first appeared as a character in the extremely similar Hercules - The Legendary Journeys
, which shares its basic formula of a mixture of Greek mythology
stories and a little badly-mutilated genuine
history, with plenty of cartoonish swordfights
, magical bad guys, magical good guys to combat
them and a script which varies from amusingly bad to curl-up-and-wail
bad. Her popularity
was such that it was decided to give her a show
of her own, and thus was born Xena, Warrior Princess.
The show's main character is, obviously, Xena, played by Lucy Lawless, an ex-warlord Bad Person who repented and now wanders around defeating various mythical beasties, sorcerers, errant gods and psychopaths with the aid of her trusty sword and chakram, something between a discus and Odd Job's razor-edged bowler hat. Xena, in true heroic style, has a trusty sidekick, Gabrielle, played by Renee O'Connor, who alternately helps and requires rescuing, exorcising or subduing. Her weapon of choice is a big stick, and she has moral objections to killing people.
Completing the show's all-female base is Callisto, played by Hudson Leick, Xena's arch-enemy and responsibility, since she was created when Xena's army destroyed her village and killed her family. She, naturally, wears black leather, has a big sword and makes deals with bad gods. Callisto is now not Callisto, but is reincarnated as Eve, Xena's daughter, and is off finding herself and learning to be good.
Many other less major characters also get semiregular parts in the show, including Autoclytus, 'king of thieves', played by Bruce Campbell, who was, along with Xena, ferried across from Hercules - The Legendary Journeys. As can be instantly discerned by his name, expression and downright silly facial hair, Autoclytus provides for much of the show's comedy element. Both main characters also have daughters (the aforementioned Eve and Gabrielle's Hope), various Greek gods appear from time to time, and so on.
Much of Xena's appeal rests unashamedly on its costumes, which are distinctly on the skimpy side - our heroine, for example, wears something that looks a little like ancient Greek armour and is apparently made of several tin cans, a leather corset and thirty leather bookmarks. It also has a large following devoted to tracking its lesbian subtext - manifested in a goodly quantity of sexual tension between Xena and Gabrielle, played up perfectly deliberately in the scripts - and then, frequently, taking it to its obvious conclusion in vast quantities of badly-written slash.
Although some episodes stand on their own, the show involves an awful lot of continuity from previous episodes and references to the characters' previous lives, making it quite difficult to pick up at a point late in its history.