Xena the Warrior Princess and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are probably the two most iconic genre series of the 90’s. Many of the tropes and staples from modern cult series can be traced back to these two shows with the likes of Teen Wolf, Torchwood, Merlin, Atlantis and even the revived Doctor Who all owing a huge debt to Buffy and Xena.
Well as always I can’t say for everyone, but I am going to look at both series side by side and conclude which I feel to be superior and by all means tell me where you think I go wrong in the comments below.
Xena was a big influence on Buffy. Joss Whedon has stated that without Xena there would have been no Buffy tv series as have many others. It would be wrong to say that Xena was the first even genre series staring a female lead. The Bionic Woman and Terry Nation’s (creator of the Daleks in Doctor Who) 1970’s series Survivors were both very popular genre series that starred strong female characters. However Xena certainly its fair to say did break down a lot of barriers and made series about female heroes trendy which they had never been before.
There may have been the odd isolated series about a female hero like Wonder Woman or Survivors, but I think its fair to say that Xena was the first that led to a wave which included Buffy among others. Thus there are a lot of comparisons that can be drawn between both shows which I will do here.
1/ Main Character
Now unlike with other characters of both series there are no real similarities between these two characters. In fact Xena and Buffy are actually polar opposites.
Xena is the type of hero who is never vulnerable in fights, even when facing down gods she still has the advantage even without powers. She is also a completely larger than life character who lives in a total fantasy world and even just physically she looks intimidating and frightening.
Buffy on the other hand when it comes to fights is rarely not vulnerable. Buffy is always the underdog against villains like the Master, The Mayor or Adam, and instead often has to think of another way round her problems. Buffy also though living in a world with Vampires, Demons and monsters, still deals with everyday problems like going to school, working a 9-5 shift in a low paying job, worrying about social services taking her sister away, and her mum dying of a brain tumor. Finally in terms of appearance Buffy is meant to look harmless. She looks like the little blond girl who is always lured away to be killed and thus at first glance seems like the monsters ideal victim with the twist being that she turns around and kicks its ass.
Therefore whilst there are similarities between both series ultimately the two main characters are as different as night and day so there is no way to really compare them instead I am just going to look at who I like better.
Well I am going to have to go with Xena this time. Xena to me was always a more interesting character. I liked her dark past which I felt was quite original, more so than Buffy. I know that anti heroes had been done to death, but Xena was quite an original take on the idea. Never before had there been an anti hero who had done such terrible things. Xena had literally been one of the worst people who had ever lived. She had slaughtered thousands of innocent men, women and children. That goes beyond even characters like Wolverine and really to make a character like that who had such a dark past someone we could root for was incredible.
Xena I think would also be influential on the Buffy franchise this way. Whilst there are no comparisons between the Buffy and Xena characters that can be drawn; as many have pointed out the character of Angel, Buffy’s Vampire lover bares a number of similarities to Xena.
Angel like Xena was once the worst of the worst, an evil bloodthirsty Vampire who killed thousands of innocent people, but after being cursed with a soul he is now on a course of redemption. Angel like Xena also has to deal with people from his dark past who still haven’t forgiven him such as Holtz and Callisto who are two comparable characters.
Both Holtz and Callisto have lost their families to the main hero when the hero was evil and both still seek revenge, not caring that the hero is a different person now. Both also despite being villains actually earn the audiences sympathy as in any other work of fiction they would be the hero. Callisto would be someone like Uma Thurman’s Bride from Kill Bill (who was apparently inspired by Callisto) whilst Holtz would be a Vampire Hunter, the likes of which Peter Cushing probably would have played who was tracking down the evil Vampire that killed his loved ones. Unfortunately however because their targets have now become good they are seen as the villains.
At the same time I think we have seen other similar characters emerge besides Angel who have done the most twisted and evil things, and are now on a course of redemption like Xena, such as the Regina, Evil Queen from Once Upon A Time.
Thus Xena I feel was not only an original take on the anti hero character, but also had a visible influence on the industry with the likes of Angel, the Bride and Regina all following in her wake.
Buffy meanwhile whilst she was a great character the idea behind her wasn’t that original. I liked the mythology of the Slayer. That was an inspired idea that every generation one girl was given power to hunt Vampires.
However the idea of the Buffy character herself of a teenage hero who has to balance their everyday lives with their superhero identities has been done a billion times before and yes there had even been female heroes like that before such as Kitty Pride from the X-Men. Of course that’s not to say that Buffy was a bad character, but if we are doing a comparison here then Xena I feel was simply more original.
Xena 1/ Buffy 0
2/Heroes Best Friend
Again these two characters are not really that similar. They are to some extent, both start out as vulnerable and wimpy, but then become strong by the end of the show. Both are also lesbian icons as well, though to be fair the character of Gabrielle was actually bisexual. Still this one is very easy for me to choose. Its Willow 100 percent.
I liked Gabrielle in the first three seasons of Xena. She was a brilliant character in the first 3 years and her and Xena’s relationship developed quite nicely. We saw how Gabrielle started out as Xena’s little sidekick who idolised her and everything she did but eventually became so much more than that .
She was the one person who could hold Xena back when she lost it which given the Warrior princesses history was quite often. One of my favourite moments is in early season 1 where Ares has driven Xena over the edge by pretending to be her father and then made her believe that villagers have murdered her father. Gabrielle is the one who actually manages to stop Xena from killing the villagers in revenge.
She uses force when standing up to Xena at one point, even though she would have no chance. This scene shows us how Xena needs Gabrielle someone who loves her, but will stand up to her if she feels she is wrong. Gabrielle also goes behind Xena’s back too however in season 3 on two occasions which results in disaster for both of them. A lot of fans disliked “The Rift” story arc in series 3, but I thought it was great and really brought and interesting new dynamic to their relationship and showed how Gabrielle wasn’t just the little irritating blonde who followed Xena everywhere.
Sadly however from season 4 on the writers of the show somewhat wasted Gabrielle’s character.
In season 4 they make Gabrielle a hippie chick which they quickly abandon in season 5 making it look like it was just a little phase or something for her rather than a proper development.
After that she then becomes nothing more than Xena’s cheerleader for seasons 5 and 6. She tells Xena she is fabulous in every way and is pretty much pushed into the background for most of it. Even when Xena cracks her head open with the chakram in season 5 she doesn’t say anything back to Xena. Yeah Xena apologises a bit the next episode but Gabrielle’s like no that’s fine.
Gone is the character in season 1 who hit Xena with a staff to stop her in her tracks if need be. Her ending is also similarly lame as she just ends up becoming Xena the second as if that’s the only way she can ever become interesting is to become a clone of Xena.
Willow meanwhile I felt was an interesting character throughout all of Buffy’s run. Some fans hated how she became a magic junkie in series six, but I liked it.
I felt it made sense within the character. Willow had been someone who had been put down her entire life and was now getting a taste of unimaginable power it made sense that it would go to her head and they had already planted seeds that Willow was capable in fits of anger of misusing her power as far back as season 4, so it didn’t feel like it came out of the blue or was out of character for me.
Also I liked how Willow in the last episode of Buffy became a hero in her own right having finally mastered her magical abilities and made a difference in the world. She didn’t just become Buffy mark 2.
Xena 1/ Buffy 1
3/ Best Supernatural Lovable Rogue
Now these two characters are very similar. In fact in some ways they are practically the same character who undergoes the same development on both shows.
Both Ares and Spike were very popular characters as both were among the most well developed characters on either series. Spike and Ares also had major roles on both series in their respective franchises as well. Ares appeared in both Xena and Hercules as a main villain whilst Spike was a season regular on both Buffy and Angel at different points. Thus unlike a lot of other characters we were able to see how they interacted with the two different heroes, Xena and Hercules and Buffy and Angel.
Spike’s relationship with both Buffy and Angel was comparable to Ares relationship with Xena and Hercules.
On the series starring the female hero Ares starts out as a villain, arguably Xena’s archnemesis after Callisto. However as time goes on we discover that he is in fact in love with Xena and we start to see a more sympathetic side to him from that point on.
Ares in order to win Xena’s love does genuinely good things like giving up his godhood in order to protect her daughter. At the same time Xena finds herself drawn to him though she can’t ever quite admit that she loves him due to his nature, but still when he is vulnerable as a human she protects him. Whilst Ares loves for Xena does bring out his good side at the same time his obsessive love for her also drives him to ironically do some of his most twisted acts too. In season 5 he threatens to reveal the location of her daughter to the gods who will kill her unless she gives him a child. Ares is a very morally grey character overall throughout most of Xena’s run.
Spike similarly on the show starring a female hero starts out as a villain. Eventually however he realises he has fallen in love with Buffy too and just like Ares with Xena, Spike’s love for Buffy causes him to do good things including winning his soul for her and destroying the Firsts army. Buffy also finds herself drawn to Spike too, but can never at least until the last episode admit that she loves him, though she still does protect him when he is vulnerable in season 7 after gaining his soul. However also like Ares, Spike’s love for Buffy does cause him to do horrible things such as the infamous scene where he attempts to rape an injured Buffy.
On the series starring a male lead Hercules, Ares is a very different character. Initially he is a lot more menacing and villainous. On Xena even from the beginning it was obvious he had feelings for her and thus he always held back to an extent when facing her, but with Hercules he hates him completely and genuinely wishes to destroy him. He is much more vicious in his early Hercules appearances such as the Hind Blood trilogy.
However incredibly enough as time goes one he ends up becoming a more comical character as we discover that his feud with Hercules is actually a lot more petty and childish than we initially believed. Ares is merely jealous of Hercules because Hercules is Zeus’s favourite child. He is also resentful of Hercules’s relationship with Xena too as it was Hercules who redeemed Xena. In later series Ares and Hercules seem more like the squabbling brothers they actually are rather than mortal enemies and there are a lot of memorable comedic moments with Ares in later Hercules episodes.
Spike similarly on the show with a male lead Angel initially starts out as much darker character. In his single villainous appearance in the Angel season 1 episode, “In the Dark” Spike is a lot more effective as a villain than he ever was on Buffy.
On Buffy though unlike Ares it wasn’t obvious he had feelings for her from the start he was still not quite as villainous as he appeared on Angel. In his early season 2 appearances on Buffy there was always his love for Drusilla that showed a softer side to the character and at times made him appear even sympathetic.
However in “In the Dark” Spike is portrayed as an absolute sadistic, evil bloodthirsty monster. He works alongside what is probably the most twisted Vampire in both shows, Marcus a Vampire who aside from enjoying torturing people; also enjoys torturing, raping and eating children! Spike hires Marcus to help him torture Angel.
When Spike reappears in season 5 however he becomes a more comical character and much like Ares and Hercules’s rivalry, his feud with Angel becomes more petty. Angel and Spike are not actually brothers but their relationship is still like that of two squabbling brothers overall. Spike is also resentful of Angel’s relationship with Buffy in much the same way Ares was of Hercules’s relationship with Xena.
There are plenty of great comedic moments in later Angel episodes with Spike such as his wrestling with “the wee little puppet man” version of Angel, or arguing with him about who would win in a fight astronauts or cavemen. Both James Marsters who played Spike and Joss Whedon the creator of the series have said that they felt there was greater potential for comedy in Angel for the character of Spike.
So which one of these two very similar characters is better? Well its very hard to say as both where excellent characters well developed, brilliantly written and superbly acted by James Marsters and the late Kevin Smith.
Ultimately however I am going to go with Buffy here and say Spike was the better of the two characters. I actually prefer Ares relationship with Xena to Spike’s romance with Buffy. Spike’s romance to Buffy I never liked. To begin with I didn’t think James Marsters and Sarah Michelle Gellar had that much chemistry with each other. Certainly not on the level of Kevin Smith and Lucy Lawless.
Also I think that the romance was completely out of character for both Spike and Buffy. It came completely out of the blue in season 5 with no hint of attraction earlier apart from when Faith was briefly in Buffy’s body. With Xena and Ares meanwhile there was a hint of attraction from the second they were first on screen together and if anything the revelation that Ares was actually in love with Xena helped to explain his behaviour towards her in earlier series.
It explained why he had been so focused on her. Obviously there was the fact that she was the greatest warrior he had come across, but even then his obsession seemed to go beyond business and surely if he was looking at it objectively he would have killed Xena by now . He would have realised that there was no way she would become evil again and therefore as someone who was a far better fighter than any of his own warriors she would be too great a threat to him to be allowed to live,. Yet whenever he was presented with the opportunity to kill her he still never would.
His love for her helped to explain why he hadn’t. Xena’s draw to Ares meanwhile again made more sense as we knew that Xena had been a warlord for many years and therefore if there was anyone who could appeal to her darker side it would surely be the god of war himself. Still despite this overall Spike was the better character.
Spike was simply more fleshed out than Ares. Its not surprising really as Spike was after all a season regular on both shows where as Ares was only ever a guest star. With Spike we saw more of his character, such as his life as a human where he was a big momma’s boy, an unappreciated poet, his time as one of the most evil Vampires in history and his relationship with Angel.
I will say too that whilst the Xena/Ares relationship was better than the Spike/Buffy one the Spike/Angel relationship was much, much better than the Ares/Hercules relationship. Spike and Angel in my opinion have among the best relationship of any two fictional characters, though to be fair we see more of that in Angel. Spike I also feel is a more iconic character too. Indeed he is probably the character that people remember the most after Buffy herself from that franchise.
Spike overall I feel is the better character so I’m giving this one to the Buffster.
Xena 1/ Buffy 2
4/ Best Archenemy
Both of these characters are not quite as similar as Ares and Spike are. Both serve as a classic nemesis for the hero, and both also blame the hero for their downfall though Callisto has more of a point. Personally whilst they are both excellent villains, among tvs best I am going to go with Xena on this one and say that Callisto was the better villain. Callisto was a lot more sympathetic. Xena had genuinely wronged her where as Faith I felt was given every opportunity for a normal life but threw it back until it was too late. Callisto on the other hand was a character who managed to murder a child in her first appearance yet we still felt sympathy for her.
Xena 2/ Buffy 2
5/ Male Damsal in Distress
Whilst the two characters were different they fulfilled the same role in both series. They were both the comic relief’s, both the helpless members of the team’s, the damsel in distress. Both also had an unrequited love for one of the main female heroes, Gabrielle and Buffy.
Buffy takes this one as Xander was a much better character for me. Joxer was a very funny character but they did not develop him in any way shape or form even after all he had been through. He was still just the same clown we saw from series 1 on.
Xena 2/ Buffy 3
6/ Best Root of All Evil
Now these two characters are very similar. They are both meant to represent the source of all evil in their respective universes. Both also do not have a physical form and must work either through their minions or through manipulation of the main heroes. Whilst Dahak and the First may have no physical power they arguably cause more pain to the main heroes than any other villain.
The First almost drives Angel to kill himself in his debut appearance. You might not think that is so impressive as Angel ultimately doesn’t do it, but consider this; Angel is driven to such a point that even Buffy is not able to talk him down. Yes that’s right Buffy does not get through to Angel. It is only the intervention of the powers that be themselves who are the Buffyverse version of god that prevents Angel from killing himself by literally preventing the sun from coming up.
When he next appears the First is able to drive Spike to lunacy and later hypnotises him into killing half of Sunnydale. He then raises a super Vampire that beats the shit out of Buffy, he also destroys the watchers council, threatens to exterminate the entire slayer line forever, kills dozens of potential slayers, drives one to suicide in Buffy’s own home under her nose, and has his minion Caleb tear out Xanders eye which in turn along with his murder of several potential slayers convinces Buffy’s oldest friends to turn on her. Though his plan to unleash an army of thousands of Vampires to destroy mankind ultimately fails; he still ends up causing the complete destruction of Sunnydale, the death of hundreds of potentials and Anya and Spike too.
Dahak meanwhile does just as much shit to the main heroes of both Xena and Hercules. On Xena he tricks Gabrielle into killing for the first time, destroying her innocence in the process. He then rapes her afterwards, forcing her to give birth to his hellish daughter Hope. Hope in turn goes onto to manipulate Gabrielle into betraying Xena after which she then murders Xena’s only son Solon, which in turn leads Xena to almost torture Gabrielle to death.
Hope then having survived her mothers attempts to murder her very nearly erases Hercules from existence. By the end of season 3 Dahak has both Ares and Callisto as his minions, the two main villains of the series. Though his plans are thwarted in Xena season 3, he later crosses over into Hercules where he cause the death of Herc’s best friend and takes over his body (after manipulating his soul in the afterlife into letting him use his body and thus enter our world), wipes out the Norse Gods (though Herc undoes this), manipulates all of Hercules friends into turning on him, very nearly kills Ares and nearly wipes out all life on earth before finally being defeated. So which one is better?
Well hard to say. I liked the First’s minions better. The Turok Han were cool (in their first appearance at least) and Caleb was one of the best villains in either show. However I still think Dahak was a better take on the idea. Dahak scared me much more growing up and I think Dahak has more of an impact on the main characters being responsible for the infamous “gab drag” scene after all. Also the fact that Dahak managed to be a main villain on two series also shows what a stronger character he is. Even Dahak’s name is much cooler so I am going to go with Xena on this one.
Xena 3/ Buffy 3
7/ Best Batshit Crazy Villain
Both of these villains take the prize for being the most insane badguys in their respective franchises (which is no mean feat I can assure you). Both are great characters but once again I am going to go with Xena here and say Alti was better. Of the two of them Drusilla was definitely the more sympathetic and fleshed out character, Alti was just a monster.
However I still love Alti more because she was just such a badass. Alti fucking thrashed Xena every time they met. Xena only ever beat Alti with help apart from “Send in the Clones“ which might not even be canon. In their first confrontation Xena only beats Alti because she joins with the Amazon spirits making her as strong as they all are combined, in their second fight she only wins through some magic power she and Gabrielle are given at the last minute and in “Them Bones Them Bones”, Xena again has to join with all of the Amazons to stop Alti in the dream world. Any time Xena tries to face Alti without help she gets her ass kicked really badly.
Watch “Between the lines” when Xena and Gabrielle try to fight Alti on their own they get the shit kicked out of them, they don’t just lose they are both lying on the floor cut all over, broken ribs, broken legs crying and whimpering whilst Alti, who doesn’t even have a scratch on her is laughing at them!
Drusilla even though I liked her was sadly often quite underwhelming as a villain. She didn’t do anything in season 2. Seriously what does she do in that entire year?
For the first half of the series she is too ill and just sits at home babbling mad things whilst Spike does all of the badguy stuff. After she gets better she raises the judge, but even then Spike plays just as big a role as she does in raising him and also the Judge isn’t particularly impressive either. Round about this time Angelus also shows up and takes over from Spike as the main bad guy. He does all the fighting with Buffy, killing main characters, trying to bring about the end of the world, all Drusilla does once again is just stand around at the back babbling mad stuff. She doesn’t actually get to fight Buffy once in season 2 at all. She does get to do a lot more in Angel season 2 like turning Darla, but still overall I feel Alti makes more of an impression as a villain and thus I much prefer her.
Xena 4/ Buffy 3
8/ Best Musical
Both series did musical episodes, in fact Xena did two, Xena also did its musical episode before Buffy. Of the two of them Buffy’s however is far more famous. Sadly even though it came first I don’t think anyone other than Xena fans are aware that Xena did a musical episode. Now as to which one I prefer well to be honest I don’t have much time for either episode.
I know you’re probably going to ask me to hand in my resignation as a fan of both series, but I really don’t like either of them. I am not that big a fan of musicals overall to be honest and I can’t stand it when a tv series does one. It seems gimmicky and I also don’t like the fact that the musical episodes come at such important times in both series too.
I would have loved to have seen a proper episode of Xena that resolved what happened with Gabrielle and Xena after Solon’s death and similarly I would have liked to see a proper scene of Buffy telling her friends that they pulled her out of heaven, but instead both of those potentially great moments happened in stupid, cheesy songs.
I really don’t like either episode at all to be honest, but if I had to choose one then it would be the Xena one simply because Lucy Lawless I think has a much better singing voice than anyone in Buffy, though James Marsters, Anthony Head and Amber Benson all had great voices too, but Lucy’s voice is as gorgeous as she is.
Xena 5/ Buffy 3
9/Best body swap episode
Who Are You
Both series did an episode where the main heroes archenemy Callisto and Faith switched bodies with Buffy and Xena allowing Lucy Lawless and Hudson Leick and Sarah Michelle Gellar and Eliza Dushku to switch roles.
While Lawless and Gellar have fun hamming it up as the villain the ones who really shine her are Leick and Dushku who prove to be just as good at playing the heroes. However which one is better? Well again hard to say as both are classic episodes (much better than those cheesy god awful musical episodes) but once again I am going to have to go with the Warrior Princess.
I think this episode offers a much deeper insight into the character of Callisto than “Who Are You” does for Faith. I like how Callisto finally has to answer for her crimes. It is true that Callisto was wronged by Xena, but it also true that she now has committed great evil and there was no reason for her to do so, thus you finally lose your sympathy for Callisto and Callisto in turn loses her righteousness which changes the dynamic of her relationship with Xena.
Xena 6/ Buffy 3
10/ Best Episode Overall
The two best episodes of either series are among the best two episodes of any television series in my opinion. Both have everything you could possibly want from a tv classic, great script, terrific performances, great action sequences and incredibely powerful, shocking moments.
This time however I am going to have to give it to Buffy. Passion blew me away when I first saw it. I could not believe what I was seeing when Angel snapped Jenny’s neck and what he did afterwards with her corpse was just as horrifying.
Even today it still gets me and Giles and Buffy’s final fight with Angelus is more brutal than Xena and Callisto’s fight. Xena and Callisto’s fight is technically better but I prefer Buffy and Angeluses fight as it is more dirty. Buffy just pins Angelus down and doesn’t stop pummelling him she is so enraged. Passion is better than any Xena episode in my opinion.
Buffy 4/ Xena 6
11/ Second Best Episode
Return of Callisto
Yeah okay I obviously love the Callisto episodes. Most people would say that Hush is the best episode of Buffy but personally I prefer Passion, but Hush is still a classic episode for me nonetheless. This time I am going to go with Buffy. Return of Callisto is a tv classic, the ending alone is enough to make stand out as something special. Watching Xena coldly let Callisto sink into the quicksand is one of these moments that really affected me as a young boy. However Hush is just too special. The Gentlemen are the most terrifying monsters and whilst the idea of doing a silent episode might seem gimmicky like a musical; it works so much better and actually allows for some scenes of genuine horror.
Xena 6/ Buffy 5
Married With Fishsticks
I know these are popular choices for the worst episodes ever made, but there’s a reason for that. They are both worst of all boring as sin. However Xena definitely edges this one. Incredibely enough though “Married with Fishsticks” has a higher rating on IMDB than either of the first two Callisto episodes. Yeah apparently IMBD users think its better than the Callisto/ Xena ladder fight. Each to their own of course but what the fuck! Anyway Xena’s is definitely worse so Buffy wins this as we will be deciding who is the winner by looking at whose episode is the less shit, so yeah Buffy wins this one.
Xena 6/ Buffy 6
13/ Best Theme
I am giving this to Buffy. I like the Xena theme it has a real raw, emotional, tribal quality to it which suits the character brilliantly. Buffy’s theme however is much more iconic and it has a real head banging quality to it that I love so yeah Buffy wins this round.
Xena 6/ Buffy 7
Buffy is the better series in this bloggers opinion. I do prefer the character of Xena to Buffy, but overall as a series Buffy trumps Xena for me. But that’s just my opinion tell me what do you think?