Introducing Lexx – Black comedy and fantasy SF

This introduction to Lexx is dedicated to the memory of Lex Gigeroff.

I’d had this piece in mind for a while, and had written a first draft in early December. Around Christmas word came down that Lex Gigeroff, one of the creators and writers of Lexx, had passed away. This saddened me more deeply than the passing of many, many other creative people because he’d played such in important part in crafting a stunningly unique and surreal universe.

The first series of four Lexx telemovies came out in 1997. I was lucky enough to happen upon the first one quite by accident. Knowing nothing about the series, this was the best possible way to discover it. Within the first few minutes, during a song, I was completely blown away.

With this introduction to the series I’ve chosen to tell you virtually nothing about the characters and the situations in which they find themselves. The reason being that I honestly think the first taste of Lexx is best appreciated by knowing as little detail as possible. It’s a series that does have a sense of scope and wonder to it, and I’d like to maintain that.

The Lexx universe is dismal, dark, and brutal, using a mix of glitchy standard-looking technology that often appears to be moments away from a breakdown, and biotechnology based around insects and adapted humans. It mixes liberal amounts of sorcery and science into a tale that starts quite literally a long time ago in a universe far, far away.

The thing that can tend to polarise the viewing audience about the show is the liberal mix of humour and sex that permeates the series. It is first and foremost a series with a sense of humour that is wonderfully black and grotesque most of the time, running into juvenile and scatological the rest. Two of the main characters tend also to be obsessed with sex for much of the series, and while one of them can hardly help this situation, at times this focus becomes tiresome.

But at the same time, these elements are also refreshingly different. This isn’t a neat, tidy, clean universe, so why should the characters be the oh-so proper and staid do-gooders that populate most shows? In fact, the same sorts of people that populate the Star Trek and Babylon 5 universes wouldn’t fit in this one. They’d stand out. This universe is populated by the odd, the mercenary, the strange, the broken. The character who shows the most balanced persona is dead.

It’s not a perfect series. Some episodes don’t work, the fourth season keeps running around in circles in a most annoying way, some plot lines annoy or don’t pan out.

It’s a highly original and experimental show. In one brave writing experiment that sadly doesn’t quite work, a story is told one week, and the next week the same story is told from a different perspective! I felt it wasn’t entirely successful, but I can’t think of another TV show that has ever had enough guts to try something like that. Some may see it as a money saving idea, and maybe it was, but if so, it was still a unique and clever one.

I do doubt that the above mentioned experiment was a way to save some cash. The showrunners never seem to be frightened into telling lesser tales because of their lower budget. Instead they use whatever methods they can to tell the stories they want, from crude models and stop motion, to animatronics and computer generated imagery, knowing full well that the effects are only there to help tell the story.

Something a lot of films and TV shows, and a lot of genre fans, really need to learn.

They seem to constantly try to see how far they can push parody and satire, to see how full-on the violence and sex can be in a television show. It’s a series that would not be afraid to kill the kid, shoot the dog, and meld them into a deadly human/dog hybrid that would tear your throat out and then hump someone’s leg.

At the same time it’s also a universe with a surprising beauty to it, visually and conceptually. Suns that love one another, warrior poets, a planetary version of heaven – Lexx doesn’t pretend to be solid science fiction and it uses this as strength to allow it to play with ideas and concepts that you couldn’t have in a ‘serious’ SF show.

What I suggest next is this – if you’ve never seen anything from the series, don’t go looking about online for more information or pictures. Don’t buy or rent the DVD just yet. Find a legitimate pay source and download the pilot movie, I Worship His Shadow.

As with many shows and films, the people putting the DVDs together assume a certain familiarity with the subject, and so tend to put spoilers in the menus and even on the covers [1]. Honestly, if you’ve been tempted by this write-up to watch the show for the first time, you owe it to yourself to go in as fresh as possible.

Of course, if you are already familiar with the main aspects of the series, then it doesn’t matter so much whether you rent or buy the movies online or in another format.

The entire series is available to buy, if you’re really curious and cashed up. But look for the uncensored version. The main difference between uncensored and censored is the very occasional shot of bare breasts, but let’s face it, that’s the version the showrunners intended to be seen.

In finishing I will state once again, this is not a series for everyone. Some will no doubt find some of the humour or gore a bit off-putting, the characters too extreme, the universe too weird. It has many flaws, but that’s to be expected with a series that is brave enough to take so many chances.

But if you consider yourself a fan of SF, then you really should check out that first movie. It’s an amazing work of inspired and insane genius.


1. The major DVD release of the 1968 version of Planet of the Apes is probably the worst offender in history, completely destroying the ending and huge chunks of the mystery with a single image. Mind you, I have seen DVD and videotapes (remember those? No? Just me then) where the entire story of the film you’re about to watch is laid out for you on the synopsis on the back, including every major moment, twist, and the ending!

These days if there’s something I know I want to read or watch, I avoid looking at the back or anything else until I’ve been through it.

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