Queen of Swords

Season 1 Episode 10

The Serpent

Aired Saturday 10:30 PM Jan 20, 2001 on
out of 10
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Episode Summary

The Serpent
El Serpiente, a famous bandit, decides on Santa Helena as his next target and manages to put a rift between the Queen of Swords and Doctor Helm.

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  • A true masterpiece of an episode...for all the right reasons.

    Please Note: This review contains spoilers.


    Many fans of Queen of Swords seem to rank THIS particular episode as their favourite out of the whole series. And quite right, too. Though my favourite(s) were Destiny and Takes a Thief, this one is nevertheless a milestone, due to it getting so VERY little wrong.

    Immediately, The Serpent kicks off with a terrific bang. We see El Serpiente (deliciously portrayed by David Carradine) and his character is immediately, yet wonderfully established as being an evil, sadistic man who just oozes venom. You know instantly that he's beyond redemption, beyond reason and the only solution for him is either justice or death.

    Then comes the Queen onto the scene. Who more than holds her own against him in a tough, gripping fight scene. Not only that, she wins. Right at the start, bringing him to his knees and inflicting a wound that leaves the animal bleeding to death (a most fitting comeuppance). She saves the day, right at the start. And that should be the end of that.

    And then Doctor Helm changes all that by saving his life. And that's what the episode is all about. Yes, there's just about the most vicious, almost unstoppable bandit to deal with, but it's really about morals and honour. And how there's no black and white world, just a really grey one.

    Steve Roberts really wrote an excellent episode here. And Tessie Santiago and Peter Wingfield truly brought his script to life. This was such a major turning point in the Queen and Doctor Helm's relationship and it was all essential viewing, everything from dialogue, to interaction, to action.

    Here, Helm is once again acting like the high-and-mighty egotist, accusing the Queen of being no different than the Serpent (obviously still bitter about him learning of her willingness to kill), tending to the Serpent on the grounds that's he an injured patient who falls under his oath. Then he learns the hard way of what happpens when you save a snake. And then it's the Queen's turn to chew him out big time, asking him if his oath is more important than all the innocent lives he's condemned by letting the Serpent live.

    Doctor Helm (struggling with his torment): "It...it's not as simple as that...This is a matter of honour!"

    Queen of Swords: "Don't fool yourself, Doctor. There's no honour in protecting a murderer. Only vanity."

    THAT was such a great line. Such a great scene, one of several. Everything from private talks between Tessa and Robert, the Queen and Doctor Helm's intense arguments, the Queen FINALLY learning about Robert's soldiering past, both learning their true feelings about each other, the horror, the guilt over the blood on both their hands, escaping the Serpent's men, the scene with Montoya...all of this was superbly acted by Tessie and Peter. It was another classic case of the chemistry they had, and both of them put all the right levels of emotion into their scenes and the character/plot developments.

    And then of course, there was the finale. Where El Serpiente invaded Helm's office. A really, nasty fight indeed. And then there was the showdown with the Queen, yet another terrific, dark showdown that surpassed their one at the start of the episode. The Queen losing here was purposeful to what happened next. And I must comment that I love how the Queen never ever looked weak in defeat, and if she was bested, it was against those who she'd conclusively beaten earlier (which makes it more believable).

    Now...the ending was TRULY shocking. Doctor Helm saving the Queen's life by throwing her dagger into the Serpent's heart. That was really gruesome, powerful and natural to the development of Helm's character. The Queen's passionate kiss to Helm that followed afterwards was truly an eye-widening moment and the look on Helm's face afterwards! Full of clarity over his reciprocated feelings and that the world is greyer than he realised! It was all so purposeful...and so natural, too.

    Anything, else? Montoya was brilliant as always. The moment where he insisted on having the Dons ride out with him to apprehend the Serpent was great comedy (much needed), the face-off with the Queen and Helm was crackingly tense stuff, and the moment where he walked in on the aftermath of Helm's killng was very subtle indeed.

    Does all this merit a perfect 10, though? For me, no. And these are trifles really. It was yet another highly intense episode (despite it being so well crafted). At this point, I'd had enough with over-intensity (something which would be given a rest throughout the remainder of the show's run)...and the closing scene where Tessa offered sympathy and Doctor Helm just dismissed her condescendingly...AGAIN. I rolled my eyes upward at that. After an episode full of heavy-going stuff, I think it's time to move forward, don't you, Robert? Thankfully, that would change in subsequent episodes where Helm would accept both the Queen and Tessa.

    But really, my nitpicks are just nitpicks. The Serpent truly ranks as one of the best episodes in this cult classic. It really does make me wish there'd been a second season. Oh, well. Thank heavens for reruns, DVDs and YouTube.

    Final rating: 9.5/10moreless
Peter Wingfield

Peter Wingfield

Dr. Robert Helm

Anthony Lemke

Anthony Lemke

Captain Marcus Grisham

Tessie Santiago

Tessie Santiago

María Teresa 'Tessa' Alvarado/the Queen of Swords

Paulina Gálvez

Paulina Gálvez


Valentine Pelka

Valentine Pelka

Colonel Luís Montoya

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions