Legendary Journeys

Back in the Bottle
Xena Powers back bottle.jpg
Xena defends herself against Khan's army
Series Xena: Warrior Princess
Season 5
Antagonist Pao Ssu, Ming T'ien, Khan
Setting Chin
In-Universe Date Year 4
Production # V0909
Filming Dates 7 July to 16 July 1999
Original Air-Date 15 November 1999
Story By Rob Tapert & Buddy Williers
Teleplay By Buddy Williers
Directed By Rick Jacobson
Episode Chronology
Order in Series 97 of 134
Order in Season 7 of 22
Order in Franchise 265 of 304
Previous Episode in Series "Purity"
Next Episode in Series "Little Problems"
Previous Episode in Franchise "A Wicked Good Time"
Next Episode in Franchise "Full Circle"
Title Image
Bakc in the Bottle TITLE.jpg

When Joxer discovers he didn't destroy all of the Black Powder, Xena receives visions from the future, telling her that Chin was still in danger. Pao Ssu was revived, along with an enemy that Xena thought she'd killed a long time ago.


Xena is trying to use her powers to roast some rabbits Gabrielle caught, but she can't control them and turns the rabbits to stone. Joxer finds a bag of black powder that he forgot to destroy. When Xena grabs it off him she has a vision of Gabrielle fighting with a staff alongside Joxer and a Chinese warrior. They are struck by a volley of rockets and blasted to smithereens.

Realising that their mission in Chin failed, Xena leads them back. They encounter K'ao Hsin leading a group of refugees who are fleeing to the border ahead of the warlord Khan's army. Khan has summoned the ghost of Ming T'ien, The Green Dragon, back into existence to lead the conquest of Chin. Pao Ssu has tagged along on his reverse side and given them the formula for the black powder.

Xena decides they won't make the border in time and everyone will have to shelter in the caves under La Mao's palace. Gabrielle joins Lin Chi and his men, who have been fighting Khan, in defeating some advance troops. They then set about preparing and fortifying the caves for the refugees. Xena saves Joxer and a group of straggling refugees from Khan's advancing army using her powers to erect a force field. Gabrielle and Lin Chi arrive to hold of Khan's men as they retreat to the palace.

Gabrielle and Lin Chi infiltrate Khan's camp to blow up his munitions tent, but they are caught in a trap. Khan lights a fuse to blow the tent up with them in it, to demonstrate how little they can do to stop him conquering all Chin. Xena senses Gabrielle is in danger and uses her powers to suck all the air out of the tent extinguishing the fuse, allowing Gabrielle and Lin Chi to escape.

As Khan's 100,000 strong army attacks the palace and Xena stands alone to face them, trusting that her powers will work when needed. Gabrielle, Lin Chi and Joxer fight their way into Khan's troop to rescue prisoners being used as a human shield against Xena's powers. Xena summons a giant forcefield that bounces Khan's rockets back on his own troops. Gabrielle is disarmed of her Sais so she picks up a spear, breaks of the tip, and wields it as a staff as Xena saw in the vision.

Xena finally tires and the shield drops. Khan orders three cavalrymen to run her down, but Xena knocks them of their horses with a ball of energy. Gabrielle is surrounded and calls out to Xena who uses the last of her power to target anything wearing The Green Dragon emblem. She turns all Ming T'ien's army to stone, creating the Terracotta Army. Ming T'ien/Pao Ssu screams and explodes. Gabrielle kisses Lin Chi goodbye on the cheek. Xena tells K'ao Hsin that she was thinking of protecting those she loved, not hatred for Ming T'ien, when she did it, so Lao Ma was right and love can stop an army.


Pao Ssu's split personality was not harmed during the production of this motion picture.

Background Information[]

Behind the Scenes[]

  • Rob Tapert (Executive Producer/Writer/Director) was not happy with the two Chin episodes, Purity and Back in the Bottle, and revealed in an interview with Whoosh in January 2001 his disappointment with them, "The whole reason for Xena’s conflict in China… was about how, as a pregnant mother, could she take 100,000 lives in order to save the lives of a few, but that whole concept got dropped out of the show." Alex [Kurtzman] and Bob [Orci] added in Ming T’ien to give it some semblance of order but script wise.
  • In The Chakram Newsletter issue 10, Renee O'Connor did not like the Gabrielle/Lin Chi as a relationship. She praised actor Anthony Wong, but felt he wasn't the right love interest for Gabrielle and alot of the writers saw this. On working with Wong, Renee explained He’s a brilliant actor, though. He’s the sort of actor who reacts off what you do – completely natural and honest in the scene and I really enjoyed working with him. It’s unfortunate he was cast in a role that couldn’t eventuate into anything.
  • Lucy Lawless was 6 months pregnant when this episode was filmed.
  • In The Season Five DVD Extras, Rick Jacobson the Director of the episode remarked The episode had problems right from the start and couldn't really put his finger in what went wrong, but the script went through many changes with so many people onboard. I knew the characters; I knew what they were doing… [But] I think [Lin Qi] was probably just miscast and Rob [Tapert] raised flags to it right from the get-go… but… myself, Eric Gruendemann, Chloe Smith, we all kind of felt that, ‘No, this guy is good.’… This [story] was from the mind of Rob. He loved the idea that Xena was responsible for these thousands of terra cotta soldiers that were unearthed.


  • The chant that is uttered by Khan to resurrect Ming T'ien and Pao Ssu was spoken in Cantonese, as are all the conversations that took place between Khan's soldiers. Cantonese is widely spoken in southern China, but it's vaguely implied that most episodes set in Chin are set in the north, due to their proximity to the great wall, Manchu fashion, and the fact that Xena usually travelled north of the Himalayas to get to Chin.
  • "Khan" is the Mongolian word for "king" or "chieftain". The character in this episode was probably based on Genghis Khan, the greatest of Khans who created the largest land empire in history during the 12th century CE – some time after the presumed ages of Hercules and Xena.
  • Khan and his army are turned into terra-cotta statues. The real Terra-cotta Army was had no connection to any Khan, as it was built for the tomb of Qin Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of China who reigned during the 3rd century BCE.
  • This is the second time Xena has defied a prophecy, the first time took place in One Against an Army.
  • Gunpowder, like most explosives, contains its own oxidising agent (the saltpeter, 'herb for preserving meats'). Thus removing the surrounding air (and oxygen) will NOT stop gunpowder from burning.

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