Gender and queers: tellyography
This is a brief list of TV shows with warrior women and/or crossdressing and/or female bonding with a few links to additional resources. As with the filmography, this reflects my own personal 'faves' and you're welcome to harangue me (politely) about my sad lack of judgement. As with the filmography, these are cult programmes and I've made no attempt to round up lesbian characters from mainstream shows. I've included some links with each but you can check the links page for more on specific programmes, lesbian TV sites, relevant academic resources, and places to buy VHS or DVD copies. Or search the excellent TV Tome for more information, including production details, episode guides, news, reviews and forums or IMDb which carries info on TV classics. I've also put up a page of more detailed reviews of some of the programmes listed.
Teen shows with a big fanbase, such as Buffy or Xena, usually have a range of fan sites ranging from small personal sites to huge portals offering everything from screenshots to slash and drinking games to academic analysis — although screenshots are getting thin on the ground these dark days. Shows with a more adult audience such as Xena and Voyager usually have more slash and fewer drinking games.
Most of the shows listed here are easy to find on DVD or VHS, some can be found with a bit of effort (see links page for suppliers), some are only in 'unofficial' circulation. British TV programmes can usually be viewed at the BFI archive — for a small fee, of course.
2001, C5, UK
I thought this was very dull so I only lasted till halfway through the first episode. Still, there's no accounting for taste and someone must've liked it . . . well, according to Planet Out, lesbians in America do like it (Alias, that is).
New Avengers, The
1961-1969 and 1976-1977, ITV, UK
More information about The Avengers here. There's not much lesbiana around the show, but some can be found at http://www.jumptheshark.com/a/avengers.htm. There's an analysis of female characters in 60s TV which includes The Avengers women.
Honor Blackman's chopsocky special agent was the mother of them all, but Diana Rigg's ultra-cool Emma Peel rules (IMHO). Fans of Patsy in AbFab might enjoy Joanna Lumley's debut as Peel's stylish successor, Purdey. And more from the lesbian trivia department: Patrick Macnee (who plays Steed) was raised by a lesbian mother and her partner. An additional male character, Gambit, was added to the 70s run when Macnee complained that he was starting to "look like a child molestor" playing opposite the youthful (and tediously cute) Tara King by the end of the 60s run.
1999—, ITV, UK
Bad Girls Fan Club Increasingly silly prison drama with plenty of lesbian characters and love affairs. The first series was strangely riveting but subsequent series were more daft than camp.
2003-4, Sci-Fi Channel/Sky One
Katie Sackhoff fanclub and (rather dull and str8) BSG Fanfic archive
Originally a cheesy space opera from 1980, BSG was remade in 2003 as a mini-series and then a TV series. Starbuck, Apollo's slightly rebellious sidekick from the original series, has metamorphosed to Captain Kara 'Starbuck' Thrace" — now there's a lezzie icon if I ever saw one and, indeed, Katie Sackhoff is in the LesbianNATION.com top ten. There's supposed to be a hint of a lesbian relationship between Admiral Cain and Gina (a copy of No6) in s02e10 Pegasus — but that passed me by entirely I'm afraid. Fortunately, the relationship is pretty overtly acknowledged in Razor — along with some classic psycho-lesbo-revenge stuff. Still, despite it's innocent heroism, BSG deals with sexual and political abuse relatively unflinchingly and, besides creating one of the most thigh-slapping maverick butches on TV, relentlessly puts the boot into the Bush/Blair "War on Terror". Delicious!
Birds of Prey
Huntress is the adorably cheesy 'transgenic' daughter of Batman and Catwoman. She divides her time between crime-fighting and fashion statements supported by the former Batwoman, now a computer hacker and wheelchair user. Huntress nobly upholds the celluloid-amazon tradition of perpetual pout and could certainly give Buffy a run for her money in the pissing and moaning department. BoP inspired Dark Angel but only made it through a single series of 13 episodes and, sadly, is not available on VHS or DVD. VCD's turn up on usenet and bittorrent now and again but it would be very, very naughty to download them. Note there are two different pilots in circulation as the psycho-shrink in the first pilot legged it before the series could be made. Good thing too cos her replacement was much more fun.
1977-1981, BBC2, UK
Not much specifically lesbian stuff around. For our straight sisters, there's plenty of slash and plenty of general fan stuff
Servalan is the camp choice, of course. Then again, impetuous ballistics expert, Dayna, or cool and brainy deadshot, Soolin, are likely to be of more interest to lesbian viewers.
Buffy The Vampire Slayer
1997-2003 Fox/Viacom, USA
Lesbian buffy slash archive Academic Buffy bibliography , Buffy slash in general and Buffy fan stuff in general
Buffy hardly needs any introduction. One of the more interesting representations of a lesbian relationship plus more female heroes and baddies than you can brandish a stick at. Tended to spawn more heterosexually orientated slash though — as many lesbians find her annoyingly het-femme. Also spawned quite fantastic amounts of academic analysis, including mine: Buffy Wars: The Next Generation.
2000-2002, Fox, USA
Original Cindy fanstuff, Slash, including a bit of lesbian stuff, General cult and fanstuff – and not forgetting the Dark Angel drinking game
Max, the indisputable queen of perpetual pout, and her sidekick, 'Eyes Only,' were based on BoP's huntress and hacker team. Max does a fabulous job as reluctant freedom fighter and sports the regulation pout winsomely. BoP's grim Gotham City transmutes to an equally distopic vision of Seattle in an economically trashed future USA — and this time it's political! Dark Angel's world is trenchantly 'no logo' so no wonder this went down badly with American audiences and, despite James Cameron's cred, it was knocked on the head after two series. The cynical Original Cindy is one of the best lesbian characters I've seen yet. Highly recommended.
2004, BSkyB, UK
Strange Thoughts fansite (for some reason they all claim to be the first) and 'Prophesy' fanfic site with a fair smattering of girl-on-girl action
Thelma & Cassie are a slow-burn but it's worth hanging in there. Thelma's a fairly credible dyke – if a bit dull (although Cassie's just plain dull) but the mystical horror stuff works well enough and it's a lot more fun once fetish-queen Ella Dee turns up. There is avowed lesbian romance and we're spared any coming-out pangs, but it hasn't really got a camp bone in its body. The endless demonic pregnancy and babies-in-peril stuff is a bit wearing on dyke sensibility if you ask me — I mean euuuuuwwwww (as the Hollywood girls say).
Prisoner Cell Block H
1979-1986, Grundy TV, Aus
General Prisoner Cell Block H fan stuff, Guide to lesbian characters and subtext in Prisoner Cell Block H
Cult classic soapy prison drama with well-established lesbian appeal.
Rachel & The Roarettes
1985, BBC2, UK
A tale of 18th-century female outlaws intercut with modern (well, 80s) girl tearaways. Doesn't exactly work but a noble effort for its vintage. Not available anywhere as far as I can tell so you'll have to catch up with it in the BFI TV archive if you're reeeeely curious . . .
1979, BBC, UK, 205 mins
More info on the TV adaptation of Rebecca. Anna Massey pervs it up in BBC costume drama adaptation of Du Maurier's literary lesbian classic. A tad less mealy-mouthed than Hitchcock's version.
1977, Thames TV, UK
Rock Follies fansite
On the trials and tribulations of a 70s all-girl rock band. 'Fraid it's more than 25 years since I last saw this and barely remember it, but recall it with vague fondness — let the avocado drip!
Star Trek Voyager
1995-2001, Paramount, USA
Again, for str8 female fans, there's oodles of slash. There's more f/f slash on Voyager than most cult shows, Perfect Misfits has a f/f slash archive and there are Janeway/Torres and Seven/Torres slash archives on Ultimatrix
Star Trek brought us the first black woman in space and although Hollywood amazons were old-hat by Janeway's time I don't recall any other sci-fi epic giving a woman such 'legitimated' authority. Kate Mulgrew makes a good fist of it as captain Janeway, but it's Torres and Seven-of-Nine who do it for me. Lesbians also rather liked Tasha Yar, the upright security chief in The Next Generation.
Tipping The Velvet
2003, BBC2, UK
After Ellen's rundown on Tipping the Velvet
Auntie Beeb gives the full-on BBC period drama treatment to Victorian lesbianism and music-hall crossdressing. Legendary use of retro-dildo.
2003 (second season scheduled for 2005), Fox, USA
Tru Calling/Buffy crossover slash with f/f archives
Bit limp really but thought I'd throw it in for all you Buffyphiles, especially Faithphiles, as 'Faith' (Eliza Dushku) plays Tru, a turbo-clairvoyant charged with energetically preventing a murder every week. Then again, Buffyphiles already know all about it . . .
2001-2002, WB, USA, 23 episodes
Planet Out roots for a lesbian reading of Witchblade, Largely str8 Witchblade slash archive, general Witchblade fan stuff
Witchblade started life as a Top Cow comic. It also has manga and anime versions (check out Witchblade anime trailer here) — big tits, buckets of blood, sexual peril blah blah. It's not my favourite anime ever but if you're interested it's usually knocking around on bittorrent somewhere.
The US TV remake is infinitely less artistic but a lot more fun. Aided by the martial powers of a crime-fighting mediaeval gauntlet, Sara Pezzini kicks arse with conviction. Dippy premise aside (and didn't I see that very same gauntlet behaving badly in an episode of Buffy?), Yancy Butler does a very credible butch number. Besides the motorbike and leathers, s01e03 features 'Pez' passing as a gay man (gay men might find the gay driller-killer theme of this episode less amusing). Exceptionally risible SFX make it hard to keep a str8 face — but who wants a str8 face eh?
Within These Walls
1973-1978, LWT, UK
More information on Within These Walls, Lesbiana on Within These Walls
Relatively uncompromising portrayal of women's issues seen through the eyes of reforming women's prison governer with a screenplay by Felicity Douglas. The episode "For Life" (1975) is specifically about a lesbian relationship and is remarkably unsensationalised. Within These Walls holds up well over the 30-odd years since it was made.
Xena: Warrior Princess
1995-2001, MCA/Universal, USA
Xenaf/f slash archive, Exhaustive episode-by-episode guide to Xena's lesbian subtext, Academic analysis of Xena subtext, General Xena fan stuff
Xena and Gabrielle are not lesbians — good heavens, no! They just bicker, canoodle and communally bathe their camp way through five series in a friendly sort of way. Xena and Gabrielle's relationship is the closest of all the TV amazons to the representational regime of the celebratedly homoerotic 'female buddy' movie of the 1970s and has generated a substantial lesbian following with mountains of f/f slash. Eventually, the show's makers 'came out' as doing it all on purpose.