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Below are a few reflections by some of our staff members of their experiences and involvment working on the Shipper Seasons. There is also a questionnaire that LadyKate and I filled out about working on this series.

~ Aurora




"My involvement with the Shipper Seasons began soon after FIN aired, and several shippers planned to continue the story in a way that did justice to the Xena/Ares plot. I was quite an inexperienced young writer at the time (in my teens) so it was a challenge for me to take charge of the BLOODLUST two-parter that aired near the beginning of S7. I co-wrote a few episodes following that, and also contributed to S8 and S10. I like to think that as the series progresses, my writing improves, but I will leave that for the readers to judge! I'll consider my endeavors a success if I have convinced a few readers to give Eve's character a second chance, as I think she could have been much more compelling than the show's writing allowed. The Shipper Seasons forced my writing to develop, both through the process of actually writing, and through the great authors involved, some of whom are still my close friends. I'm very proud to have taken part in such a fun project, and I still can't believe we are going strong after ten full years. Thanks for your ongoing interest!"

Amber



"I guess I got involved in the Shipper Seasons as a way to keep it all alive. It enabled me to be a part of something I loved and help move it towards a slightly different path. It was also about being part of a community and being active with people who felt the same way and shared similar ideas.

The authors of the Shipper Seasons are an extremely talented group of people who have done a fantastic job of continuing the journey. Sometimes seriously, and in my case not so much, I'd try anything for a laugh. I admire and respect the work that we have all contributed and am proud to have been a part of it as we come to an end after ten years."

Tali



"I co-wrote “Quite a Tale to Tell,” which was a lot of fun to work on. Aurora’s framework gave me the freedom to add my own touches, and the input from her and the others on the writing team kept me on the right track. I thought it was a clever twist to a comedy episode to make it actually all about Discord’s swan song (Aurora’s idea as part of the episode concept). I think my favorite part was writing for Aphrodite – she gets to say all kinds of crazy things, but deep down, she’s got a soft heart.

I’m also looking forward to co-writing one of the final episodes. Stay tuned!"

Elfrieda




In addition to comments from other writers, I made a questionnaire that both LadyKate and I (as the co-producers and fundemental drivers of the series) could fill out, about our experiences and thoughts. Enjoy!

~ Aurora


How, when and why did you become involved in this project?

AURORA:

I've been with the Shipper Seasons from the very beginning. I remember when the concept was talked about among a few shippers (Ephiny4, Tango, Amber, Cora, Maureen and myself, specifically) on a shipper fanfic board called Illyandra's Enchanted Lands. I was still very new to the online fandom and that forum was my only hangout. We all thought it would be great to continue the series on in fanfic form after it ended and we were all passionate about the Xena/Ares relationship and wanted to see it continue in a way that would make ourselves, as well as shippers everywhere, proud. The subbers would be making a virtual season, there was one for general fans, so why not us?

I was given the chance to take over the development of this series (running the website and graphics as well as planning and writing) in October of 2001 and I've pretty much called it my baby, my most passionate fandom hobby, ever since. It's grown with me and in that way, it's very special.

LADYKATE:

I remember Tango asking me early on, shortly after the airing of the Xena finale in June 2001, if I wanted to be involved in the virtual season. At the time I felt I already had too much on my plate. I really like the first two episodes when they “aired,” and began to think that perhaps I would like to be on board. I think my first contribution to the Shipper Seasons was to do some minor edits on Last Hope, Episode 3. Then, I did some extensive editing on Episode 7, Dark Reign, a script that we felt required extensive revisions. From Episode 8 onward, I joined the Shipper Seasons staff as a writer, co-writing Burying the Dead and Harbinger of Twilight with Tango.

What have you enjoyed about working on the SS?

AURORA:

I've really enjoyed the chance to watch the Xena/Ares relationship evolve into something I've always wanted it to be. I've always been fascinated by their dynamic: the tension, the chemistry, the "push and pull", the hotness--it's part of what has kept me going as a fan all this time--and I just love everything about them. Working with other people who share that same love has been a wonderful treat. We've come up with so many awesome storylines both about the Xena/Ares relationship and new adventures for Xena and Gabrielle and it's been great watching XWP continue simply because of the devotion of half a dozen or so fans.

LADYKATE:

Getting to write a virtual continuation of the show in script format, and developing it in a Xena/Ares direction – as well as working with other talented writers.

What have you wanted to see the SS accomplish? Is there a specific storyline or character development that you knew you wanted to see or work on when you initially became involved in the series?

AURORA:

Coming into the SS, I had a few specific ideas that I wanted to see develop. Bringing Xena and Ares together as a couple was #1 on my list. (note that "couple" never had to mean "easy" and I always still wanted to see them keep that tension, complexity and fire in their relationship even after they finally go all the way.) I wanted Xena to tell Ares that she loved him. I wanted to bring Eve into the picture as a regular and a much more likable character (I liked her but I thought she had potential to be so much more). I wanted to bring back the gods (I was okay that they died but didn't feel it happened in just the right way; plus, bringing them back means more fun for everyone--you can't have "in a time of gods" without them!). I also just really wanted to use the virtual continuation as a way to tie up loose ends/fix things from the series such as Michael and his darkness. I didn't think much beyond season 7 at first (it's how we all were, I think, since we really were only thinking in terms of a season 7 for a virtual continuation) so I think most of the ideas I wanted to develop coming into the project were more or less dealt with in season 7. With season 8, 9, 10, we went in entirely new directions and did things that I never even thought or considered when we began so that was (and still is!) exciting to go through that process of coming up with those new ideas.

LADYKATE:

Tell good stories, and explore the Xena/Ares relationship in greater depth than the show was able to do. I had no specific storylines in mind when I got started, but later on became very interested in the storyline of Sabina, an original character who was my “baby.”

What is your favorite season and why?

AURORA:

Oh, this is going to be difficult. Each season has its merits. I'll go with season 8. I adored the Roman storyline. I thought it was a spectacular way to continue the series' reputation of altering and adapting Roman history in order to insert Xena and Gabrielle into the story. Agrippina and Nero are my favorite Romans that have appeared in quite a long time, the best since Pompey and Caesar who were killed off in season 4 so it was about high time for a new Roman adversary to come into the picture! Xena's struggles with being betrayed yet again by a Roman, bringing her to actually give up on being a warrior for a while really showed a different side to Xena and that she can be very fragile, emotionally. Plus, this season saw the introduction of Darion, a wonderful little boy that I am so glad we were able to create and introduce into Xena and Gabrielle's lives. Xena and Ares' relationship really took off, as well, with Xena's declaration of love for him and the tension and conflicts that continued to build afterwards. It was a great season.

LADYKATE:

Season 9. I think it has, overall, the strongest episodes, the best mix of drama and comedy, and the best Xena/Ares resolution.

What story/episode of yours was your favorite to write?

AURORA:

Another difficult question. I've put so much time and effort into many of the episodes, meshing my ideas with other writers so no episode is ever just mine. But hmmm..... I'm a huge Ares fan and I think the episode that I enjoyed developing the most is actually one of the more recent ones: The Power and the Glory. Him as a mortal has always held a special place in my heart. I'm not even sure why, really. I think it's that vulnerability that comes with it, and now that he's a mortal again after being a god just adds a special touch. The story gave me a chance to really see what his character would be like on his own as a mortal, being tempted by the powers of a god and what he was, facing things from his past. It just touches on what I wished we could have seen in the series itself when Ares was mortal during season 6. My other favorite story has to do with the same concepts, and that was Ghosts From the Past. So I just really have a thing for Ares as a mortal man with a godly past and feelings, it's a lot of fun to explore.

LADYKATE:

Worlds Apart/The Monarch, and Take Two.

What character, storylines, scenes and genres do you enjoy writing the most?

AURORA:

I enjoy writing Xena and Ares most of all. I'm not sure if there is a character I'm particularly better at than others. I know that the established characters of Xena, Ares and Gabrielle can be easier, at times, for me to write than our original characters, especially Haimon. But I enjoy writing Xena and Ares the most (big surprise? LOL). The romantic scenes are my favorites (I am a mushy shipper at heart).

I do best with action and drama (comedy is difficult for me) and writing description of places, of people (sometimes to the point of being too descriptive, ha!) more than writing dialogue (but it depends on the scene, too). When writing description, I really just want to make up for the fact that we can't actually "see" these stories play out on our television screens, and it's also why I consider these virtual seasons to be a cross between narrative fanfic and screenplays. I also love writing fight scenes.

LADYKATE:

Characters: Xena, Ares, Sabina. Storylines: my favorite was the Roman storyline I co-wrote with Sais2Cool. Scenes: anything involving dramatic/psychological tension and verbal sparring, or quirky comedy. As for genres, no particular choice. Either comedy or drama.

What do you think about the original characters?

AURORA:

I'm so glad that we have been able to develop strong, defined original characters. I think a lot of the time, fanfic focuses on the characters developed in the series because they are, in some ways, easier to work with. Their personalities, how they'll react to situations and so on have mostly been dealt with previously--there isn't a lot of new material to create and we can already see how they might react in our heads. But original characters are different and more challenging, and in that way, more fun especially with characters like Haimon, Darion and Sabina who have become regulars, not just episode-of-the-week characters. I think original characters can create richer and more interesting stories when the focus can be on someone other than Xena, Gabrielle, Ares or Eve. The pressure to make the audience "see" these characters is greater than with already established characters but I'm glad we've chosen to make characters that are unique to the Shipper Seasons.

LADYKATE:

Re-reading the Shipper Seasons, I’m really impressed with the range and depth of original characters we managed create: a complex, ambiguous adversary like Sabina, a well-intentioned but sometimes confused good guy like Haimon, nuanced villains like Agrippina and Nero, and even comical thugs-of-the-week like Nell the Nasty and the bumbling Vikings in Take Two!

How do you feel about this series becoming more of an ensemble show? (i.e. Ares, Haimon, Eve, Darion have become regulars)

AURORA:

We wanted to make Ares and Eve, in particular, regulars for our series. In order to develop them the way we wanted, especially with Xena and Ares' relationship, they needed to be around more, otherwise, the development would be too slow or not as effective. So I think creating more characters to focus on besides just Xena and Gabrielle was a necessity for us. It is different when comparing our series to XWP because Xena and Gabrielle were 90% of the focus throughout the show's run. The storylines revolved around them and while they still do to some extent, we've tried to balance out the attention that they get to the attention that is given to Ares or Eve, Haimon or Darion. I think it makes for a richer experience this way. It's fun dividing up the focus from one episode to the next.

LADYKATE:

I think we’ve found a good balance – Xena and Gabrielle are still clearly the main characters but the show is richer for allowing Ares and Eve a real opportunity to develop.

What do you think about the fanbase and how the SS can touch shippers (its clear target audience) and non-shippers, even subbers, alike?

AURORA:

I think it's a wonderful thing! I love the fact that we have been able to find readers that are not just shippers (also one of the reasons why it's good we decided not to make it "all Xena and Ares all the time"). Our readers have been diverse and it's great that readers who are not shippers can still enjoy the stories.

LADYKATE:

Most of our readers are shippers, but I’m really pleased that some of them are general fans or subtexters whose primary interest in the series is in the stories and the character development. We never wanted the virtual series to be “all Xena/Ares, all the time.”

Do you think this series follows the themes of XWP enough that it "fits" and could be a real continuation? Does it feel more like a "show" than it does "fanfic"?

AURORA:

One of our main goals while creating this virtual series has been to stay as true to the series as possible while still developing the points that we wanted to develop (mainly, Xena and Ares as a focus). We still wanted to keep Xena and Gabrielle close, for instance (and sometimes, I've been told that a tiny bit of subtext can, in fact, appear from time to time). From a shipper point of view, the series does follow season 6 closely enough. And the format does make me feel like I'm "watching" rather than "reading".

Yet while I love our series, I do think that it probably develops too much of the Xena/Ares ship than it ever would if the show were to really continue on into season 7, 8, 9.... but that's the fun part about it being a fan project, we get to do things "our way". It will always be my personal continuation of the series that I love.

LADYKATE:

Realistically, I don’t think they would have taken the real show anywhere this far in a Xena/Ares direction. But I think a lot of our storylines could have been done on the show, and I think we’ve kept it enough in the traditions of the show that it feels quite distinct from fanfic.

How do you feel about the way the Xena/Ares relationship has developed?

AURORA:

I love it. In terms of the two of them, I think it was just something that needed (and I wanted) to happen. The details of their development evolved as we went along from season 7 to season 10 but there were certain points that I wanted to see included, and the main one was to just bring the two of them together. I wanted to see Xena fall in love with him; for Ares to see that love he has for her returned. I wanted him to be part of her life and to deal with that side of him that was human, and how it's in conflict with his God of War personality. That's fascinating to me. I'm glad that we've seen them come together in love, work together, laugh and tease together yet at the same time, argue and fight, deal with their opposing viewpoints of the world and of people, and then still be able to "come home" to each other at the end of the day, and set those differences aside. They are alike in so many ways, yet they are also different--that's why I love them the most.

LADYKATE:

In retrospect, if we had known the show would continue into a tenth season, we might have postponed the consummation of their relationship. But I think we’ve managed to keep enough tension between them to keep the relationship from getting boring even when they are together.

How do you feel about the portrayal of the Xena/Gabrielle friendship and has it changed now that Xena has Ares in her life as well?

AURORA:

I loved Xena and Gabrielle's friendship on the show. It was probably the deepest, most meaningful aspect of the series for me. So I really did want to see that deep bond continue even while Xena is falling for Ares. One goal I have always wanted to see--something that is necessary if Xena is to couple with Ares--is that Ares would not become the most important person in Xena's life, but that it would be both Gabrielle and Ares that give her balance, meaning and purpose. They complete her. I think Xena can have just as much love for Gabrielle as she does for Ares, it's just a different kind of love in my mind. So that's what I wanted to see happen for them, and what I feel we've been able to accomplish. Xena and Gabrielle are still quite close and even Ares has mentioned it at times, feeling like an outsider somewhat, that Gabrielle will always be first for Xena. We had to struggle with that, and make it clear that Ares is important to Xena just as Gabrielle is. There are those bits of jealousy at times, but I think that can happen to anyone who shares such deep and passionate connections with someone larger than life like Xena. So Xena's relationship with Ares hasn't changed her relationship with Gabrielle, I think it's just made her life richer.

LADYKATE:

We have always felt that Xena and Gabrielle are the most important people in each other’s lives, and that would not change even if one or both of them were involved in a romantic relationship. Still, it obviously makes a difference that they both have important people in their lives: Ares and Eve for Xena, Darion and Haimon for Gabrielle. I think we have shown that there are moments when they wish it was just the two of them, and that sometimes their loyalty to each other comes into conflict with their new attachments. It has been an interesting theme to explore.

How do you feel about Gabrielle’s character development?

AURORA:

Gabrielle grew a lot during our seasons but I think she also grew darker, in more of a depressed way from season 9 onward, especially. I'm glad that she's been given Darion as a way for her to be a mother, and then when she has a child of her own she's given that opportunity for real. But with all of the uncertainty and rift, so to speak, between her and Haimon, and her concerns about fighting it just makes her life a lot darker. I think it was a good progression to take her in but I do often miss the Gabrielle of the past as her life can be filled with such sadness now. It's been good what she's gone through but I'm ready to see some happiness (real happiness) return to her life before the series concludes.

LADYKATE:

The end of the sixth season of Xena: Warrior Princess left Gabrielle in what many of us felt was an unsatisfying place: she was now a full-fledged warrior, but everything we had seen before suggested that she was uneasy with that role and even saw it as destructive to her soul (“With every battle, I lose more of myself”). On the Shipper Seasons, Gabrielle’s struggle with her path continues. We see her deal with the challenges of being increasingly regarded as a legendary warrior in her own right, and grappling with the question of whether her reluctance to fight can actually cause more bloodshed. We see her face the question of what her life would have been like if she had not become a warrior, and consciously choosing the life she has now. We also see her getting more of a life that is independent of Xena, even though their bond remains strong. We also see her as a mother, to an adopted son (Darion) and then to her own biological child.

I should add that a lot of the credit for the way the Shipper Seasons have explored Gabrielle’s character and her journey goes to Sais2Cool, our resident “GabExpert.” She has a deep and intuitive understanding of the character, and has done a great job writing Gabrielle and developing her character in a new setting.

How do you feel about Eve’s character development?

AURORA:

Eve's development is just an extension of what should have happened during season 6. Maybe not the specific details, but Eve deserved more development and attention (or at least, more importance in Xena's life) during season 6 than she received. I'm glad she's been given the chance to become someone with the Amazons, being able to grow and learn about herself in the process, that she can balance that warrior and peacemaker just as Xena has been able to balance being good with her darkside. It's an important step we needed her to take and I'm glad we took it. She and Xena, also, have a much more interactive relationship now, and their dynamic is different than probably any other mother/daughter relationship out there: because to Xena, Eve is a baby and her need to protect and love her is far greater because she never raised her herself (missed such a huge portion of her life). That makes their bond all the more unique and as Eve develops and learns about herself, knows her boundaries and her purpose, it brings mother and daughter closer. I've always liked that.

LADYKATE:

I’m really glad we were able to develop Eve into an interesting character in her own right (XenaAmber deserves a lot of credit for that) and give her a storyline of her own. She abandons pacifism, but her path is not just a repetition of Gabrielle’s. Assuming her place as an Amazon princess, and then queen, has allowed her to develop a new identity and confront her past crimes – but has also helped her grow into a true leader.

How do you feel about Ares’ character development?

AURORA:

The fact that he is probably my favorite character (in terms of what we can do with him--ever-changing), I liked to focus on his development. I'm glad he's gone from god to mortal in the span of time we've had these seasons, been tested and faced challenges, of the heart and of life. It's just such a poetic thing to see the God of War falling in love (which he did in season 5) and then learning more about himself and more about what makes him happy, what makes Xena want to be with him, changing for her. I like that we're still able to keep his edge, his suave, sarcastic nature even while we have had him face this love head on. It doesn't make him weak, it definitely makes him strong, and a more appealing character to me.

LADYKATE:

Having Ares as a regular character in the Shipper Seasons has allowed us to explore themes that were only begun on the show itself. Ares on the Shipper Seasons has already been through the experience of being mortal for an extended period of time in Season 6, and in our Season 7 we were able to explore some of his adventures on his own during that time – adventures that brought him into closer contact with the world of mortals. On the Shipper Seasons, we see him dealing with his humanity, his relationship with Xena, his role as God of War – which he does not wear as comfortably as before, after what he has learned about human suffering – and his ties to his Olympian family.

What would you say to anyone who hasn't read the series and why you think they should try it?

AURORA:

I think every shipper should try reading it. It continues the Xena/Ares relationship in a "reality" (as close as we can get to it, anyway)! I don't think I'd be able to pass up the chance to see the series continue. There are a lot of great storylines, a lot of great Xena/Ares action (both romantic or otherwise), new characters to see and it's just a wonderful way to lose yourself for a while.

The format is different than fanfic (script-style instead of narrative) but, to me, I really do see the show in the words even if there is very little description, and you never get "inside" the heads of the characters. I like it better this way--because it's not a fanfic but a written continuation of the show.

LADYKATE:

If you want to see Xena and Gabrielle’s adventures – and those of Ares, Eve, Virgil, and other characters – continue past where the show left them, and in a direction consistent with the show’s own themes, this series is a worth a try. Between the Xena/Ares relationship, Gabrielle’s path as a warrior, bard, and friend, imaginative comedies, Amazons and gods, and sweeping historical drama with Xena in the middle, our virtual series has something for everyone.

Is there anything you have learned by working on this series (about writing/collaborating/your views of characters etc?) or anything you're particularly proud of accomplishing, in the series or in yourself?

AURORA:

There is a lot that I have learned while creating this series. I had never worked so hard for so long, spent so much time and effort on one single thing prior to starting this project. I've had the chance to develop my writing which has always been a challenge for me but I would like to think it's improved over the course of these 10 years. I've learned how to better work with other people, the value of compromise and collaboration. I've learned dedication and focus, determination. 10 years of working on this series, it's been important to me and I intend to see it through with as much enthusiasm and passion as what I had when I started. I don't think that my view of the characters have really changed at all; I love the Xena and Ares relationship probably more now than I did when I started.

LADYKATE:

I have definitely learned what a challenge it is to develop ongoing storylines and keep them consistent. Sometimes, the story will develop in ways you didn’t expect. I am proud of the entire series – especially the way we were able to develop the Xena/Ares relationship without shortchanging Gabrielle and her bond with Xena. One thing I especially want to mention, though, is that I’m very pleased with the alternate ending we gave the Amazons on the Shipper Seasons. Season Six of Xena implied that virtually all the Amazons were exterminated, and the rest presumably died out. On our series, the Amazons’ struggles continue but they still survive, and our final Amazon episode suggests that the Amazons will become “extinct” as an all-female society not because they are slaughtered, but because they start integrating males into their culture. It’s not nearly as depressing a conclusion.

What does it mean to you to be involved in this project? Do you have anything special to say about 10 years of working on the series?

AURORA:

Other than the fact that I can't believe we're still going strong? That's pretty much it. I'm so glad that we've been going strong for the past 10 years. Nearly 80 episodes (will just pass that count when season 10 wraps up). We've had our ups and downs, been slower getting episodes out sometimes than other times, have had late night chats and countless hours of blood, sweat and tears put into it. It's all been worth it, though. Every single thing has been worth it. This project has been with me for so long it's kind of become a part of me and I do wonder what it will be like when it's all over. I've been able to continue the Xena legend and I'm grateful that I've been a part of it all.

It's been a wonderful ride!

LADYKATE:

Fan creativity keeps the show’s legacy alive – in this case, literally with a continuation of the series. I’m happy I was able to make this contribution to the fandom.