ORBzine TV Review: "Sheena (2000)" May 2001

[ Season 1! Season 2]

  • Gena Lee Nolin as Sheena, Queen of the Jungle
  • John Allen Nelson (24) as Matt Cutter
  • Margo Moorer as Kali, the Shamaness
  • Kevin Quigley as Mendelsohn

    The 1980s movie starred the babelicious Bond girl Tanya Roberts. This post- Xena: Warrior Princess TV series stars the babelicious Geena Lee Nolan . Her previous role in Baywatch should be fair warning of what to expect: this show is an excuse for her to run about the jungle in a skimpy outfit. It is Baywatch with trees - but on the bright side, it is better than Baywatch Nights. Faint praise indeed.

    Season 1 (2000-2001)

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 1, Episode 1] Sheena
    (Originally Aired 10/2/2000)

    Sheena ( Gena Lee Nolin ) is a 36c-cup blonde who speaks excellent English. She lives in the jungle and is friends with the animals - and can shape-shift into their forms. This takes no accounting for body-mass, and the only restriction is that she needs to make eye-contact with an animal to copy its form. Hey, at least the CGI is good ... for the year 2000.

    This episode introduces Sheena to her not-love-interest, Cutter - a hairy-chested pilot with whom she has absolutely no sexual chemistry at all. There are also some bad guys who hire the pilot to fly them into the jungle, then double-cross him so they can keep the hidden treasure to themselves. Or something like that. The characters are so two-dimensional and the plot so pathetic it is difficult to keep track of small details like ... where was I?

    Cutter runs his own business as a rent-a-pilot for tourists. He uses a mono-wing seaplane, although it gets lost in a fake-looking CGI explosion.

    Sheena gets a hand-to-hand combat scene against multiple opponents. Like everything else in the episode, it is ludicrous and unconvincing. The death toll is three, although technically none of them are Sheena's kills. Cutter wants to hand the villains over to the local constable. This is not something that happens in many future episodes.

  • Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 1, Episode 2] Fallout
    (Originally Aired 10/9/2000)

    A spy satellite falls to earth in Sheena's jungle, and the CIA and KGB both send their best men to retrieve it. Cutter the pilot guy, Sheena's not-BF, has history with both of them. It turns out that Cutter was a CIA goon with a Class Seven security rating, until he went MIA. Tyler is Cutter's ex-partner, but he and the Agency had absolutely no idea Cutter was even in the country.

    Sheena ( Gena Lee Nolin ) mentions that she speaks very good English because she reads lots of thriller novels by the likes of Tom Clancy and Alastair MacLean . It would have helped if she had read MacLean's Ice Station Zebra, because that is what the writers stole the plot of this episode from.

    We learn a bit more about the fictional country this is set in. It was once a happy and free part of the British Empire, but it is now ruled by corrupt President-for-life Ngama who wants to maintain good relations with Russia. First he gives the Russian agent an squad of local soldiers. Rather than use their Antonov cargo biplane, they take a boat upriver and then march in. Then the Russians use a four-engine cargo plane to parachute a Spetznaz team into the jungle. Despite the soldiers' expert training, neither they nor the CIA Agent have any real skills at jungle survival.

    As the Darakna, Sheena sabotages the only rope-bridge across the gorge and kills at least one local soldier. She turns into a hawk, destroys a couple of parachutes (fatally to the Russians), then takes the rest of the Spetznaz out in hand-to-hand combat. At least one of these is fatal, if unintentionally so. This raises the question - did any of the Russians get out alive and file a report? Or did Moscow Central have to write off the entire unit as Killed In Action?

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 1, Episode 3] Of Mice And Men AKA Revenge of the Jirds
    (Originally Aired 10/16/2000)

    Sheena ( Gena Lee Nolin ) is hunting down a gang of poachers who are exporting an endangered species of local rodent named Jirds that are valuable because their glands secrete an aphrodisiac. The trappers are locals, but the leader is a Caucasian American man. In a small town in Africa, a white man stands out. And there is one less, because the chief villain decides to kill the middle-man.

    Cutter has got his business back on track again. Now he has a twin-engine monoplane - not a seaplane, but it has a perspex observation bubble in the nose. He also has a mechanic named Mendelsohn, who is also his flatmate - as well as being the show's comedy relief. But this works, because it turns out he is the best character in the show!

    Cutter has been having dreams about Sheena, and this gets worse when the Jirds are nearby. He gets some books for her, courtesy of Amazon. The International postage rate to Africa must be affordable, so presumably they sent it by surface mail. Despite knowing that she likes thrillers, he got her some chick-lit. However, she tells him that she does not like romantic literature because the female characters tend to be reactive rather than proactive.

    Sheena makes Cutter help her investigate the poachers. Along the way they both make a couple of mistakes. Cutter, supposedly the CIA's best Field Officer, blows a simple operation by getting spotted doing unnecessary surveillance. Sheena, who needs eye contact with a creature before she can shape-shift into its form, jumps out of a plane BEFORE she has even seen any birds flying nearby!

    The body count is about average this week. One white man killed by the villains, and a bunch of crooks defeated in the climax. Whether they are killed or arrested is never mentioned, except for one who is sent back to the USA (presumably alive).

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 1, Episode 4] Rites Of Passage
    (Originally Aired 10/23/2000)

    Kali's village is attacked by a rogue gorilla. The definition of rogue has apparently changed. It used to mean an omega that was exiled from its pack. However, this gorilla is leader not only of its own pack, but of a pack that includes other species like hyenas!

    This episode explains a lot of things that are important to the show's central concept. We discover what happened to Kali's tribe, the Kaya. They disappeared thirty years ago, and ten years later Sheena appeared in her life. This puts Sheena in her late twenties, although her lack of sexual maturity is troubling.

    Cutter gives us a few throw-away lines about old girlfriends. He also says that the thing he loves the most is his Florida footballs. It was a mistake to tell Sheena this, because she uses it as blackmail material in a future episode.

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 1, Episode 5] Tourist Trap
    (Originally Aired 10/30/2000)

    Episode Two was a rip-off of Alastair MacLean story Ice Station Zebra, while this one is more like The Satan Bug. Some gunmen steal a phial of the Ebola virus that President Ngama stored at a clinic. He claims they were researching for a cure, although with Ngama there is always the chance he wanted to weaponise it.

    Cutter has somehow obtained a broken-down old school-bus, and uses it to take tourists on safari expeditions. The good news is, it has ballast tanks that can apparently float it. The bad news is, they get hijacked by the gunmen.

    Sheena changes into an elephant to delay the villains and save Cutter. She also delays a heavily-armed military convoy with minimum effort, and surprisingly with minimum loss of life.

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 1, Episode 6] Buried Secrets
    (Originally Aired 11/6/2000)

    An earthquake shifts the rubble that blocked the entrance to the cave Sheena's parents were trapped in. Kali talks Cutter into helping Sheena explore the cave. Unfortunately a follow-up quake buries the cave entrance again.

    Mendelsohn rides to the rescue in his tiny four-wheel-drive mini-pickup. Kali and the forest ranger come along to lend a hand. They would have been better off if they had done this to begin with.

    Cutter and Sheena have to worry about a rogue panther. Worse, the cave has diamonds so they have to face an illegal prospector. The body count this week is only one fatality. Sheena's parents do not count, because their fate is deliberately left vague. Perhaps this mystery will be solved in a future episode.

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 1, Episode 7] Lost Boys
    (Originally Aired 11/13/2000)

    The evil mining company from the pilot episode is back. The on-site boss is a beautiful female executive who bosses President Ngama about.

    Cutter is hired to guide a photo-journalist (Tom Savini - From Dusk Til Dawn ). Hopefully he can publish an expose on the MegaCorp and stop its operations with International pressure.

    The local tribe has decided to defend its land against the encroaching miners. With the help of a former cadet from a Military school in Texas, they have launched lethal guerrilla warfare. In reality, a dictator like Ngama would stop at nothing to genocide such a troublesome tribe. One has only to look at Mugabe's actions against the Shona nation in the former Rhodesia.

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 1, Episode 8] Wild Thing
    (Originally Aired 11/20/2000)

    Sheena is stuck in a half-changed state, somewhere between a woman and a panther, and goes on a bloodless rampage in Kali's village. Somehow this gets reported on international television news channels. The good news is, Gena Lee Nolin can take a few days off and let her stunt-double Vicki Phillips do all the work. The bad news is, this is a big draw for all kinds of crazy folk. Cutter should take advantage of this opportunity to sell more tickets to his tours. Unfortunately he is too busy trying to save Sheena.

    A big game hunter is in the area, wanting to catch the Darakna and sell her to the highest bidder. He has a gang of gun-toting thugs to help him. Cutter tries to warn him off, and tells him things can happen in the jungle. Naturally the villain takes this as a threat, and tells his men to shoot Cutter (and Mendelsohn) on sight. This leads on to quite a large body-count this episode, which should be a newsworthy event in its own right.

    A Professor is in the area as well. Likewise, he wants to catch the Darakna but only for scientific reasons. He wants to put her in a zoo, although a better plan would be to tag her and observe her in the wild. Ironically, Sheena bonds with him instead of with Cutter or Mendelsohn!

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 1, Episode 9] Doing As The Romans
    (Originally Aired 1/8/2001)

    Kali agrees to marry a couple of locals, but only with their parents' blessing. One imagines she would not have approved of Romeo and Juliet. However, President-for-Life Ngama has passed a law that allows him to select any woman as one of his wives. The lucky girl is offered the chance to live a life of luxury in his harem. However, since she is already betrothed she chooses poverty with her fiance.

    Sheena (as the Darakna) attacks the military, and assaults a few soldiers. However, to infiltrate the Presidential compound she must disguise herself as a beautiful woman. This means she must get Cutter to give her a makeover. She insists her clothes must be animal fibres, or they will not change with her when she changes shape. Luckily, Mendelsohn is a fashionista (among his many other skills and talents).

    Ngama is trying to have International sanctions removed, so he has a Catholic Cardinal shipped in from the Vatican. The Cardinal brings a couple of burly bodyguards along so he can look important. Luckily he is an American, so Cutter has someone to talk about American Football with. There is also a female news reporter in town for the big event, which comes in useful when Ngama has to be publicly humiliated.

    Sheena changes into a domestic house-cat. She can also apparently talk to crocodiles!

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 1, Episode 10] Children Of The Lamista
    (Originally Aired 1/15/2001)

    Sheena is back in Western clothes again, like she was in the previous episode. She is still trying to blend into Cutter's world. However, she gets sidetracked when she sees an old enemy - Armstrong, a Great White Hunter who attacked her village when she was young. He shot one of her friends (a young lioness) and abducted another. Now she wants revenge.

    Armstrong is one of Cutter's clients. Sheena joins Cutter on his flat-bottomed boat as they take Armstrong upriver. It turns out that the hunter works for a mad scientist. The scientist is meant to be researching hybrid grains for President Ngama, but he is really researching human-animal hybridisation. Yes, he is using human subjects to create his own Darakna. Unfortunately his attempts so far have only created a group of man-beasts. This is as close as Sheena gets to visiting The Island of Dr Moreau .

    Presumably President Ngama will write off the bodies as victims of animal attacks, and will cover the deaths up. However, if this show was well-written he would get access to the scientist's research. This would have been a great plotline - a super-soldier arms race based on the Darakna!

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 1, Episode 11] Prey
    (Originally Aired 1/22/2001)

    A Great White Hunter has caught a rare jungle cat, and tries to smuggle it away aboard one of the big Antonov biplanes. Sheena takes it upon herself to murder both passenger and pilot, adding to the area's massive body-count. Technically it might be passed off as the result of the plane crash, but the loss of one of the few airplanes in the region will not go unnoticed.

    The animal smugglers were working for a Big Game hunter who lives nearby. Sheena coerces Cutter into going up-river in his flat-bottom-boat. Evidently he got Mendelsohn to fix it after last time.

    Sheena tells Cutter there is a big-money reward, so he goes undercover at the Hunters' club. They get sent out one at a time, to face a predator animal in single combat. Sheena does not approve of fair fights, so she ambushes these brave gladiators when she gets the opportunity.

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 1, Episode 12] Divas Of The Jungle
    (Originally Aired 1/29/2001)

    Cutter gets hired to transport three bikini models named Ruby, Pearl and Jade. Mendelsohn gets the best line when referring to their uber-gay photographer: I hate people like that. It's my upbringing. In my family we were punished when we ended sentences with a preposition.

    Sheena questions Cutter about his attraction to the models. It has already been made clear that she is not worldly, but her reluctance to understand him seems to be deliberate. Is she flirting with him, or is she taunting him?

    The storyline involves a breakout attempt by political prisoners, rivals of President Ngama who are about to be executed. Strangely the greater ramifications of this story are never explored in future episodes. None of the inmates are seen or mentioned again. Nor were any of them mentioned previously. One must wonder if the Forest Ranger actually arrested any crooks in previous episodes, or is there just a mass grave somewhere for all the mutilated corpses of Sheena's victims?

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 1, Episode 13] Forbidden Fruit
    (Originally Aired 2/5/2001)

    A wounded biologist is discovered near Kali's village. She was part of an expedition into a valley upstream. Kali reads the woman's journal.

    Cutter and Sheena take a boat upriver to investigate what happened. The area has a bad reputation, and soon they start to become paranoid about each other.

    The only touching moments are when Mendelsohn, Cutter's engineer, is more worried about his boat than about Cutter!

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 1, Episode 14] The Fool Monty
    (Originally Aired 2/12/2001)

    Monty is an Australian Reality TV star who specialises in wild animals - yes, a Crocodile Hunter ! His new show takes him to Sheena's area, where he covers a ceremony to celebrate a peace treaty between two warring tribes. It occurs to him that a tribal war would make a better TV show. Of course, he soon gets cold feet when he realises people will get hurt. Unfortunately, Monty's boss is actually a gangster who uses the TV show as a front for money laundering and drug smuggling.

    To make his show more exciting, Monty has hired a fake Darakna. Unfortunately she is a kick-boxing Australian hit-woman ( Sophia Crawford ).

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 1, Episode 15] Sanctuary
    (Originally Aired 2/19/2001)

    Sheena has convinced Cutter to drive his truck to the border with neighbouring country of Kandara so she can collect some refugees an ongoing civil war. We get exposition courtesy of stock footage from African civil wars of the 1990s. Technically this particular war ended two years ago, but the villainous warlord Xanaboo is still in the jungle with the remnants of his army. They have uniforms and AK-47s, so they are not exactly an ignorant tribal militia. However, they cannot shoot straight.

    Sheena accuses Cutter of never doing anything except when money is involved. Of course, she gets food and shelter for free from Kali's village (as a handout, for she never helps the farmers or hunters gather food) while Cutter needs his money to buy food and pay rent. Also, Cutter is willing to risk his life for free to save a comrade in arms. Sheena mentions Fairwell to Arms by Ernest Hemmingway, one of the many books she has read. Well, all least she is not completely ignorant when it comes to popular culture. Cutter could communicate with her using his knowledge of the movie versions.

    Sheena and Cutter take the boat along the river, which must mark the border. Soon they discover the enemy warlord, about to feed a prisoner to some crocodiles. Cutter reminds Sheena that she can talk to crocodiles like in Sheena (2000) [Season 1, Episode 9] Doing As The Romans, but she claims that the crocs will not help if they are not in the mood. This is a good excuse for an action scene, where Sheena single-handedly takes out multiple opponents. Luckily this is set across the border in a warzone, or the kills would count towards Maltaka's massive bodycount!

    The United Nations has sent in a mixed group of soldiers. Some are Americans but the commander has an English accent. They are a small unit, secretly sent to kidnap the warlord and take him into custody on behalf of the World Government. Unfortunately they end up besieged in a sanctuary for endangered animals.

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 1, Episode 16] Jewel
    (Originally Aired 4/9/2001)

    The McGuffin this week is a massive jewel that was apparently a gift from King Solomon to an African tribe. Presumably his mines were nearby, although they do not feature in any episode of this show. In the Victorian age this gem was taken to a Western country, where it was put in a museum. That way its beauty could be appreciated by everyone in the world - what a wonderfully liberal and democratic thing to do. However, thanks to a ruling by the World Court it is to be returned to Africa so that only a tiny group of people can see it - an elitist move, to say the least.

    Sheena goes to meet the courier at the airfield. It is no doubt the country's equivalent of an International Airport, but it is just a grassy runway fit only for biplanes. The courier is en route in a massive Antonov biplane, presumably the country's largest plane (because it is the largest the airfield can handle). Unfortunately the jewel is dropped into the jungle en route.

    Cutter is too busy to help Sheena, because his Florida State Uni football videotapes have arrived. He has evidently been working out to keep himself in the same shape since he played college ball, because the term six-pack does not only apply to his beer. However, Sheena decides to resort to extortion rather than bribery. She abducts his signed Florida Footballs - which, like the tapes, were foreshadowed a few episodes ago.

    Cutter drives Sheena to where the jewel was dropped, near the northern border with the neighbouring country of Dofari. Unfortunately he falls asleep and they wind up in a minefield.

    A couple of mercenaries have been hired to find the jewel. They abduct Mendelsohn and go after Cutter and Sheena. They have their own helicopter, which puts them above the national carrier airline of the entire country!

    Sheena finds a plot-related reason to cover herself in mud before a fight. The resulting death toll this episode is seven - five villains and two guys who were just doing their jobs. Well, the villains were just doing a job as well but we are meant to make a moral judgement against them.

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 1, Episode 17] Friendly Fire
    (Originally Aired 4/16/2001)

    Sheena's childhood friend returns from Paris. She is not making a social call, however. Somehow she contracted radiation poisoning, and now she wants a magic plant that Kali the Witch-Doctoress grows. Luckily she promises not to share the secret with the wider world. Nature did not create radiation poisoning, she says. Despite the fact that Radium and other elements exist in nature.

    A mad scientist (okay, a greedy doctor) wants the plant. If it is a cure-all then he will do the world a great favour, and potentially save millions of lives. Naturally he plans to get rich by selling the plant to Big Pharma back in the USA, so he is portrayed as a villain for his get-rich-quick scheme. But surely the real villain here is a system that unfairly rewards Big Pharma by allowing them an illegal pricing Oligopoly.

    Cutter is discovered standing over a dead body. Luckily the Chief Ranger can tell the difference between a .45 calibre gunshot wound and a nine millimetre gunshot wound - presumably by just looking at it. However, this does point out the most likely reason that Cutter's business (and the local tourism industry in general) has failed to take off. No, not the massive insurance costs from all the wrecked vehicles. The fact is that about half the visitors to the country end up dead. Even if most of the fatalities are caused by Sheena and look like natural causes (eg animal attacks) this is still an issue for one very simple reason. The US Government will eventually realise that a very high proportion of its citizens who visit that country get killed there. Such a country would soon be put on a list of Do Not Visit locations, which are generally limited to war zones and plague outbreak hot zones.

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 1, Episode 18] Between A Rock And A Hard Place
    (Originally Aired 4/23/2001)

    Four tribes war over a megalith named the Masegama.

    President Ngama has a standard policy of non-interference when it comes to tribal affairs. This sounds like the kind of thing that Kali the wise woman would have campaigned for. The local villages have local laws for local people. However, there are many advantages for Ngama himself. Since he cannot be seen to interfere in their affairs, they are excluded from his - as in, the running of the country. They can kill each other off in tribal wars, weakening themselves in the process. Ngama does not need to expend money or lives keeping the peace. Instead, he can keep control of the big city and taxation rates. In many ways this may seem like a libertarian paradise - low taxes, small government. However, it is a feudal system of overlordship that would compare unfavourably to the wild west, and is at constant threat of breaking into civil war. President-for-life Ngama is too busy lining his own pockets to realise the danger.

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 1, Episode 19] Tyler Returns
    (Originally Aired 4/30/2001)

    A terrorist sets off a bomb at the local Ministry of Education building. This is aimed as an attack on Ngama's

    Tyler, Cutter's former CIA partner last seen in Sheena (2000) [Season 1, Episode 2] Fallout, is picked by the CIA to lead the mission.

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 1, Episode 20] Unsafe Passage
    (Originally Aired 5/7/2001)

    Cutter phones an old buddy of his - the CIA Station Chief in Rome, Italy. The events of the previous episode have not damaged Cutter's credibility with the Agency. He demands a CIA assault team, and insists he be given full command of it. If there is a team training in Egypt then they can be in Maltaka in forty-five minutes. This reduces the continent of Africa to something smaller than the state of Texas, but shoddy geography is the least of this show's problems.

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 1, Episode 21] Marabunta
    (Originally Aired 5/14/2001)

    The term Marabunta refers to a column of army ants. It was first used in a Charlton Heston adventure movie in the 1950s, and is not actually a scientific or cultural term. Basically it is just a made-up word, which marks this episode as one that simply rips off a movie rather than one based on actual research and original story-writing.

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 1, Episode 22] Cult Of One
    (Originally Aired 5/21/2001)

    A cult leader is linked to political assassinations. He even converts Christian missionaries.

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 2, Episode ]
    (Originally Aired )

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  • Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 2, Episode 1] Rendezvous
    (Originally Aired 6 Oct 01)

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 2, Episode 2] The Feral King
    (Originally Aired 13 Oct 01)

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 2, Episode 3] Mind Games
    (Originally Aired 20 Oct 01)

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 2, Episode 4] Collateral Damage
    (Originally Aired 27 Oct 01)

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 2, Episode 5] Meltdown in Maltaka
    (Originally Aired 3 Nov 01)

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 2, Episode 6] The Treasure of Sienna Mende
    (Originally Aired 10 Nov 01)

    Alexandra Tydings (Aphrodite in Hercules, Xena ) steals a crystal skull. Mira Furlan (Ambassador Delenn) is the villain.

    This week, Sheena shapeshifts into a lemur!

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 2, Episode 7] The Darkness
    (Originally Aired 17 Nov 01)

    Sheena dates Cutter. Her topless stuntwoman fights a tiger.

    Just like last episode, the villain is a former Babylon 5 Actress. This time it is Patricia Tallman (Lyta Alexander).

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 2, Episode 8] Still Hostage After All These Years
    (Originally Aired 24 Nov 01)

    A plane with medicine is hijacked.

    Cutter's ex-GF ( Yvette Nipar ) is the CIA negotiator.

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 2, Episode 9] Return of the Native
    (Originally Aired 26 Jan 02)

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 2, Episode 10] The Maltaka Files
    (Originally Aired 2 Feb 02)

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 2, Episode 11] Stranded in the Jungle
    (Originally Aired 9 Feb 02)

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 2, Episode 12] Coming to Africa
    (Originally Aired 16 Feb 02)

    This is about an arranged marriage, between a S daughter to an African chieftain.

    Sheena Sheena (2000) [Season 2, Episode 13] The World According to Mendelsohn
    (Originally Aired 23 Feb 02)