Created by John Schulian and Robert Tapert, the New Zealand-filmed Xena: Warrior Princess was a spin-off of the tongue-in-cheek "sword and sorcery" series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. As introduced on Hercules, Xena (Lucy Lawless) was a fierce and formidable villainess, the leader of a vast army bent on destruction and devastation. There was some justification for this: As a child, Xena had witnessed the destruction of her home village and the brutal murder of her brother at the hands of a despotic warlord. At first forming her army to protect other peasants like herself, she became consumed with a lust for power and was soon conquering for the sake of being the conqueror. But through her association with the virtuous Hercules, Xena experienced an epiphany, casting off her former evil ways and devoting the rest of her life to making amends to her victims and protecting the innocent -- a task complicated by the many enemies she had made during her Warrior Princess years, who neither forgave nor forgot, and by the unsavory alliances she had forged during those same years. No sooner had Xena "seen the light" than she rescued the citizens of a village besieged by yet another evil warlord. Among those saved was young and beautiful Gabrielle (Renee O'Connor), an aspiring "bard" (writer and artist) who became Xena's constant companion, first because she idolized the former warrior princess and was eager to experience adventure first-hand, but ultimately because she was Xena's devoted friend and confidant.
In the course of the series' six seasons, Xena and Gabrielle journeyed through Greece, Italy, Scandanavia, Africa, India, and China, with side trips to the Underworld -- ruled by Xena's erstwhile crony Hades -- and to the future, in which the two heroines found themselves in reincarnated form. Predicated on the theory that anything is possible in a fantasy series, both Xena and Gabrielle were "killed" and "resurrected" on several occasions, and both bore children who grew up to become their nemeses: Xena's daughter Eve (Adrienne Wilkinson) reached adulthood as the much-feared warrior queen Livia, the lover of war god Ares (Kevin Smith), while Gabrielle's offspring Hope (Amy Morrison), whose father was "force of darkness" Dahak, would have to be killed at her mother's hand in order to save Mankind (Xena also had reason to despise Hope; it was she who killed Xena's long-estranged son, Solon). In one memorable instance, Xena briefly assumed the form of another woman -- a metamorphosis necessitated by a real-life accident which sidelined Lucy Lawless for several weeks. Lest this all sound a bit grim and morbid, it must be noted that the series, like its predecessor, Hercules, had a healthy, irreverent sense of humor, as encapsulated by the light-hearted "disclaimers" which appeared at the end of each episode. There was also time to spoof such modern-day phenomena as beauty contests, spaghetti Westerns, Danny Kaye films, theme parks, pro wrestling, Broadway musicals, and even such TV shows as You Are There and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. There was also a cheerily contemptuous disregard for the time line of "real" history, with Xena and Gabrielle crossing the paths of Julius Caesar, Ulysses, Genghis Khan, Cleopatra, David and Goliath, Brunnhilde, and many other past "celebrities," both genuine and imaginary. Generally, the series' jocular treatment of Myth, Mysticism, Religion, and Reality was accepted in the spirit in which it was intended; but on one occasion, an angry protest from a Hindu extremist group obliged the producers to remove the fourth season episode "The Way" from the series' rerun package.
Of Xena's many recurring characters, the best known and most often seen included Xena and Gabrielle's clumsy, wannabe warrior friend Joxer (Ted Raimi); Xena's mortal enemy, the blonde female warrior Callisto (Hudson Leick); troublesome traveling salesman Salmoneus (Robert Trebor); self-proclaimed king of thieves Autolycus (Bruce Campbell); Amazon princess Ephiny (Danielle Cormack), who enabled Gabrielle to join her all-female tribe; teenaged Amazon Amarice (Jennifer Sky), who became to Gabrielle what Gabrielle was to Xena; healer and shaman Eli (Timothy Omundson), Gabrielle's spiritual mentor; and an impressive array of "immortals," including the aforementioned Ares and Hades, goddess of love Aphrodite (Alexandra Tydings), sea deity Poseidon (Charles Siebert, who also directed several episodes), and the puckish Cupid (Karl Urban, who also played Julius Caesar). And, of course, the star of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, Kevin Sorbo, made a few courtesy calls on Xena. Syndicated in the U.S. beginning September 15, 1995, Xena: Warrior Princess was subsequently telecast in practically every English-speaking country in the world, then went on to virtually every other country where television existed. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi