Xena fans, It's time to celebrate.
It's been 25 years since a mighty princess, forged in the heat of battle, arrived on TV with the debut of cult classic Xena: Warrior Princess. When the first-run syndication series arrived on Sept. 4, 1995, it introduced the world to its titular heroine (played by Lucy Lawless) and her quest for redemption for a past littered with sins committed against the innocent. And when devoted sidekick Gabrielle (Renee O'Connor) was thrown into the mix, one of the most beloved—if never officially consummated—LGBTQ partnerships on TV was born.
The series, a spinoff of creator Rob Tapert's Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, quickly surpassed its predecessor in popularity and was, for a time, the highest-rated drama in syndication. And thanks to a rabid fanbase that made hay out of the show and its quasi-Sapphic central characters in those early, Wild West days of the world wide web, Lawless and O'Connor were quickly made icons.
As Lawless recalled to Entertainment Weekly in 2016, "When we got the faxes of the Village Voice articles sent over to us—remember there was no Twitter or anything in those days—Renee and I looked at each other and went, 'Lesbians? Really? Okay.' It was fine with us.
"The name Xena means 'stranger,'" she continued. "She felt she was irredeemable. That friendship between Xena and Gabrielle transmitted some message of self-worth, deservedness, and honor to people who felt very marginalized, so it had a lot of resonance in the gay community. I get a lot of people coming out to me, thanking me for what I did. I'm completely undeserving of that; we were just jobbing actors having a great time here at the bottom of the world."
The good times lasted for six seasons and over 130 episodes before the show signed off in the summer of 2001. And when it did, it left behind a TV landscape indelibly altered, Tapert reasoned in EW, by the show's groundbreaking female lead. "Xena helped open the door and it wasn't just Xena, because there was the zeitgeist of female leads on TV shows," he said, "and I know it seems odd, but soon after that the captain on Star Trek was a woman, and then Buffy followed, and Alias came at the end of Xena, and then it just was an explosion."
Before you begin your binge of all six seasons in honor of Xena's big anniversary, take a walk down memory lane with us and discover 25 of the most fascinating facts from the show's production—one for each fiercely feminist year the show's been in our lives.
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