Whoosh! Issue 64 - January 2002

BEST AND WORST REDUX
OR, HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE STATISTICS

By Bret Ryan Rudnick
Content © 2002 held by author
WHOOSH! edition © 2002 held by Whoosh!
1351 words


The Die is Cast (01)
The Chase Is Afoot (02-06)
Three Bucks and a Statistic Will Get You Come Coffee (07-11)
Still More To Glean (12-16)
The Joxer Factor (17-18)
Biography



BEST AND WORST REDUX; OR, HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE STATISTICS



The Die is Cast

[01] During two separate monthly periods, Whoosh! readers were asked to rate what they felt were the ten best and ten worst episodes of Xena: Warrior Princess. The results are in and the statistically anal among us could not resist examining the figures to perhaps glean some (in)significant insights into the collective mind of the viewing and poll-responding public. Here is a little key for referencing the ten best and worst episodes as determined by our poll:

Code Episode Name
B1 A DAY IN THE LIFE
B2 ONE AGAINST AN ARMY
B3 IDES OF MARCH
B4 WHEN FATES COLLIDE
B5 THE BITTER SUITE
B6 BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
B7 THE QUEST
B8 CALLISTO
B9 IS THERE A DOCTOR IN THE HOUSE?
B10 THE DEBT, PART 2
B11 RETURN OF CALLISTO
B12 THE PRICE
W1 MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS
W2 FRIEND IN NEED, PART 2
W3 KING CON
W4 KEY TO THE KINGDOM
W5 LIFEBLOOD
W6 ULYSSES
W7 BACK IN THE BOTTLE
W8 FRIEND IN NEED, PART 1
W9 PURITY
W10 LYRE, LYRE, HEARTS ON FIRE
W11 KING OF ASSASSINS
W12 PUNCH LINES


The Chase Is Afoot

[02] The most obvious item to discuss is the list of best and worst as they are. There were an almost exact number of total responses for both best and worst categories, which itself lends a nice symmetry to analysis. The first chart below shows the best and worst arranged in top-down order.

chart 1
Click on graphic for larger presentation

[03] Both categories show a fairly even "step" down from more to fewer votes in either classification. However there is an exception in the case of the number one "worst" episode as determined by vote. It was easier for fans to decide which episode they liked least than it was to determine which they liked best. MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS (MWF) was very easy to dislike given its vote total, while A DAY IN THE LIFE, though most popular, was not too far away from number two ONE AGAINST AN ARMY in terms of relative vote totals. After MWF the trend for "worst" matched the trend for "best" much more closely regarding relative vote totals.

[04] Another interesting statistical tidbit was the total of comedy versus drama episodes in "best" and "worst" category.

chart 2
Click on graphic for larger presentation

[05] There was one musical in each of "best" and "worst". But if one divides episodes into strictly "drama" and "comedy", the "best" list musical would be drama and the "worst" list musical would be comedy.

[06] Therefore, in the "best" category, 10 out of 12 episodes are dramas, with only 2 being comedies. In the "worst" category, 5 out of 12 episodes are comedies. Drama was more often "best", and comedy was more often "worst". More decisive for "best" than "worst", it is still not incongruous to conclude that, overall, the fans' more popular choices were dramatic, not comedic.


Three Bucks and a Statistic Will Get You Come Coffee

[07] For me, the most interesting trend related to season.

chart 3
Click on graphic for larger presentation

[08] In the "best" category, 10 of 12 episodes were in Season One, Two, or Three, with Seasons Two and Three dominating with four episodes each. Seasons Four and Six got one each.

[09] In the "worst" category, 11 of 12 episodes aired in Seasons Two through Six. A whopping 6 of 12 episodes aired in Season Five, 2 in Season Six, 1 in Season Four, 2 in Season Three, and 1 in Seaon Two.

[10] No "best" episodes appeared in Season Five. No "worst" episodes appeared in Season One.

[11] So fan opinion tells us what the ratings did all along: fans generally prefer the earlier seasons and more often dislike the later ones, especially Season Five, when even the top producer of the show admitted no one was paying attention.


Still More To Glean

[12] Comparing the best and worst to each other as they appear in the list is interesting too, in that it gives us some insight as to what fans value or scorn most.

[13] The number one "best" episode, A DAY IN THE LIFE, is also relatively light-hearted. Yes, there are some dramatic elements to it -- vengeful killing of the giant is pretty heavy -- but in terms of sheer footage, Xena and Gabrielle spend a lot of time in a more comedic mood. Their relationship is shown to be strained at times, yet they are together. They get on each other's nerves, but the interplay of the characters, the superb writing, and construction of the episode, all combine to enchant us and make us say "That is Xena." By contrast, MARRIED WITH FISHSTICKS is as boneheaded as comedy gets, hardly even a Xena episode at all. Fans certainly know what they do not like, since this episode got nearly twice as many votes as the next "worst" episode did.

[14] The number two "best" episode was ONE AGAINST AN ARMY, a classic hurt/comfort tale in which Xena cares for and expresses her concern for Gabrielle. She demonstrates this quite graphically, defending her companion while accomplishing her mission in the face of overwhelming odds. Xena tells Gabrielle how important the bard is to her, and declares she will always be at her side. By contrast, in the number two "worst" episode, FRIEND IN NEED II, Xena basically turns her back on Gabrielle in the final moments of the episode in a scene that many fans thought contrived at best for reasons which made no sense whatsoever.

[15] It was already noted that a musical made both categories.

[16] Looking at the lists in general, we see that the "best" episodes, even the two comedies, had very intense character issues involved. Whether it was Xena defending Gabrielle or Gabrielle defending Xena, each episode had complex and intricate subjects and/or characters. The "worst" list is dominated by episodes that had no cogent plot or, in the opinion of many viewers, characters acted contrary to the personalities they displayed previously and for no apparent reason.


The Joxer Factor

[17] Apart from the "main" characters, "best" episodes that were "Callisto heavy" made four of the twelve slots, Ares one, and Joxer four. In the "worst" barrel, it is Joxer eight, Ares zero, and Callisto zero.

[18] Of course, as everyone knows, 87.4% of all statistics are meaningless.


Biography

the bretster penandswrd@aol.com
WHOOSH! staff
IAXS Executive Committee

"You can never have too much money or too many Amazons" When he's not working for a big Science/Engineering company that (amongst other things) designs, builds, launches, and operates exploratory spacecraft, Bret writes fantasy novels and short stories. Bret is a man of many skills, having also previously been an Olympic-qualified archer, a drummer in the Butch Grinder Band, a news reader for Public Television Station KVCR, and a Deputy Sheriff for the County of San Bernardino, California. He also collects Japanese swords, armor, and art. He and his dog hunt down stray Bacchae in New England.


Favorite episodes: HOOVES AND HARLOTS (10/110), WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP (30/206), and THE QUEST (37/213)
Favorite lines: Xena: "What's this?" Gabrielle: "I'm... an Amazon princess?" Xena (rolls eyes): "Great." HOOVES AND HARLOTS, 10/110; Xena after being goosed by Joxer: "Are you suicidal?" WARRIOR...PRINCESS...TRAMP (30/206); Joxer: "Ha. Ha." A COMEDY OF EROS (46/222); Autolycus: "I'm not just leering at scantily clad women, you know, I'm working!" THE QUEST (37/213)
First episode seen: CRADLE OF HOPE (04/104)
Least favorite episode: FRIEND IN NEED

 

 

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