Season four of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys adheres to the basic premise of the previous three seasons: Half-god, half-human Hercules (Kevin Sorbo) continues to spread good will and good deeds throughout the known world, accompanied by his mortal friend Iolaus (Michael Hurst), aided and abetted by various and sundry gods, demigods, and humans and antagonized by an equivalent number of villains, chief among them the Queen of Gods, Hera (played this season by Meg Foster), who is still determined to destroy her stepson Hercules as a means of getting even with her husband (and Hercules' father) Zeus (Roy Dotrice). That said, the fourth season offers a number of entertaining diversions and digressions, beginning with the first episode, "Beanstalks and Bad Eggs," which incredibly but successfully transposes the Jack and the Beanstalk fairy tale to the milieu of Greek Mythology. Other episodes in this irreverent vein include "And Fancy Free," a musical spoof of the recent theatrical feature "Strictly Ballroom," in which series regular Michael Hurst, normally cast as the virile Iolaus, has a high old time in the "drag" role of dance instructor Widow Twankey (a character who would continue to show up in future installments); "Men in Pink," an outrageous parody of Billy Wilder's Some Like It Hot, focusing on the two larcenous recurring characters Salmoneus (Robert Trebor) and Autolycus (Bruce Campbell); and perhaps best of all, "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Hercules," set in modern-day Hollywood, in which the production staff of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (played in mufti by several of the series' semi-regulars) frantically cast about for a replacement when their star Kevin Sorbo (playing himself, sort of) suddenly vanishes. The most spectacular digression from the series' "norm" is manifested in "Stranger in a Strange World," the first of several episodes set in a bizarre parallel dimension, wherein the personalities of the various Hercules characters are radically altered -- and not always for the better.
While it is pleasant to see the normally belligerent war god Ares (Kevin Smith) as a benignly sexy stud, for example, it is disturbing to witness Hercules "morph" into a despotic dictator known as The Sovereign. The cast's visits to this parallel universe would increase in subsequent episodes, with some fascinating interpolations and crossovers. A few new characters make their first appearances during this season, among them the appropriately named Discord (Meighan Desmond), troublesome handmaiden of the malevolent Ares, and Hercules' half-brother, Apollo (Scott Michaelsen), a source of envy and discomfort for Hercules vis-à-vis his tattered relationship with Zeus. Three of the "new" faces are, however, not all that new in the general scheme of things: a preponderance of flashback sequences during season four requires the presence of a trio of younger actors to play the earlier versions of Hercules, Hercules' stepfather Jason (portrayed as an "adult" by Jeffrey Thomas) and Iolaus. Season four ends with the death of Hercules' mortal mother,Alcmene (Liddy Holloway), and an invitation extended to Hercules from his father, Zeus, to become a "full immortal" and take his rightful place in Olympus. Curiously, this situation does not result in a cliffhanger, to be resolved at the beginning of Season Five, though Hercules' ultimate decision to retain his half-human status does make possible all that is to come in future episodes. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
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