Xena: Warrior Princess does The Prince and the Pauper (and establishes that, as far as I can tell, she's not an actual princess, which I've been wondering about for a while).
Xena switches places with a princess who looks exactly like her, to find out who is trying to assassinate the princess and prevent her marriage and the abolishment of slavery that is intended to go with it. This sort of set-up always promises to be fun and the episode does not disappoint. OK, Lucy Lawless' 'princess' acting is largely restricted to a squeaky voice, but there are some great moments here, like Xena breaking all the strings on a harp to avoid having to play it (preceded by a beautifully framed shot from the harp, close-up and on a raised dais, menacingly looking down on Xena approaching it). There's also a great sequence in which the princess throws what she refers to as Xena's 'round thing' (I call it that too), causing everyone present including Argo to duck, which is hilarious. Xena fighting off a bunch of ninjas behind prince Philemon's back and looking innocent whenever he turns around is very funny too.
The girly, pink-swathed princess is named 'Diana,' which is a bit incongruous. Diana was the Roman name for Artemis, the virgin huntress sister of Apollo. She was a tough cookie and probably not into pink. Mind you, that's not as incongruous as an incompetent assassin called Plato. Meanwhile, Gabrielle is still trying to be poet, though she's moved on from bardic oral performance to written poetry.
The episode also addresses the issue of arranged marriage, which is of course common in many parts of the world and many historical cultures. Diana is reasonably content with the idea until she falls in love with someone else, but Xena is firmly against it. This seems a slightly awkward attitude to take in the pseudo-feudal culture she's currently inhabiting. In this case the joining of two kingdoms will bring about the end of slavery in the region, which of course she's all for - so surely breaking off the marriage could be disastrous for many people. Also, arranged marriage is not forced marriage and many couples who willingly enter arranged marriages are perfectly happy. Luckily, the man Diana's really in love with is the brother of her intended husband and just as capable of helping her end slavery, so it all works out OK in the end, but still, the issue is half brought up and then left aside without really exploring the ramifications of Xena's attitude.
Overall, this is a really nice, fun episode in which Xena gets to wear a succession of very pretty costumes, culminating in a great short skirted action version of a wedding dress (complete with metallic corset) which actually does look like something the goddess Diana would wear. It's also got love, and a bit with a dog. Classics 1990s adventure material.
Tesa: I thought you might want to cover your costume.
King (re recently dispatched assassin): It would have been nice to interrogate him!
Diana: Amazing... it's like looking in a mirror. Before I've brushed my hair.
Diana: I took care of them all with my trusty round thing.
Xena (to Gabrielle, re finding a man who makes her happy): Just don't be afraid to speak when it happens.. of course that's never been a problem with you, has it?
Disclaimer: Neither Xena nor her remarkably coincidental identical twin, Diana, were harmed during the production of this motion picture.
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