SHEENA (2000-2002 TV series)
Page 4: Conclusion

One of the first things that struck me about the new series when I revisited it recently was that it was revolutionary in one respect.  The Fiction House Comics Sheena stories presented Sheena as a dynamic fighter, relying on her own strength and fighting ability to solve difficult situations.  The Irish McCalla Sheena series also presented Irish as a fighter, most notably in episodes like The Lash, where she wields a bullwhip against the giant, Bull Kendall.  However, the action of that series was predominantly lame, slowly-paced and clumsy.  In the Tanya Roberts' Sheena film the full extent of Sheena's action scenes consisted of shooting a few arrows.  Her Zambuli warriors and animal friends are what carry the climax, not Sheena.  Not once in the entire film does Sheena actually make violent physical contact with anyone.  However, almost every single episode of Gena Lee Nolin's Sheena has her deeply involved as a full-blown action hero, fighting all manner of challenging adversaries.  In this respect it is history making.  Never before has Sheena been presented as she was originally conceived in the Fiction House Comics.
Douglas Schwartz and Steven L Sears, the architects of the new Sheena series, have also departed from the classic model in some respects.  As discussed on Page 1: The Concept, this new version of the blonde jungle queen is endowed with three special powers - the ability to communicate with animals, the ability to change her form into that of animals, and the ability to protect the animal kingdom by transforming herself into the Darak'na, a half-human, half-animal creature.  These three powers combined, take Sheena out of the realm of "jungle hero" into the world of the "super hero".  When Cutter is hanging from the struts of an out-of-control helicopter in The Feral King episode (Season 2, Episode 2 - see Sheena Episodes Page 2), Sheena transforms herself into an eagle and flies up to the chopper to help him back into the cab to regain control of the machine.  Whenever there are large numbers of well-armed criminals, gangsters, or soldiers to be dispatched Sheena
transforms herself into the Darak'na to eliminate them by violent means.  This transformation parallels the way Peter Parker
might become Spider Man, or the way Clark Kent might transform himself into Superman, or, to use a feminine example, Diana Prince would change herself into Wonder Woman.  I fully understand why this decision was made.  Contemporarry audiences have been raised on a cinematic diet of X-wing fighters screaming through space or velociraptors stalking the Jurassic jungles.  The bar of the expectation factor has been raised, and modern producers must be able to deliver with panache.  If the imaginative hijinks of Xena and Buffy rule the airwaves, then Sheena's old-fashioned reliance on jungle skills alone is simply not sufficient any more.
One of the most useful things for me in coming to terms with this show is Steven L Sears's informative section, The Tone of the Series, on his Sheena Bible web page.  " We can’t try to take ourselves too seriously.  We are telling fanciful tales about fantasy people.   There is a high level of B.S. factor to contend with.  The best way to defuse it is to address it.  The moment the audience is likely to lose their suspension of disbelief is when we should hit it right on the head.  If a situation seems like it is unbelievable, one of our characters should reflect that idea.  There should always be a wink and a nod toward the audience.  It will add to the fun of the series."  This aspect of the show has been achieved admirably because of the whole tongue-in-cheek approach.

The script writing of the series is consistently of a high quality.  There are many novel ideas, such as the explanations of the Kaya theology in the episode where Sheena learns that things aren't really as they seem: A Rite of Passage (Season 1, Episode 4 - see Sheena Episodes Page 1).  The is also a strong "pulp" element to many of the stories.  Amongst the most notable of these are Wild Thing (Season 1, Episode 8- see Sheena Episodes Page 1), in which Sheena is trapped as a half-panther creature when the cat she has been using to transform with dies during the transfer, and Mind Games (Season 2, Episode 3 - see Sheena Episodes Page 2), in which Kali fights a wicked shaman in the spiritual realm of the mind.

The dialogue is also remarkably convincing, within the limitations of a fantasy series.  All of the characters are well developed, and as the series progresses we continue to learn more about what makes them tick.  Cutter is an especially well-written character; a true lovable rogue.  He is an ex-CIA hit man who has retreated to Africa to escape the guilt of having killed an innocent man.  He is handsome, suave, witty and highly skilled.  This is a very novel approach to Sheena's companion.  In the Fiction House comics Bob is always getting into situations of difficulty and Sheena is always rescuing him.  In the Irish McCalla series a short actor, Christian Drake, was intentionally cast to make Sheena appear more powerful.  Again, Bob is something of a weakling victim always in need of Sheena's watchful protection.  Vic Casey, Tanya Robert's male companion, is depicted as bland milquetoast to emphasise Sheena's power.  Portraying Cutter as a capable hero adds a very interesting dimension.  Steven Sears says it best:"In Cutter Sheena has seen someone who is strong, charismatic, gentle when need be, and with just a bit of an edge to handle anything.  She (also) sees Cutter’s need to care.  Though the shell is a little misleading, the inner part of Cutter warms her and makes her feel at home."

On Page 3: The Location, I mentioned how impressed I was by the show's ability to portray Africa convincingly.  The Florida locations work remarkably well for this purpose, the stock footage of African animals blends in seamlessly, the subplots featuring President N'gama's portrayal of the corrupt tinpot regimes of that continent, and even the African-American actors were coached in the delivery of plausible African accents.

On top of that, the acting is first rate overall, the editing is slick and highly effective, and the action scenes are handled very professionally, especially Vicki Phillips' dynamic stunt doubling for Gena Lee Nolin.  It is also sexy.  Not only is there a constant parade of attractive female guest stars, but Ms Nolin is frequently being put into a variety of titillating situations.  The two posters above indicate that Nolin's sex appeal was exploited to the maximum in promoting the series.  Fortunately, the tacky, Pamela Andersonesque qualities of this promotional material did not carry over to the series too dramatically.

I confess that when I first saw this series on television a few years ago I was not impressed.  I was appalled at the liberties taken with the central character (superpowers for God's sake!).  However, as I have been becoming more deeply engrossed in it as I write these pages and have begun watching the episodes again I have revised my opinions quite drastically.  The show is actually a lot of fun, for the reasons I have outlined above.  However, my original concerns have not been completely overcome.  Ms Nolin gives a dynamic, robust performance as Sheena and her acting is extremely competent.  Unfortunately, in a series like this, it is not only essential that the principal actress act like a jungle queen, she must also look like a jungle queen.  The fact that Gena Lee Nolin looks like she should be advertsing hair shampoo or lip gloss frequently kills it for me, I'm afraid.  She is an OK Sheena, but she ain't no Irish McCalla!

Click on the image below to read plot summaries and to see video captures for each episode of this series:

• Steven L Sears' Sheena Bible page


• The poster of Gena Lee Nolin with the python is from Femme Fatales magazine, May/Jun 2001
• The poster Gena Lee Nolin naked is from a promotional postcard for this series from my private collection
• The Untamed Women Sheena poster is a promotional poster released by Space, the sci-fi, fantasy channel
• The vidcaps from the opening credits of this series are from my set of DVD-Rs of this series
• Steven L Sears excellent Sheena Bible and Sheena Photos pages

SHEENA © is the property of Sony Pictures Corporation
This independent, fan-based analysis of the Sheena material is copyright © 2006 Paul Wickham