The opening sequence from the first of the Dark Zone Stories set the scene for the whole series.
There are wall to wall computer graphics, the sound in each show is ‘surround’ and near CD quality, and the art and design (both set and computer generated) was fantastically surrealistic.
The story developed into something, exciting, wacky, gross, funny and enthralling – usually at the same time. Within minutes I felt I was watching a big budget Hollywood sci fi blockbuster with superb special effects written by clever film students stoned on dope!
I sat back and let it wash over me – I knew we would be entertained, and let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed.
The opening scene saw a squadron of valiant warriors of the Brunnen G singing a chant as they go into battle against The Divine Shadows’ flag ship poised to open fire on their planet. The warriors engage in small, scorpion like fighter craft, but are easily destroyed. All that is, except their leader, Kai who sees his planet blown up and, knowing that he is the last of their race alive, aims to ram the small control deck on the enemy ship. He survives but causes relatively little damage.
After such a whopping opening. I couldn’t help think of the futility of sending seven or eight little scorpions against a planet killer. It was like trying to destroy an aircraft carrier with a pee-shooter. Sci fi, even good sci fi such as this, has very little concern for the preservation of life. It pisses me off cos we see our hero Kai, getting clobbered so bravely, and when I think of what I would do in such a situation, I have to conclude that I’d have buggered off long before.
Kai lies badly injured on the control deck as His Shadow approaches. He points out that The Time Prophet has told him that His Shadow will be destroyed by the Brunnen G. But since Kai is the last remaining member of his race, the prophesy appears to be flawed. He plunges a dagger into Kai’s heart and, waving a hand over his dead body, takes Kai’s memory and orders his body preserved, it “merits punishment beyond death.” he adds coldly.
2000 years later we see another of our intrepid heroes travelling alone in a small spaceship approaching a small outpost. Stanley Tweedle watches in dismay as the flag ship of His Divine Shadow approaches to destroy the outpost. He is left all alone and eventually the air in his little one man ship starts to deplete.
Stanley is eventually contacted by Feppo a very strange character. He tricks Stanley and captures him. We are left to assume that they ended up having their wicked way with him – a frightening and disgusting experience.
Eight and one half years later we see Stanley in his apartment (more like a cupboard) on the Cluster waking up to a telecast of His Shadow propaganda. Suddenly a computer animated face (a really badly drawn one) reminds Stan that it is the third wake up call and that if he is late for work he will earn yet more demerit points (991 currently). Stanley eventually drags himself to work, as a docking bay security guard (class four).
The story moves to fleet of prisoner ships approaching the cluster. on one of the ships is, among others, a fat ugly woman called Zev and a rebel leader called Thodin. The ship lands at the docking bay where Stanley is working, and after a pedantic episode with the Prisoner Ship Captain (who had forgotten her docking security code), he is told to report for correction and discipline. He looks on dejectedly as the prisoners are unloaded.
Meanwhile, His Divine Shadow is nearing the end of his life. In an unusual ceremony (to say the least) his essence (his soul and memory) is passed on to another body in this case, a vicious thug type prisoner.
It has to be said that this prisoner is not just ugly, he’s bloody ugly. In fact the producers of the show, in the an attempt to make the show less horrific and of course, to protect young people from accidentally seeing the full horror of the face of the actor playing the part, tried vainly to hide his features with horrible red blotches that looked like deep knife wounds. It didn’t work! (only joking Lex you were great, honest!).
His Shadows old body, not quite dead, then has the brain cut out placed in a sort of brain chamber. It apparently becomes a Divine Predecessor and joins other Divine Predecessors. The new Divine Shadow comes to life and takes up his position as head of the Divine Order of the Shadow and ruler of 20,000 planets. He is celebrated by the Divine Predecessors (I didn’t quite catch how many there were but it was around 50). He tells them that the LEXX is almost fully grown and that he will soon embark on a voyage of destruction to eradicate the Heretics and opposers of his Divine Order. The LEXX is a monstrous spaceship, which looks like a giant moth with no wings. It lives, in that it needs to eat organic material to gain energy for propulsion and its weapon system which is capable of destroying planets.
His Divine Shadow does not know which of the League of 20,000 planets harbours the heretics and so he decides to destroy ALL the planets. That’s a bit drastic! If he kills everyone, then there would be no-one left -I know it sounds obvious, but he would be the Divine Ruler of nothing! Subjugation is clearly not his intention. His Shadow indicates that he wants the destruction of all the human race. (On the Cluster, killing is known as ‘cleansing’).
Back with the prisoners we see mock trials with holograms of lawyers and memory probes used to determine guilt. A guilty verdict is dealt with harshly – very harshly! A prisoner that refused to pay his temple fee was hacked to death by a collection of rotating blades and his soft organs were fed to the LEXX. Zev looked on in disgust. It was her turn next.
Meanwhile Stanley attempts to find out his punishment. He learns to his distress, that he can either take his punishment and loose three fleshy organs (eyeball, testicle and kidney), or suffer immediate termination. Straying from the ‘straight and narrow’ is fatal on the Cluster.
Zev is being tried for “not performing her wifely duties. Apparently her young husband thought she was “gross” and flatly refused to continue the marriage ceremony at the alter. To make things worse, she decided that she didn’t like being called ‘gross’ in front of the assembled guests and promptly thumps the young husband in the chops. For this, minor infringement, Zev is being tried for her life!
Frankly she may be gross, but I think the little shit deserved to be thumped. If I were the judge, it wouldn’t be Zev in the dock, it’d be that little pratt husband of hers and you can guess what the sentence would be? A night in the honeymoon bed with 500 pound Zev!
She is found guilty but instead of loosing her life (which she wanted) she is sentenced to become a love slave!!???? (Yeah right!) Zev leaves screaming. Good grief Zev, it could be worse, think how pleased your owner will be when he sees you!
While all this is going on, a whole range of celebrations are underway. Under the HUGE Cluster stadium, a group of young kids are being awarded prizes and accolades for being the finest examples of youthful devotion in all the 20,000 planets. These smart arses are being accompanied by their namby-pamby pinko liberal wimpy parents. (It reminds me of prize-giving at my old school).
In the stadium above, the arch-villain Thodin of the Astral B Pair was tried. His judgement would result in him being fed to Cluster Lizards (vicious huge man-eating worms). Thodin looks around only mildly impressed with his surroundings. He is the centre of attraction for hundreds of thousands of spectators. I think he is a bit upset however, because mucus starts to form in his nostrils. His hands are tied and he is unable to wipe his nose. His nose starts to dribble and there is nothing he can do about it other than look inconspicuous. The mucus dribbles still further down his face and, suddenly sprouts wings and flies away. Wow, I wish I could do that! The flying snot shoots off out of the stadium and into the corridor. Thodin is still in a cage awaiting his trial in front of the crowd.
Zev is being taken to a room and strapped onto a table. Stanley ponders the option of having some of his fleshy bits cut off and one of the smart arses is being awarded a prize for being a top goody-goody. The flying snot lands on some cabling and pulls a small mirror like gadget from out of it’s bum. It examines the cables with it (the gadget that is). Then moves on to some other cables.
Stanley meanwhile, has taken too much time to make up his mind and is too late to have his bits cut off. Monitors, seemingly everywhere, carry his portrait and inform passers-by that Stanley is a fugitive and scheduled for immediate termination. Poor old Stan. He’s not having a good day at all.
Zev is placed under a large slab and a computer is programmed to do something to her. She looks on confused (I know the feeling luv). The flying snot, (in another room) looks at some different cables before moving on again. The smart arses are encouraged to spread their goodness across the Light Zone illuminating areas…… blah blah blah….. The giant slab over Zev fires a lot of blue light at her crotch (?) and in the stadium, Thodin’s trial begins.
Suddenly, the flying snot finds the cable it is looking for and blows itself up, destroying the cable it is perched on. This cable carried the holographic feed of the judge and councillors at Thodin’s trial. It also carried many other control signals. It’s destruction sends the whole area into chaos, and I mean chaos….. the holographic lawyers release Thodin (as a shining example of goodness) and the Cluster Lizards are set upon the innocent little boys and girls below (for piracy and violence – There is justice on the Cluster!). Absolute carnage resulted. Lots of clean cut boys and girls and their doting parents are ravaged and eaten alive by the cluster lizards.
Zev is being processed by the machine, and the slab above her begins to move down. A robot head with a human body (robot number 790) which is operating the controls, encounters one of the Cluster Lizards sick of ‘kiddy meat’. It eats the robot body and leaves the indigestible head. The machine is about to enclose Zev completely when the Cluster Lizard tries to bite her head off. However, the lizards head is caught in the machine. The final process of Zev’s intimate relationship with the beauty machine begins with the decapitated head of a Cluster Lizard screaming in her ear. Thodin escapes from the stadium and heads off to free his followers and companions from the holo-trials in the prisoners enclosure. Stanley is running around (like a chicken without a head) he has no place to go.
Thodin reaches the prisoners enclosure and frees his companions. He also frees a rather aggressive woman (I say this because she is wearing a catsuit made of human skin, has big hair and a voice deeper than mine). The woman, and I use the word loosely, is called Giggerota and she runs off refusing to help free the rest of the prisoners.
The beauty machine ends it’s cycle and Zev is transformed into a stunning drop-dead gorgeous woman. The Cluster Lizard head has somehow assimilated itself into her (but she still looks fine). She gets up and out of the machine and notices that the process is not yet complete. A canopy descends to the area where her head should be. She picks up the robot head and shoves it under the canopy. After lots of whirring noises, and a few flashes of light, the canopy lifts and the robot head opens its eyes and looks upon the newly transformed Zev. “I will love you for ever” It says. (I’m with you mate!)
Zev escapes and the robot head, securing a small trolley, follows. She almost immediately encounters two really hoopy looking guards. They scan her and ask her to surrender. She runs off, and just round the corner is Stanley who, seeing the running guards, joins Zev in her escape followed by 790 trundling on behind. Desperately trying to escape the hoopy guards, they encounter two stray Cluster Lizards. These are bloody big worms with heads the size of TV sets and teeth that make sharks look like goldfish and they are just about to pounce on our heroes when Zev steps in front of Stanley and screams at them. I have the scene paused on video tape while I’m writing this, and I can’t stop laughing. Oh sure it’s a bit tense with Cluster Lizards about to eat people and all, but the face of Stanley changing from fright, as he hides behind the slight figure of Zev, to a surprised horror, as she screams at the two Cluster Lizards is worth an Oscar for Brian Downey in my opinion, it’s one of the highlights of the episode.
Zev’s scream causes the lizards to step back in surprise. The companion she had the pleasure of transforming with, has enabled her to communicate with Cluster Lizards and she instructs them to feed on the guards instead. This they do as Zev and Stanley make their escape. It has to be said that they are not too impressed with each other. Stanley for being a bit (a lot) of a coward and Zev for communicating in an unladylike manner with vicious, killer Cluster Lizards.
Thodin and his crew are trying to find a way to escape when they encounter two hoopy guards. They stop only to find that the guards salute them believing that they are the winners of His Divine Shadows award of merit. Thodin casually walks over to the guards and takes their weapons. I couldn’t help but notice as he did so, that he was wearing a rather fetching glittery pink skirt, a short glittery pink skirt. For a ruthless fugitive, this sort of attire is a trifle effeminate don’t you think? That’s not to say it wouldn’t look good on a ruthless female fugitive, but he’s a bloke you know what I mean? Thodin is certainly a weird dude with his flying, exploding snot and his glittery pink skirt!
And another thing! What’s with the silly rubber tops his compatriots are wearing. These tight fitting tops rise just above the pectoral muscles on the chest. The tight fitting top pushes the pectoral muscles downwards forcing them to stick out rather like breasts. It’s a bit discomforting to see blokes with breasts led by a man with a glittery pink skirt with flying, exploding snot. – And these are the good guys?!
The hoopy guards eventually realise that they have made a mistake and state that he must be executed. Then they politely ask for their guns back. Thodin obliges, bullets first. Then Zev, Stanley and the doting robot head 790 meet Thodin and his erm… men and they all head for escape on the LEXX
As they reach the LEXX they encounter Kai. Yes the 2000 year old dead bloke. He has been used for the last couple of millennia to kill the Divine Shadows unwanted guests. He is expert at doing it too. He is not so much kept alive as animated. Kai needs proto-blood which is supplied by His Shadow whenever he is asked to do a ‘job’. His Shadow reanimated Kai so that he could kill Thodin and the others. He is sure that the prophesy is rubbish and decides too tempt fate by employing the Last of the Brunnen G to do this dastardly deed for him.
Thodin manages to get his people into the LEXX and hang back to sort out Kai. He passes on the key for LEXX to one of his men then turns to face the dead assassin. Kai, expecting a bit of a tussle, is surprised to see Thodin take out one of his eyes and throw it to the ground where, yes, you’ve guessed, it explodes. The resulting smoke renders Thodin invisible. I half expected to see Thodin drop his trousers and fire his laser cannon! Exploding snot, eyeballs that blow up and make you invisible? This guy is miraculous. Girls, can you imagine what it’s like to make love with this bloke? Imagine him lying next to the burned out corpse of his girlfriend, “Well, did the earth move for you dear?”
Eventually Kai manages to defeat Thodin and enter the LEXX. Stanley, Zev and 790 meanwhile are upset to find that a stray Cluster Lizard is onboard. They are not as upset as Thodin’s keyholder who becomes the lizards lunch. Just as the Cluster Lizard finishes him off, he raises his hand and manages to pass the key (by a sort of temporal transfer) to Stanley. The Cluster Lizard, still hungry, chases after him. He runs to a small moth shaped transport ship to seek protection. The LEXX is absolutely huge inside and you need little transport ships to get around. Suddenly Giggerota, the big haired cannibal woman that escaped with Thodin appears and jumps into the moth with Stanley. The little ship can only hold two comfortably and when Zev and 790 catch up and try to get in, Giggerota pushes them away. She steers the little moth to the entrance to the LEXX flight deck. Zev and 790 manage to hitch a ride on a ledge outside the transport.
When they all reach the flight deck Stanley finds that he can operate the LEXX with vocal commands provided he places his hand on a holographic plate. Desperate to get off the Cluster, they all ask the LEXX to go “somewhere else, somewhere better”. They set off for the Frontier.
Once they reach the frontier, an administrator appears on the screen. They need to provide an exit code or they will be destroyed. Zev asks Stanley to command the LEXX to destroy the frontier post which it does. This sends the girls into apoplexy (what is it with girls and violence?). Stanley and Zev hug each other with joy, but they both find that they like the closeness and Stanley starts to get all turned on. Mind you, Zev is not exactly slapping him about the face. You just know that this will be short lived. Transfixed, I waited for Stanley to do something silly like stick his tongue up her nose – actually he nearly did. He kisses her neck and face and she sort of nuzzles up to him, she definitely fancies Stanley (???). They are interrupted by Giggerota who fancies both of them….. for dinner. The three are interrupted by the battleship of His Divine Shadow, who fancies them destroyed and everyone is interrupted by Kai who fancies nothing because he has no feelings. Just for starters though, he dispatches Giggerota to a mushy grave by throwing her off the flight deck.
Stanley and Zev attempt to talk their way out of their imminent destruction when Kai hears the screams of a Cluster Lizard and the Divine Predecessors. He rushes off to their aid. Kai kills the Cluster Lizard and amid the destruction he comes across the dishevelled brain of the Divine Predecessor (the Divine Shadow who killed Kai). As Kai picks up the pieces of brain, memories of his life are transferred. He remembers his past and… and… Kai becomes a goodie. Stanley and Zev give the LEXX co-ordinates to a Fractal Core, the entrance to the Dark Zone.
Unfortunately they are joined by His Shadow. Kai does battle with him in the area where the Divine Predecessors are kept. Stanley and Zev try to help and start killing Divine Predecessors. This distracts His Divine Shadow long enough for Kai to shoot him with his handy wrist gadget. As the LEXX speeds towards the Fractal Core, His Divine Shadows essence leaves.
The LEXX travels through the Fractal Core relatively unscathed, but then again, so does the Battleship. This time it fires on the LEXX and the LEXX, defending itself, destroys the battleship. 790 reports that the LEXX has probably lost some of its memory when it passed through the Fractal Core.
Kai, running short of proto-blood, enters a cryogenic chamber and our intrepid heroes fly off to find a new home in the Dark Zone.
The essence of His Shadow returns to the Cluster and declares,
“Divine Predecessors, I will avenge you”
And so ends the first of the Dark Zone Stories. Wadda blast!
I’d have to rate this a miserly 47,792 out of 10. What did you think?
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This episode review is © 1999 Tony Fawl.
Not for reproduction without the authors express permission
The LEXX names, characters, pictures and everything else associated with the series are the property of SALTER ST FILMS & TiMe Film-und TV-Produktions GmbH in association with Screen Partners. All rights reserved.