We are all used to watching our favorite TV series and catching their "Christmas episode."
Not every series did one, but many did, and many still carry on the tradition. The Andy Griffith Show, Happy Days, I Love Lucy, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Simpsons, even Gilligan's Island, all had their classic (or semi-classic) Christmas shows.
I guess it is hard to choose the single strangest Christmas episode. But how does a TV show do a Christmas special if it's set in the days before Christ?
In 1995, a new TV series with a very strong female hero took to the airwaves. It was a spin-off from the series Hercules: the Legendary Journeys. The series was to run for six seasons, through 2001.
Xena: Warrior Princess starred a gorgeous dark-haired New Zealand actress named Lucy Lawless. Xena's friend and co-heroine in the show was Gabrielle, an Amazon queen, played by Renee O’Connor. The "Xena" character was originally evil, but she turned good and valiantly did combat with evil forces. Xena and Gabrielle's adventures fighting the forces of evil proved an inspiration to women and young girls around the world.
For men and young boys, Xena and Gabrielle were inspirational too. As a man, believe me, these two inspired me greatly. They inspired me to take many a cold shower! Gabrielle only wore seven different outfits during the entire run of the series, including those two warrior bikini outfits. And Xena had that sexy, scowling face and those collagen-filled lips and... Ahem... okay, let's get my mind back down to business.
The “Before Christ" dilemma was one that Xena: Warrior Princess had to face at holiday time in 1996. This was, of course, a problem most TV series did not have to deal with.
"A Solstice Carol" -the Xena "Christmas" episode was shown in 1996. Set in ancient Greece, the ersatz Christmas episode involved Xena and Gabrielle visiting a cruel kingdom. The kingdom was run by the miserly King Silvus. The episode smacks of, and is obviously based on, Charles Dickens classic book A Christmas Carol.
In the episode, nasty King Silvus is going to close down the local orphanage. Mean King Silvus has also banned the winter solstice celebration. In a direct nod to A Christmas Carol, Xena and Gabrielle disguise themselves as various ghosts and do some massive over-acting to get mean old Silvus to change his ways.
Gabrielle even gives a speech about about winter solstice that could easily have been written for a Brady Bunch Christmas episode. Gabrielle emotes: “On this special night, a new chance is born to us all. And it's a time for miracles and goodwill toward all living creatures.”
(Okay, let's be fair. These are beautiful thoughts.)
The episode is usually regarded, even by the show's legions of hard-core, devoted fans, as one of their worst-- and most over-acted. The series itself is campy and that is part of its charm and appeal. And I hope you forgive me if I am too sarcastic and judgmental in describing this all-time strangest Christmas episode.
Maybe it really isn't as ridiculous as I have described. Oh yes, I forgot, in one scene from "A Solstice Carol," Gabrielle gets into a fight with some enemy soldiers. She repeatedly conks two enemy soldiers on the head with some bells. The bells play the tune of “Jingle Bells.”
A strange, bizarre episode? Definitely yes! But maybe you have to see the episode for yourself. "A Solstice Carol," the Xena Christmas episode (?) may still be the only Christmas episode in TV series history that takes place before there was a Christmas.