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The Adventures of Aella the Amazon. Part 1: Overview.

By Paul Leone

This is not how Aella the Amazon normally dresses. Laetitia Casta in civvies.

Picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Reviews of books, films, and television shows that have an alternate history content are – as long-term readers of this blog will be aware – relatively common. What, one wonders, would happen if the concept were modified to cover such alternate history reviews on a more elevated level?

Paul Leone has developed one such possible concept.


The Adventures of Aella the Amazon.

Part One: Overview.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction and fantasy; no such show exists... at least in our timeline.

The Time: 1999.

The Place: College Park, Maryland.

I remember it crystal clear even 25 years later. I was in my dorm on a Saturday afternoon, waiting for the Ratsie’s delivery guy to show up, and channel surfing for something interesting to watch. And then I came across it – Tony Shalhoub in some kind of medieval outfit, trapped in a jail cell with two extremely lovely and incredibly annoyed young women – Aella and Menippe, it turned out. What was this? An episode of Xena? (A show I didn’t really watch but was somewhat familiar with as one of my best friends was a huge fan). A quick consultation with the TV Guide revealed it was something else – a show called The Adventures of Aella the Amazon.

The next week I made a point to watch it again, and after that, I was hooked. The inevitable soon occurred – I started writing Aella fanfic. (Please don’t look for it; it was all dreadful stuff). I may or may not have had a poster of Aella and Menippe on my dorm room wall in senior year. I admit nothing.


(For those getting ever more bewildered by the second, that was the show’s short-lived catchphrase).

Ah, the 90s. A magical time, at least for Gen Y types like me. And a magical time as far as fantasy TV shows went. Hercules: The Legendary Journeys lit the fuse, but it was Xena: Warrior Princess that exploded in popularity (beating the not-too-dissimilar Buffy the Vampire Slayer by a couple of years). The combination of 90s Girl Power, two charismatic leads in Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Connor, energetic (and yes, cheesy) plots, and a variety of talented recurring and one-and-done guest stars had appeal, and the ratings reflected it.

Was Xena the show that launched a thousand clips

And spawned an endless series of copying?

With apologies to Christopher Marlowe.

Xena, the derivation of Aella. Picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Naturally, a popular show inspired a fair number of knock-offs. Shows such as Roar (featuring a very young Heath Ledger and Vera Famigia), The Adventures of Sinbad, Beastmaster, and my personal favourite, The Adventures of Aella the Amazon. Despite being fairly successful – it ran six seasons, as many as the others mentioned combined – Aella is mostly regarded as a French also-ran now. This is a pity, because it holds up fairly well to the competition. The casting of French supermodel Laetitia Casta as the titular Amazon was done for fairly obvious and sleazy reasons, but Casta improved considerably during her time on the show. Newcomer Émilie Dequenne shone from day one, and after the unsteady first season, both played well off each other. Eva Green, then an unknown with just some theatre productions to her credit, rounded out the core cast (although she only appeared in 18 of 60 episodes, she’s considered one of the main characters by most fans).

Menippe at Cannes, apparently. Cannes is in Gaul, right?

Émilie Dequenne.

Picture courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Like its inspiration, Aella boasted a mix of famous guest stars and the working actors who made up the Vancouver talent pool in the 1990s and 2000s. Well known faces such as Dwayne Johnson (appearing once as the charismatic bandit Crixus), Lucy Lawless (stealing the scene in an anonymous role that inspired a thousand dubious fan theories stitching the two shows into a single setting), Tony Shalhoub (a scenery-chewing Sinbad expy named Sayid), singer-songwriter Jewel Kilcher (the Muse Euterpe, appearing in fourteen episodes, mostly as the voice of ‘previously on The Adventures of Aella the Amazon…’ or musing (ah-hem) on the events of the season and series finales), and Vincent Cassel (a striking Alexander the Great, easily dominating the fifth season) were matched by genre veterans such as Adrian Paul, Amanda Tapping, Claudia Black, Michael Shanks, and the then unknown Ryan Reynolds and Morena Baccarin. The show aired on M6 in France and first run syndication in America until it was picked up by the Sci-Fi channel in the third season. (It was airing on WBDC that mystical day I first found it.)

But what’s it all about, you ask? Xena was a vicious warrior slowly finding her way to redemption. Conor (from Roar) was trying to unite the squabbling people of Ireland against the Romans. Buffy the Vampire Slayer was… well, you know.

Aella was an Amazon princess, twin sister of Agave, both of whom were the daughters of Hippolyta. Tragically, there can only be one (queen) and Aella had her mother’s favour. This was Agave’s motivation for hating her sister and, really, everything that was good, beautiful, and true in the world. After the first season it became a moot point (we’ll get to that) but the grudge carried on for most of the show’s run.

As for Aella, initially she was seeking to defend her people and their Trojan allies against the perfidious Greeks, with a few random adventures along the way. From the second season on, she was a more general do-gooder, with her ingénue cousin Menippe along for the ride. The two stalwart friends would encounter all manner of mythological menaces over the years, as well as more than a few anachronistic encounters (The Giant Ones is perhaps the biggest head scratcher), but always prevailed. Or at least almost always.

The show ran for six seasons, lengths varying from 10 to 22 episodes, and each season generally had an overarching plot mixed in with stand-alone episodes. Season one’s focus was the Trojan War, although that wrapped up with a couple of episodes left to go. Season two was something of a course correction in terms of setting and tone, and had the loosest arc of the entire show. Season three, generally regarded as the best, was darker in tone and centred on Aella, Menippe, Jason, and Medea seeking the Golden Fleece. Season four was back to basics and the ‘arc’ was again a loose one, being mainly “We’re in Gaul now.” Season five was a controversial one, as two episodes in, Aella was abruptly written out. The rest if season five built up the threat of Alexander the Great and culminated in a four episode arc ending with the near destruction of the civilised world at the hands of two mythological giants. Finally, season six saw a few popular faces return for their last hurrahs and ended with a three-part Amazon Civil War; when the dust settled, Agave was Queen of the Hellenic Amazons and Menippe had married her one true love (first introduced all the way back in season two).

Next week, we’ll take a deeper look at season one. Until next time – Amazons, Attack!

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Paul Leone is the author of the SLP book In and Out of the Reich.

His extensive list of books can be found Here.


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