Xena: Warrior Princess-Orphan of War/Remember Nothing/The Giant Killer (1996)

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Released 25-Jul-2001

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Synopsis
Biographies-Cast
Gallery-Photo
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1996
Running Time 126:34
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Charles Siebert
Anson Williams
Gary Jones
Studio
Distributor
Studios USA
Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Lucy Lawless
Renee O'Connor
David Taylor
Aaron Devitt
Robert Harte
Todd Rippon
Anthony Starr
Case Soft Brackley-Transp
RPI $36.95 Music Joseph Lo Duca


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Italian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
Dutch
Spanish
Italian
Swedish
Norwegian
Danish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    Xena: Warrior Princess was once the most watched television show in the world, an honour held before it by such luminary shows as Baywatch and the show from which Xena was borne - Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. While I was an avid watcher of both Xena and Hercules, it was the latter that I felt was the better show. Hercules simply didn't take itself as seriously as Xena, but Xena had something that Hercules didn't - two women in the lead roles. It was in the right place at the right time, when television needed a strong leading role for a woman. In fact, the dynamic between the leads was so strong that many saw Lucy Lawless's Xena and Renee O'Connor's Gabrielle as being lovers, catapulting Lawless to the status of gay icon. This created something of an anomaly - a spin-off show that was more popular than the original. It is unsurprising, therefore, that Xena has seen DVD release before its older sibling.

    What is more surprising is the manner in which Universal have decided to release the Xena series. This disc contains the first thee episodes of Season 2 (also known as Gabrielle in knee length skirt and green midriff top). Why Season 1 (otherwise known as Gabrielle with long skirt and full blouse) has disappeared is somewhat of a mystery. Xena, being a spin-off show, pretty much hit its straps from the get-go and had a very good first season. To complicate matters, it was the first season where recurring characters such as Joxer and Calisto were first introduced. Fortunately, these three episodes stand fairly well as individual stories without the need to know the background story or too much about the world of Xena.

    The episodes are:

    Orphan Of War (42:31) - Xena has to save her (adopted out) son from the evil machinations of a former member of her army, now a warlord with a large lump on his left cheek. This episode is typical of the problems with Xena, as the fight scenes are great, but the attempt to make a serious story falls flat thanks to bad scripting and worse acting.

    Remember Nothing (41:36) - After saving a temple dedicated to the Three Fates from a band of marauders, Xena is offered the chance to change one thing about her past, using the opportunity to revive her long dead brother. Unfortunately, in order to maintain the new reality, Xena must refrain from shedding any blood - something that she finds very hard to do. This is the strongest of the three episodes presented here.

    The Giant Killer (42:27) - A bizarre twist on the story of David and Goliath. I couldn't really work out why Xena was helping David, as I'm fairly sure that Zeus (who is real in the world of Xena) wouldn't have been very happy with one of his people helping to propagate a religion that didn't even acknowledge his existence. This is really a very weak episode that strays too far from the series' strength of Greek mythology and adventure.

    All in all, not the strongest set of three episodes that could have been used to premiere Xena on DVD, but certainly a taste of what is to come.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    Overall, the transfers on this disc were of a uniformly good quality. There are a few small problems, but given the limitations of being a low-budget TV series shot mostly on location, the end result is quite pleasing.

    The transfers are all full frame (1.33:1), and coming from a TV series shot in 1996, this is no real surprise. They are, of course, not 16x9 enhanced.

    There is a constant low level of grain in the transfer, but again, this is most likely attributable to the source. Despite the grain, the sharpness is at a very good level, and the picture very clear, being slightly better than could be expected from perfect TV reception. There is also a very good amount of shadow detail, although most action takes place during the day.

    The colours are a little muted, taking away some of the visual impact of the stunning terrain, and the interesting costumes. This is largely a problem attributable to the outdoor shooting locations and New Zealand's inordinate number of grey skies during the shoots for these particular episodes. When the sun does come out, the colour returns to a much better level. Indoor scenes are usually darker than outdoor scene, but due to the better lighting look richer and more vivid than the outdoor scenes.

    The continuous grain problem causes some degree of pixelization of background areas, and subtle posterization is visible during most scenes as well, but only if you look very hard. There is only one really noticeable compression artefact however, occurring during Orphan of War at 4:36, where a line of pixelization occurs about a third of the way down the screen - at about roof level in the scene. There is no aliasing present at all in this transfer, probably due to the grain preventing complete clarity and sharpness of the image.

    This is a dual-layered disc, but the layer change occurs between episodes, with two on one layer, and one on the other.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio presented on this disc is a clear, stereo soundtrack that does its job, but is by no means spectacular.

    There are five audio tracks on this disc, all being Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo tracks that are not surround-encoded. The default is the original English track which was also the track that I listened to, but French, German, Italian, and Spanish dubs are also available. All tracks are recorded at a bitrate of 192 Kb/s.

    Dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times, and there are no problems even when the action gets more intense. As Xena is shot mostly on location, there are times that background noise can be heard at higher-than-usual levels, but that is to be expected.

    Audio sync is for the most part fine, but there are times when it is out by a tiny (but still noticeable) amount. These generally correspond to sequences where it is obvious that there is considerable background noise (such as wind or battle) that may have rendered the original dialogue unusable.

    The musical composition for Xena is handled by Joseph Lo Duca, and is mostly of the heavy classical nature. This format suits the action and setting well and does not at all distract from the events on screen. It is of generally better quality than many TV scores. As an interesting side note, Lo Duca not only composed the music for Hercules as well, but has done the same job for executive producers Sam Raimi and Robert Tapert on many of their projects since the original Evil Dead.

    Being a stereo-only soundtrack, the surround channels were never really exercised, although there was good sound placement across the front speakers.

    There is a nice amount of bass in the soundtrack, and as such, the subwoofer provided a pleasing amount of backbone to the action sequences and theme music.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    There is little in the way of extras on this disc, in fact nothing apart from static information screens, which is very disappointing. There really was an opportunity missed here as Xena has attracted so many different kinds of attention over the years. As an example, there could have been a documentary looking into what the stars of the show thought of being known as gay icons, and then asking the writers if that was what they intended.

Menu

    The menu consists of static screens with a picture of Lucy Lawless in various heroic poses behind most of them. The options are outlined by swords, and are easy to navigate. It is marginally annoying however that after each episode you are returned to the top of the menu instead of highlighting the next episode in the list.

Episode Synopses

    A page of text about what happens in each episode, what Lucy Lawless thought about the episode, what the end-credits disclaimer was, and what mythology was drawn upon for that episode. This page is largely useless, as the only really interesting information is the single-sentence from Lawless, and the equally short mythological reference, although the disclaimer is usually amusing (for those that don't know, the end credits of both Hercules and Xena always contained a take off of the "No animals were harmed during production..." message).

Biographies

    These are nothing more than abridged biographies for Lucy Lawless and Renee O'Connor. They contain almost no interesting information, and anything that is there could easily be found on the Internet in seconds.

Photo Gallery

    Standard picture collection, this time consisting of seventeen grabs of action from within the series. The only interesting portion of this page is that Renee O'Connor has only two shots, and both with another character in them - while Hudson Leick's character Calisto (who doesn't even appear in the episodes on this DVD) gets two shots to herself. Xena's horse gets more room in the shots than O'Connor (and that is a real shame, as O'Connor is a lot prettier than the horse).

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on;     This DVD is not available in R1 at present, although the exact same disc we have here is available in Europe.

Summary


    Xena: Warrior Princess could have used better episodes to launch Xena on DVD, but it is still nice to see Xena on DVD.

    The video quality is very good, especially considering the constraints of the source material.

    The audio track is a very good stereo track, but it is only stereo.

    The extras are not really worthy of the title, describing information that any web-savvy Xena fan could find in a few minutes.
 

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Monday, July 16, 2001
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using S-Video output
DisplayRCA 80cm. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersAll 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)

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