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"Lexx" on Sci-Fi Channel

By Devin D. O'Leary

JANUARY 10, 2000:  What do you get when you mix a cowardly security guard, a dead assassin, a lovestruck robot head, an insatiable female love slave and the most dangerous weapon in two universes? ... I'm not entirely sure myself, but apparently it looks a lot like "Lexx," the edgy new sci-fi series blasting its way onto American airwaves this month courtesy of the Sci-Fi Channel.

"Lexx" is a German/Canadian coproduction and began its oddball life as part of a series of successful underground movies produced under the umbrella title Tales from a Parallel Universe. The ensuing TV show follows the adventures of four misfits who have inadvertently stolen the most powerful weapon of destruction ever made -- a Manhattan-sized, sentient, genetically modified insect named Lexx.

First up, there's Stanley Tweedle, the cowardly, self-serving security guard who was "accidentally" involved in the complete destruction of 100 planets. Thanks to some unusual happenstance, Stanley is now the only person in the universe capable of controlling the deadly Lexx ship. Next, we have Kai, a 2,000-year-old assassin kept ambulatory thanks to a rare supply of "protoblood." Then there's Xev, a genetically engineered love slave with an unquenchable appetite for sex (with everyone in the universe except poor Mr. Tweedle). Finally, we have the decapitated robot drone 790, whose severed head is hopelessly in love with Xev, but desperately ill-equipped to fulfill her desires. In decidedly un-"Star Trek" fashion our anti-heroes spend most of their time running away from bad guys, blowing up planets they don't like and trying furiously to get it on with each other.

"Lexx" has the look and feel of many European sci-fi comic books -- weird, funny, sexual and peppered with just a dash of punk rock style. Unfortunately, Sci-Fi Channel has chosen to start its run with the second 20-episode season. This makes it more than a little hard to latch onto "Lexx's" already dense mythology. Fortunately, Sci-Fi partially makes up for its unusual decision by kicking things off with "Rated Lexx," an hour-long special explaining the ins and outs of this unconventional sci-fi series.

Miss "Rated Lexx" and you're screwed. You may be able to get a slight grip on the characters, but you'll never figure out the complicated backstory about alien insects, galactic war and a buggy cult leader called His Divine Shadow. Even with "Rated Lexx," you're likely to feel like a latecomer to the banquet.

The low-budget digital effects employed in "Lexx" are effective, but not quite up to American standards. Although the camerawork and cinematography are fairly pedestrian, lacking the jittery edge one would expect from such an "out there" series, the design, characters and plotting are wonderfully outrageous (a villain with a glass jar for a body and an army of floating mechanical arms; a family of space hill- billies; an opening salvo sub-plot in which the sexually frustrated Stanley is tempted to "go gay"). If audiences can figure out what the hell is going on, then this outlandishly addictive sci-fi series could land itself a sizable cult audience. Spaceships and sex -- what more could you ask for? ?

"Rated Lexx" airs Friday, Jan. 7 at 7 p.m. A special sneak preview episode ("Nook") airs afterward at 8 p.m. The series premiere ("Mantrid") begins on Friday, Jan. 14, at 8 p.m.

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