Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Thoughts on Lexx, Part 2

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In part 1, with some help from Elaine Graham, I argued that Star Trek:TNG mounts a defense of “human distinctiveness, premised upon clearly demarcated boundaries between humans and others” (Graham 148), that Lexx undermines.  I have also previously discussed the ways that robots and zombies often serve as a means to manufacture the characteristics we like to think of as uniquely human (by embodying the negatives of those characteristics).  In TNG being “human” means being rational (Picard), being compassionate (Troi), and having independent judgment (Riker)1…characteristics that representations of robots and zombies often lack. But consider the crew of the Lexx:

  • Stanley H. Tweedle, occasional Captain (by virtue of the fact that the “key” of the Lexx, an “energy being” capable of inhabiting living bodies, found him in the right place at the right time): a selfish, unattractive coward motivated most often by fear or lust; a kind of anti-Kirk who once refused to steer the Lexx out of a potentially dire situation because he was busy throwing a tantrum over his missing hat.
  • Zev/Xev Bellringer: raised in a box by holographic tutors on the planet B3K to be a perfect wife and run halfway through a machine designed to convert her into a love-slave (a cluster-lizard attack interrupted the process and got caught in the machine, the result being that her body was modified and her libido enhanced according to plan but also that she was able to escape the mental conditioning component of the love-slave program and her DNA became mixed with cluster-lizard DNA).
  • Kai: last of a race of stoic warriors; killed by the half-human/half-insect tyrant he was destined to destroy but then modified by the tyrant’s “bio-vizier” to run on “proto-blood” and made to function as a highly-skilled assassin for two-thousand years before shaking loose from his programming and joining the crew of the Lexx; the least desiring of the cast, Kai’s catch-phrase is that “The Dead do not…[want, love, dream, sleep, eat, etc.]”.
  • 790: the disembodied robot head who received the mental conditioning component of the love-slave program meant for Zev and so spends most of the series writing lewd love poems to Zev (and later to Kai) or else scheming how to get rid of the rest of the crew so that s/he can be alone with his/her beloved.

From these descriptions one can plainly see how the series seems to delight in subverting the familiar dichotomies between human and other presumed and reinforced by TNG.  Those clear lines that TNG draws between reason and instinct, learning and programming, organic and mechanic, operator and apparatus, etc., Lexx happily inverts or irremediably blurs.  In Lexx, zombies deliberate instead of hunger while robots jealously scheme instead of coldly calculate.

(to be continued)

1This list of characteristics is not meant to be exhaustive, merely exemplary.

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