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Murder Slim Review: LEXX

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Well, we said we'd pick some largely unknown TV series that were great. Hands up if you've heard of LEXX. And hands up if you ever thought you could sit through a sci-fi TV series.

There's a big chance those hands will still be lolloping in front of you. But stay with me. Because LEXX is a true surprise. It's very sleazy (see below), genuinely funny, and yet it also has its heart in the right place. It's a triumph against the odds, and one that you need to check out. Forget about the fact it's sci-fi. Hell, I don't like the vast majority of sci-fi either. But like the only sci-fi of real note, the success of LEXX is its humanity. Interesting characters that break free from the rigidity and regimentation of so much cold sci-fi stuff. LEXX has the same heart that such great movies as SILENT RUNNING and DARK CITY have.

"Lexx" is the name of the spaceship in the series, a giant dragonfly that looks more than a little like a flying cock. It's powerful, capable of blowing up planets, but needs to eat to survive. People, the remnants of plants, whatever. It can talk, but it's a little dumb, only responding to its pilot - the "key-holder." The key is like a ghost within the owner... and the only way to get it from the key-holder is if they die or reach complete sexual satisfaction.

For most of the four series, Stanley Tweedle is the key-holder. He's a shitty security guard who accidentally gets hold of the key in the first episode. Stanley is one of my favourite TV characters. He's piss-poor in almost every way. He's a terrible security guard, a wimp and almost purely driven by his desperate need to get sex. But he has enough of a heart, especially when it comes to saving his friends, that you can't help but warm to the guy. Kudos to Brian Downey for this. He uses some great facial and physical movements to get across the desperation of Stanley. From dry humping the air when Stanley thinks he might be getting sex, to some of the most brilliant hangdog expressions when it - invariably - goes horribly wrong.

Amongst the main story of the Lexx and its crew trying to find a safe place to live in the "Dark Zone" or - latterly - on Earth, the constant undercurrent to LEXX is sexual frustration. Stanley's companions are Xev/Zev (played by two different gals over the four series), who has been trained as a love-slave from birth but ate too much food and became a fat fucker. Through a mix-up in the first episode her mind gets placed in the body of a beautiful woman, but is also crossed with a killer worm. Yes, all very sci-fi, but bear with me.

Xev has an almost constant urge to have sex but - like almost every woman (in real life or fiction) - is completely repulsed by Stanley. The only other guy on the Lexx is Kai... who's a penis-less zombie hitman who's incapable of showing emotion. She falls in love with him, of course. And, of course, the other creature on the ship - a robot head called 790 - is completely in love with Xev, but doesn't have a body to screw her with. He's endlessly licking his lips and reciting love poetry... all to no avail.

The four series of LEXX are very different. The first four episodes are movie length, are higher budget with some really natty CGI effects. The episodes are pretty gritty and violent though, along with LEXX's trademark dark sense of humour. They set out the creepy bad guy in LEXX, a brain eating - a genuinely sinister - bastard called the "Giga Shadow." Rutger Hauer even pops up in the third episode of the first season. He's at his fattest, but still does a great job of playing a psychotic guy ("Bog") who eats body parts, and condenses bodily juices into an addictive drug. Yummy.

Series two of LEXX is the best, released following a two year delay from the movies (hence why they had to change Zev). Lexx is trapped in the "dark zone" of the universe, with the crew trying their hardest to get sex and find somewhere safe. The imagination on offer completely pisses on anything offered up by DOCTOR WHO, TORCHWOOD, or even better series like FIREFLY. LEXX gives us a planet with severed heads endlessly watching TV programmes, where you can only survive if you can keep your ratings high. It also gives us an episode set on the "Luv-Liner," a sex-ship that seems to fulfil your every need. LEXX even provides an episode where 790 finally gets a body (791) but that of a sexual psychopath. Brilliant!

Series three and four don't match the entertainment of the first two, but are still pretty rewarding. Three is a little too dark, with the crew caught on the planets of "Fire" and "Ice"... obvious metaphors for "Hell" and "Heaven." But they still have a bleached out power to them, and some lovely nutty moments. The best is when Stanley bumps into some gay guys on the "Fire" planet and (almost) manages to help them get to "Ice," where they truly belong. Their campness is a thing to behold, as is their downfall.

Series four is set on Earth, and probably plays it too much for laughs. It's got some British guys scripting some episodes (to help with funding and tax laws, weirdly) and they dilute the punchiness of LEXX. Also, the CGI that makes up so much of the series (and works very well in the first three series' phony space settings) starts to irritate in the "real world." But, hell, I'm being picky. It's still damn funny (especially when Stan becomes a "fluffer") and has some great episodes.

Over all four seasons/series, try to seek out the Lex Gigeroff scripted episodes in particular. The guy was a perverted genius and we were going to interview him in SAVAGE KICK #6 before his untimely death at the age of 49. Gigeroff also pops up in the series of hilarious roles (the porn baron Barnabas K. Huffington in Season 4 perhaps being the best), as does Jeffrey Hirschfield (as 790) who wrote most of the other strong episodes. If Paul Donovan was the guy that strung the bones of the stories together, Hirschfield and - particularly - Gigeroff gave LEXX its unique and memorable heart.

As with all the TV shows I've reviewed, it's hard to summarise so many series into a little review. So I'll just finish with this... The sleazy imagination and brilliant characterisation of LEXX has led to about as much fun as I've had watching TV in the last fifteen years. And I've had some adventures.... I can only think the people who commissioned it were very, very high.

Here's a little tribute to the late, great Lex Gigeroff. Mute the terrible music and enjoy the guy in full acting flow.

Review by Steve Hussy