LEXX – The Thrill of the New

LEXX Unauthorized, the final volume!  The amazing behind the scenes chronicle of the most brilliantly surreal sci fi series ever made.  Twenty years in the making.  Releasing next week! Be sure to get your copy and don’t forget to buy the previous books.

I remember the first time I saw I Worship His Shadow.

Forgive me, I’m trying to promote the final book, so that means talking about it and the other books. But I’m coming to the end of my run with LEXX, this thing that’s shadowed me for twenty years, and I think that makes me contemplative.

So… the first time I saw I Worship His Shadow.

It was amazing. We kind of forget that sometimes. We are so awash in stories, in film and television, books and games, there’s only so many ways to play something. After a while, we just get used to it, we get jaded, and there’s so much that becomes so predictable. Genuine surprise and wonder eventually gets dulled.

Ever have a moment where you’re watching a film or television show for the first time, and it’s so utterly formulaic, that you can literally shout out the lines before the actors do? Because even though this is the first time you’ve watched it, it is so dull, so much a part of things we’ve seen over and over, that there’s no surprise. Watching it for the first time, you can recite the actor’s dialogue and the story beats.

But what about those times when an actor says something, when the story does something that you didn’t see coming. When it’s honestly new and unexpected. Remember that thrill?

If any of you are writers or artists out there, then take this as a suggestion. Be unexpected, do the unexpected. The most interesting thing for people is not knowing what happens next. That’s what people watch for. Because if they know what’s next… why do they need to bother watching or reading? Maybe there are other reasons, but if there are, you damned well need to deliver something.

I Worship His Shadow? It was absolutely brilliant. Things happened that I wasn’t expecting or anticipating, everything was new. It was that ‘first time’ sense of wonder and excitement. I literally had no idea what was coming next, who was going to live, who was going to die, where the story was going to go, who was even important to the story, what anyone was going to say. I just had to keep watching to see what happens, I was watching without a net.

There were so many brilliant bits – Stan trying to grab five more minutes of sleep in his cubicle while the propaganda voice drones on, it was absolutely relatable and perfectly illustrated his world. Stan’s whole life, trudging to work, petty disputes, the terror of screwing up, this was so vivid, and so utterly overlooked – you didn’t see this in Star Trek or Star Wars.

The day to day operations and activities of the Divine Order: A friend of mine observed that this was really the first time we’ve seen an Evil Empire being actively evil. We weren’t just told they’re evil, we see the casual grinding brutality.

More, the quest of Bugbomb, stubbornly struggling to complete it’s mission. Thodin’s confident heroism. Kai’s heroic death. Even little throwaway bits – the Prisoner Transport Guard climbing down and noting that number 16 has freeze dried again, just another day to get through. Or that horrifically funny moment where a prisoner slab crushes its victim. It was just great. Even His Divine Shadow becomes a more interesting, almost heroic character. He’s not just evil, but he’s a being choosing to defy fate, to crusade against destiny, and when his pride leads to disaster, he accept his mistake and strives to make amends, he could be a cardboard villain, but he’s given unexpected depth.

I genuinely think that if LEXX had only amounted to I Worship His Shadow as the single production, it would a cult classic up there with Barbarella.

And LEXX kept on being brilliant. My friends and I actually organized watch parties for the movies and later the second series. There was an enthralling unpredictability, you just never knew what the show as going to do, where it would go, what the characters would do. It wasn’t random, it made sense. But you couldn’t predict it.

And it was a series with genuine emotion – these people weren’t going through the motions. They felt things. When Stan was gleeful, it radiated off the screen, and when he wasn’t, a hundred shades from trepidation to terror shone through honestly. Stan’s surreal horror as he’s confronted by garbage cannibals in Eating Pattern becomes our emotion.

In Supernova, when he’s with Giggerotta, we feel him wrestling with his doubts and finally standing up to her, in most movies, that’s the turning point. Here, it goes nightmarishly as he turns out to be no match and she tears his hand off, it’s nightmarish, but it feels authentic. This is how it really turns out when you stand up to a thug – they kick your ass. And the following scenes, Stan’s sick horror at his own mutilation, he knows he’s dying and he’s afraid and despairing, but somehow struggling on. We feel it all, and it’s absolutely gripping. Zev’s pure love, just radiant, and her wells of inner strength. Giggerotta’s angry passion. Even Kai’s cold precision. That whole first series made us feel things.

Again, tip for you writers and artists. Look for genuine emotion with your characters. The need to feel – fear, desire, lust, love, laughter – they shouldn’t just be there, being heroic. We are beings of emotion, we feel, and the characters that we relate to feel. Emotion draws the audience.

And with that unpredictability, with that genuine emotion, came an absolutely stunning series of images and imagery, things we’d never seen before, or never imagined. It was all so brilliant.

Of course I had to fall in love with the show, watching it that first time. How could I not?

The second series? Well, we’re used to it by now – we know who we are supposed to be watching, who the main characters are and who they are. There’s no misdirections like Thodin. And yet, the show was consistently able to surprise, it was able to be unpredictable, to show sides to characters, to be subversive. It kept doing that, series after series. Not always successfully, but usually effectively, and far more often than it deserved, brilliantly.

We get used to things. Three or four series in, we all knew Stan, Xev and Kai so well, they were like familiar old friends. Ten or twenty or thirty episodes in, that newness starts to wash off, get replaced by comfort. That’s natural.

Twenty years later, it’s all distilled, we’re as familiar with Kai’s bun and Stan’s hat as our own wardrobes. We’ve seen the movies and episodes several times. That’s fine.

But I’ll ask you – cast your mind back to the first time, the first time you heard Kai’s voice over announcing the day he will die, or Stan trying to sleep in, the waves of prisoner transports, the emergence of the Gigashadow. Remember how it felt to see that, to hear it for the first time, the absolute sense of wonder, the thrill of novelty. Wasn’t it wonderful? Just remember back to that first experience.

Novelty, that first new experience, covers a multitude of sins. Failures, flaws, errors. That’s why sometimes the things that we loved so unquestionably and uncritically when we were younger sometimes age so badly. That’s natural – it’s natural to love so uncritically in the beginning, and to see nuance and flaws so critically later on. Novelty wears off, we get used to things, and once we do, we just see deeper. Sometimes that’s not a good thing. But sometimes the experience is good, we appreciate depth and nuance.

With LEXX, I’m not oblivious to the fact that there are flaws, some of them intrinsic to the concept, or creative limitations, others are a consequence of time and money. But having watched it many times, having worn away my sense of novelty, there’s still depth and nuance. The show still holds up.

So I fell in love with it, for good reason. And I stayed in love with it for good reasons. It might not be perfect, and it’s not for everyone. But I think that it is genuine, that it had real emotions, that it was and still is innovative and brilliant.

It deserves a book to be written about it, and I’m glad I got to be the person that wrote it.

So buy my LEXX book! Buy all my LEXX books! Hell, buy all my books, they’re all terrific!

 

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