Sexy sci-fi still out there

KEVIN WILLIAMSON

, Last Updated: 4:31 PM ET

Forget about saving the universe.

The twisted characters who populate the racy, campy science fiction world of LEXX have other things in mind.

"If you were one of the three last sentient beings from your universe, you'd just want to get laid," says Allison Outwit, deputy producer of the made-in-Halifax series, which owes more to Flesh Gordon than to Flash Gordon.

That's helped distinguish it -- well, maybe distinguish isn't the right word -- from the rest of the science-fiction pack, like Farscape and Babylon 5.

"Ninety-nine percent of other sci-fi series, their writers will tell you, suffer from a terrible earnestness -- they're worrying about the Prime Directive and saving planets, which is not interesting to us."

LEXX, which airs on Space here and on the Sci-Fi Channel in the U.S., has its fourth season premiere Aug. 8 at 7 p.m.

In it, series regulars -- weasley security guard Stanley Tweedle, (Brian Downey), gorgeous Euro-babe love slave Xev (Xenia Seeberg), animated corpse Kai (Michael McManus) and talking robot head 790, voiced by Jeffrey Hirschfield -- find themselves on present-day earth, confronted by their arch-nemesis Prince (Nigel Bennett) the former ruler of the planet Fire.

If all this sounds like utter nonsense -- it makes the Spock's Brain episode of the original Star Trek look like The Sopranos -- yup, Outwit is the first to admit it.

"It's not to be taken seriously. We're not a CBC-worthy show. We're very naughty and absurd and sometimes violent and sexy. It's not for people interested in seeing political correctness. We're very bratty."

Enough so that American viewers see a decidedly tamer version of the show as producers tailor each episode to either Space, or USA Networks, which owns the Sci-Fi Channel. "In Canada, they don't like violence. Splatter or anything, they shy away from. But sex is never a problem," Outwit explains.

"In the U.S., it's just the opposite. You can hold a gun to someone and blow their head off, but women don't have nipples and we're not going to see them."

With the characters stranded on earth this season, fans can expect even zanier plots, as the writers skewer American politics and the presidency.

"There's a lot more comedy, whether it's political satire or lampooning other science fiction shows or just flatout slapstick."

Initially produced as a series of two-hour television movies, backed by Canadian and German partners, LEXX has since grown into "the little show that could," says Outwit. "We're competing in the international markets against U.S. studio-produced shows with much larger budgets."

They've compensated for the lack of cash with heavy doses of cheaper computer-generated effects.

"If you have the art department build a small village, it costs a screaming fortune. If you fly your cast and crew out to a small village, it will cost a screaming fortune.

"If you have your really talented German animators create a virtual environment, it won't cost a screaming fortune and it can look a lot better."

Currently, LEXX is broadcast in more than 100 countries, including France, Britain, Australia, Russia and Brazil. "There's a core group of extremely dedicated fans" keeping the series alive, Outwit says.

When the Sci-Fi Channel considered not airing the fourth season, a letter-writing campaign changed their mind.

"The fans have been incredibly supportive. It's really gratifying."


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