Princes of the universe

10 Aug

Randomways is going to make fun of me for this, but I wanted to write about my faboo Season 2 Highlander DVD set. Hopefully, Scrollgirl and others will find it cool.


Special features:

This set has eight disks, seven DVDs with the European cut of the 22 episodes, and one CD with special features.

Like the season 1 DVD set, the season 2 set has a short producer commentary with each episode which is usually enlightening, if short. On many episodes, there are also some interesting out-take shots of various scenes. Some of them are scenes cut out of even the European version.

You get full episode-length audio commentaries by Adrian Paul on The Return of Amanda and Revenge of the Sword. This commentary also has a video component where you can watch Adrian in the studio watching the episode on TV and recording his comments. Personally, I found this a little disturbing, mostly because he’s obviously older than Macleod and has put on weight.

There are also screen shots from various episodes, which have icon-making potential, 22 complete scripts, actor and director bios, and a trivia game. Enough special features to keep you interested.

On the down side, no sub-titles, and no close-captioning signal sent to the screen.

My impressions

The not-so-good: Season 2 is my least favorite Highlander season, I think. I didn’t care for the majority of the stories in the stand-alone episodes. I thought they were dull. They were working too hard at not having so many bad-guy-immortals of the week, and as a result, many of the episodes had little or nothing to do with immortality at all. The producer and creative consultant both actually apologize for the episode “The Zone”. Duncan’s side-kick through most of the Vancouver episodes was Charlie DeSalvo, an ex-Navy Seals/dojo guy, so you have all these episodes with martial arts and special ops teams and other boring things like that. Plus, you know, Tessa dies early on in the season, so Duncan does the Captain Kirk thing, bedding various mortal and immortal babes in subsequent episodes.

There are some lame stand-alone episodes in Paris, too, like the one with the Victorian-era immortal pretending to be a vampire. That premise is very cool, but they didn’t pull it off in an interesting way. Another episode features Cleopatra’s lady-in-waiting, who leaps out of her sarcophagus after 2000 years speaking perfect English (the producer points this out himself in his comments, and thanks the audience for ignoring it). Nefertiri was a kick-ass babe though.

The good: This season also gives us Richie’s initial months as an immortal–his first immortal battle, and the cool scene where Duncan teaches him to sword-fight, and his first quickening. If you’re someone who watches shows about supernatural characters because you think it’s a fun fantasy imagining being one of them, you’ll understand why, while I like larger-than-life characters like Duncan Macleod and Angel the vampire, I identify with the more accessible supernatural pip-squeaks like Richie and Connor the vampire spawn.

I think it’s easier for me to imagine being the super-cool character’s side-kick, and this identification helps explain why I was so pissed when they had Duncan kill Richie on “Highlander” and when they had Angel give Connor an entirely new life with no memory of his old one on AtS. At least in “Highlander”, Duncan kills Richie under the influence of a demon, and not by free will (although it’s always disconcerting to have the character you identify with killed). On AtS, though, it was like my own father/big-brother wrote me out of his life. This really explains why I was such a big Angel-Connor ‘shipper and wanted so much for Connor to make peace with Angel so he could walk in his world, fight at his side. So I could walk in Angel’s world as Connor.

But enough about me.

Season 2 of Highlander also introduces great mortal characters, like the Watcher Joe Dawson, and the perpetually drunk Maurice-the-annoying-neighbor (the producer notes that French fans hated Maurice. They thought he was a stereotype).

We also get fun recurring immortals like Amanda (I adore her character, and would pay money to have her spunk!), Xavier St. Cloud, and Carl Robinson (who’ll return in season 5). The creators of the show also continue their tradition of hiring larger-than-life celebrities to play immortals like Sheena Easton and Fine Young Cannibals’ Roland Gift and Nia Peeples.

Season 2 also brings us the beginning of the Watcher-Immortal wars that took the show to such interesting places in later seasons. In season 2, they get carried out by the stiff, boring renegade Watcher James Horton, who seems inexplicably obsessed with Macleod when there are a lot eviler immortals out there for him to torment. Horton was first seasonal “big bad” on Highlander: the Series. He’s there in episode 1, comes and goes throughout the season, and is causing trouble for Macleod as the season climaxes in Paris.

My favorite Horton scene occurs after he has teamed up with the hedonistic immortal Xavier St. Cloud in an “Unholy Alliance” to kill immortals. James Horton is sitting at a desk, intent in his oh-so-important paper-work while Xavier lounges next to him, eating caviar. Xavier exhorts Horton to enjoy himself more. The hypocritical, paranoid Horton doesn’t listen to this obnoxious immortal, of course. He’s quite incapable of enjoying himself, except for the “killing for pleasure” part.

Horton is exactly what he fears in the immortals, and probably not so hypocritical after all–for him it’s about who will have the most power, and he wants the mortals to defeat the immortals because he’s convinced they want to “dominate us!”

My favorite episodes of Season 2 are “Legacy” and “Prodigal Son”.

“Legacy” gives Amanda’s back story (“Bring out yer dead!”) and introduces her teacher, the gorgeous Rebecca, who looks fabulously aristocratic and medieval riding a horse. My favorite scene is when Duncan meets them for the first time in the early 17th century. They’re feisty and dressed in (noble) men’s clothes and are possibly the first female immortals the flummoxed young Duncan has ever met. This episode also introduces the Methuselah Stone.

The producer comments that there are fans who don’t like flashbacks. I love flashbacks. The scenery, the clothes, the swords. But most importantly, the back-story! I also love flashbacks on AtS. But then I’m an Angelus fan. And Darla in a boustier.

“Prodigal Son” is a favorite because naturally, as a Duncan-Richie friendship ‘shipper, I don’t want those two estranged for long. After Richie killed his first immortal, Duncan sends him out into the world on his own. This is partly because Duncan doesn’t approve of Richie killing the guy. So Richie returns uncertain of how he’ll be greeted.

Plus this episode has Martin Hyde, who is an fun villain. Maybe it’s the lascivious way he says, “…that’s nothing compared to kill of a seasoned immortal!” I used to make up Highlander fanfic in my head (I tell myself stories, I never write them down) and I invented this tough female immortal character born in the late 1800’s. Unfortunately for her, the first immortal she meets (before she knows anything about what happened to her) is Martin Hyde.

Another wonderful moment in “Prodigal Son” is the last scene of this episode, when Richie and Duncan drink 300-year old cognac together and then (Stan and Adrian) crack up.

This particular episode has some funny out-takes, including revealing the secret of where immortals keep their swords when not in use (do you really want to know?) and getting to see what’s under Duncan’s kilt.

Rating the Highlander seasons (favorite to least favorite): 3, 4, 5, 1, 6, 2. That’s a misleading list, though, because all the seasons are great.

Watching season 2 has got me in the mood to watch season 3 now. My tapes are grainy, have lousy tracking, and all the episodes are out of order. *Sigh*

But on the up side… Methos!

17 Responses to “Princes of the universe”

  1. dherblay August 10, 2003 at 5:30 pm #

    I’m glad you wrote about this
    Even if Random makes fun of you, this entry was definitely worth something to me, if only because the Highlander Season 2 box set has been pretty heavily advertised, and everytime I see a commercial for it, I say, “Someone should get that for Masq. She deserves it.” And now, though you still deserve it, we don’t have to get it for you! And I can go back to ignoring the commercials!

  2. cwx August 10, 2003 at 5:52 pm #

    I’m sure me saying “hey my mom really likes the show” is not what you want to hear… but too bad! 😉 All I’ve seen was the fourth movie, which for some reason didn’t seem as bad as it was supposed to be, maybe just because I find the concept interesting and it was semi-new to me then. Anyway, I tried to get my mom to buy the DVDs but she thinks that would be silly… well I guess I’ll go watch BtVS, AtS or DS9 on DVD now, heheheh.

  3. honorh August 10, 2003 at 5:56 pm #

    Highlander!
    As an old HL Watcher, I have to say, I enjoyed this entry. Loved, *loved* “Legacy.” It gave us a deeper glimpse into Amanda (my favorite Duncan Love Interest) and introduced us to the amazing Rebecca as well. My only beef: Amanda should’ve killed the guy, not Duncan. Also, Xavier rocked.
    Looking forward to your impressions of S3!

  4. neshaffer August 10, 2003 at 7:40 pm #

    Well, there’s always the DSN season 1 box set…
    I’m current with the BtVS and Angel and Highlander DVD sets because their cheaper and they didn’t start releasing them until after I started collecting. $50-80.00 very 6 months, I can handle. The “Star Trek” sets, on the other hand, have been out for a few years now, and the daunting thought of buying 7 seasons of each show for over $100.00 a pop keeps me Star Trekless. But “DSN” is right there next to Highlander, BtVS and AtS for favorite shows.
    I started writing the above entry mostly out of enthusiasm for seeing the episodes and hearing the commentary, but something interesting happened while I was writing up my thoughts that I thought you’d appreciate d’Herb. You remember one night in IM when we were talking about why I was so bent out of shape about what ME did to Connor and why I was into the character of Connor in general, and I had no explanation for it.
    Well, I think writing the above and thinking about the character of Richie on Highlander made me figure it out. It was tough because I’m not into either of these characters for the reason a lot of women might be–physical attraction, and no matter how much I joke around, I don’t really have maternal feelings about Connor, either. But I already knew I identified with Richie on Highlander.
    Let’s face it–the other characters are old and larger than life. Methos, Amanda, even Duncan, have been around for centuries. They’re highly skilled and have all sorts of competencies a normal person can’t boast. It was easy to understand that I identified with Richie–I liked to imagine what it would be like to be an immortal, and though I invented a fictional immortal in my head to play out such fantasies, watching the show, you gotta go with what they give you. Richie started out as a normal guy, became an immortal, and had to learn the ropes. He was a good segue into imaging myself in the world of Highlander.
    Thinking about this, I realized that it’s the same way with Connor. When he came back from Quortoth, he was entering Angel’s world, learning about it, learning about Angel. Then in season 4, he’s kicking demon butt, getting a crush on Faith, and learning about life on Earth at the same time. On some subconscious level, I began identifying with him and empathizing with him. I wanted him to make up with Angel so that he could become Angel’s son/side-kick. Angel has always been my favorite character, but he is like the older immortals–larger than life, he has a scary demon in side him, a “dark side”. Not comfortable to identify with.
    It took me this long to figure out that I identified with Connor, because I never identified with his intense anger towards Angel and his inner rage. That’s mostly alien to me. I wanted him to move past it and through it and become a part of the gang.
    And he never got the chance to do that, just like Richie never got the chance to experience age 100, or 200, or even 50.

  5. neshaffer August 10, 2003 at 7:44 pm #

    I liked the fourth movie
    I didn’t enjoy Duncan having to kill Connor Macleod, his mentor, but Highlander 4 was very much in the spirit of the TV show episodes.
    I also liked Highlander 1and 3. The only one you “must” avoid is Highlander 2.
    And the TV show is a lot of fun if you already like BtVS or Angel or DSN. You can probably rent the DVDs.

  6. neshaffer August 10, 2003 at 7:52 pm #

    Highlander and women
    The producer commented in regards to Tessa that one reason Alexandra Vandernoot left the show is that she “always had to be overshadowed by Macleod, it’s his show”.
    They didn’t say that as if it was merely Alexandra’s complaint, they said it as if it were a matter of fact, that she could never get any more screen time or do anything more exciting than she did because it was a show about Macleod.
    This is of course a farce because other characters–Joe, Charlie, etc, got to do interesting things. Not in every episode, of course, but once in a while.
    I don’t think the people who make this show are necessarily sexist. The fact that they have strong feisty immortals like Amanda and Rebecca and others shows they have respect for women’s strength and longevity even under these circumstances. But if you get labeled a “Macleod babe”, you sort of get put into the role of “damsel in distress” automatically to give Macleod and his enemies things to do. In fact, they did say, Tessa was sort of “doomed to be the victim” and that’s why Alexandra left.
    I am also a Duncan/Amanda shipper, but I was glad when Amanda got her own show, ’cause she got to save the day and kick the butt. I was disappointed when it only lasted one season.
    Can you tell me and Scroll where we can find really good, canonical Season 2 speculative H: The Raven fan fic?

  7. scrollgirl August 10, 2003 at 10:16 pm #

    Re: Highlander and women
    (oops, forgot to close a tag in that last post. let’s try again…)
    …cuz our very own HonorH has actually written some Raven fic herself! Also check out her recs pages. I know that Alice in Stonyland has some HL and HL:TR fics you might like. It’s been a while since I read her, but I’m sure she’s good.
    And if you haven’t heard of this site, please please please! Check out Seventh Dimension. It has everything. Seriously. (I’m addicted to fanfic? Huh? Where’d you get that idea?)
    So glad you reviewed the DVD set! Makes me feel like I watched it myself 😉 Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself as I hide my credit card! Love, love, love “Legacy”. Rebecca Horne is actually my favourite female immortal, despite being only in that one episode. She reminds me of Tara, that compassionate wise woman and mentor, and both of them appeal to me even though they’re not as fleshed out as other female characters, say Amanda or Dr. Lindsey or Tessa.
    But I adore Amanda as well. While my slasher’s heart says Duncan and Methos are my true OTP, and my love of canon says Tessa is Duncan’s “true love”, Amanda is Duncan’s flawed, impetuous, but will always be there, stand the test of time, lover. Even though I really do think she loved Nick and was in love with him, I think her real loyalty would always lie with Duncan.

  8. scrollgirl August 10, 2003 at 10:38 pm #

    That’s really interesting, Masq
    I can see how identifying with Richie and Connor is much easier than with Duncan or Angel. And if you identify with a character, losing him in such a final and almost degrading manner will hurt a great deal. While I adore Connor, I probably wouldn’t feel the same way unless it was Wesley — who isn’t a character I really identify with, despite how much I love him. Willow and Tara are the closest I’ve ever come to “identifying” and even Willow I lost my grip on once she left high school. I don’t really see myself in, and can’t insert myself into, any of the Angel guys. It’s more the drama and epic sweep of the show, the fascinating characters of a turgid supernatural soap opera, that draws me rather than anything that might be familiar or personal.
    I don’t find myself drawing comparisons between me and my life and the characters of my favourite shows. I don’t identify with Methos, Wesley, Bashir or Garak. Tara I do a little, Faith not at all. So perhaps I don’t have as much personal involvement in my shows, even though I love them so much. The shows themselves are a part of me, the characters live in my head and are a part of me, but I’m not a part of them. So even though I hated seeing Tara die, since she’s still alive in my head (even though she’s still dead in the canon-loving part of me), none of “me” was lost with her.
    Maybe I’m lucky to have that distance. Makes it easier when Joss kills off favourite characters, that’s for sure! (And resurrects one I care nothing for…)

  9. scrollgirl August 10, 2003 at 10:47 pm #

    Just a few more thoughts!
    This particular episode has some funny out-takes, including revealing the secret of where immortals keep their swords when not in use (do you really want to know?)
    Ooh! Katana-space! Well, that’s just spec I’ve seen floating around the net. I’d love to hear the secret, if you don’t mind sharing. It might be years before I buy the DVDs so you’ll forgive me for not waiting!
    and getting to see what’s under Duncan’s kilt.
    Oooh… Um. Yes, please? Thanks ever so 🙂
    Rating the Highlander seasons (favorite to least favorite): 3, 4, 5, 1, 6, 2. That’s a misleading list, though, because all the seasons are great.
    All the seasons are great, though the majority of S6 didn’t appeal to me as much after the wondefulness of S5. I’m not sure how I’d rate the seasons; I can’t even remember all the eps. Let’s just say, the more Methos and Amanda eps, the higher the score! I think S5 would be my favourite, for having “The Messenger”, “The Valkyrie”, the Four Horsemen and Cassandra, Mary Shelley and Lord Byron (I don’t care how historically inaccurate that ep was) and just all that Methos-Duncan-Joe interaction.
    Watching season 2 has got me in the mood to watch season 3 now. My tapes are grainy, have lousy tracking, and all the episodes are out of order.
    Mine are too. But I loved Kalas and Duncan meeting Methos and all the Watcher stuff. In my world, the Immortal Watchers and the Slayer Watchers were actually the same organisation, or at least used to be once upon a time. And so the First Evil didn’t really kill them all, cuz Joe is definitely NOT DEAD. Heh. I like my world.
    But on the up side… Methos!
    Whee! Everyone loves the Really Old Guy 🙂

  10. neshaffer August 11, 2003 at 6:28 am #

    Interesting note on the episode “Legacy”
    It wasn’t supposed to be the episode they showed. It wasn’t supposed to happen at all. The episode they had planned was the “Cross of St. Antoine” (season 3 ep 4). They had Elisabeth Gracen (Amanda) signed up to come on for that ep.
    Then because of set scheduling difficulties, they couldn’t do that script and had to make up a new one at the last minute. So since they had Amanda, they decided to do her back story.
    Now her back story is an ep they might have done anyway eventually, but could you imagine the season 2 line up without “Legacy” and with “The cross of St. Antoine” instead? Yes, season 2 could have been even more boring than it already was!

  11. neshaffer August 11, 2003 at 6:36 am #

    Re: Highlander and women
    First off, see my reply to your deleted post above.
    Second, I didn’t see much chemistry between Amanda and Nick. Friend chemistry, sure, but not lovers. Sort of the Angel/Cordelia syndrome.

  12. neshaffer August 11, 2003 at 6:39 am #

    I identified more with WIllow in high school, too
    Which is ironic, considering she “came out” in college, but it was easier to identify with a shy bookish computer nerd than a powerful witch.
    I really stopped identifying with any of the BtVS characters after the high school/freshman year(s), and I think that’s part of my problem with the show in those seasons. I liked the character of Tara, but I didn’t identify with her.

  13. neshaffer August 11, 2003 at 6:48 am #

    Re: Just a few more thoughts!
    One of the outtakes shows Duncan and Martin Hyde fighting beneath the overpass on the Seine. They must use several cameras for several angles in one take, because the camera taking this shot gets a nice picture of the prop-master/sword-wrangler crawling up to Adrian and handing him his sword in what would normally be a below-camera angle. They called this guy the “magic pocket” guy, ’cause he’s the “magic pocket” where the swords are kept when not in use.
    In another scene from the same episode, Adrian Paul is in his traditional Highlander wardrobe facing off Martin Hyde. Hyde throws him onto his back, and Adrian is bitching and moaning about his wig falling off. Meanwhile, his legs are spread eagle facing the camera, and you can see his little speedo under his kilt. It’s not what I would call a “sexy” shot, but it does answer questions about what 20th century scotsmen keep under their kilts!

  14. neshaffer August 11, 2003 at 7:02 am #

    Re: That’s really interesting, Masq
    Well, the reason it took me this long to realize I identified with Connor was that I really have nothing in common with him. I mean, let’s see–39-year-old woman with no athletic skill or super powers, intellectual, scholarly. vs. 18-year old by with super powers, but not overly bright or bookish (at least not in his Angel-y life). The only thing I can think of we have in common at all is a little crush on Faith. ; )
    So I don’t compare my life to his, it’s more like I want to imagine what it would be like being him, because he is a segue for me into the world of the AtS story. Any one who writes fan fic can appreciate that you need a point-of-view character in order to enter that world and walk in it. And you can appreciate the desire to want to enter that world. That’s what fic is for, mostly, I imagine.

  15. neshaffer August 11, 2003 at 7:08 am #

    fan fic recs
    Thanks, Scroll! ‘course, I already knew about HonorH’s fan fic, but since it was “cross-over” (and therefore by defintion non-canonical), it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for (what I’m really looking for is the season 2 that never happened!) But I’ll check out the rest.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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