The far ranging adventures of Hercules and his sidekick Iolaus were truly epic in the grandest sense of the word.
Hercules: The Legendary Journeys is a special piece of TV history. The unique, stylized reimagining of the classic hero captured fans imaginations from 1995 to 1999, and spawned the iconic TV series from the same era, Xena: Warrior Princess.
The far ranging adventures of Hercules and his sidekick Iolaus were truly epic in the grandest sense of the word. That being said, there are also more than a few things in the series that are a little confusing, some that have only gotten more confusing over time.
Hercules Vs. Heracles
Hercules was set in a fictionalized version of ancient Greece. He dealt with ancient Greek monsters and gods, fighting to defend the Greek people from all the evils of the world. He’s even part god as the son of Zeus and a mortal woman. There’s only one problem with all of that. Hercules is Roman, not Greek.
The Greek hero people commonly call Hercules is actually Heracles. Hercules is the knockoff Roman version that came later. People seem to like the name Hercules better so all of Heracles’ stories end up attributed to him in pop culture.
Taking a further step beyond that, the version of ancient Greece that appears in the series is more than a little ambiguous. Beyond ancient Greece, the series also had significant Asian, Medieval and Egyptian influences.
Keeping in mind Hercules was not meant to be historically accurate, it’s also not particularly clear where the show fits into history even in a fictional context. There are some hints but some of them are contradictory, too. This is one of those things that are best to not think about too much or it all starts falling apart.
One such incongruity is Iolaus, though this one is less historical and more mythology. In the world of the TV series, Hercules knows Iolaus from his youth. They went to the same academy together and grew up to become two of the greatest heroes in ancient Greece.
But there was actually an Iolaus in the same mythology that birthed Heracles. A divine hero, Iolaus was the nephew of Heracles. He helped with the famed labours and was also one of the Argonauts. Some of this was utilized in the series but the familial connection was not explored.
The Greek pantheon quite expectedly comes up on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys as well as on its spinoff Xena: Warrior Princess. One of the gods who appear the most frequently in both series is Aphrodite. She’s actually one of the few gods Xena leaves alive when her show wraps up. But her relationship to Hercules is a bit confusing.
While it’s made clear that they are siblings due to their shared father in Zeus, the specifics are a little dicey. At different times, she refers to Hercules as both her big brother and her little brother. God or not, that seems like something set in stone.
The Metric System
Excluding a couple of key regions, most parts of the word have adopted the Metric System. But one place that hasn’t is ancient Greece, probably because it was invented long after that era in history. As such, it’s kind of weird that it seems to be the measurement system of choice in Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.
The show was shot in New Zealand where the Metric System is used but that still doesn’t add up. But they’re also speaking English which didn’t exist then, either, so you could just chalk it up to whatever magic spell is translating their dialogue.
Hera Really Hates Him
For the first few seasons of the series, the main villain is Hera. As the wife of Zeus, she considers Hercules to be a constant, walking reminder of her husband’s infidelity. The rage she directs at Hercules is virtually limitless, so much so that she actually kills his entire family early in the series.
Iolaus convinces him to use his grief and anger to do good, and the legendary journey begins. While Hera’s anger is justified, directing it at Hercules and not Zeus seems odd. Zeus wronged her, not Hercules, after all and it takes it a long time for her to let it go.
As a young demi-god, Hercules attended Cheiron’s Academy alongside his friend and future heroic partner Iolaus. Cheiron was a centaur and highly respected warrior who started his academy to teach the youth of Greece how to be heroes.
While it’s odd that this place exists, it’s even more odd that Hercules would need to attend it. There has to be better and more effective was to learn the heroic arts than a four year program at a local community college run by a half man, half horse. It seems like the kind of job where experience is more important than a certificate.
The Academy factored heavily into the 1998 spinoff series, Young Hercules. It chronicled Hercules’ early days as a hero as he and Iolaus grew into their roles. The thing that makes no sense here is why this show even existed. Anything relevant about the demi-god’s past was regularly explored on the original show.
Outside of trying to capitalize on a popular series, there was no reason to make Young Hercules. That might be why they only made one season containing 50 episodes. The best part? Ryan Gosling played Young Hercules.
Xena: Warrior Princess
Fortunately, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys also had a very successful spin off called Xena: Warrior Princess. It was so successful that it started beating Hercules during season two of Xena and didn’t stop as long as they were both on the air. None of that is weird, though.
What is weird is how bitter about it Kevin Sorbo reputedly got. Some have claimed that he didn’t like aspects of Xena’s character, though his criticisms were likely due to being down in the ratings. It makes no sense to be this upset about the situation but a bruised ego can make you do strange things.
Hercules Produces His Own Show
In the series, it is shown that Hercules survives to the late 20th Century and adopts the name “Kevin Sorbo.” He works on Hercules: The Legendary Journeys to make sure that it accurately reflects the era he lived in. This gag sets up a bit of a paradox that is hard to unravel yourself from.
If Hercules is Sorbo and he makes Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, is the actor fans think of a Kevin Sorbo in real life actually Hercules?
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