I watched the opening with dismay: I don't think I've ever seen such a tacky, tasteless spacecraft. Why the hell wasn't this used as the Luvliner? At least in that episode its grossness would have been apposite.
So, expecting yet another disappointment, I poured a pint - to dull the pain - and focussed grimly on the TV screen.......
And to my relief and, I confess, astonishment, I saw the best episode of the series so far - and quite possibly a strong contender for the best Lexx ever. (To date, anyway, and if you ignore the Pleasure Transport's design......)
Intelligent, well-scripted, thought provoking, in the main well acted, Stan's Trial is quite simply wonderful. Oh, I have some minor complaints, of course - surely Stan should have been charged with manslaughter, not murder: there was no malice aforethought in his actions, and all he was actually guilty of was cowardice. And Jihana came a little too close to overacting in a couple of scenes. But in the main this is very, very good.
So let's see what went right.
For once, the characterisation was well nigh flawless. Although a little nervous (after all, her experience of the legal system in the Light Universe hasn't been exactly reassuring...) Xev is a loyal friend, and insists on being present at the trial (OK, I know Stan has the Lexx' key, but her expression and voice shows that she was truly concerned about him, too. She is sure he's innocent - he's too ineffective to have done anything really wrong (I think I said something along those lines in my analyses of the pilot films, but I can't remember quite where). After all, they already know that the key can be passed to another at moments of extreme stress or when the carrier is near death - and both are about to happen to Stan...). Her child-like innocence of the procedures is appealing and absolutely right, and Kai's taking the time to explain to her exactly what is happening works well, too. (He obviously knows about these things. Has he been involved in legal cases before? While he was still alive? Or is this from one of his absorbed memories?)
And we are given an intriguing insight into the workings of Kai's mind. Certainly, in matters of "justice", he seems to view everything very much in black and white. (Obviously, you should also listen to him very carefully, and be very specific in your answers!) Yet he's not without a certain objective compassion, as evidenced by his description of Stan as a "tainted hero" and his request for a swift and painless death for the Arch Traitor.
As for Stan himself....! Once you get past that bragging, boastful surface, what a very human man is underneath! Yes, he's a coward - but then, I've never met a hero. I'm not at all sure they exist. And before anyone blames him for not killing himself rather than allowing the codes to fall into enemy hands, try asking yourself how you'd react in the same situation. The urge for self-preservation is incredibly strong in humans - there's always the hope that you will be able to escape, somehow...
With regard to the amino acid codes: I'd suggest, tentatively since we don't yet know the whole story, that it's unlikely that anyone would have found the codes simply by searching: it required torture before Stan revealed their hiding place. (I believe his claim that he tried not to. Stan is very good at switching sides when it's expedient, and I think he'd have made up some spurious but convincing story rather than immediately tell the Sub-Nebulae mercenaries what he was carrying. Let's face it - he didn't even hint at it to the Celes Pleasure Transport receptionist, only that he was on an important mission...)
And there's something touching about his relief when he finally admitted that he was guilty, and faced the fact that his cowardice had caused the death of so very many people. It's a heavy burden to carry. It's not really a great surprise he's a little dysfunctional.
Well, maybe I'm trying to push the point too far. But I've always had a soft spot for losers, especially honest ones. You can keep the dead guy - I'll take Stan any time!
Jihana - ah, what a wonderful woman! Fascinating and truly sinister: she reminded me of a cobra - sleek, beautiful and deadly. And so superbly amoral! (No matter that the character was probably meant to be a cutting indictment of representatives of the legal profession: she's simply glorious in her own right.)
I found myself liking Nool very much. I truly think, just before Jihana fired him, that he was beginning to see that the case was a lot less cut-and-dried than she would have him believe, and was determined to see real justice done. And that exquisite little scene between them at the very end sparked all sorts of ideas, in my mind, for a mini-series. There was unwilling admiration, and tension, and attraction between them: they would have made terrific partners. I know having the planet/satellite/spacecraft destroyed at the end of the episode is part of the formula, but I really think it was a mistake this time. It would have been far better to have had these two escape to fight another day.
There were some genuinely tense moments, too. I actually found myself holding my breath while Stan dithered about ordering Kai to kill Jihana, desperately hoping I hadn't been wrong about him. And although it was obvious that Jihana was definitely not to be trusted, her refusal to obey the Judge's final decision - and the casual malice of ordering Kai and Xev's death - still took me by surprise...
And I've just realised something. This episode was so gripping I can't even remember whether that fatuous robot head was present at the trial, or whether he was left on the Lexx!!
It was extremely good to see Kai being used effectively for once. At best, he really does come over as deadly, with a real air of menace: yet the quality is used wisely, when necessary to the plot and not to cover up an absence of emotion or action. After all, as he keeps telling us, he has no sentiment, feelings or motivations - he's dead. (I'm really beginning to believe it, too.)
I like Jihana's deadly little bat-pendant. Where can I get one?
Finally, they (whoever they might be) do say a camel is a horse designed by a committee. Perhaps it's due to having three writers for Lexx that the series is so horrendously uneven in quality, style and effect...
© 1999 WordWrights.