12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS REVIEW: XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS – A SOLSTICE CAROL

Image result for XENA WARRIOR PRINCES SLOGO
A SOLSTICE CAROL
MAIN CAST
Lucy Lawless (Ash vs Evil Dead)
Renee O’Conner (Boogeyman 2)
GUEST CAST
Joe Berryman (Paul)
Peter Vere-Jones (The Hobbit)
Xena and Gabrielle arrive in the kingdom of King Silvas full of festive Winter Solstice spirit, but quickly fall prey to the cunning young pickpocket Lynal, who steals Xena’s chakram when he thinks she’s not looking. Curious about the boy, the warrior princess and Gabrielle follow him to an orphanage where they find a group of clean but threadbare children in the care of a wonderful matronly woman, Melana. There, perched on top of a partially decorated pine tree, is Xena’s chakram, adorned with colorful ribbons. All are shocked by the sudden arrival of the King’s clerk Senticles, who bursts into the orphanage to proclaim that its residents will be evicted at midnight for failure to pay the huge taxes demanded by the King. Seeing the holiday decorations in the room, one of Senticles’ guards calls for the immediate arrest of Melana and her charges for violating the King’s ban on celebrating the Winter Solstice.
Grabbing her chakram, Xena leaps into action and manages to tie the guards up to prevent the arrest. Upon questioning Senticles, Xena is amazed to learn that the notoriously hardhearted King Silvas outlawed the annual celebrations some 30 years before, after losing his wife, Queen Analia, one Solstice Eve. She and Gabrielle also discover that Senticles, a fundamentally timid and good-hearted soul, was formerly a toymaker of some renown, who was stripped of his profession by the embittered King. Gabrielle becomes determined to show the King the error of his ways and comes up with an elaborate plan, enlisting the help of Xena, Senticles and a donkey named Tobias, whom she rescues from the tannery. That night, Xena steals into the King’s bedchamber and gives the startled ruler an ominous warning about shutting down the orphanage. Fleeing just ahead of the guards, she discovers a secret chamber exquisitely decked out to celebrate the Winter Soltice, but covered with 30 years of dust and cobwebs. On one wall hangs a wedding portrait of the King and his young bride, Queen Analia, wearing a beautiful pendant. Later that night, Xena steals into the King’s room again, disguised as Clotho, the first of the Fates whose province is the past. She frightens Silvas into following her to the secret Solstice room where Gabrielle, veiled and costumed to look like the young Queen Analia, is suspended by a rope and appears to be a ghost floating in mid-air. Her disguise is almost blown when the donkey Tobias, who is holding her aloft, hears a distant whistle and lets the rope go slack. Xena, however, manages to distract the King by giving him a goblet of drugged wine, allowing Gabrielle time to recover her disguise and warn Silvas that he must reject his narrow and greedy path before it’s too late. The King soon succumbs to the sleeping potion in the wine and passes out. Xena and Gabrielle express confusion over Silvas’s assertion that Analia walked out on him, as opposed to having died years before. Some time later, Xena revisits the King, this time disguised as Lachesis, the second of the Fates whose province is the present. She wakes Silvas, forces him to dress as a commoner and takes him to the orphanage so he can see the results of his cruelty. Posing as weary travelers, the two are warmly welcomed by Lynal and the other children and invited to share in their Solstice celebration.
Meanwhile, Gabrielle and Senticles are on their way to the orphanage to deliver a bag full of toys Senticles has kept hidden for years when they spot a group of soldiers about to kick in the orphanage door. Xena springs into action when the soldiers threaten her and their king-in-disguise with arrest, but the strain is too much for Silvas and he soon passes out. As Xena and Melana tend to him, Xena notices that Melana is wearing the distinctive jeweled pendant she saw on Queen Analia in the castle wedding portrait. The warrior princess returns to the thick of battle and together with Gabrielle, Senticles, Lynal and the children, uses Senticles’ many toys as makeshift weapons to defeat the guards. When King Silvas awakens and sees the hooded figure of Melana, he assumes she is Atropos, the Fate of the future. Terrified that he is facing imminent death, the King vows that he can and will change his ways and joins the battle on the side of the children. When the guards are finally vanquished, Silvas is shocked to discover that the hooded figure is, in fact, his precious wife Analia, who has been running the orphanage since she walked out on him 30 years before. Leaving the king and queen happy for the first time in decades, Xena and Gabrielle depart and later on the road they meet a man and woman traveling, with a baby. Gabrielle gives them the donkey. The woman tells her, “May God smile on you always for your kindness.” Xena then gives Gabrielle a Solstice present: it is the carved sheep like the one Gabrielle had as a child. “I don’t have a gift for you,” Gabrielle says as she thanks Xena. “Gabrielle, you are a gift to me,” Xena tells her.
A strange but classic Xena, it has that Christmas feel without mentioning the word, plus little nod to baby Jesus at the end of the episode is great. It’s good to watch this back to back with the Hercules Xmas Special as it has a few tiny  threads that can connect.
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