Merry Christmas in July! It is Day #19 in the month-long celebration of Christmas entertainment. Each day this month I will be sharing brief reminisces about Christmas TV episodes, specials, and movies that are a creative or imaginative adaptation of Charles Dickens' tale A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Just a little something different and a way for me to show off the diversity of holiday stories I've collected in the encyclopedia Tis the Season TV (the updated and expanded 2nd edition will be released soon).
This week, let's look at especially creative examples of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" in TV episodes in which characters have read Charles Dickens' book and look to influence someone else who needs inspired with the holiday spirit! For more--see Day 15's introduction with a discussion on the TV series The Rogues, Day 16's discussion on Bewitched, Day 17's essay on the Six Million Dollar Man, and Day 18's The Real Ghostbusters.
|Xena (right) with her companion Gabrielle.
Today's discussion is on the 1996 episode "Solstice Carol" from the action/adventure/fantasy series Xena: Warrior Princess. If you're familiar with this series, you'll remember that the episodes alternated between dramas and comedies. This particular holiday episode is one of the comedies. The season 2 episode is a very campy and ambitious pre-Dickens, pre-birth of Christ version of “A Christmas Carol.”
In these ancient times, a greedy King Silvus forbids his citizenry from celebrating Solstice Day. Xena and Gabrielle can’t help but get involved when the king attempts to evict a group of children from their orphanage for not being able to pay taxes. The two women enlist the help of a former toymaker they disguise in a red suit and beard to assist them in providing a special holiday for the orphans. Meanwhile, Xena teaches the king a lesson when she poses as the Three Fates, convincing him with visions of his solstices past, present, and future that he needs a change of heart.
Gabrielle has her own side story: she acquires a donkey named Tobias, for whom she grows fond. She later gives him to a couple with a young baby leaving town, a nod to the original Mary and Joseph. Xena’s toymaker Senticles is a nod to Santa Claus. Although the holiday here is named Solstice Day, it looks like a fairly modern Christmas, with a decorated Christmas tree, a gift exchange, and Santa Claus.
Once again, we can see Xena takes it upon herself to inspire someone's holiday spirit. Here King Silvus is the scrooge who needs transformed and Xena poses not as the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future but the mythological Three Fates. Part of the humor in this episode is recognizing that the warrior Xena is familiar with Charles Dickens' book (even though the episode and the entire series is set in ancient times, clearly before Dickens ever lived or wrote the book!), however regular viewers of the series know that that kind of play with time and knowledge is frequently used within the series--it's part of the fun and excitement to see how the series' writers are winking at fans! The other delicious fun the writers are having in this episode is that they use the celebration of Solstice--rather than Christmas in the pre-Christian era--to motivate Xena and Gabrielle in their quest for good will towards others and justice. Yet, the nod to "A Christmas Carol" is unmistakable.
The cast includes Lucy Lawless as Xena, Renée O'Connor as Gabrielle, Peter Vere-Jones as King Silvus, and Joe Berryman as the toymaker Senticles.
Joanna Wilson is a TV researcher and book author specializing
in Christmas entertainment. More about the TV programs mentioned on this website can
be found in her book "Tis the Season TV: the Encyclopedia of Christmas-themed Episodes, Specials, and Made-for-TV Movies." Her latest book "Triple Dog Dare:
Watching--& Surviving--the 24-Hour Marathon of A Christmas Story"
was released in 2016. She is currently updating and expanding the
encyclopedia for an upcoming release. Her books can be found at the publisher's website:
*Support this website and its research by purchasing the books at 1701 press.com