My starting point for this whole exercise, is that Paul Donovan is not stupid. I'm sure Paul's friends and family would be willing to debate that point endlessly.
BEYOND HEAVEN AND HELL.....
But my basic premise is that Donovan, or Donovan and Gigeroff are not fools. That is, they're smart enough to see contradictions and shortcomings in their ideas and to be able to resolve them. I'm going to assume that if they decide to play with ideas, that they are in command of the implications.
Accordingly, I'm going to take the view that what seem to be flaws are actually hints or evidence that something more is going on than we're lead to assume. The boys are running deep.
Okay, what we're given to believe is that Water and Fire are actually Heaven and Hell. The souls of everyone who has ever lived are drawn here for judgement on the Beach and thereafter assigned to eternal damnation or paradise.
** CRACKS IN THE FIRMAMENT **
Souls or life forces are stored within the cores of each planet, awaiting rebirth. Kai sees people waiting to be born inside both Fire and Water. People are assigned to the city in heaven or hell which most suits their temperament. They awaken full grown with no knowledge of their past, to live out their pleasures or tortures.
Heck, clues started getting dropped as early as Boomtown. Duke practically laid it out for Fifi in that episode.
Duke: "What happens when you die?"
;Fifi: "You die, game over."
Duke: "After that?"
Fifi: "After that? Nothing. What are you talking about?"
Duke: "Where did you come from? How did your life begin?"
Fifi: "Just like everybody else's. One day I woke up, and there I was."
Duke: "Before that?"
Fifi: "Before that, I guess I just wasn't."
Duke: "Wrong. Before that, you were."
Fifi: "I was?"
Duke: "Yes, you just don't remember."
On Boomtown, Kai learns that there are no children, people don't even know what children are. Nor do there seem to be old people.
Kai: "It seems odd that with so much sex, there are no children."
Bunny: "What are children?"
In Gondola, Duke explains to Fifi that people are born over and over again.
Duke: "Because I've died many times. Death is not the end. Its merely a transition to another life."
We discover from Fifi and Bunny that people simply wake up, fully grown and fully formed, a point that Stan refers to later.
Stan: "What do you mean, just woke up?"
Fifi: "Just what I said."
Xev: "You mean, when you were born?"
Fifi: "What's born?"
Stan: "You know. When you were born. When your mother had you."
Stan: "Bunny, you're a woman. Explain it to him."
Bunny: "Explain what?"
Stan: "Oh boy. I can't believe I'm answering this. Explain to him what being born is, having children, how life begins."
Bunny: I just woke up one day, and I was there. Just like everyone else."
It is a system of apparent reincarnation, which Kai succinctly describes in Heaven and Hell:
Kai: "I don't know exactly. People here say they are not born... they wake up. I think I experienced such a process. Everyone who wakes up here has lived and died before. I believe it is a continuous cycle."
Kai: "We have learned that these two planets seem to be a kind of repository for the part of a human which is its life essence, apart from its physical body."
But well before that, by the time we got to the beginning of Girltown even Stan has figured it out.
Stan: "You know, these really are two strange planets. I mean, you know... recognize people that lived thousands of years ago, like Bunny and Fifi and others. They died. And we see them here and they're alive."
Kai: "Were alive. Perhaps they just look the same."
Stan: "Exactly the same? Exactly the same personalities? Do you think we're in some kind of afterlife?"
Now that, actually makes me suspicious. What kind of a mystery is it where the killer is fingered two thirds of the way into the movie. Perhaps there's something more here. Perhaps what Stan thinks about Fire and Water, what everyone thinks, is merely the first layer. Perhaps it's meant to be peeled back to show us something completely different from what we've been lead to assume. Is there evidence that there's more going on than we've been lead to believe? Let's look at the flaws of Heaven and Hell. First up, and by far the most blatant, there's Girltown. What are the 'girls' of Girltown doing on Fire? They say they don't belong there, everyone else here seems to be evil, but they claim they're not.
Girl/Doily: "We're not like the others here on fire. We don't want to kill people and take over their cities. We're not that type."
Girl/Doily: "So explain us, how do we fit in? Are we horrible and vicious. It's just some kind of awful mistake, Kai."
Girl: "We don't belong here, its so awful."
Girl/Doily: "What have we done wrong? We don't belong on this planet."
Girl: "We belong on water."
What we see of them seems to back that up. They seem passive in the face of aggression, they're interested in beauty, in creativity, in making beautiful things. They want to dance and sing. They give each other gifts, and more, they help each other. The gift we see is passed down from one person to the other to its recipient. No one steals it, no one blows the whistle. They mourn their lost comrade, Pearl.
On the other hand, they do kill a couple of 'boy' guards, and they do destroy the Queen. These are acts of revenge, or perhaps justice for lost comrades. But even then, they don't seem to go in for torture. They don't slaughter all the 'boys'. In fact, they just tell them they're leaving... Their most deliberate cruelty is to abandon the relationship. Hardly a sign of evil.
Kai doesn't seem to perceive them as bad people. He liberates them and offers them sanctuary on Garden, on Water. Stan himself tells us:
Stan: "Yeah, I think they deserve it."
Stan: "Well... to be on Garden City, on Water. Instead of Girltown. I think they'll be happy We'll come back to that.
LEXX has encountered homosexuality before. Lomia was played for laughs in Twilight. But Stan has had serious encounters with the subject. He's clearly not gay, that's established by his dealing with Brother Treygor in Nook. He related compassionately to Brother Treygor, and seemed tolerant or accepting of homosexuality in Nook. He was almost tortured and raped by an S&M robot in 791. In Gigashadow we learn he was actually tortured and raped by Sub-Nebulae mercenaries Feppo and Smoor, before being sold into slavery on the Cluster. In White Trash there's clearly a suggestion at one point that Paw Golene is about to rape and possibly murder him. In Girltown, one of the 'girls' tries to kiss him, which he clearly doesn't like. Let's face it, if anyone out there has a reason to be homophobic it's Stan. The fact that he so clearly is not in Nook, stands to his credit. But if he's not homophobic, he's not gay either, and he's well aware of sexual violence and of the dark side. So, when Stan says 'they belong on Water,' it's not just a statement. I think it's a credible opinion. And coming in the place it does, I suspect it is a moment when the walls grow thin, and the conversation becomes the Beans speaking directly to the audience. They do not belong on Fire. So what are they doing there? There's the rub. Is it a mistake?
Duke in Gondola tells Fifi:
" Sometimes mistakes get made, an error occurred and you ended up on water where you didn't belong, in a city where you didn't deserve to be."
Prince talking to Xev during Battle admits:
"I also punish some who have done nothing wrong. Who slip through the cracks. But then, no system is perfect."
It seems good people wind up on Fire and bad people can wind up on Water. But Girltown has obviously been around for a long time, it involves a lot of people, and its integral to the economy of fire. This isn't a case of accidentally messing up someone's file folder. This is too big and too tightly ingrained to be a mistake. If the 'girls' of Girltown are not a mistake, then what is it? It doesn't seem to be a reflection of the beans moral outlook. They've treated homosexuality with considerable compassion in Nook, and with humour in other episodes. So are we looking at a moral judgement of whoever or whatever created Fire and Water? And if so, what does this tell us about the creators? It seems to represent a conservative old testament value system, but given the perspective of the Beans, and of the characters, I don't know if we can really endorse this system. If this is truly heaven and hell, and if it is truly fair and just, and if this is simply what it pretends to be, then Girltown is a huge glaring flaw in the heart of the system.
Now let's turn to Water, which we're to believe is Heaven. It's where the good people go. What about the women of Garden? My problem with the women of Garden is that they're not people. Literally, they're biological robots. They know nothing of sex, they have no interests outside of the garden. They have no pasts, no futures, barely a present. They come into existence for the sole purpose of tending the Garden, knowing nothing else but the Garden, and containing all they need to know about tending the Garden. This is no human being that I've ever heard of. To take a person to this point, you'd have to do more than strip their memories, you'd have to excise chunks of who they were, to mutilate their personhood.
Basically, the Gardeners are just a prettier kind of Moth Breeder. So what kind of heaven operates on a moral equivalence to the Divine Order? Of course, the victims of Garden are only the tip of the iceberg. Similar autism shows up elsewhere.
On the Beach when Kai wakes up in Gametown. He identifies it as Gametown, and I believe that we catch a glimpse of Bunny, and perhaps some of the other gameplayers from Gametown. He walks and stands right in the middle of a game and no one even glances at him. Surely Kai can't be the usual specimen who wakes there, or visits. His dark stylized outfit would suggest a visitor from Fire. But no one can be bothered. It's as if they can't respond outside their programming. They can respond to arrivals by air, but they seem to be unable to perceive an alien in their midst.
In Boomtown, Stan finds that the girls don't seem to know much beyond sex, they don't seem to be aware of anything beyond sex. "What's a headache?" they ask. "What's tired?" they ask. Possibly they were joking. Possibly they didn't know. Quite likely they are just a sexier version of the Moth Breeders.
Indeed, Prince himself, once we get to know him, seems strangely impaired. But we'll discuss that later.
So perhaps the autism of the people of Water is just a factor of a very brief look. Maybe they go out and paint and dance and discuss philosophy and sculpture?
Ah, but Stanley notices, in The Key, even before he meets the Gardeners, he argues:
Kai: "Those planets have people on them..."
Stan: "Oh, really? Well, they're certainly not like any people any of us have seen before. They're not born. They have no children. There's something seriously wrong with these two planets.
Kai: "Would it be the right thing to destroy them?"
Stan: "Well of course. Fire's a terrible place, and water... Is just weird."
And Kai notices as well. In Battle he tells Stanley:
Kai: "I have observed that the various citizens of water, suffer from, or perhaps benefit from a certain complacency in relation to the potential dangers they face. They seem to live for the minute, in a kind of continuum and will likely show no interest in our problem."
Clearly both Kai and Stanley are perceiving the people of Water as stripped down, dysfunctioning personalities. They aren't just focused on their particular subject, and there is literally nothing else to them. So what sort of a heaven is it, where you get pared down to the status of a happy vegetable? Think about eating nothing but ice cream for the rest of your life. Think about being made into or pared down to the sort of person who would like it. Sounds like hell to me. So if hell is hell, and heaven is just a hell with better carpeting what's going on? Perhaps we are not looking at some variation on the Christian afterlife after all.
If there is some further or other purpose to the system, then what is it? What's the point of a hell and another hell? What's the point of a hell that oppresses good people in Girltown, and another hell that mutilates people's personalities in Garden? If both sides are vales of suffering, what do we have? What is the purpose?
** REMEDIAL HELL **
Consider. The people of Fire and Water are not immortal, as the Brunnen G were. They are born and they die. Over and over and over. They're born without memory of their previous lives, and they get to do it over and over and over. This sounds a lot like the cycles of reincarnation in Hindu cosmology. Perhaps the point is that they're both supposed to be hells. Perhaps what is really going on is that we've got a Hindu cosmology rather than a Christian one. Hindu cosmology, as I understand it, essentially holds that people are reborn over and over in a sort of karmic progression. Although cleansed of memory from previous lifetimes, one carries the moral weight of your previous lives, a karmic debt into the circumstances or situation of your current life. In Buddhism, the point of these endless cycles of incarnation and reincarnation is to transcend it all. The objective 'get off the wheel of Karma' that traps both man and god, to escape the fixations of good and bad, the obsessions of the material body and material pleasures, to reach a state or condition of nirvana. A kind of transcendent union or oneness with the godhead. I'm likely grossly oversimplifying matters, if I've not got it completely wrong. But I doubt that Fire and Water recapitulates the finer points of Hindu or Buddhist doctrine any more than it it expresses Roman Catholic theology. But the beans may have taken operating concepts from there. For that matter, Roman Catholicism contains (or used to contain) a concept of purgatory, or remedial hell. Basically, it was a kind of afterlife for the slow learners, or a waiting place for those who were not evil enough for hell or good enough for heaven. The idea was that people would spend time in purgatory and work off their sins. In its more flexible moments, the Catholic Church seemed willing to assume that just about everyone was in purgatory. (In point of fact, the only two people that the Catholic Church has ever definitively said was actually in hell were Judas and a renaissance Italian nobleman named Sigismundo who had the bad taste to rape a bishop in full view of his soldiers in the middle of the town square.) Dante himself, after writing the Inferno, wrote the Purgatorio. He elaborated on the concept, and as with the inferno, saw Purgatory as a place of many levels. Unlike the Inferno which simply devoted its circles to different kinds of sinners, the Purgatorio saw a kind of progression.
Speaking of Dante, it's virtually certain that Donovan was aware of Dante's work (who isn't) and was likely influenced by it in the sense that Donovan's cities are each devoted to a specific type of person or sinner, as were Dante's circles of hell and purgatory. Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle wrote a follow up to Dante called Inferno. Much as that sounds like blasphemy, it's quite a good book, and has actually been taught and studied at University level as a counterpoint to Dante's work. In it, a science fiction writer and a crew of companions, including Billy the Kid and Benito Mussolini journey down through the circles of hell to reach heaven. Along the way, they encounter all sorts, from the irredeemably bad, to the merely self absorbed or annoying (one of the denizens of hell is a formerly naturally thin person who lobbied against diet drinks, the modern equivalent would be an obnoxious vegan). The final lesson: Hell is a training ground for slow learners, a kind of ordeal that people trap themselves in through their personal flaws.... Anyone can walk out, but to do so, you have to learn to overcome and transcend your personal failings. Essentially, Niven and Pournelle have taken the concept of the Purgatorio and extended it to the whole of the Inferno. Hell is a wake up call that says 'stop being a jerk' and its denizens are those who keep hitting the snooze button. Philip Jose Farmer, another staunch Catholic, posited something like Hindu reincarnation, or purgatory, with his Riverworld series. His conceit was a world of people, everyone who ever lived on earth, dying and being reborn over and over again in an artificial construct. The hopes of the creators of Riverworld, a far future spiritually evolved humanity, is that their occupants would eventually reach transcendence or Nirvana. Farmer has played with the idea in other stories or novels. Farmer won Hugo's and Nebula's with his Riverworld series and in its day, it was almost as widely read as Dune, so its not unlikely that Donovan came across this too. So perhaps Fire and Water are just remedial hells. They're places for the slow learners to be born and die and born and die and sooner or later get it right. Water may simply be devoted to obsessives and hedonists, to the selfish, by giving them their obsession day in and out, allowing them nothing more and nothing else until sooner or later they get sick of it. Perhaps the point of Fire and Hell is to assist or force particularly 'blocked' souls to break out of the blind alleys they've crept into. To eventually transcend and move on.
In Riverworld and Purgatory, people carry their sins and memories. In reincarnation, they lose their memory in each life, but they continue to carry their karmic burden. On Fire and Water they again lose their memory (although they're apparently allowed to retain or given basics like motor skills, language and at least in some cases additional skills and imperatives like gardening) but appear to carry their karmic burden. It may be that souls have innate tendencies, or have intrinsic shapes which are corrupted or reinforced by memory, and stripping away a persons past may be a way to help 'coach' or 'force' the soul to move in different directions. If this is the case, then perhaps the pleasures and punishments of Fire and Water are tailored to the 'shapes' of souls, rather than punishments for specific acts. Is there evidence to support this interpretation? Yes and no. Let's look at the facts and arguments.
Against this, we have the perspective of Prince. He tells us he's been there forever, since the beginning, or before the beginning. He tells us that Fire is the place of punishment, and those who are condemned are doomed to be punished over and over, eternally and forever. It is a land of eternal, unending, pointless sadism.
** PRINCE **
Although Duke hints at it to Fifi in Gondola, Punishment is first alluded to by Mantrid in K- Town:
Stan: "What is really going on here, and what are you doing here?"
Mantrid: "I don't know."
Stan: "What do you mean you don't know? You've been here all along... Or at least since you woke up."
Mantrid: "I don't know. Perhaps it is my punishment."
For Mantrid, its simply a guess. But it is something that Prince appears to confirm in Tunnels:
Prince: "The people who are condemned to live down here do not have their own city. Because they are the bad of the bad. They are the sick the truly evil. They kill for the sheer pleasure they exact from the act of killing. Up until now, they've only had each other to hunt down. But that was until you came along, to make things interesting."
Prince: "I think I should advise you that they always stay down there in the tunnels. Its part of their punishment."
From the conversation between Prince and Kai in that strange place beneath or beyond Fire, we're simply back to the dull traditional Catholic hell:
Prince: "There they are. There they wait."
Prince: "Those who made bad choices when they were still alive."
Kai: "And what are they waiting for?"
Prince: "Their next turn to suffer. There never used to be so many. But there are so many now. people making bad choices in so many places that its getting overcrowded down here. So they have to wait. Of course they're not conscious of the wait, for them its just an instant. They suffer and they die, and they awaken and the suffering goes on as if it had never stopped."
Prince: "Stanley's punishment is level 9. He will man the bellows there until he loses his head. As he will do over and over."
Kai: "For how long?"
Prince: "For the rest of time."
Kai: "And when time ends?"
Prince: "Time will begin again, and Stanley will return to me."
Prince: "No. Stanley's fate is sealed. He will suffer here for all time, and that is that."
Prince: "Because no one ever returns from there. This is the end of the journey. The last stop. Nothing comes after it. There's no way back."
But there are problems with Prince. For one thing, he's startlingly unimaginative. It's also clear that he has no clear idea of how the place actually works. Sure, he's got a few tricks. He can achieve some limited teleportation perhaps, he can be reborn with his memories, and he can choose where and how he is reborn. He seems able to operate two bodies at once. He can reach the beach, and possibly manipulate or at least argue for judgement. And he can exert some influence on people's punishment (he claims he can't change it, but he can move them to the head of the line). But beyond all that, he's merely the smartest monkey in the zoo. He has no clue as to how it came into existence, or why, or what its all about. He has no awareness of higher beings, or greater consciousnesses. He clearly has no memory of his original existence and seems to arrogantly suggest that he's never had one.
Kai: "If I'm a machine, and Stanley is an essence meant to suffer forever, then what are you?"
Prince: "I do not know."
Kai: "How is it that you do not know."
Prince: "Because no one has never asked me that question before. And so I've never thought about the answer."
Kai: "Where did you come from?"
Prince: "I do not know that either. I do not know when time began, but I think I have been here since the beginning."
Who am I? Why am I here? Where did I come from? These are pretty elemental existential questions. Everyone asks them at some point in their life. Even children ask them. But its never apparently occurred to Prince who has lived thousands of lives. Nor does he ever seem to acknowledge or even understand the basic contradictions between his goals and desires. In Battle, he tells Xev:
Prince: "I tempt those who can be tempted, and I punish those who deserve to be punished. That is my function, my occupation, my joy. What is wrong with that? I also punish some who have done nothing wrong. Who slip through the cracks. But then, no system is perfect."
But as far as the temptation part goes, isn't that pointless. He tells elsewhere that he has never met anyone from their original lives, has never seen anyone die before. So who does he have to tempt? The denizens of Fire and Water? And aren't their fates fixed and unchangeable, unalterable, he tells us, for the rest of time? If so, what's the point? In Heaven and Hell he tells Kai:
Prince: "My existence is simple. I make sure that those who make bad choices suffer. Nothing more. At least until you came along."
Kai: "What do you want?"
Prince: "What do you mean?"
Kai: "I mean, what is it that you want. You try to destroy both fire and water. Yet you say you want to rule both of them."
Prince: "I want to destroy the planet water. Everything else is just a game."
Kai: "Why do you want to destroy water?"
Prince: "Because it is full of good and I'm full of bad. I think thats all there is to it. I'm not very complicated, really."
But later, with Xev:
790: "Blow up fire, blow the planet up."
Prince: "Don't do that!"
Xev: "Why not?
Prince: "You don't want to upset the balance."
Xev: "What balance?"
Prince: "Everything! You don't want to be responsible for that. Just give up Xev. And when you're dead, in a minute or two, you'll be able to live a happy life, forever and ever, on the planet water."
Xev: "Until you destroy it."
Prince: "I've never managed to do that so far, and I never will. Unless you upset the balance."
And in the end....
Prince: "Balance, Xev, balance. You upset it, and I'm resetting."
He carefully refused to recognize that destroying Water will destroy Fire as well, though Kai puts it to him plainly. And he sees no tension between the need for balance, and his desire to destroy the enemy. He is at once the preserver and enemy of that balance, but unable to perceive discord between those roles. In some ways, Prince's blasť acceptance of his role, and his lack of questioning suggests that he may actually be a tailored specimen. He may have started as a person, but he was chosen and psychically surgeried for this role as the gardeners were for theirs and the moth breeders were physically surgeried for theirs.
Or it may be that Prince is just a monkey who's learned to manipulate the zoo a little bit, and assumes this role because he thinks of himself as king. In this respect, Duke is the second smartest monkey. Queen comes a distant third and Mantrid is in line to be a star pupil. Or perhaps they're spectacular failures, if being cleansed of memories is part of the process to hopefully allow souls to grow and evolve, then they're actually trapping themselves in a rut.
Certainly, they don't seem all that appetising. There's Queen, bored and insane. There's Duke, with no higher goal than to replace Prince. And there's Prince, amusing himself with petty games, too stolid and unimaginative to ever look up at the sky or confront the contradictions in his life. Maybe these are simply the most incorrigible monkeys. Prince is nowhere near the 'power' he would have us believe. He rules Fire, but he admits he doesn't rule Duketown, K-Town, Girltown, Hogtown or the tunnels. His political rule is tenuous, which is the source of his problems:
Prince: "We would defeat the people of water in every battle we fought. Then we would fight among ourselves and undermine our victory. We would never lose. And we would never win."
His magical abilities are profoundly limited, although he's reluctant to acknowledge it. Consider his conversations in Heaven and Hell:
Prince: "I have lived and died many times."
Kai: "But only here."
Prince: "Correct. That is my only limitation."
He admits another limit to Kai, beneath Fire:
Kai: "I have come here to rescue Stanley."
Prince: "Go ahead, rescue him."
Kai: "How can I do that?"
Prince: "You can't."
Kai: "Can you?"
Prince: "No. Stanley's fate is sealed. He will suffer here for all time, and that is that."
Prince: "I cannot release Stanley Tweedle, but I can move him to the head of the line. I do have some influence here."
Influence? A bag of tricks, rather than real powers. He can continually reincarnate, and can reincarnate in different forms, but they are always human, with human limitations:
Prince: "Why aren't you dying."
Xev: "I'm very good with heat."
Prince: "Ironically, I'm not. How is it that you're not dying?"
Although he can pull memories out of people, he doesn't seem to know everything. Priests betrayal in Battle takes him by surprise. He certainly doesn't know what a Cluster Lizard is, though he's loathe to admit it:
Xev: "Do you know what a Cluster Lizard is?"
Prince: "Not really.... How does that matter?"
So his knowledge of the metaphysics of Fire and Water may be limited. Guesses and prejudices, and complacent acceptance, instead of true knowledge.
Is Prince actually necessary to the celestial dynamic? I don't think so. Without him there's Duke. Without Duke there's Queen. Without any of them, Fire simply passes through a series of pointless warlords who occasionally unite the planet, attack and defeat the inhabitants of Water, and then fall to fighting among themselves. To repeat:
Prince: "We would defeat the people of water in every battle we fought. Then we would fight among ourselves and undermine our victory. We would never lose. And we would never win."
Fundamentally, Prince seems superfluous to even the Judging process on The Beach...
What about Beach? Here we have the celestial mechanics operating at their most transparent. Stan wakes between Heaven and Hell and his life is weighed to determine whether he will be assigned to one or the other. At first, it seems very clear. Stan is accountable for his acts and actions, rather than the 'shape of his soul' or whether he is a good person or a bad person. But then it starts to get complicated. In the end, Stan is condemned not for destroying the 94 planets, not for holding Zev in front, not for the various acts of cowardice, but for his decision to destroy Water. He didn't actually destroy Water. But the point is, apparently that he decided to do it and might actually have done it. (The fact that he changed his mind later, and didn't do it when he might have had opportunities didn't seem to count for him). This suggests that The Beach is harkening back to principles of spiritual guilt. Thus, a man who looks at a woman with adultery in his heart, or at a man with murder in his eye, is guilty of adultery or murder, as if he'd actually committed the crime.
** BEACH **
This seems to suggest that what you're actually being judged for is your character. Whether you are a good or a bad person. If you're judgement is for your intentions and desires, the crimes of your heart, rather than your actual crimes, then really it has to come back to character. To the shape of your soul.
It may be significant that Stanley Tweedle is being judged by Stanley Tweedle, and not by some higher third party. The Judge, in a sense is Stanley himself, and the truth that is in his heart. Perhaps in a real sense, Stanley is really judging himself, and selects for himself heaven or hell. The real judge wasn't the white/black Stan, but the red Stan. Perhaps Stan assigned himself to Fire because he felt unworthy in his heart. We certainly know from Patches in the Sky and a number of other episodes that Stan carries profound issues with guilt.
And where does Prince fit into the Judgement? And what does his presence mean? Is he actually a normal part of the Judging process? If so, who's he helping to Judge? He says that no one who hasn't died before has ever come to Fire and Water, and he seems profoundly ignorant of the worlds out there.
Prince: "This has never happened before.... You're the first."
Xev: "The first what."
Prince: "The first people to come here still living their original lives. A most interesting time. A most unsettling time. A time of great possibility."
Prince: "I want to be with you when you die. I've never seen anyone die for the first time."
Is he a regular part of the Judging of the newly dead? Surely someone newly dead with a perspective outside Fire and Water would have asked him the questions Kai asked beneath Fire. But he's never thought about these things, and no one has asked him these questions. His outlook seems entirely provincial. Does he Judge the dead of Fire and Water? But apparently they simply go straight back to wherever they get stored until its time to be reborn. Their fate, he would have us believe, is unalterable, inevitable, and endless. Their punishments, and supposedly their rewards, will last till the end of time, and begin when time begins again. Unless there's from time to time, people's judgements are periodically reviewed, or rejudged, which might suggest some capacity or entitlement to change. Perhaps Prince isn't normally a part of the Judging, and his interference is just that. Interference, designed to subvert Stan to hell. He's screwing with the works.
All of this gets us away from the main question, however. I don't think we can be 100% sure of exactly what was happening on The Beach, or if it was the normal process. It apparently seems to support the heaven/hell model. But I don't believe that it definitively rebuts the reincarnation model.
Assuming Fire and Water aren't actually a final and eternal heaven and hell, but are actually remedial hells for the slow learners.... Where are they?
** WHERE ARE ALL THE SLOW LEARNERS **
Prince, in this respect, would seem to be a decent observer. He says that nobody changes their fate. Stan gets to be on the exercise bike of hell, forever, and he will never get off. Nothing changes. Its all forever.
Or is it? Sometimes, Duke says, mistakes are made. People wind up someplace else. Prince himself admits no system is perfect. So, perhaps there is some movement after all. Changes do take place, though Duke and Prince say these are errors or flaws. Duke, Prince and Queen, may themselves be evidence that people are able to figure things out and change their station. Duke's whole existence seems devoted to pursuing that goal. He wants to be number 1. If everything really is changeless, it's pointless, he'll be #2 forever. In his conversation with Fifi, he seems to imply that he will or can eventually unravel all of Prince's tricks:
Duke: "Alive he is no threat. Dead he will come back to haunt us."
Fifi: "Haunt us? How?"
Duke: "That, we have yet to discover."
Within Fire itself, there may be a profound clue: Hogtown.
Prince does not control Hogtown. Instead, the 'petty bureaucrats' of Hogtown seem to have come up with a remarkable idea. Fire is hell to them, a place of misery, of torture, degradation, and acts of savagery. They want to change that. They have a vision that Fire does not necessarily have to be hell.
Adjudicator: "It is our responsibility to attempt to record for posterity the many incidents of extreme human pain and degradation that are performed daily on this planet called fire. We ourselves do not participate in such practices. But we believe that the recordation of such incidents will in time open a door to an orderly and progressive future free of such suffering. Do you understand?"
For the inhabitants of Hogtown, the first most fundamental step to changing this world is to take memory back. They are born without history, but not without punishment. By recording everything in their logs and minutes they are seeking to capture memories they're born without. By remembering the past, are they hoping to avoid repeating it? Are they searching for evidence from one life to the next, that people may be able to change?
The inhabitants of Hogtown could be completely wrong, of course. They may be simply clueless and ignorant of the nature of their world, and have concocted an absolutely worthless mythology to justify or express their particular torment. But, at the center of Hogtown's apparent philosophy is hope.
Hope, in a hideously twisted and insane form also lies within Lex Gigeroff's Doctor Rainbow. He wants to help.
Doctor Rainbow: "I'm going to make you better."
Stan: "You don't have to make me feel better. I feel just fine. I feel perfectly perfectly all right."
Doctor Rainbow: "No no no no no You have parts of you that you'd be much better off without."
Stan: "What parts?"
Doctor Rainbow: "Bad parts. Dirty parts. The parts I'm going to cut away."
Doctor Rainbow [to Prince]: "I was just trying to help him."
Rainbow wants to help his victims by cutting away the 'bad parts', which would theoretically free them to be 'good.' Of course, they'll scream.... but they always stop. In his sick, twisted way, Rainbow believes that hell can be escaped, and that he can help people escape. Does he understand that people are continually reborn? Does this affect him? He's certainly insane. But deep within that perverted madness, is there a kernel of genuine insight?
At the very least, Hogtown and Doctor Rainbow seem to suggest that floating around on the Planet Fire, is that there is some possibility, some hope of spiritual transformation off this rock, of ascending to something more or something better. And we know from Girltown that at least some peoples on Fire are relatively well informed. The 'boys' of Girltown are able to discuss Prince and Duke's abilities and limitations. The 'girls' are able to tell Kai about the fact that each city is inhabited by a different kind of person. Even in May, the balloonists know enough to guess that Kai is from Girltown. Most interestingly, the girls seem to be at least aware of reincarnation, that most people, except for Duke and Prince are continually reborn without memory:
Boy/Wrench: "Whereas the non-she prince has the ability to change into other forms, and whereas a non-she appears out of nowhere who claims to have known our queen in a past life... Be it resolved that this non-she is in fact Prince."
What seems to decide it for wrench is that the 'non-she' knew their Queen from one of her previous lives. But the only persons who remember previous lives are Prince and Duke. And only Duke can change his shape. Ergo, he's Prince. Wrench clearly seems to be implying that Queen and others have past lives which are lost to them.
Prince, of course, would pooh pooh the whole concept of hope or redemption. But Prince is at the top of the heap, and people in that position generally like to believe in permanence. Conservatism comes with wealth and power. But if we know anything about Prince, it is that he is not omnipotent or omniscient. Okay, just because the fact that some Fire denizens believe there are ways out, doesn't mean that they're right. They have an equal chance with Prince of turning out to be wrong. So where are the slow learners? Where are the people who may actually have learned something, and be in the process of graduating from Fire to Water, or even out of Fire and Water altogether.
I have some candidates.
Consider Mantrid. A notorious libertine, from what Kai says in Mantrid. When we see him, he's engaged in a sick homosexual role playing relationship. He tells us he's incapable of love. His lover admits that he is not a good man. He worked for the Divine Order as Chief Bio Vizier, which probably meant he accumulated a lot of sins. He probably had a greater role in the destruction of the 94 planets than Stan did. Even before he joins with the insect essence, he's a nasty piece of work. As Stan says in K-Town:
Stan: "You were the baddest person that ever lived."
With the insect essence, he deliberately, maliciously and malevolently destroys an entire universe. (And its clearly suggested that this post-essence Mantrid is the one on Fire. His final words and intonations seem to suggest he's been able to recall at least his last words from his original life.
Mantrid: (identical rising inflection) I destroyed a Universe! I destroyed a Universe!
I can't imagine what sort of punishment that sort of thing would rate. I mean, think of Stan. Apparently for deciding to destroy one world (unsuccessfully) for love, he's condemned to eternity on the exercise bike from hell. Mantrid deliberately, maliciously, with evil aforethought and hatred in his heart, personally obliterated millions, billions, even trillions of worlds. And his punishment is he gets to wander around K-Town with relative impunity? Hello? What sort of punishment is that? No more chess partners? How about getting lit on fire four times a day, every day, for eternity. Heck, the tiniest of his sins should have got him permanent sewing duty on Girltown.
What is Mantrid, when we see him? He is thoughtful, reflective. He seems to spend his time walking around thinking. He's known to the other inhabitants of K-Town, but not apparently molested much. He doesn't seem to share their psychotic antisocial or combative tendencies. Indeed, Mantrid is the only person on Fire that they encounter who displays genuine altruism.
He rescues them twice, he shows no urge to attack, intimidate or harass them, and he seems only mildly curious about his original life. His conduct with Kai is ambiguous, but he might actually be trying to help, or trying to remember. Is it possible that the worst villain ever to have existed in cosmic history as measured by any criteria, gets such a relatively mild punishment? Is it possible that Mantrid is on a process of redemption or transcendence, in his reincarnations on Fire?
Our other two slow learners may be on Water. Fifi and Bunny respectively. Bunny, at least, seems to definitely belong on Water. But almost alone of the inhabitants of Gametown, she seems to show more than a superficial pleasant interest in Kai, and a real emotional range. She's afraid to die, she wants to jump on Kai. Her personality is basically similar to her original life. But Laleen in Wake the Dead wasn't as nice as Bunny. She was the bad girl of the group, selfish, sarcastic and promiscuous. She had hostile moments. We can't be sure of how bad Laleen was, but definitely she wasn't as innocent or friendly as Bunny. The two are the same, but Bunny is a noticeably better person.
Then there's Fifi, also on Water, and sticking out like a sore thumb. His original life, Schlemmi, was a disgusting piece of work. So what was he doing on Water? Duke says it was a mistake. But possibly, just possibly, Fifi managed to earn his way off Fire. He was apparently a sensualist in life, which explains his sympathy for Boomtown. Perhaps he'd changed enough that he was now appropriate for Water rather than Fire. If so, he only managed to become a borderline case, and slid straight back. Had he lived this life out entirely on Water, he may never have gone on to commit the sorts of acts he did in Gametown, Boomtown and Gondola. He might well have evolved over this life, or subsequent lives, into a better person.
There are actually a few, if we are prepared to speculate that there is more going on than we are given.
** ALTERNATE HYPOTHESIS **
Here's one: We are assuming that the people of Fire and Water are people who have lived before? What if they're not. What if they are not reincarnations, but merely replica's. Is there evidence? In The Beach, on Water, Kai saw himself. He assumed it was his 'living self' his 'soul.'
Kai: "I saw the living part of me deep inside this planet, waiting for his turn to wake up and live again."
But if so, what is it that's actually motivating Kai's dead self right now? Is it a body, merely waiting for Kai's soul to free itself from its decarbonized husk. Or maybe it is merely a replica Kai, which lives and dies on Water. An artificial reproduction, and this is meant to be our big clue. We know that Prince incarnates himself in both Xev's and in a living Kai body. Where does he get these bodies? Are they created with the incarnation? Or are they waiting for use. Obviously, the Fire and Water system are created and maintained, it did not come about naturally. So it seems feasible that what we are looking for is some sort of giant simulation. There are literary precedents for that. Jack Handel's Captain Zodiac, the more recent novel Darwinia, both deal with worlds which turn out to be simulations, with people recreated from our world, but who are not those original people. Again, Philip Jose Farmer has worked in this territory. In films, Dark City and the Thirteenth Floor, even the Matrix deal with roughly similar conceits.
I'm not, by the way, suggesting that the LEXX crew are trapped in cyberspace. Although that might certainly be a valid theory. That, it strikes me would be a huge cheat, and a slap in the face to what's gone before, along the lines of Patrick Duffy's return to Dallas. But, it may be entirely possible that the LEXX crew drifted into someone's immense real life sociology project, full of reproductions of previously existing persons. The principle argument against this appears to be Stan's experience on the Beach, Kai's experience in the underworld, and the two flurries of souls released by the destruction of Fire and Water. If this is all a simulation, how is it that Stan's soul, or Stan's life force would be drawn into it? What are all those souls or life forces? The 'giant lab simulation' or 'cyberspace' simulation both have to contend with the fact that the system seems morally skewed or flawed. Even if it is one of these options, it still seems clear that the apparent good vs evil rules by which it seems to operate have some major cracks in them.
We might argue that this is still some sort of lab experiment and therefore the rules are different. But saying that doesn't get us closer to what the rules are. However, the 'simulation' model contains a fundamental flaw which blows Fire and Water away completely. If all the 'people' are there are merely simulations of the originals, then.... Then they aren't the originals, they haven't actually committed the sins of the originals, and the whole structure of punishment and reward is completely pointless. A sadistic cosmic joke. So, for what its worth, I'm not buying into this angle....
Coming at it from a completely different direction, here's a disturbing thought. What if the whole Fire/Water and Heaven/Hell system was put in place entirely for the crew of the LEXX? Thousands, even millions of people, originals or simulations, living lives over and over again for thousands and thousands of years, all for the purpose of waiting for the big bug ship to come drifting in.... The whole point of it all is to mess with Stanley, Xev and Kai. Prince's first words to Xev are that he'd been waiting for them forever.
**WE'VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU FOREVER**
Prince: "What has always been, and no longer must be."
Prince: "No one knows how long ago the war began. And no one knew how it would end, until now."
Prince: "I have waited for you forever."
Prince: "I knew somehow, that someday, you would come here. And until that day happened, I would never know true joy."
Prince: "Until now there has always been a balance. That's why the war has never ended. Now you Xev, you are the grain of sand that will tip the scales. You and your ship, the Lexx."
Perhaps he was telling the truth. This conversation takes place primarily as a romantic play, but it's interesting to watch Xev's reaction. Most of the time, she's just going 'huh?' Prince is clearly talking to himself. He simply drops these statements without really responding to her. It is an oddly one sided conversation, for an alleged seduction.
Perhaps, beneath the seductive subtext, there's a real message. Perhaps Prince is telling us here that the LEXX crew, and particularly Xev, are what Fire and Water have been waiting for, the point of the whole game.
In the end, Xev is the one that holds the LEXX key, and Xev is the one that makes the ultimate decision. In Fire and Water, Prince admits as much as he tells Kai:
Prince: "Xev. She holds the future. Without her, everything would go on as it has before."
Her decision is not unwelcome:
Prince: "What's that?"
Kai: "The end of your planet, and of you."
Prince: "I think I should be sad. But I'm not."
Prince: "Thank you for releasing me."
Prince: "It has taken far too long, but this little conflict between Fire and Water is finally over."
Possible? Beings from beyond time and space, or with access or perception beyond time and space have already impinged on the lives and deaths of the LEXX crew several times in the first two seasons. They have manipulated or even intervened in a way that seems to ensure certain decisions. Are the crew of the LEXX so important? Each time they appeared, they have acted to preserve or encourage members of the LEXX crew, to nudge them in certain directions. If we accept the blue star as one of these agencies, there is the power to keep a star from detonating, and the delicacy to bring the LEXX in for an unwilling landing. Are Stan and Kai and Xev being used to make sure the cycles of time stay on track? Do they pose a danger of free will, of doing something different? Is there something further or greater in store for them, and this whole system was designed to ensure that they'd act the right way at the right time?
The concept is disturbing, it implies a mind bogglingly pointless sadism on the part of the powers that be which is far beyond the paltry moral qualms or apparent flaws of Fire and Water. But then again, it really seems to me that we must see the beings outside time and space again, and whether the LEXX was the primary reason for Fire and Water or not, I believe that both the LEXX and the twin worlds are tied to these beings. The series has consistently redefined the scales of bigness, from unimaginable numbers of worlds destroyed and a bug the size of a planet in the first series, to the destruction of the universe in the second, and the destruction of a literal heaven and hell in the third.... It just seems like they've got nowhere else to go.
In the end, the examinations of Fire and Water/Heaven and Hell bring us only to maddening speculation. Are we looking too deep, are the flaws and shortcomings, are the questions and apparent hints and holes merely sloppiness on the part of Donovan and Gigeroff. Perhaps there's simply less than meets the eye. Perhaps the clothes simply have no Emperor. Perhaps they're making it all up as they go along and they're just not thinking it through. Or is there a further, deeper architecture?
** WHAT LIES BEYOND**
Donovan himself hasn't been quizzed directly on the subject that I know of. But some of his comments are interesting. In the original documentaries, he states:
"We have season arcs, and we have a series arc."
In SFX issue 24, April, 1997, the three beans are interviewed:
"Well, we have a short arc in these four and then later, should we go to a series, we have quite a big arc. Some of the themes that we used, they're only even introduced in these four movies. We'll revisit a lot of the stuff in the series." (Jeff Hirschfield)
"In the first movie, it isn't quite a stand alone piece. There are references to things that don't entirely play out in that story. We know what the final episode will be." (Lex Gigeroff)
In SFX, Issue 34, January, 1998, Donovan states:
"We want to do 60 one hour episodes altogether. And we know how it ends. We have episode 60 planned already...."
Later in TV Zone issue 124, March 2000, he states:
"We have a plan; we know where the next season would take place. As a matter of fact, we know precisely what would happen, should that happen. But the fate of the next season is entirely, as many things are on this planet, dependent on the US and if the show performs well there, then we will do another season. If the show performs medium there, we will make an MOW [Movie of the Week] and wrap it up. If the show bombs there, which is entirely possible - the US is not really the world capital of irony and black humour - that would be the end of it. Whether we do a series or MOW, we have quite a fun plot I'd rather not reveal and this whole season sets up for that fun plot."
Starburst, #260, April 2000 reports:
"Season three is simply a set up for something huge. Bigger, the producers claim, than trashing an entire Universe."
Finally, we've got the July issue of TV Zone, courtesy of Burntime, where Donovan states:
"From the beginning of Season Three, we knew exactly where we were heading for with Season Four and how that would develop" he[Paul Donovan]reveals. "Season Four is going to be a definite continuation of Season Three..... While Paul Donovan is cautiously optimistic about the possibility of shooting a fourth season, he confesses that he does have a contingency plan lined-up. If we don't produce a fourth season, we'll produce a book that will wrap up Lexx in the same way," he states. We are going to wrap it up."
Interesting things come out of this. It appears credible that Donovan and his peers have some sort of overarching story arc. They've made that claim or suggestion in interviews in magazines and on video going back years. Donovan also appears to have a strong drive for completion, basically building a defence in depth.... He wants a series, if he can't have a series, he wants a movie, if he can't have a movie, he'll do a book. There's a strong, almost a pathological, need to complete a story here, and corollary to this, we have some sense that there's a story left to be finished. These comments seem to suggest that Donovan has some sort of ultimate agenda, some sort of endgame he wants to reach, and that we haven't reached it yet. His desire for a follow up may also indicate that he's aware of the loose threads in Fire and Water and may actually have something deeper in mind.
Will Donovan's conclusion resolve the cracks in the firmament? Or will he simply go off in other directions. Guess we'll have to wait and see. Lets hope we get to find out....
© 2000 (Sept) Darrow
© 2000 WordWrights.