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Anchor Bay presents
Hercules: The Legendary Journeys—Season Five (1998-1999)

Hercules: What are you doing here?
Iolaus: What do you mean?
Hercules: Ioalus, you're dead.
Iolaus: Well, I was hoping you wouldn't notice.

- Kevin Sorbo, Michael Hurst

Review By: Dan Heaton   
Published: January 11, 2005

Stars: Kevin Sorbo, Michael Hurst
Other Stars: Gina Torres, Tony Todd, Tamara Gorski, Bruce Campbell, Robert Trebor, Karl Urban, Hudson Leick, Renee O'Connor, Jeffrey Thomas, Alexandra Tydings, Joel Tobeck, Meighan Desmond, Kevin Smith, Sam Jenkins
Director: Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (suitable for most television audiences)
Run Time: 18h:00m:00s
Release Date: January 11, 2005
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B+ A-BA- A-

DVD Review

Entering its fifth season, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys continued to reside under the shadow of its more popular spinoff Xena: Warrior Princess. Many viewers failed to even realize that this series truly started the phenomenon, and that Xena would never exist without Hercules. In addition, the boom of syndicated action-adventure series was starting to wane, which left the show's producers in a difficult bind. Should they play it safe and keep churning out the campy, crowd-pleasing stories that occupied much of the fourth season? Or could they venture into darker territory that would actually require star Kevin Sorbo to prove his acting skills? Emboldened by the arrival of several new writers, the producers and stars wisely chose the second route, which helped to generate arguably the series' best and most compelling season.

The conclusion of Season Four gave Hercules the opportunity to become a full God, but he instead chose his regular-guy life of helping people with his best friend Iolaus. This episode also included the ultimate demise of Hera—the primary enemy throughout the show's entire run. What new evil would rise to take her place? After battling countless enemies and monsters, our hero deserved some much-needed time for rest and relaxation. Instead, Season Five would take Hercules across the world and lead him to the brink of despair.

In Faith, the season premiere, Hercules immediately faces a serious threat in the evil Dahak, a familiar name to Xena fans. Learning of troubles in the faraway land of Sumeria, Hercules decides to join Iolaus and their attractive pal Nebula (Gina Torres) on a voyage to save the day. Unfortunately, a nasty betrayal from the apparently friendly King Gilgamesh (Tony Todd), a Dahak disciple, leads to the death of Iolaus, which devastates the son of Zeus. He vows to journey into the Underworld once again to save his friend, a tactic that worked in the Season Three episode Not Fade Away. This time, however, the stakes are much higher, and Hercules finds himself losing interest in being a hero.

The season-opening trilogy of Faith, Descent, and Resurrection stands as one of the most powerful stories in the series' history. The second entry follows Hercules' journey towards the Sumerian Underworld, which includes some grisly moments and may not produce the desired result. The final chapter is more impressive and brings him to the island of Eire, where the Druids face persecution from the assassin Morrigan (Tamara Gorski). However, some cracks appear in the attractive girl's armor that may reveal a more tortured soul beneath the violent acts. Guided by a wise Druid child Mabon (Nicko Vella), Hercules begins to regain feelings of self-worth, which will be necessary to combat his new enemy. With the exception of the early moments of the premiere, the trilogy includes few laughs and avoids the typically over-the-top fight scenes. Sorbo plays it straight and nicely depicts his character's grief without resorting to the obvious clichés.

Serving as a travelogue of myths from other regions, this season also takes Hercules to the icy landscapes of Scandinavia to battle Thor and the Viking Gods. The two part-story of Norse by Norsevest and Somewhere Over the Rainbow Bridge introduces some interesting new characters to the mix, but it also promulgates some obvious stereotypes about the Norse figures. However, it is enjoyable to see Hercules again interacting within a new environment. After saving the day once again, our hero returns to Sumeria to again battle Dahak, who has now inhabited the body of familiar figure. The events culminate in the nasty two-parter of Let There Be Light and Redemption, which brings Hercules face to face with the fearsome evil being.

The episodes described thus far could combine with some throwaway entries to craft a complete season, but they only have led us halfway through Season Five. The Iolaus/Dahak story takes a break for two nonessential episodes, Genies and Grecians and Geeks, Oh My and For Those of You Just Joining Us. Both provide some comic relief, especially from Bruce Campbell and Robert Trebor, but they feel out of place within the larger structure. I believe the producers felt obligated to give the kids and fans of the silly fare at least a few moments of relief or risk losing their interest completely.

The second half of Season Five is not as consistently gripping, but it still includes some noteworthy highlights. Stranger and Stranger returns Hercules to the alternate universe originally seen in the previous season's Stranger in a Strange World. Each person has a double in this world, but they act as bizarro variations of the originals. Iolaus' double is a cowardly guy, but he follows Hercules home, giving Michael Hurst more extensive screen time. Hercules also assists with a fashion show in Greece is Burning, helps save a mermaid in Love on the Rocks, and joins time traveler King Arthur in Once Upon a Future King. In Redemption, the season finale, the Archangel Michael arrives and begins the apocalypse, which could mean the end of all things. Will Hercules once again prevail over incredible odds?

Kevin Sorbo has always performed well in the comedic and fighting scenes, but he receives few chances to flex his dramatic acting talents. It's not exactly Shakespeare, but this season does provide more opportunities for character development. Michael Hurst has always been a series favorite, and he has fun playing several different roles. Newcomers Tamara Gorski and Nicko Vella add impressive depth to possibly one-note roles, and plenty of returning characters light up the screen. The best of the batch include Gina Torres as Nebula, Bruce Campbell as Autolycus, Robert Trebor as Salmoneus, Jeffrey Thomas as Jason, and Kevin Smith as Ares.

Hercules: The Legendary Journeys—Season Five represents a surprise resurgence for a series that appeared to have lost its creative direction. Unfortunately, the mass audiences did not seem to share in this positive attitude. Universal did order a sixth season, but the former hit series lasted only eight episodes before being cancelled. This collection stands as the last complete look at a series that charmed many with its odd mix of silliness, mythology, and touching drama.

Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: Hercules: The Legenadary Journeys—Season Five utilizes its original full-frame transfer with some minor digital upgrades. A majority of the scenes provide solid, bright colors that present the outdoor landscape effectively. However, a surprisingly high level of grain appears periodically and distracts from the story's overall effectiveness. These defects have also appeared in past seasons, and it is disappointing to observe them again with this set. The transfers are generally decent overall, but some sloppy shots do lessen my recommendation.

Image Transfer Grade: B

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: This collection does provide an impressive 5.1-channel Dolby Digital track, which enhances the original television stereo audio. The score appears often during each episode and it springs well from the front and center speakers. The rear speakers are also utilized periodically, which leads to an attractive sound field. Limitations do exist within this transfer due to its television origins, however, which keeps it from reaching an even higher level. Considering these restrictions, this transfer deserves a strong recommendation.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 110 cues and remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Featurette(s)
3 Feature/Episode commentaries by Kevin Sorbo and Michael Hurst on Faith and For Those of You Just Joining Us; Paul Robert Coyle on Stranger and Stranger
Weblink/DVD-ROM Material
Packaging: Box Set
Picture Disc
9 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Bonus CD-ROM disc with Hercules Chronicles, Bios, Trivia, and Mythology
  2. Cast and Crew Interviews on Resurrection, Norse by Norsevest, Redemption, Just Passing Through, We'll Always Have Cyprus, My Best Girl's Wedding, and Revelations
  3. On-set Interviews with Kevin Sorbo & Anthony Quinn
  4. Photo Galleries
  5. Credits
Extras Review: Hercules: The Legendary Journeys—Season Five offers another solid collection of extra features that should please the show's devoted fans. Presented attractively by Anchor Bay in a colorful fold-out package, the nine discs should occupy viewers for a long time. Specific worthy extras are described in the sections below:

Cast and Crew Interviews
As with past Hercules sets, the best extras are the interview featurettes, which range between five and ten minutes and offer considerable information. Many of the comments come from Kevin Sorbo and Michael Hurst, who sometimes have foggy memories about the episodes, but they do exude plenty of enthusiasm for the show. Rob Tapert also appears and delivers his typical high level of informative material. A downside to the interviews is the large amount of clips between the discussions, which sometimes fail to even correspond with the conversation. The best moment has Sorbo and Hurst discussing their relationship and the difference between their characters and the actors' outside lives.

Audio Commentaries
The feature-length audio tracks work less effectively with these sets, as the actors often have only sparse memories of the original productions. The best commentary occurs on Faith with Sorbo and Hurst discussing this pivotal episode. The actors also have a lot of fun discussing For Those of You Just Joining Us, but this silly episode is less interesting in the overall series. Paul Robert Coyle also does a solid job with Stranger and Stranger, which made me wish he did a few more commentaries in this collection.

Featurette: Bringing Monsters to LIfe at K.N.B. EFX Group Part 2
Our silly guide returns for another 17-minute tour of the effects shop that concludes the tour began in the Season Four collection. We learn more intriguing details about the creation of monsters and costumes for the series.

On-set Interviews with Kevin Sorbo & Anthony Quinn
This feature is extremely odd because it looks back at the series' origins by presenting early interviews with Sorbo and Quinn, who played Zeus in the television movies. It seems this 10-minute piece would make sense accompanying those films, but it still provides an interesting viewing. Both Sorbo and Quinn are very candid and seem genuinely excited about the production.

Bonus CD-ROM
Hercules devotees should again enjoy this bonus disc, which includes the Hercules Chronicles; trivia; cast and crew biographies, and background on the mythological aspects of the series. The material is overwhelming, but it's definitely the type of extra that more shows should include.

Extras Grade: A-

 

Final Comments

My television viewing tastes usually lead me to shows with ongoing storylines that reward viewers for tuning in frequently. It is extremely frustrating to watch characters each week who appear to have no memory of past experiences. Season Five of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys develops a consistent story from the beginning and exceeded my expectations considerably. Packaged well and offering a solid collection of extra features, this boxed set earns a solid recommendation.

 


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