Xena: Warrior Princess-Season 2-Part 1 (1996)

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Released 3-Oct-2002

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Menu Animation & Audio
Gallery-Photo
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1996
Running Time 464:45
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (31:00)
Multi Disc Set (3)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Michael Hurst
Gary Jones
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Lucy Lawless
Renee O'Connor
Ted Raimi
Hudson Leick
Case ?
RPI $69.95 Music Joseph Lo Duca


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking Yes, during the episode The Xena Scrolls.
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, keep an eye out for the no (...) was harmed lines.

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

Plot Synopsis

    The second season of Xena: Warrior Princess is one of the best. While it starts off shakily with three rather poor episodes, it quickly moves into some of the best episodes ever made for the series. Xena is an unusual type of show in that it does not really have any season-long story arcs, or complex political plots, but it does have a very large number of recurring characters who serve effectively to ground the show and bring some semblance of reality to the world it occurs in.

    In addition to Xena (Lucy Lawless) and her side-kick Gabrielle (Renee O'Connor), there is the bumbling warrior with delusions of grandeur Joxer (Ted Raimi), and the deliciously evil warrior woman, and Xena's arch nemesis, Callisto (Hudson Leick). In addition there are many, many characters that are common to the world of Hercules and Xena that appear in one or two episodes then disappear for a season before reappearing. It is these appearances that give Xena its main appeal - each time an old guest star returns, it is like meeting an old friend (or enemy), and the sense of continuity that brings is enormous.

    This second season of Xena sees the undercurrent of the relationship between Xena and Gabrielle come a little closer to the surface (so much so that the two actually share an open mouth kiss at one point - albeit by proxy). Their relationship is very much like that of Mulder and Scully from The X-Files - while never spoken of, it is just there. In this series, the two have love interests that are male (there is even a wedding!), but the undercurrent is there, and is quite obvious when looked for.

    The first half of this second season is the weaker half, taking quite a while to recover from its poor start. There are a number of dramatic episodes in this half, however only The Return Of Callisto really succeeds in this department, while the more humorous episodes tend to fall a little flat (although Ten Little Warlords is a good combination episode). It is not until the irreverent Here She Comes...Miss Amphipolis that this series really starts hitting its straps.

    The following are the episode synopses for this half of the season. Just a word of warning, as many events later in the season rely on the earlier episodes, it is impossible to do this without introducing some spoilers. Those picky about that sort of thing are advised to skip the individual episode synopses.

    Overall, the first half of this second season of Xena: The Warrior Princess is good, but pales in comparison to the second half. However, for any Xena fan, it is a welcome sight to see on DVD.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The video transfer for this first half of the second season of Xena is quite good. Although it starts somewhat poorly, it improves steadily. The improvement is actually quite marked, and from around episode Ten Little Warlords, the transfers are very nice indeed.

    Presented at 1.33:1 this transfer is not 16x9 enhanced. This is the original aspect ratio, as Xena was never produced for widescreen TV.

    For the first few episodes the transfers are quite soft, but as the series progresses, they get gradually better, to the point where some episodes, such as Ten Little Warlords, are remarkably clear and free from distraction. As a general rule of thumb, outdoor shots have more grain and are generally softer than indoor (on-set) shots. There are a few exceptions, but none worthy of note. Shadow detail is passable, although it too gets better as the season progresses. While the darker scenes are a little on the murky side, it is better than much of the other TV fare that is available, and definitely better than season 1. There is no low-level noise present.

    Colours are generally good, although the restrictions of out-door filming in low light conditions (no, I'm not going to make any jokes about New Zealand and rain clouds) are felt more commonly on Xena than on most series. During these times the colours are more subdued and considerably less bold than during the brightly lit outdoor scenes and indoor scenes.

    There are a few instances of MPEG artefacts, such as the strange pixelisation at 4:34 during Orphan of War, and more "normal" pixelisation that occurs when the grain becomes intense. In general, the MPEG artefacts are infrequent, and are cause for little concern. As with the compression artefacts there are a few instances of aliasing, but all are minor and not particularly distracting. Film artefacts are very infrequent and so small as to be almost invisible when they do occur. There are some instances of noticeable "motion-blur", but whether this is the fault of the transfer or the source material is hard to determine.

    There are no subtitles present on these discs.

    Discs one and two are dual layer with two episodes per layer. Disc three is RSDL formatted with the layer change occurring at 31:00 between chapters 5 and 6 during the second episode on the disc (The Xena Scrolls). The layer change is well placed on an advert fade-to-black.

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

Audio

    The audio transfer presented for the second season of Xena: The Warrior Princess is somewhat different from that presented for season one. It is not as dynamic, and is a less enveloping mix, yet it is clearer and more carefully put together.

    These disc contain a solitary audio track, being the original English dialogue in Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo (at 224 kbps).

    Dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times, which is an especially good effort when you take into account that the vast majority of the series is shot outdoors.

    Audio sync is generally very good, although there is a problem at 8:41 of episode Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, where the Bacchai dialogue has been quite poorly looped (as anyone who has watched an episode of Buffy knows, it is rather difficult to speak with a large set of fake fangs in one's mouth, and these are a very large set indeed - so that justifies the looping, at least).

    The score comes thanks to long-time Sam Raimi collaborator Joseph Lo Duca and is well suited to the genre, being bold and brassy and appropriately rousing. There are a few problems with repetition, but that is only to be expected from a television series - and repeating the music is really the least of the worries for Xena in terms of artistic credibility.

    This is, officially, a stereo soundtrack, but enabling surround decoding gives a good experience, anchoring dialogue and key effects noises centrally, while allowing ambient effects, score, and directional effects to come from the main front speakers. There are also a few instances - not common, mind, but they are there - where directional sound effects make use of the surround speakers as well. In general, they just carry a low-level copy of the score.

    As there is no dedicated channel, the sub-woofer use will rely on your amplifier's bass-redirection settings. In that regard there is a good amount of bass present in the soundtracks, and the subwoofer was used to back up both the score and many effects noises. Unfortunately, some of the sequences that really cried out for deep bass missed out.

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

Extras

Menu

    The menu is animated, themed around the show, and features Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo audio. It is presented at 1.33:1, and is not 16x9 enhanced.

Photo Gallery

    This is just a collection of publicity shots, and stills from the series itself. You can do a better job though - just find your favourite scene and use the pause button - at least then it will fill the screen, instead of the postage stamped size in the middle.

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, but an identically featured set is available in the UK. Obviously it is a case of get it where you find it cheapest.

Summary

    The very good second season of Xena comes to DVD with improved image quality, and serviceable audio. Pity about the complete lack of extras.

    The video quality is good without being spectacular. This first half of the season starts in a similar quality to that of season one, but soon improves to be quite good.

    The audio quality is good, although the soundtrack is simply stereo, and is a little less dynamic that the season one soundtracks.

    The single extra is not even worth the name - a very big disappointment, although one Xena fans have come to expect form Universal.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-535, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. 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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