Our Hearts Are Hurting: The Xena: Warrior Princess Reboot Is Officially Dead in the Water

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In a time of reboots, reshoots, and President Donald Trump, a land in turmoil cried out for a hero. But NBC just sent a chakram straight through the heart of our hopes.

Hold me.

Xena’s resurrection seemed to be in trouble since the departure of Javier Grillo-Marxuach (Lost), who wrote the pilot and was intended to serve as the reboot’s showrunner. His leaving was an ill omen for fans, especially since Grillo-Marxuach was a vocal proponent of turning the treasured quasi-subtextual relationship of Xena and her companion Gabrielle into bold text. Per The Hollywood Reporter:

“There is no reason to bring back Xena if it is not there for the purpose of fully exploring a relationship that could only be shown subtextually in first-run syndication in the 1990s,” Grillo-Marxuach said in March 2016.

Just a couple of gals being pals.

Now NBC Entertainment president Jennifer Salke has confirmed that plans for a reboot—at least the reboot that’s been talked about for ages, which would have included oversight from original Xena creators Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert—have been given the battle-ax.

“Nothing is happening on that right now. We looked at some material; we decided at that point that it didn’t warrant the reboot,” Salke tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I’d never say never on that one because it’s such a beloved title, but the current incarnation of it is dead.”

As a Xena fan, I’m sad to see that after so much time and effort what was generated on her behalf “didn’t warrant a reboot.” As a Xena fan, I’m also not sure whether I should be somewhat relieved: after Grillo-Marxuach, whose vision I trusted, left the planning stages, I was nervous to see who NBC might find to helm my Grecian ship.

And considering that Lucy Lawless had wanted to return with Renee O’Connor as Gabrielle, only to have that idea shot down, I’ll admit it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around what a new version of Xena would have been and whether it could have been anything more than a pale imitation that winked at the source material.

Hey, anyone else remember when Karl Urban played Cupid?

The original Xena was a product of its times and it would have been difficult to replicate the best parts and reboot it for a new generation. Would they have gone with a “gritty” new version? I could live without that. Xena: Warrior Princess was a mixture of total camp, high drama, butchered Greek mythology, and recurring guest characters who came to be almost as adored as its two leads.

But it was the chemistry between Lawless’ Xena and O’Connor’s Gabrielle, developed over many years as their characters evolved and changed, that turned their initial “best gal pals” scenario into one of the most complex and crucial depictions of women in love on television. The Hollywood Reporter found this gem of a quote from Lawless:

Lawless backed the idea of Xena and Gabrielle as a couple, saying in 2003 that the final scene of the series — featuring a kiss between them — confirmed “it wasn’t just that Xena was bisexual and kinda liked her gal pal and they kind of fooled around sometimes, it was, ‘Nope, they’re married, man.'”

As much as I would love to see a Xena where they can openly and fully be in a relationship, I’m not sure if something that happened so organically—and became so iconic—could have been recast. Two new young actresses going forward would’ve simply been playing characters named Xena and Gabrielle. Their versions wouldn’t have the weight of seasons of bonding, betrayal, heartbreak, and affirmation behind them.

“I need someone to come in with a point of view about what they want to do,” Salke told THR. OK, cool. How’s this: 15 years after the events of Xena: Warrior Princess, an ancient evil is awoken. A youthful pair of female mercenaries must go on a quest to find the only people who might be able to save Greece and perhaps the world: Xena (Lucy Lawless) and her love Gabrielle (Renee O’Connor), now comfortably retired together, location unknown. After perilous battles and dangerous interventions by petty gods, the pair must convince Xena and Gabrielle to give up the life of peaceful comfort they’ve earned and put everything they care about on the line to defeat the evil sweeping across the land.

Call me, Jennifer Salke! I could do this all day. If you need me I’ll be over here listening to The Bitter Suite.

(via THR, images: Renaissance Pictures/NBCUniversal Television)

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Kaila Hale-Stern
Kaila Hale-Stern (she/her) is a content director, editor, and writer who has been working in digital media for more than fifteen years. She started at TMS in 2016. She loves to write about TV—especially science fiction, fantasy, and mystery shows—and movies, with an emphasis on Marvel. Talk to her about fandom, queer representation, and Captain Kirk. Kaila has written for io9, Gizmodo, New York Magazine, The Awl, Wired, Cosmopolitan, and once published a Harlequin novel you'll never find.