decides to head home, looking for answers. When she returns, she find that her village is regularly being sacked by a warlord and his army - and also that her village has hired the help of Meleagor the Mighty. Unfortunately, Meleagor is not so Mighty, and Gabrielle must look inside herself to save her friends and family.
- Altered States (41:34) - Worshipers of the One True God (now, what on Earth could they be hinting at there?) are in a quandary - on the one hand, their normally benevolent God is demanding the blood of a 12 year old boy as a sacrifice, but on the other, they must show Faith and follow their gods wishes. Xena, of course, decides that any truly good God does not want to see young boys killed, so starts to investigate. As happens from time to time throughout this series, this is an attempt to meld Greek and Christian ideologies, but as usual it does not work, and ends up simply being awkward.
- Ties That Bind (42:31) - Xena encounters a man claiming to be her father, while rescuing slave girls from the grasp of an army. Pursued by the army, Xena must return the slaves to their village, as well as make peace with her father.
- The Greater Good (42:30) - Xena is struck by a poison dart from an unknown assailant, and soon falls prey to the poison. This is a situation that the great warlord Talmadeus is not going to let pass - he sees his chance to become the man that killed Xena. It is up to Gabrielle to masquerade as Xena (leather costume and all...) in an effort to prevent Talmadeus from destroying an entire valley.
- Callisto (42:28) - Unknown assailant? Not really - only the most hideously insane character to ever appear on the series, being Callisto (Hudson Leick in the first of many appearances on Xena). Driven to madness by Xena when Xena's army destroyed her village as a young girl, Callisto lives only for revenge, for the chance to kill Xena in both body and reputation. This episode also features the first appearance of another regular recurring character - Ted Raimi as Joxer.
- Death Mask (42:02) - Xena encounters the warlord who first set her on the path to self-destruction, but finds that someone with just as much reason to want him dead is already looking for a way to kill him.
- Is There A Doctor In The House (41:34) - In the season finale, we are not left with any major cliff-hangers, but instead are treated to the most powerful episode of the entire season, as Xena and Gabrielle work at a war hospital. This episode shows, in a way that many higher budget productions have failed to do, the down sides to war at the same time as investigating how the attitudes of those involved can be affected by breaking the "out-of-sight, out-of-mind" mindset. It all becomes personal for Xena however, when Gabrielle becomes one of the critically wounded. Treated with a lot more respect and dignity than many of the less important sentimental moment throughout the series, this episode is dramatically about as good as Xena gets.
Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.
The second half of season one features a generally clearer image than the first half, although this is blighted by the fact that the technically worst episode (both in terms of audio and video) is in this half of the series as well.
As with the first half of the series, this volume is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1, and is obviously not 16x9 enhanced.
The sharpness of the second half of the series is, on average, a little better than the first half - although this is almost entirely due to a much more contained level of grain. In fact, episodes 19 through 23 are almost grain free in comparison to earlier episodes. All this, however, is let down by episode 18 (The Prodigal) that is the consistently grainiest episode of the entire series. Shadow detail is the same in this second volume as the first, being very good, especially considering the restrictions of the source material. There are a number of darker scenes that are almost entirely consumed by grain, but when grain is not present the detail within the darkness is remarkable, and easily shows all information necessary.
In a similar manner to shadow detail, colour is consistent across the volumes, with this half of the series exhibiting the same consistent and believable image as the first half. The only instances of strange colouration occur during episode 13 (Athens City Academy Of The Performing Bards) in footage taken from past efforts at Roman cinema, such as at 31:30.
The greatly reduced grain and consequential improvement in sharpness present in this half of the series has lead to a reduction in the pixelization problems, although they do appear quite frequently during episode 18. There is a single instance of aliasing during this half of the series, at 15:54 during episode 16 (Mortal Beloved). Again, there were only two instances of film artefacts during this half of the series, both occurring during episode 21 (The Greater Good), at 8:13 and 12:31.
There are no subtitles present on these DVDs.
The first two discs of the series place two episodes on each layer, but the third disc, as with the first half of the series, is RSDL formatted with the layer change occurring at 41:30 during episode 22 (Callisto). This time, the change is very well placed, occurring just after the last scene fades, but before the credits start to roll. Again, it would appear that the inclusion of the photo gallery has caused the layer change to move into the episode, and again, it begs the question as to why the photo gallery was put on this set in the first place.
Video Ratings Summary
This half of the series features audio that is of the same quality as that of the first half of the series, with the exception of episode 18 which presents the worst audio mix for the entire series.
As with the first half of the series, there is only a single, English Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack present on this half. It again does not have the surround flag set, but manually enabling ProLogic decoding works well.
Dialogue is generally clear and easy to understand, although this half of the series is not without its problems. During episode 15 (Warrior...Princess), there are a few instances (such as at 40:20) where dialogue is accompanied by a low hum. By far the worst audio example in the entire series however is episode 18, during which a large percentage of the dialogue, and practical effects noises, are hampered by considerable background buzz and hum. The level of buzz gets high enough to become annoying at times.
Audio sync is not a problem during this half of the series.
The music, as in the first half of the series, is provided by Joseph Lo Duca, and is well suited to the genre.
While the soundtrack is not specifically flagged to be Dolby ProLogic, turning on decoding has numerous benefits, bringing the entire soundtrack to life. The opening theme song appears to surround the listener, and the way in which sounds play around the soundstage is extremely impressive, as is the high level of ambient noise. The soundtrack is also very effective in stereo only mode, displaying a nice open front soundstage that gives some of the best separation I have encountered out of a stereo only soundtrack.
The subwoofer gets plenty of use from redirected bass, backing up the score, and many battle sounds.
Audio Ratings Summary
|Surround Channel Use|
This half of the series comes with just as pitiful an extras package as the first half. In my opinion, a single photo gallery does not an extra make.
Menu The menu is animated, themed around the movie, and features a Dolby Digital 2.0 rendition of the theme song. The menus, while quite simple, are easy to navigate, and present easy access to each episode. Alternatively, all episodes on a disc can be played using a "play all" button, which is always a nice feature.
Photo Gallery This is comprised of 18 stills from the first season, cropped to fit a small circle within the middle of the screen. It would have looked far better for Universal had they simply left these off - at least then they are not even pretending to put in any effort.
R4 vs R1
NOTE: To view
non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually
also NTSC compatible.
This set is not available in Region 1, however there is a Region 2 release. The only differences between the box sets are the packaging and the episode order. While the R2 gets fold-out cardboard casing, a mastering error lead to the episodes appearing out of order, such that Volume 2 contained episodes 20-23, 3-5, 24, and finally 6-9 (Volume 1 contained the remaining episodes). As our set contains the episodes in correct, broadcast order, I would have to say that our set is the clear winner.
This second volume of Xena contains the stronger episodes of the first season, and finishes on a powerful, if not typical, season closer. It is good to finally have Xena presented on DVD as it always should have been.
The video quality of this second half of the season is somewhat better than the first, and although it is still not great, it is really about as good as the source material could allow.
The audio quality is extremely good, although it is no better or worse than the first half of the series.
The extras are still pathetic. Not only that, they again cause the final disc to have a layer change. What were Universal thinking?
© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Tuesday, March 05, 2002
|DVD||Pioneer DV-535, using Component output|
|Display||Loewe Xelos 5381ZW.
Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver.
Calibrated with Video Essentials.
|Amplification||Onkyo TX-DS787, THX Select|
|Speakers||All matching Vifa Drivers: centre 2x6.5" + 1" tweeter (d'appolito); fronts and rears 6.5" + 1" tweeter; centre rear 5" + 1" tweeter; sub 10" (150WRMS)|