By Marie Victoria Robertson
A love slave, a security guard, an undead assassin and a robot head steal a ridiculously-overpowered, phallic spaceship. Oddly enough, the only thing they never did was walk into a bar.
They’ve destroyed a universe, destroyed heaven and hell, and destroyed Earth, though each completely by accident. Really, they just wanted to go about their lives, find a nice place to live, and hopefully have a bit of nice, casual sex along the way.
Does that sound utterly ridiculous? Congratulations, you’ve been introduced to Lexx, a joint Canadian/German production and one of the cultiest of all cult TV shows to air during the late 90s. And yes, it was completely, unapologetically ridiculous, which is probably what made it so darn fun. A cult television show is a show that, due to its nature, quality, quirks, etc. never quite appealed to mainstream audiences, but nevertheless inspired a rabid fan-following. My cult favourite will always be Lexx, and the reason why may not be what you expect.
The appeal of Lexx comes mainly from its characters, and its silly (lack of) premise. The titular Lexx is a city-sized, dragonfly-shaped ship with the self-awareness of a small child. Zev/Xev Bellringer (Eva Haberman played the first Zev, who was killed and later re-grown as Xev, this one played by Xenia Seeberg) grew up in a box, was transformed into a love slave with a raging libido and cluster lizard DNA (a lizard got stuck in the love-slave-making machine). Stanley Tweedle (Brian Downey), the most ineffectual security guard in the two universes, is also the captain of the Lexx, due to accidentally receiving its key from a much more capable hero who was busy been eaten by another lizard. Kai (Michael McManus), the last of a race of warrior poets, has been dead for two thousand years and reanimated via ‘protoblood’ as an assassin for the Divine Order, the ruling force of the show’s universe. 790, a robot who lost his body, is crude, abusive, and is first madly in love with Xev, later Kai.
The first season, actually comprised of four made-for-TV movies with the alternate series title of Tales from a Parallel Universe, was arguably the most ‘normal’ of the four seasons, with a story arc involving the defeat of the tyrannical Divine Order. The disjointed (but still awesomely irreverent) second season was responsible for giving Lexx its reputation as a silly sex-obsessed series, though seasons 3 (involving planets standing in for heaven and hell) and 4 (where the crew found Earth) also had their share of wink-wink-nudge-nudge. While Lexx was not the softcore porno its advertising made it out to be, sex, along with hunger and boredom, was often the catalyst for an episode’s plot.
And that right there is why Lexx has such cult appeal. Unlike other famous sci-fi series of the time, such as Star Trek and Stargate SG-1 with their broad themes of humanity and exploration, Lexx was all about crude, flawed humans being human and using a stupidly powerful ship to joyride and have fun. Nothing about this show was clean and polished; the writing, acting, and set design was often met with healthy doses of “wtf??” and yes, sex was a recurring theme. The main female character was a beautiful, lusty woman, after all. But despite the potential for such a character being misused in a grossly offensive way, I love Lexx because it took things the other way.
Xev was no busty, brainless bimbo. She was a kind, smart, badass woman who happened to love sex, a lot. She was able to separate the enjoyment of sex from romantic love (for a long time, she nursed a crush on the asexual Kai), was selective about her partners, wore a short skirt because she liked it, was never slut-shamed for wanting and enjoying sex, and was only ever portrayed as being free and happy about her sexuality.
Marie Victoria Robertson is a published speculative fiction writer and playwright, as well as the board president of Jer’s Vision: Canada’s Youth Diversity Initiative (www.jersvision.org). When all the other girls wanted to marry Johnny Depp, she wanted to run away with Worf on the Enterprise. She enjoys giant robots, time-travel paradoxes, and forcing her son to watch Futurama.