Why I Want A Doctor Who Meets Scratchman Film

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Doctor Who Meets Scratchman was an idea for a Doctor Who movie originally dreamed up by 4th Doctor actor Tom Baker and Ian Marter during the filming of season 12.

Its premise would have seen the 4th Doctor, Harry and Sarah land on an island off the coast of Scotland where they would battle living scarecrows, before discovering that the Scarecrows were minions of Satan himself, called Scratchman!

The Doctor and his companions would then travel to Scratchman’s home dimension, where they would encounter other mythological figures such as the Greek God Pan and the Ferryman of the dead, Charon.

The finale would see the Doctor, Sarah and Harry battle Scratchman inside a giant interdimensional pinball machine!

The film came very close to being made towards the end of the 70s, but sadly a lack of funding and the release of Star Wars eventually brought an end to Baker’s plans to bring the Doctor to the big screen. Over 40 years after it was first conceived, Tom Baker and Ian Marter’s screenplay was finally adapted into a book, written by Tom Baker and James Goss, released in January 2019.

Personally however I still think the idea could work as a film. Scratchman to me is the perfect Doctor Who story. It combines horror, science fiction and surrealism together to create a truly unique adventure.

In this article I will give my opinion of the 2019 novelisation of Tom’s script, run through why I want Scratchman to be adapted, what I would like from said adaptation, and who I would like to play the Doctor, his companions and the titular villain.

Why Scratchman has potential

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Doctor Who Meets Scratchman could still work as a film, even after all this time, as it has a suitably epic story, potentially stunning visuals, and a fascinating, terrifying villain in the form of Scratchman.

Scratchman is an ancient being from another universe who feeds on psychic energy. His hunger is so great that he eventually consumes each universe he visits.

Scratchman is a sadistic monster that enjoys reshaping each universe he overruns into a hideous hell dimension. He twists aliens into his Demonic servants, and torments them until he gets bored and moves on.

This disturbing scene from the 2019 novelisation where Scratchman forces several of his minions to kill themselves by throwing themselves into a firey pit, shows the full extent of the torment he inflicts on his minions.

“You’re one of the new arrivals aren’t you? You’ve caused so much damage. You have cost the lives of so many of us.’ ‘I’m dreadfully sorry about that’, said Harry sincerely. ‘Don’t feel too bad, the creature said,’ but clearly didn’t mean it. ‘We are just memories of life, twisted into something to amuse our master. You’re thinking of fighting back, of escaping-but really, you’ll just cost more lives and you’ll end up like one of us- sooner or later. Sooner in your case.’ ‘Thank you,’ said Harry. ‘And then nothing awaits you but milleia of service as one of us, and finally, as fuel for him.’ ‘Fuel?’ ‘We must keep his dreams aloft.’ The creature nodded miserably. ‘If I were you I’d save myself the torment and jump now.’ ‘Will it be quick?’ Asked Harry? ‘No,’ the creature said, ‘but it will at least be over.’ And it launched itself into the air, dived down into the sulphurous pit, gave a single cry, and burst into flame.”

The current universe Scratchman inhabits resembles hell from various religions, with figures such as Charon existing. However the creatures are given somewhat modern and humorous twists, with Charon now being a down on his luck cabbie who drives people to their final destination, and Scratchman’s chief torturer being a lazy giant lizard.

Scratchman has destroyed billions of universe throughout all of time, but now he sets his sights on our reality. He has been attempting to enter our universe for centuries, and has been able to project his thoughts into our universe for centuries too, influencing humanity, and giving rise to myths and legends about the devil. Scratchman has also been able to pull the minds of people from our universe into his own to torture them, giving rise to myths about Charon and the afterlife.

The whole point of doing a film version of a long running television series is to do something that you couldn’t do on tv. Scratchman still fits that criteria. Even with the improved effects of New Who, the visuals of the Underworld would be too grand to do on the tv shows budget. Also the images of people being tortured and damned in hell would perhaps be too frightening and violent for the tv audience. Scratchman could up the horror ante from even the Hinchcliff era.

A problem I have had with the 21st century version of Doctor Who is that overall it’s somewhat more toothless than the original. The 1963-1989 classic era of Doctor Who regularly pushed the boundaries in terms of its violent content and provoked extreme controversy. At times the original Doctor Who was almost a horror series as much as a sci fi show.

Doctor Who Meets Scratchman, which has the potential for some really terrifying ideas and set pieces could help restore Doctor Who’s reputation as a horror series.  Indeed Doctor Who Meets Scratchman is arguably one of the darkest Doctor Who stories ever made.

Though the Doctor does defeat Scratchman, he fails to save the entire universe that Scratchman took over. The Third Doctor story Inferno was always one of the most terrifying stories for me as a child because the Doctor failed to save the earth. It was an evil, alternate version of the earth, but still seeing an entire world actually burn on screen was utterly horrifying.

Now imagine seeing the Doctor fail to save an entire universe!

Worse than that however, the universe Scratchman has taken over has been ravaged by him to such an extent, that he is the only thing that is holding it together. Therefore in order to save his universe, the Doctor has to sacrifice another!

Scratchman is even by Doctor Who standards a huge threat. He is an individual villain that can consume entire universes, and has slaughtered more people than the Daleks, the Master, and the Cybermen combined.

The story also pushes Doctor Who to its limits in terms of how surreal it is. A story with living scarecrows, the Devil, Greek Gods, and giant pin ball machines, even by Doctor Who standards is somewhat unusual.

Nevertheless it still stays within the limits of what Doctor Who can be. Scratchman is not actually a supernatural creature. He is still an alien, and the world he lives in is not actually the afterlife, just another universe.

Also whilst its true that the idea of the Doctor fighting the Devil has been explored in the television story The Satan Pit/The Beast Below, a lot of other ideas in Scratchman are still new territory for Doctor Who, such as the concept of hell. The finale featuring the Doctor and his companions being trapped in a giant pinball machine would still make an absolutely spectacular and surreal sequence too.

With a decent budget I think Scratchman could still be a unique, imaginative, and scary Doctor Who story that truly goes beyond what the tv series would be capable of.

My Opinion Of The 2019 Scratchman

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Personally I wasn’t that keen on the recent adaptation of Scratchman. The first half of the book, which stays closest to Tom and Ian’s original script is fantastic. There are some genuinely chilling moments, and the story plays out like a classic Phillip Hinchcliff era gothic story.

Sadly its from the second part on that the book starts to lose it. I suspect in this part of the book, co-author James Goss’ input became greater, as it doesn’t seem to match Tom’s style.

The second section of the book is done more in the style of New Who. Leaving aside the fact that I am not a big fan of the 21st century version of Doctor Who (certainly not compared to the original.) The new style also does not fit Tom’s Doctor at all.

Rather than be just a bumbling traveller with great improvisational skills like in the original series, the Doctor is rewritten in the book to being an angry lonely god. The way the Doctor defeats Scratchman by creating illusions of all the monsters he has faced on his travels is exactly the type of thing I’d expect to see in a Moffat script.

Its an attempt to big up the Doctor (with Scratchman commenting that no one could stand against all of the creatures culled from the Doctors mind) that goes against the logic of the story. Scratchman is a creature that has eaten entire universes! How on earth could the Doctor, who has only explored part of one universe, have possibly have seen anything that could shock Scratchman?

Scratchman 2019 also plays on the idea of all the Doctors being different people, and the Doctor never wanting to change. This is again something that New Who pioneered during the Tennant era. In the classic series the Doctor was never scared of regeneration. Troughton’s Doctor does protest, but once they tell him that he can choose what his next face looks like, he says “that’s not so bad”, showing that they are all meant to be the same man underneath. Making all of the Doctors into different people, destroys the Doctor as a character overall, as it now essentially turns him into a title passed onto 13 different characters.

Scratchman 2019 also features pointless cameos from other Doctors, which I feel drags the story down into fan fiction territory.

Something as large as the first 4 Doctors meeting (even if it is only scarecrow copies of the first three) should not be crowbarred into a story that is not about that, and was never intended to be about that.

Worst of all however is the fact that Jodie Whittaker’s Doctor appears. Now I freely admit that I despise Jodie Whittaker’s 13th Doctor. Everything about her from the reason she was cast, to her voice, to her annoying scrunch habit, to her attitude to her critics, to her costume is awful.

Still sticking such a controversial version of the Doctor into a story that she was never intended to be in, seems like a nasty, spiteful, mean spirited taunt to Jodie’s critics on behalf of the co-author, James Goss. (I very much doubt that it was Tom’s idea to include Jodie. Remember Tom is a man who refused to be in The Five Doctors as he didn’t want to appear with any other Doctors, and who always jokingly responds “OTHER DOCTOR” when fans ask him who his favourite other Doctor was. I very much doubt with this in mind that he would go out of his way to include other Doctors in a story that was only ever intended to feature his Doctor.)

Fair enough not everybody hates Jodie, though I think its fair to say that she is not one of the most popular incarnations of the Time Lord to say the least.

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Still this is not like someone having a line up of all the Doctors and Jodie’s critics getting angry at her being included at all.

This book was a chance for old school fans to enjoy a new story from the most popular Doctor of the original series, that Jodie was never a part of at all. James Goss however wouldn’t even let us have that. He has such contempt for classic era fans that he had to force the revival into it, and the most controversial, hated aspect of the revival too, regardless of how out of place it seemed. It sullied the entire book for me.

Its a shame as well as the second section of the book contains the most wild and imaginative aspects of the story, but Goss’ tampering with Tom and Ian’s ideas lets it, and consequently the entire story overall down.

The subsequent film adaptation would in my opinion have to leave out cameos from all the former and future Doctors, focus on the other universe and its history, how it tried to fight and ultimately fell to Scratchman, the Doctors dilemma in having to destroy another universe to save his own, Scratchman’s influence on human history, and the various monsters in his universe. All of these ideas are only touched upon in the 2019 version, as the story seems to be more concerned with focusing on analysing the Doctors character instead.

Who Would I Cast

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For a hypothetical film version of Scratchman I would like to see Julian Richings as the Doctor, and Dana Delorenzo and Colin O’Donaghue as his two companions.

I have mentioned all 3 of these actors before as being my ideal Tardis team. I think Julian would be perfect as an old school, alien, distant, no nonsense Doctor, based on his stellar performance as Death in Supernatural.

See here.

The Doctor

Dana Delorenzo and Colin O’Donaghue meanwhile are both actors with prior genre experience, (Delorenzo was one of the stars in the cult series Ash Vs Evil Dead) whilst Colin starred as Captain Hook on Once Upon A Time for 6 years.

And his companions

Colin and Dana would both be very physical companions who would make a great contrast with the more cerebral, cold and elderly Doctor.

All 3 actors together would bring a very different dynamic to the story than Tom, Sarah and Harry would have done, but that’s okay. You could never replicate the chemistry those three characters had, so it would make sense to try something new.

Julian’s more serious Doctor could help play up some of the horror aspects, whilst Dana and Colin could at the same time allow a chance for there to be greater action in the film.

I have mentioned in the past that I would prefer to see an alternate sequel to Classic Who that ignores New Who, and a Scratchman film could serve as quite a good pilot to this hypothetical sequel.

Personally I think it would be for the best if they ditched Jodie’s era which is already failing hard next year, gave the show a rest for a few years, and then produced Doctor Who Meets Scratchman with Julian, Dana and Colin in 2023 for the 60th anniversary, followed by a new series with that cast.

As for Scratchman personally I would like to see Bruce Campbell play the role. Bruce Campbell is a horror icon best known for playing Ash Williams in The Evil Dead franchise. He has played a few villains in his long career such as Assault on Dome 4, as an evil Witchfinder in Charmed, and as Ash’s evil counterpart in both Army of Darkness and Ash vs Evil Dead.

In my opinion Campbell would be the best choice for Scratchman as he would be able to inject enough humour into the role. Part of what makes Scratchman such an effective villain is his twisted sense of humour. Campbell has a real talent for being able to blend overt horror and comedy together almost like no other angle.

When he wants too Campbell can be menacing as seen in Ash Vs Evil Dead when his evil counterpart brutally murders and taunts Amanda Fisher, or in Army of Darkness where the evil version of Ash rapes Shelia! (Which may be the most disturbing moment in any of the Evil Dead movies.)

Also its known that Tom Baker wanted Vincent Price to play the original Scratchman. Price even expressed interest in the role. Thus it would make sense to get another legendary horror actor to play it today.

Scratchman!

I would also have Scratchman survive the Doctors attempts on his life (as was planned in the original script by Tom and Ian) so that he could then recur in the series as another major enemy of the Doctor. I think there is enough in the Scratchman character to bring him back for later stories. (If he were to be played by Bruce Campbell then that would just be all the more reason to bring him back! Its a scientific fact that you can increase the enjoyment of something by the inclusion of Bruce Campbell.)

For the role of Charon, I think Mark Hamill would be an excellent choice. Hamill’s talent as a voice actor could allow him to come up with a suitably unique and creepy voice for the ferryman, or cabbie of the dead.

For the role of Mr Tembel, the Lizard who attempts to torture the Doctor by boring him to death, I think David Warner would be an excellent choice. Aside from being an all around excellent actor, Warner’s role as the inept, useless torturer would be a nice contrast to one of his most famous roles as the Cardassian torturer in Star Trek The Next Generation. It would also give him a chance to show off a more comedic side as well.

Finally as for the role of Mrs Tulloch, the mean spirited woman in the village, I would cast Lucy Lawless. Lucy Lawless who is best known as Xena is excellent at playing villains. In this hypothetical film version you would have to expand Tulloch’s role of course, so as not to waste Lucy. I would have her rather than simply be killed, be turned into a Demon by Scratchman and be one of his main servants in hell chasing the Doctor and his companions.

Lucy would make an amazing Doctor Who monster. She’s already proven she can play really horrific, vicious monstrous characters as seen with Ruby in Ash vs Evil Dead, and the various times Xena was turned into a Demon, Vampire etc.

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Mrs Tulloch

My Own Version Of Scratchman

Regardless of whether or not we will ever see a version of Scratchman on the big screen, I will be doing my own adaptation of the story as part of my own alternate sequel series. I wanted Scratchman to be canon to my series that ignores New Who, as I wanted to use the character of Scratchman as a recurring foe for the Doctor, but sadly I can’t use the 2019 version due to the inclusion of Jodie’s Doctor.

So instead I will be doing my own version. (I will not be using Tom’s Doctor as I obviously could never hope to write his Doctor as well as he could.)

My version will be released in weekly instalments over the Chirstmas period in 2019. Think of it as being this years Doctor Who Christmas Special.

Big Finish’s Scratchman

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Finally regardless of whether we ever get a film version, I think that Big Finish should adapt Scratchman as an audio story. I’d love to see Tom and Lalla Ward appear in it. As for who could play the audio Scratchman, personally I’d love to see William Shatner play the villain. I realise that casting would probably never happen, but still imagine how sensational it would be to see Tom Baker’s Doctor fight the Devil played by Shatner himself!

With Lucy Lawless as a Demonic Mrs Tulloch to complete the cast, Scratcman could be the best Big Finish audio story yet. Please if you’re reading this Nicholas Briggs, make it happen!

(Though please for the love of god keep Jodie out of the audio version. No more Stalinist revisions of the shows history. I’m just saying trying to crowbar the most hated version of the Doctor into every aspect of Doctor Who history, isn’t going to make us love her.)

Thanks for reading and let me know if you think Scratchman could ever work as a film, and what you thought of the recent adaptation.

 

 

Characteristics Of 90s/00s Genre Series

The 90s/00s was a golden age for sci fi and fantasy series. Both decades marked many significant and positive changes in the sci fi and fantasy genres, and also produced some of the most enduring and iconic series and characters of the genre, such as Xena the Warrior Princess, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, Babylon 5, The X-Files and the various Star Trek sequels.

In this article I am going to run through the common tropes and characteristics of series from these decades as well the influence they have had on the current generation of genre series, such as Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.

1/ American Genre Series vs British Series

During the 90s America completely dominated the sci fi and fantasy market. In the United Kingdom meanwhile, the genre was for all intents and purposes dead on television.

Doctor Who had finally come to an end in 1989 whilst Blake’s 7 had ended many years prior. Though Red Dwarf still endured throughout the decade, it was often messed about by the BBC with there being several years between series 6 and 7, and later 7 and 8. for instance

The reason for this was because many high profile figures who ran British television during the 90s hated sci fi. The most notable example of this was of course Michael Grade, who launched a calculated campaign against Doctor Who in the late 80s which eventually succeeded in finishing the show for close to 20 years.

It wouldn’t be until the 00s before sci fi and fantasy series were capable of becoming mainstream successful television again in the United Kingdom, thanks largely to the massively successful revival of Doctor Who.

However even then almost all of the British genre series in the 00s, including the revived Doctor Who followed the tropes that the the American genre series of the 90’s and 00s such as Buffy, Babylon 5, Xena and Smalllville had laid down.

At the same time, the irony is that many of things that 90s American genre series pioneered from story arcs, to anti heroes, to characters dying regularly, to downer endings all originated in a British sci fi series from the late 70s, early 80s. Blake’s 7.

Now I am not saying that Blake’s 7 inspired all of these American genre series (though it did directly inspire some, with the creators of Lexx and Babylon 5 being huge fans of Blake’s 7.)

Still ironically I think that Blake’s 7 really represents the start of the 90s and 00s style despite coming over a decade earlier. Though often dismissed by modern critics as a dated, cheesy, low budget series, Blake’s 7 ironically was decades ahead of its time in terms of its story telling.

Whilst I am not going to deny that its production values are shoddy, ultimately if you can get past that, then there really is little to no difference between Blake’s 7 and indeed any classic genre series for the next 30 years.

British and American Sci Fi and fantasy have always had a habit of copying each other. At various points one will dominate the market, and so naturally the other will then try and emulate their style. There’s nothing wrong with it, but normally I feel that whenever the Americans or the British try and copy each other then there are still some notable differences as the American and British entertainment industries and markets are very different.

For instance Blake’s 7 borrowed a lot from Star Trek, right down to the teleporters, yet its really is the anti Star Trek.

Similarly Red Dwarf took a lot from Lost in Space yet the two shows sense of humour is as different as day and night. Lost in Space is upbeat, whimsical and family friendly, whilst Red Dwarf is more dry, cynical and certainly much darker all around.

In the case of the 90s and 00s series however what’s interesting is that for once there was really very little difference between British and American series in terms of style.

Take a look at say Merlin and Xena, or Doctor Who and Buffy and Angel and their styles, sense of humour are all pretty much the same. For whatever reason I feel that the 90’s/00’s style was able to perhaps translate better over seas than many others.

2/ Leading Roles For Women

A key feature of fantasy and sci fi series in the 90s and 00s is that they have much stronger roles for women compared to previous decades.

Now I am not saying that previous decades sci fi and fantasy were sexist.

I think shows like Star Trek TOS and Classic Who get a hard time from many contemporary critics, as though there are certainly some examples of vintage sexism in them, by and large both shows were actually very progressive for their time. Martin Luther King himself even said that Star Trek played a key role in the Civil Rights Movement!

Sci Fi and Fantasy were actually often the most progressive genres during the 50s, 60s, but still even with that, its true that there weren’t as many roles for women, as after all the entertainment industry in general was more male dominated back then.

However times change and I think that really throughout the 70s we start to see more and more leading roles for women emerge in some of the most iconic and successful genre series, from Wonder Woman, to the Alien film series, to The Bionic Woman, to The Survivors.

By the time of the 90s I don’t think anyone had any issues with a leading character being a woman, but what changed during this decade was that for the first time female led shows actually became dominant. The three longest running and most successful genre series of the 90s, Buffy, Xena and Charmed all starred female heroes.

It wasn’t just simply a case of women started to take on leading roles however. Throughout the 90s we started to see shows where the majority of the supporting characters were women, and the most dangerous and evil villains were women too.

There were still plenty of male led series during this decade such as Hercules, Angel and Babylon 5. Still even in these series there were plenty of strong roles for women. In Angel for instance the most powerful character is a woman, Illyria.

The 90’s was really a golden age for female heroes, not just in the sci fi and fantasy genres. Many non sci fi and fantasy female led shows such as Alias also enjoyed huge success during this time too. Still undeniably the most famous original genre characters from this time, both heroic and villainous were all women.

3/ A Character Suddenly Becomes LGBT

Again as a sign of the times becoming more progressive, 90s shows not only featured a greater representation for LGBT characters, but would often part way through their run turn a character that had previously been assumed to be straight; gay or bisexual.

Examples of this include Willow from Buffy, who became a lesbian in its fourth season when she entered into a relationship with Tara Maclay. Susan Ivanova from Babylon 5, who was in a relationship with telepath Talia Winters, and later Marcus. Finally Xena and Gabrielle themselves were in many heterosexual and homosexual relationships throughout the shows 6 year run.

In the case of Xena and Willow their gay relationships ended up becoming more popular with the fans, prominent in the show itself, and iconic and long lasting in general.

All of these characters remain LGBT icons to this day with Xena in particular having a huge following.

At the same time however there was some criticism directed towards the likes of Xena and Gabrielle, Willow and Tara and Ivanova and Talia’s relationships as they all ended in tragedy. This gave rise to the phrase “bury your gays” that refers to the apparent habit genre series have of never giving their LGBT characters happy endings.

Personally however I think that the “bury your gays” criticism is bogus. In actual fact the vast majority of relationships, be they heterosexual, or LGBT end in tragedy in genre series.

Take a look at Angel and Cordelia, she dies. Wash and Zoe? He gets impaled. Cole and Phoebe? He goes evil and she kills him and shows no remorse whatsoever. Anya and Xander? She is killed in battle after a very bitter break up where he dumped her at the altar and she tried to curse him! You could argue that Tara and Xena were less tragic as at least they were still in loving relationships with their spouses.

Even all of Buffy, (a leading heterosexual characters) relationships go sour. Angel and Riley both leave her (after Riley goes to see Vampire prostitutes) whilst Spike burns up in the Hellmouth.

Wesley and Fred is another heterosexual relationship that ends with both of them dying horrible, slow, lingering, pointless deaths.

So much for it always being a happy ending for straight characters.

People love a tragedy more than a happy ending and thus when we started to see LGBT relationships they too by and large would be portrayed as tragic. Though even then it was not always the case that LGBT relationships didn’t have happy endings either. Willow and Kennedy for instance is in fact the only romantic relationship from Buffy that ends on a positive note.

The 90s really broke new ground with its depiction of LGBT characters. Again it wasn’t the first time we had seen same sex relationships in popular television series. The first ever gay kiss occurred on British television in the 70s, whilst there had been prominent drama’s that tackled the subject of homosexuality before such as The Naked Civil Servant.

Still again much as with leading female characters then the 90s I feel saw LGBT characters become much more frequent and popular than before.

At the height of its success Xena was the most popular show in the world in terms of overseas sales. Its hard to imagine a television series starring an LGBT woman being so popular in the 60s.

Of course the success of these 90s show would lead to more shows featuring LGBT characters into the 00s, with Torchwood having an entire cast of LGBT characters.

4/ Story Arcs

Prior to the 90s most cult series did not have ongoing story arcs. The likes of Doctor Who, Lost in Space, the original Star Trek, The Avengers, Doomwatch all had self contained episodes. The reason for this was because when selling these shows abroad the makers had to take into account the fact that the entire series might not be brought, and so they decided to make each story one that could effectively introduce a new audience to the series.

There were some exceptions, such as the already mentioned Blake’s 7 and the Key to Time story arc in Classic Who.

However it would really be during the 90s that story arcs not only became practically mandatory for sci fi and fantasy series, but where many new types of story arcs were pioneered too.

Babylon 5 marked the first time a story arc spread out across an entire series from start to finish. Most of the show was written by the one man, Joseph Michael Straczynski who had mapped out the entire series before he had even written it. Though he had to make a few adjustments along the way, including replacing certain characters when their actors left.

Still the show was praised for how well it was able to develop its story across 5 years, and many series since have attempted to similarly tell a story spanning several years.

Examples of this can be found in the revived Doctor Who. The story arc surrounding Tennant’s Doctors severed hand for instance began in series 2 and though initially it seems like nothing more than a throwaway scene, it later ends up playing key roles in Torchwood series 1, and Doctor Who series 3 and 4’s story arcs.

Similarly the entire Matt Smith era follows one story arc, the war on Trenzalore, fall of the 11th prophecy, and the threat of the Silence.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer meanwhile would pioneer a new type of story arc, the Big Bad formula.

The Big Bad formula is where a major villain or sometimes a few villains will emerge, usually at the start of a series, though sometimes it might be as late as half way through.

The Big Bad will be the head of many of the lesser villains who appear in each episode. Their master plan may be slowly revealed over the course of the series. Their end game will naturally be a bigger threat than any other villain that year, and as a result they will be defeated in the season finale in a spectacular battle where they will usually be killed.

The next year a new villain will emerge to take their place and the pattern will repeat once more.

The Big Bad formula has been copied by almost every major cult series since. Being Human, Doctor Who, Smallville, Once Upon A Time, Supernatural, Charmed, Arrow, The Flash etc.

Whilst it would be wrong to say that story arcs in genre series began in the 90s, it was certainly during this decade that through the likes of Buffy and Babylon 5 they became more prominent than ever before.

5/ Characters Seeking Redemption

There had been anti heroes before the 90s, with both Doctor Zachary Smith from Lost in Space and Kerr Avon from Blake’s 7 being two classic examples.

However in the 90s they not only became a lot more common, but I feel were taken to a whole new level.

Where as Avon was merely ruthless and self serving, 90s anti heroes such as Xena, Angel, and G’kar had all been murderers of women and children in the past!

It was quite a risky thing to make characters we were meant to root for be guilty of such deplorable things, from advocating genocide, to rape, to cold blooded torture. But that was often the point of 90s shows, that people can change.

These characters will often have to face someone they wronged at some point and try find a way to earn their forgiveness. Sometimes it doesn’t work, like Angel and Holtz, whilst in others such as G’Kar and Londo, Angel and Giles and even Xena and Callisto the atoner is able to earn forgiveness from the person they wronged more than anyone else.

At the same time however these series would often play around with the idea of the former villains never being able to truly make up for what they have done, and thus characters like Xena, Angel, G’Kar and Londo are often denied their happy endings.

A fairly large amount of 90s/00s genre series have a character like this. In Xena there is obviously Xena herself. Xena was once an evil warlord who slaughtered countless villages before being redeemed by Hercules and Gabrielle.

Charmed meanwhile has Cole who was once one of the worst Demons but later finds redemption (eventually) through his love for Phoebe.

In Smallville there is Lionel Luthor who starts out as the shows main villain, but ends up becoming a father figure to Clark Kent.

In Babylon 5, G’Kar and Londo both qualify. G’Kar starts out as a vicious racist would be conqueror. Though his people the Narn were genuinely wronged by the Centauri, the Narn still went on to conquer other worlds, and bully other races they way they had once been. They also sought to not just simply get back at the Centauri, but to exterminate their entire race from the universe.

As time goes on however G’Kar after all he endures, sees the error of his ways and ironically ends up becoming an almost messiah like figure preaching love between all races of the universe.

Londo his rival/friend (though only in the later series) starts out desperate to reclaim his species former glory at any cost. This of course leads him into a very dodgy deal with the Shadows that almost destroys two worlds (including his own) and costs millions of innocent people their lives.

However as time goes on he too sees the error of his ways and does all he can to rectify the wrongs he caused and later ends up sacrificing himself to save his world.

Doctor Who has also played around with this idea too with both Captain Jack and the Doctor during the Russell T Davies era having been guilty of terrible things in their past, such as the time war (before it was retconned).

Finally Buffy and Angel have a seemingly never ending supply of these types of characters. From Angel and Spike, two of the worst Vampires in recorded history, to Anya a former vengeance Demon, to Doyle a coward who left his people to be butchered, to Illyria a former Demon who killed Fred, to Willow who flayed a guy alive and nearly destroyed the world, to even Giles whose reckless actions in his youth let loose a Demon that killed several innocent people.

These characters helped the 90s/00s genre series be somewhat more morally grey than many of their predecessors such as the original Star Trek series.

6/ Lovable Lovestruck Rogue

A popular character in 90s shows, this character was always a man.

He will start out as a villain, maybe the major enemy of the female hero. However as time goes on it will be revealed that he is in love with her. This will of course horrify him at first, not only because he has fallen in love with his enemy, but being in love will be contradictory to his nature, as he will be a creature of evil.

After realising his love for the female hero he will then try and become good. His love for her will motivate him to do some good things, but it may also motivate him to do some horrifying things too.

Eventually however his good side will win out, and he will even become more human and vulnerable, requiring the female hero to protect him. Throughout the story the female hero will struggle with feelings for him, which she will give into frequently. Ultimately however they will never get together, though usually by the end the female hero and male villain have a more respectful and caring relationship.

Cole from Charmed, Spike from Buffy and Ares from Xena all fit this template perfectly. All start out as major enemies of the main female heroes, Buffy, Xena, and the Charmed ones, all are creatures of evil who are not supposed to feel love. A Vampire, a War God, and a Demon respectfully. All try and do good to win round the heroine they are in love with and all do manage to do great things. Ares gives up his Godhood to save Xena’s daughter, Spike is almost tortured to death by Glory to save Dawn, whilst Cole saves the Charmed ones lives many times.

However all 3 do horrible things as a result of their infatuation. Spike almost rapes Buffy, Ares tries to blackmail Xena into giving him a child by threatening to go to the Gods, whilst Cole rewrites time itself, murdering Paige in the process to win Phoebe back.

All 3 lose their powers or become more human. Ares and Cole literally become human, whilst Spike gets a human soul.

Finally all 3 do not get the girl in the end, but still they all develop a more respectful relationship with her, with Ares telling Xena that he wouldn’t ever want her to go evil again as he loves her for who she is now, Cole helping Phoebe find love again, and Spike sacrificing himself to save Buffy and her friends.

A further similarity between Spike and Ares can be found in their relationship with the main male heroes of their respective franchises too, Hercules and Angel.

Spike and Ares initially start out as darker characters on the series starring a male hero. They both have nothing but hatred for the hero and thus get a chance to be more genuinely evil characters.

As time goes on however Ares and Spike both become more comical characters as we discover their hatred of Hercules and Angel is actually more shallow and petty. The two villain are both just jealous of Herclues and Angel and at times seem more like a squabbling brother than a true archenemy.

Naturally these characters were always very popular. Both James Marsters and Julian McMahon who played Spike and Cole went on to have fantastic careers afterwards. Sadly Kevin Smith who played Ares was tragically killed in an accident not long after Xena finished.

In many ways I think this character represented how the 90s and the 00s became more female dominated.

Normally in the past the role of the more romantic, lovestruck villain desperate for the heroes attention was taken by a woman. Catwoman in Batman,  Maxima in Superman, Black Cat in Spider-Man and in some versions Irene Adler in Sherlock Holmes. The role of the more vicious, unsympathetic, evil villain who wanted to kill the hero meanwhile was always taken by a man. The Joker in Batman, Lex Luthor in Superman, Professor Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes.

In 90s series however this classic set up was completely reversed. The hero and the evil, psychotic, villain who was a rival to the hero were occupied by women, Xena and Callisto, Buffy and Faith, whilst the lovestruck villain is now a man, Ares, Spike etc.

It was good to give both women and men a chance to play different types of characters.

7/ Crossovers

Many 90s and 00s series were part of a larger franchise. Again this was something that we didn’t really see that often before or indeed since (apart from the Arrowverse which is already based on a shared universe, DC comics)

The various Star Trek series, Voyager, Next Generation Deep Space 9, all took place in the same universe and had crossovers with one another.

The revived Doctor Who franchise during the 00s also had two spin off series, Torchwood and the Sarah Jane Adventures, both of which had crossovers with the parent show.

Xena and Hercules also took place in the same universe, as did Buffy and Angel. Finally even Babylon 5 had its own short lived spin off series too.

Personally I always liked the fact that these series took place in a shared universe for many reasons. To start with it allowed the writers to expand the fictional universe to a much greater extent. Also it was interesting watching what were similar ideas but from both a female and a male perspective, as was the case with Xena and Hercules and Buffy and Angel.

Hercules and Xena were both fantasy series set in ancient Greece, whilst Buffy and Angel were both Vampire series set in modern day. However the fact that Angel and Hercules featured male heroes meant they were more straight forward action series, whilst Buffy and Xena the two female led series had more of a soap opera element to them.

Also the fact that many characters would cross over between both series was interesting as we got to see how they interacted with the heroes of different series.

As already mentioned on Buffy and Xena, Spike and Ares were more complicated, romantic, conflicted, sexy, even sympathetic characters, whilst on the show starring a male hero they were comical, jealous, petty, and humorous characters.

Faith meanwhile is almost the reverse. On the show starring a female hero, Buffy, she is her archenemy, whilst on Angel he takes on the role of a mentor to the troubled Slayer.

Then there is the debate about which characters worked better on each show. Worf for instance many would agree was far more effective on Deep Space 9 than on Next Generation, whilst similarly there are many fans who preferred Captain Jack as the lovable, cheery sidekick to the Doctor on Doctor Who, as opposed to the depressed, angst ridden anti hero on Torchwood.

And finally many fans are split on whether Spike was better as the hilarious, sarcastic, rival to Angel, or the more complex, but wimpy, weepy love interest of Buffy.

8/ Ancient Villain Who Returns 

Many 90s and 00s shows feature an overarching villain who was once one of the most powerful and dangerous creatures in all of existence, but who was banished eons ago in a great war. Their followers however remain, and seek to try and find a way to bring them back. The heroes are always terrified of what will happen if they come back, and have to do everything they can to try and stop that from happening.

Examples of this trope in action include the Old Ones from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dahak from Xena and Hercules, The Shadows from Babylon 5, and the Daleks from the Russell T Davies era of Doctor Who.

The Old Ones were once the masters of the earth. They were god like Demons whose power was beyond mortal comprehension. However they were banished from the earth through a portal to hell. Many lesser Demons throughout the course of Buffy seek to open the Hellmouth and bring them back. Buffy knows that if the monsters were to return there is nothing she could do to stop them and has to prevent the Hellmouth from being opened above all else.

The Daleks in the Davies era of Doctor Who had similarly been the most powerful and evil creatures in the entire universe. They however were seemingly destroyed centuries ago in the Time War, but a few of them have survived and are trying to rebuild their race.

The Doctor throughout the Davies era is desperate to prevent that from happening to the extent that he even considers killing everyone on earth in the season 1 finale, The Parting of the Ways to stop the Daleks from regaining their power.

The Shadows meanwhile were similarly once one of the most powerful creatures in the entire universe who were driven away in a war, but much like the Old Ones, traces of them as well as followers survived throughout the Galaxy and they now plan to return which serves as the main threat throughout the first 4 seasons of Babylon 5.

Finally Dahak in Xena and Hercules was also said to have once been the most evil and powerful creature of all, even the Gods were terrified of him. However he too was banished from our reality before the rise of man. Just like with the Old Ones and the Shadows and the Daleks, traces of his evil remain, and years later his followers attempt to bring him back from the nothingness the Gods banished him too.

All of these characters were inspired to some extent by the old ones from the Cthulu mythos created by H.P Lovecraft, who were similarly ancient Demons who were sealed beneath the earth, yearning for a chance to return.

Even the designs for monsters like the Shadows and Dahak were somewhat Lovecraftian.

9/ Best Friend Who Is In Love With The Hero

This character is also popular in 90s/00s shows. They are the heroes rock. They would do anything for them, are there when the hero needs them the most, often help the hero through their darkest days, will take any secrets the hero has to the grave. Yet sadly the hero barely notices them. Certainly not in the way they would like.

Eventually this character will tell the hero how they feel and even perhaps try and make the hero feel guilty for not seeing them the same way they do. Things will be awkward for a while after until eventually the friend gets over their crush and gets a new love interest, whilst still remaining the heroes greatest friend.

Examples of this character include Martha Jones from the New Doctor Who, Chloe Sullivan from Smallville, Xander from Buffy, and Joxer from Xena.

Romance never had as big a role in Sci Fi and fantasy series before the 90s. The likes of Doctor Who, the Avengers, and Lost in Space feature no romance at all (other than an implied attraction between Peel and Steed). In Star Trek meanwhile Kirk obviously had many love interests, but they were all one offs, whilst Nurse Chapel’s infatuation with Spock didn’t play as large a role which leads me to my next point.

10/ More Soap Opera Elements

Perhaps as a result of the genre series of these decades becoming more female dominated, many of them tended to make a move towards being more of a soap opera.

Charmed, Buffy, the new Doctor Who, Torchwood all at times focused more on the characters relationships and personal drama rather than any supernatural threat.

One episode of Buffy called The Body, featured just one Vampire that appears at the end. The rest of the episode revolves around the death of Buffy’s mother from natural causes.

The decision to take the fantasy genre into more of a soap opera territory was somewhat controversial. On the one hand it did at certain points allow the writers to flesh their characters out more, but at the same time its true that it was at other points at the expense of the Fantasy and Science Fiction.

11/ Annoying Child of One Of The Main Heroes

Another character type that emerged in 90s, 00s shows. This character often starts out as a baby who is born through some special, mystical means. The baby stays a baby for a short while until the writers realise that its difficult to have an action hero constantly look after a baby.

So the baby gets aged and later resurfaces as an adolescent. The adolescent will be evil and want to make their parent pay, and do heinous things, worse things than even the heroes worst enemies.

However they will be forgiven at the last minute and redeemed.

Naturally these characters were never too popular among the fans. Eve from Xena and Connor from Angel follow this pattern completely whilst Chris and Wyat Halliwell together also fit this pattern loosely.

12/ Mixture Of Camp And Darker Material

Whilst its true that previous decades series could sometimes get a bit silly (not always on purpose) I don’t think there was ever quite as extreme a variation between darker and lighter material as there was in series such as Xena and Buffy.

Some episodes of Xena and Hercules can only be described as outright parodies such as the musical and modern day episodes.

Yet at the same time other episodes actually pushed the boundaries as to what was acceptable on television. For instance in the first episode to feature Callisto, Xena’s archenemy, the villain makes her entrance by casually slicing the throat of a 3 year old boy open.

Buffy similarly could waver between extreme camp and some of the darkest television ever made.

See for yourself.

I must admit that I didn’t think merging such extreme humour with such dark content always worked as sometimes it could feel quite jarring and off putting.

However that said it was true that it did give the 90s and 00s shows a somewhat wider range of stories they could draw on.

13/ Self Pitying Archenemy

Many 90s/00s series will often have a nemesis who tries to paint themselves as a poor, misunderstood victim. To be fair they will have been genuinely wronged. Maybe even by the hero. At first the audience will have sympathy for them, but eventually it will reach a point where it doesn’t matter what a shitty life they’ve had, their crimes will be so great. Often it will be a supporting character who will point this out to them in a defining moment and the villain will not be able to take it.

Eventually however this villain may be able to find redemption, but if not then they will at least finally take responsibility for the monster they became.

Callisto from Xena, Holtz from Angel, Faith from Buffy, the Master from the new Doctor Who, Grey from Torchwood, and Ethan from Primeval all follow this pattern.

Callisto was originally just a nice young girl from a small village called Cira. Unfortunately however when Xena raided the village she accidentally caused a fire which burned it to the ground. All of Callisto’s family including her little sister were burned to death and Callisto was driven completely insane.

Though obsessed with getting revenge on Xena above all else, Callisto doesn’t care who she has to hurt in order to make the Warrior Princess pay. In her first appearances she begins slaughtering hordes of men, women and children simply so she can frame Xena for their deaths. In her second appearance she murders scores of innocent people (including Gabrielle’s husband) because she knows Xena will feel guilt for their deaths as she ultimately made Callisto.

Eventually however Callisto pushes Xena too far when she plays a key role in the murder of her only son, Solon. To be fair Xena had been shown to be willing to murder Callisto before, but it was only from a practical point of view of she couldn’t let Callisto go around killing people, and she knew no prison would ever hold the lunatic (think on Batman!)

After Solon’s death Xena genuinely despises Callisto and even refuses to kill her at one point because she knows that will ease her pain. Incredibly enough however the two are able to forgive one another after Xena (who has become an Angel at this point) finally takes responsibility for making Callisto and uses her Angelic power to purge her soul of darkness.

Holtz in Angel meanwhile was once a noble Vampire hunter and rival of Angelus, the most twisted and evil Vampire of them all. Angelus later rapes and murders Holtz’ wife, snaps the neck of his infant son, and turns his child daughter into a Vampire, forcing Holtz to kill her himself by throwing her into the sunlight.

Holtz naturally wants to make the Vampire pay, even when Angelus is cursed with a soul and becomes a hero in his own right, Angel.

Angel much like Xena obviously feels guilt over the role he played in Holtz turn to the darkside. Holtz much like Callisto doesn’t care who he hurts in order make Angel pay. At one point he is even prepared to snap Angel’s infant son Connor’s neck!

Just like Callisto, Holtz finally pushes his archenemy too far when he goes after his son. Interestingly in both cases, Holtz and Callisto are only able to hurt Xena and Angel’s children thanks to one of their closest friends, Gabrielle and Wesley, betraying them. Xena and Angel subsequently try and kill Wesley and Gabrielle as a result in what are two of the most shocking moments in either series.

Holtz never achieves any kind of redemption however (though his sins were never as great as Callisto’s to be fair.) Still at the very least he does show some self awareness, telling his closest companion Justine that he knows he is headed for hell. Also rather interestingly he calls Angel, Angel rather than Angelus (which he always did before) in his final letter to Connor.

Before he had always seen his vendetta against the Vampire as righteous and made no distinction between Angelus and his souled counterpart, but his last moments show that at the very least he now knows that Angel is not evil, and that he is motivated solely by vengeance.

Faith in Buffy also follows this template to some extent. Throughout her entire life Faith was completely rejected by everyone close to her, except for her Watcher who was brutally tortured to death by the Vampire Kakistos right in front of her. All of this makes her a somewhat unstable, unpredictable character, but its only when she accidentally kills an innocent man who she mistakes for a Vampire that she is finally pushed over the edge.

Its quite a nice twist on the idea as unlike Callisto and Holtz who had horrible things happen to them, in Faith’s case she did something heinous by mistake and simply couldn’t own up to it.

Much like Callisto and Holtz, she goes around blaming everyone else for her turn to the dark side. At first Buffy actually feels bad for Faith, even at one point saying that it could have been her in Faith’s shoes. Of course just like Holtz and Callisto, Faith eventually pushes Buffy too far when she poisons Angel and Buffy tries to murder her. Prior to this Faith is also brilliantly called out by Willow, in much the same way as Callisto often was by Gabrielle.

Faith however later manages to achieve redemption and though she and Buffy never become great friends, they do end the series fighting against the First evil side by side.

Finally the Master during the Russell T Davies era of Doctor Who fits this template too. In the Davies’ era it was revealed that the Master had been driven insane by a constant drumming in his head that he gained when he first stared into the untempered schism as a boy.

Just like Callisto, one incident as a child twisted the Master’s personality and turned him into a monster. As a result of this the Doctor during the Davies’ era is more sympathetic towards the Master than he had ever been before.

In the classic era the Master was not insane. He was a megalomaniac who sought power, and though he and the Doctor had been friends, the Doctor had no quams about killing him. Indeed in The Mind of Evil he goes out of his way to try and murder him, whilst in The Deadly Assassin the Doctor says the Master is the one person in the universe he would wish death on.

The dynamic was completely changed however in Tennant’s time as the Doctor now wanted to help the Master and believed that deep down he wasn’t really evil. The Master also later redeems himself (though it doesn’t stick) in his last appearance in the Davies era where he seemingly sacrifices himself to save the Doctor by blasting Rassilon, the evil timelord who implanted the drumming in his head and thus made him a monster.

All 4 of these villains in some respects were inspired by the Joker. Not only are many of them portrayed as cackling, hysterical psychopath’s, but they all (with the exception of Holtz and Angel) have a gay subtext with the hero too. Also finally the idea of the villain not only being driven completely insane by one bad day, but being created by the hero too is reminiscent of Batman and the Joker.

The Joker was originally a small time crook named the Red Hood who tried to rob a chemical plant, but when Batman intervened he inadvertently knocked the Hood into a vat of chemicals which horribly disfigured him and drove him insane.

The Joker is often quick to point out how Batman made him and therefore is really responsible for the evil he causes.

It makes sense that villains in the 90s and 00s would draw on the Joker for inspiration. Though he had always been a cultural icon, the Joker’s popularity really skyrocketed during this decade thanks to Jack Nicholson and Mark Hamill’s stellar performances as the villain. This would continue into the 00s when Heath Ledger’s Oscar winning performance really cemented the clown prince of crime’s place as the most iconic comic book villain of all time.

14/ Killing Major Characters

This was less common in genre series pre the 90s (again apart from Blake’s 7 which was a trailblazer in this respect.)

There were a few instances of characters being killed off in genre series from the 60s, 70s and 80s such as Adric in Classic Who.

However generally speaking in series such as the original Star Trek, Lost in Space and Doctor Who main characters were never killed off.

In a post Blake’s 7 world however the reverse was certainly not true. It wasn’t even just that 90s series killed main characters. They would often do it suddenly, without warning. Fan favourites wouldn’t die in some big glorious battle. It would just be a sudden horrible accident, like Warren shooting Tara as he ran off, or Wash getting impaled, etc.

This has only increased to the point where now shows like The Walking Dead, and Game of Thrones regularly kill main characters off. Still its important to mention that it was during the 90’s that this darker and bolder style really came into fashion.

15/ Downer Endings

Yet another thing that Blake’s 7 pioneered, but really became the norm in the 90s. To be fair not all 90s and 00s shows had downer endings. Some such as Charmed and Buffy had reasonably happy endings.

Still many of the series from this time often featured quite bleak endings. Xena ends with the main character being decapitated, whilst Angel similarly ends with all of the main characters facing certain death. Even in Buffy though she and Willow succeed in making the world a better place, Anya and Spike two of the shows main characters both die. Similarly in Babylon 5 the lead character Sheridan dies before his time too.

In previous decades many genre series such as Star Trek and Lost in Space actually didn’t even have endings. They were often sadly cancelled before their time. Still even then it would have been unlikely for a series like Lost in Space or say Doctor Who to end with any of the main characters dying horribly.

16/ Greater Focus On The Paranormal

Throughout the 60s, 70s and 90s sci fi tended to dominate fantasy on tv. Writers and general audiences were interested in the idea of exploring other planets and meeting other races and where technology would take us in the future.

When you look at things like the original Star Trek and Dan Dare, there’s a certain optimism to them that’s charming even after all this time.

Back in the 60s people did genuinely believe that we would be living on the moon in 30 years time and flying to work in a space ship.

Hence why many sci fi series were set only a few decades into the future, such as Lost in Space, Space 1999, Dan Dare, and even various Doctor Who stories.

Sadly however by the 90s as this future failed to materialize, and audiences had had their fill of stories about space exploration, then they turned to stories about old myths and legends about creatures like Vampires, Werewolves and Demons, reinterpreted for modern audiences.

The 4 longest running, most successful, influential and culturally significant series of the 90s/00s period, Buffy, Xena, The X-Files and Charmed all featured supernatural creatures such as Vampires, Demons, Gods, and Witches. Though the Vampires and other supernatural creatures in The X-Files were given a more rational explanation in The X-Files.

There was a still a place for Sci Fi series like the Star Trek sequels and Babylon 5 and the Doctor Who revival.

Still even then many of the creatures in these series still had a somewhat supernatural aspect to them such as the Vorlons and the Shadows, who though still aliens were for all intents and purposes Demons and Angels in space, or the mysterious soul hunters in Babylon 5.

In the modern Doctor Who meanwhile creatures like the Daleks, and even the Doctors own people the Time Lords have also demonstrated supernatural like powers such as being able to revive the dead.

Demons have also been featured in both the modern Doctor Who and Torchwood, whilst the grim reaper himself also was introduced to the Doctor Who universe via Torchwood.

17/ Historical Series That Make No Attempt To Be Historically Accurate

A style that was really pioneered with Hercules and Xena. These series were set in the past, but would often not only feature many glaring historical inaccuracies, but would figures and events from various different periods, separated by thousands of years living together. For instance the Xena/Hercules franchise depicts Julius Cesaer, Vlad the Impaler, and Ulyssess all living at the same time.

Many subsequent fantasy series would be made in this mould over the course of the next two decades. The most successful was unquestionably the BBC’s version of Merlin, but others included The Legend of the Seeker, The Adventures of Sinbad, and the BBC’s version of Robin Hood.

Whilst many people may have knocked the historical inaccuracies of these series, I also rather liked them, as it added to the surrealist nature of all series.

18/ Series Set In Modern Day

Prior to the 90s not that many genre series had been set in modern day. Star Trek, Lost in Space, Blake’s 7 and Space 1999 were all set in the future. Whilst episodes of Doctor Who were set in modern day, and other series like Quatermass also favoured a contemporary setting, as the focus was on sci fi stories, meeting alien races, and the future, then naturally shows set in modern, everyday surroundings were not the norm.

This changed in the 90s as the focus shifted to the paranormal. In some ways this made the 90s shows more effective. On the one hand they weren’t as able to create new and fascinating worlds like Star Trek could, but the fact that the monsters exist in everyday surroundings and in some case, such as with the Mayor in Buffy, are able to use our own system against us.

As Jon Pertwee who played the Third Doctor once said “There’s really nothing more alarming than coming home and finding a Yeti, sitting on your loo in Tooting Bec.

The 90s/00s era took advantage of this to a greater extent than ever before with series like Buffy, Angel, The X-Files, Charmed, Torchwood, Being Human, and Primeval.

19/ A Future Where Technology Has Marched On, Yet Nothing Else Has

The final most common main setting for 90s genre series was a future where technology had improved, man had made contact with aliens, yet all of the same problems of today still persisted. They had simply moved to a different location.

Examples of this include Babylon 5 which is basically the UN in space, Firefly and Star Trek Deep Space 9.

Whilst its true that many previous sci fi series would use villains like the Daleks and the Klingons as metaphors for problems of the present like the Soviet Union and the Cold War. Overall the future in most sci fi television series and films tended to broadly be divided into two categories.

Either things had worked out for us like in Star Trek and Dan Dare, or humanity had gone evil like in Blake’s 7, or we had been conquered by evil monsters like the Daleks.

It was quite rare to see a mixture of both where the future was better and worse in some ways. Once again this became the norm for this generation of sci fi and fantasy series.

20/ Influence Of Chinese Horror and Fantasy Films

Throughout the 80s and the 90s there was a massive horror boom in Hong Kong cinema. These included the likes of the Mr Vampire film series, Close Encounters of the Spooky Kind, A Chinese Ghost Story and The Bride with White Hair and Heroic Trio film series.

Now many of the tropes of 90s genre series can actually be found in the 80s Hong Kong horror boom.

The makers of series such as Xena, have openly cited Chinese horror and action films as being major influences. Rob Tapert, the creator of Xena even listed the Bride with White Hair as the single biggest influence on Xena, this would be reflected in the two parter The Debt, which featured a Chinese woman as Xena’s mentor, and in the final episode of the series which was very heavily inspired by the classic A Chinese Ghost Story.

The Chinese horror movies blended horror and action like never before. We had kung fu Vampires, Demons, Witches and Zombies, all of which would go on to feature in shows like Buffy, Angel and Charmed. In the first episode of season 7 of Buffy, Dawn even jokes that the latest Vampire doesn’t seem to know all of the crazy Kung Fu moves they all seem to pick up.

Furthermore the Vampires in Chinese movies are always depicted as being monstrous and ugly. They were as single minded as animals and nothing but rip their victims to pieces. They didn’t even speak! Again you can see how this was reflected in later 90s and 00s series like Buffy with the Turok Han.

The Chinese Horror movies also regularly blended overt horror alongside slapstick comedy too, which Buffy, Xena and Charmed would all become known for.

The Chinese horror movies also featured strong, complex heroic and villainous roles for women too. In films like The Dead and the Deadly you’d see female characters beat the absolute shit out of Demons, Vampires and monsters long before their counterparts would in western television series.

Michelle Yeoh’s character in the Heroic trio and the leading character from The Bride with White Hair, played by actress Brigitte Linn are the forebears to the likes of Faith, Callisto and Xena. They are all evil, psychotic, villains who eventually change their ways and become heroes.

Yeoh’s character from the Heroic Trio, much like Xena later dies a violent death in order to achieve a proper redemption.

Conclusion

As you can see the 90s/00s pioneered a new style that managed to spread out across both fantasy and sci fi, and arguably travel better overseas than any other before.

However it would eventually be replaced by a darker, grittier style that was pioneered in 10s genre series like Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.

In some respects however modern genre series just pick off where the 90s/00s style left off. Like 90’s/00’s genre series they still feature ongoing story arcs, the big bad formula, and more soap opera elements, and they kill characters off more often.

However what has been dumped from the 90s/00s style is the overt camp and humour. Most modern genre series tend to take themselves very seriously and indeed the likes of Xena and Hercules are sadly often looked down on by contemporary critics as being too camp.

Still the 90s/00s style does still persist in some genre series such as The Flash, Once Upon A Time and the revived Doctor Who.

Whilst mass audiences generally may prefer sci fi and fantasy (and indeed most forms of entertainment) to be dark and gritty nowadays, its nice to see 90s classics like Buffy and Babylon 5 not only still maintain a devoted following, but also their influence and style still continuing to influence series to this day.

Thanks for reading.

 

7 Actresses Who Could Play Xena

It was announced recently that Xena the Warrior Princess will be rebooted over 20 years after the series first debuted.

Very soon there may well be a whole new generation of young fangirls performing the Xena war cry.

Nothing is known about the reboot yet in terms of casting so we can only speculate as to who may be involved. In this article I am going to offer 7 suggestions for who I think could be great as one of the most iconic television characters of all time.

Lucy Lawless is pretty big shoes to fill and I must admit at first I wasn’t too keen on the idea of a remake for that reason, but the way I see it, if its good? Great! It will bring a whole new generation of fans to the series, and if its crap? Well then the original still stands as the classic it is.

All of these actresses I think would do the role justice.

Jill Wagner

Jill has the right build and gravitas for Xena and she has plenty of experience playing action roles in fantasy series such as Teen Wolf and Blade the Series.

I can see her take on the character being much darker than Lucy’s, which might benefit the show depending on what direction they were going in.

Xena could be both camp and very dark much like Batman and perhaps this remake will focus solely on the darker elements of the character such as certain versions of Batman have over the years.

Jill would probably be the best choice for a grittier take on Xena that focuses more on her brutal past and her blood feud with Callisto.

Jill is most famous for playing the psychopathic villainous Werewolf hunter Kate Argent in Teen Wolf. Her character was the constant tormentor of protagonist Derek Hale throughout the first season. Not only did she kill his family but she tortured him A LOT!

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Poor Derek. It seems he didn’t do anything in series one but get tortured and beaten up by Kate.

The only reason you wouldn’t cast Kate as Xena is because she might be perfect as one of the villains of the series instead. She would be excellent as Alti, one of Xena’s archenemies in particular. Still I can also see her giving us a much grittier and darker version of the Warrior Princess herself.

Rachel Shelley

An English character actress best known for her role as Helena Peabody in The L Word (where she acted alongside Lucy Lawless herself). Rachel has had a consistent career on both sides of the Atlantic, but she has only ever really played guest or supporting roles which is a shame as I think she is a very good actress who could carry a series if given the chance.

She certainly looks the every inch the perfect Xena with her raven hair and piercing blue eyes and I think she would be able to handle the physical aspects of the role too.

The original and the second Xena together perhaps?

Katrina Law

Best known for her roles as Mira in Spartacus Blood and Sand and Vengeance as well as Nyssa Al Ghul in Arrow.

She’s already shown promise in both roles, with Mia in particular being one of the most well developed characters across the series as we see her go from a meek slave girl to a warrior in her own right.

I’d imagine that she would similarly be able to develop Xena in an interesting way as well as capture the various different sides to her personality.

Dawn Steele

A ridiculously underrated actress. Dawn is probably best known for her role as Lexie MacDonald in Monarch of the Glen though she has also appeared in other high profile British series such as Wild at Heart. She currently stars as Doctor Annie Jandhu in River City.

She is completely unknown to American audiences but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all Lucy Lawless herself was a total unknown when she was cast as Xena. Sometimes casting an unknown in a big role like Xena or the Doctor can work as it can allow the actor to blend into the role more easily.

Dawn is excellent at playing strong, complex and sexy characters as seen with her role as Annie alone. Also as you can see physically she is a great choice for Xena as she bares a rather startling physical resemblance to Lucy Lawless.

Miranda MacDougall

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A Canadian actress best known for her recent guest appearance on The Flash as Izzy Brown, a gender flipped version of the famous Flash villain, The Fiddler. Miranda made quite a big impression with her performance. She gave the character a lot sass and attitude, but at the same time, she also brought a more vulnerable, sympathetic side to Izzy such as in her relationship with the Elongated Man and even just in her musical aspirations.

Izzy felt like a fully rounded person, with her own dreams and ambitions that we wanted to see survive, rather than just the usual victim of the week.

Miranda also demonstrated a great range in her performance, as she was just as good at playing the more cold, logical and ruthless Thinker when the villain stole Izzy’s body.

See here.

Added to that she also looks a little like Lucy Lawless too and even has a somewhat similar delivery. When she tells the Thinker he/she talks too much, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Lucy.

Dana Delorenzo

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Best known for starring as Kelly Maxwell in Ash Vs Evil Dead. Dana has proven to be an excellent action heroine and thanks to her background as a comedy actress and impressionist could easily capture the humour of the character too.

She would certainly be a choice that Lucy herself would approve of, as she worked with Dana on Ash Vs Evil Dead and singled her out for praise.

Dana Delorenzo: As Long As I Don’t Hit Lucy Lawless

Dana physically is perhaps a bit too small to be Xena however. She stands at just 5 foot 3, but still you could work around that. After all not every version of Batman has been big and tall either. Michael Keaton for instance, physically was somewhat smaller and thinner than the typical image for Batman, but nevertheless he was undoubtedly one of the best versions.

Stephanie Beatriz

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My number 1 choice for Xena. Stephanie is best known for playing the badass, perpetually angry, deadpan cop Rosa in Brooklyn 99.

Whilst primarily known for her comedy, Stephanie can do serious drama as well. Physically she is a great match for Xena as she is quite tall and imposing. Her humour is also a good match for Xena, who as tended to be more sarcastic and biting. I can imagine Rosa getting very frustrated with Joxer, very fast!

Stephanie has mentioned wanting to branch out and play more serious action roles, so for me Xena would be the perfect choice.

Let me know what you think in the comments of my suggestions and please tell me any suggestions you have for Xena and other characters in the series.

 

Cult Villains 1 Callisto

Callisto is the archenemy of Xena the Warrior Princess. She was created by writer RJ Stewart and originally was only intended to be in a single two part story.

Her popularity however would ensure that she would recur throughout most of the series run, and even make crossover appearances in the sister show, Hercules the Legandary Journey’s.

Callisto really served as a classical nemesis to Xena. She was in many ways her dark twin. Someone who had been corrupted by her past into being evil like Xena herself had once been, but unlike Xena was seemingly beyond redemption. She also possessed all of Xena’s many skills, and was a perfect match for the Warrior Princess in every respect.

Though the character sadly never really entered into popular culture the way certain other villains have, such as Faith Lehane, The Daleks or Khan. She is still nevertheless a favourite of many sci fi and fantasy fans around the world and remains in my opinion one of the best realised examples of the archenemy trope.

Character History/ Introduction

Callisto first appears in the season 1 episode “The Greater Good” in a tiny voiceless cameo where she shoots Xena with a poison dart. The remainder of the episode sees Xena out of action due to the poison, whilst Gabrielle has to take on a vicious warlord by herself.

In the following episode titled “Callisto” the character makes her first full appearance. In her first scene she is shown to murder a helpless child whose throat she casually slices open, whilst he is looking for his parents amidst the murder and mayhem her army is causing.

She then spares an old woman, not out of kindness but just to let people know what she did here. She then tells the old woman that her name is Xena the Warrior Princess.

Xena later finds out what is going on from the boy Callisto murders father, who initially attacks Xena believing her to be the murderer of his child. She tracks Callisto down in the middle of slaughtering a village where Callisto reveals who she really is to Xena. Callisto comes from a village called Cira that Xena’s army burned to the ground when Xena was a ruthless warlord. Xena had attempted to merely conquer the village, but she caused a fire that got out of control. Almost all of the villagers died, including Callisto’s entire family,.

Callisto who was one of the few survivors was driven completely insane and vowed revenge on Xena. After Xena changed her ways and sought redemption, Callisto’s hatred only increased. Feeling sick at the idea of Xena, the woman who torched her family being celebrated as a hero. Callisto poisoned Xena with a dart, not to kill her, but just to put her out of action for a short while so she could begin slaughtering and burning villages under the name of Xena.

A young Callisto watches her family burn slowly to death.

Xena later defeats Callisto. Callisto proves to be a formidable fighter who is even able to catch the shakram, something that Gabrielle is only able to do after 6 years of training from Xena herself.

However where she is ultimately inferior to Xena is that she lets her psychotic rage often get the better of her, whilst Xena is always able to remain control and calm in any situation.

Xena finds that she is unable to kill Callisto out of guilt for what she did years ago and puts her in prison. Callisto however quickly escapes and captures Gabrielle. Using her to lure Xena into a final showdown, Xena defeats Callisto once again. Callisto at one point even attempts to kill herself but Xena saves her much to Callisto’s anger.

Callisto is once again sent to prison, and though Xena feels it was the right thing to do, Callisto assures her that it wasn’t not only for her sake, but for all of the other innocent people she will kill too when she escapes again.

This episode is I’d say the best ever episode of Xena Warrior Princess. This was really the episode that I think made the show. Prior to this Xena had really just been an inferior, female version of Hercules with Xena’s past as a vicious warlord barely even mentioned apart from in a few episodes.

However this was where the show really stamped out its own identity. This episode reminded us that Xena had once been a blood thirsty warlord who had killed innocent people and was now getting away with it.

Regardless of the good things she does now, her past will always catch up with her in some way or another.

I think this episode got Xena’s darkside down right. A lot of later episodes would go too far in making Xena evil. Portraying her as a monster who tortures and kills hundreds of innocent people for no reason other than sadistic cruelty. I never liked that take on “Evil Xena” as I felt it stretched the credibility of the character too far.

Its hard to believe someone like the “Evil Xena” from the later episodes who does things like tie teenage girls up, cut them over a pool of water and allow crabs to cut their limbs off could ever repent her actions.

At this point “Evil Xena” is portrayed as someone who became a warlord simply because she was born into a violent and brutal time. She was obviously ruthless, but not sadistic. She still possessed a code of honour, never murdered children and always did her best to keep civilian casualties to a minimum. This is seen by the fact that she did not mean to burn Callisto’s family to death. She merely attempted to loot the village, but it was one of her men who accidentally caused a fire that burned the village to the ground.

You can imagine that even during her darker days Xena would have been haunted by this event.

This episode also established that Xena was a lot darker and somewhat more nuanced than Hercules too. Callisto is a very tragic and sympathetic character. Despite this she is also arguably the most evil and wretched villain in either Hercules or Xena at this point.

The first thing she does is cut the throat of a young, helpless boy. Yet despite this we feel sorry for her. That’s pretty strong writing (and also acting from Hudson Leick who is excellent in the role) to get us to feel sorry for a character that murders children and enjoys it!

How many characters can you honestly say that about?

Even though Callisto is a total monster. She is the character that in any other work of fiction we would root for and hope triumphed over the person who wronged her. The situation between Xena and Callisto is similar to that between Uma Thurman’s The Bride and Vivica A Fox’s character at the start of Kill Bill Volume 1.

In both occasions we have someone who has done something horrible to someone else, but who now regrets it and seeks redemption and is even having a nice life. Vivica Fox’s character tortured and nearly killed, along with several other assassins, Uma Thurman’s character and robbed her of her chance to raise her child. Now however Fox’s character has a family and is genuinely sorry for what she has done.

However that changes nothing for the Bride. She much like Callisto finds no solace in her tormentors redemption, but unlike with Callisto we are supposed to root for The Bride.

The Bride is the main protagonist despite being in exactly the same situation as Callisto.

Callisto offers a fresh take on this type of character, as in Callisto’s case it is the main hero who is the one who wronged someone. Thus we can’t quite root for Callisto the same way as we would for the Bride even though we really want to.

Its a wonderful new take on the hero, archenemy trope in general. There had been many examples of the villain feeling guilt or even a sense of responsibility for the villains actions. Batman made the Joker by accidentally knocking him into a vat of chemicals, whilst even Superman feels guilt in some interpretations over having not done enough to help his friend Lex Luthor.

However I don’t think it had ever really been like this before where the hero had done something so terrible to the villain. Something that like I said in any other version would actually be the heroes main motivation against their worst enemy. It helped to make Callisto and Xena more than just another cliched hero and archenemy feud.

Incidentally Quentin Tarrrantino who directed Kill Bill is a huge fan of Xena and even cited Callisto as one of his main influences on The Bride.

Its very rare to have the hero be unable to justify themselves to the villain. When Callisto tells Xena she made her she is 100 percent right.

Why should Xena be allowed to go free? Justice doesn’t work where you get to decide how you have paid your debts. Xena thinks she is paying them by walking the countryside with her sidekick who thinks the world of her becoming a celebrated hero and doing good things to ease her conscience. Understandably the people she wronged and the people whose families she butchered are not going to see that as her paying her dues.

Callisto also presents a terrible dilemma for Xena as well as a gruesome reminder of her past.

Xena knows, even though it was an accident that she is still responsible for Callisto’s actions. Does she of all people really have the right to end her life? She will just be finishing the job she started decades ago, yet if she doesn’t more innocent people will be slaughtered.

Both Xena’s ruthlessness and her compassion ironically will cause more innocent deaths.

Still whilst the audience is invited to feel sorrow for Callisto, the episode suggests that perhaps Callisto’s dark nature does not stem entirely from Xena’s actions.

In this same episode we are introduced to the character of “Joxer the Mighty” played by Ted Raimi. Joxer is a hopeless wanna be warrior who thinks that he wants to join Callisto’s army, but when given the chance to actually murder a defenceless Gabrielle. He refuses and would rather die than take another life.

Callisto meanwhile murders children without batting an eye lid. This shows that some people are more capable of it, even if it is just because of the tragic circumstances in their lives.

Callisto is more capable of murder and senseless cruelty than Xena even when she was at her worst was. Xena much like Callisto was driven down a dark path due to the loss of a loved one. In her case her beloved brother who much like Callisto’s sister was murdered in a pointless conflict, but she never stooped so low as to intentionally murder children. This was seen even in Xena’s appearances on Hercules where she spared an infants life and was forced to run the gauntlet by her own men as a result.

Overall I would give this episode 5 out of 5 stars. There isn’t really anything I can fault about it in any way shape or form. Not only is the writing and acting top notch, but the direction is also perfect too, particularly in the final fight between Xena and Callisto on the ladder, which is one of the most thrilling fight scenes in the entire series.

Originally it was intended to make this story a two parter, but ultimately Callisto’s second appearance was pushed forward until the next season.

Return of Callisto and Return From the Grave

Callisto’s next appearance simply titled “The Return of Callisto” was also written by her creator RJ Stewart.

The premise sees Callisto escape from the prison Xena left her in. She frees the rest of her army from prison (after making her captor squeal like a pig in pain, literally). Callisto goes on a massive rampage, slaughtering many more innocent people, including Gabrielle’s new husband Perdicus. Gabrielle consumed with grief tries to murder Callisto when she sleeps, but finds she cannot and ends up waking Callisto up. Callisto captures her and uses her to capture Xena. With both of them at her mercy Callisto prepares to torture them both to death, but they are freed (inadvertently) by Joxer.

Though Joxer is no match for Callisto, his bumbling attempt at a rescue allows Xena to get free. She pursues Callisto and the two after another intense battle fall into quick sand. Xena escapes by throwing her chakram onto the hill beside them and throws a rope around it, which she uses to pull herself to safety. She just leaves Callisto to sink into the sand however. Callisto begs Xena to save her (despite her suicidal tendencies earlier) but Xena responds with a cold stare, and Callisto sinks screaming under the quick sand where she dies of suffocation.

Return of Callisto is an absolute classic episode of Xena that really helps to move the story between Xena and her sworn enemy on brilliantly. Once again we see how Callisto’s darkness is not entirely down to Xena.

Gabrielle suffers a similar loss but ultimately is unable to kill even Callisto herself. I like the way that Callisto even admits she is jealous of Gabrielle just before she attempts to burn her to death, because Gabrielle gets to leave the earth so pure and innocent.

There are also another couple of interesting insights into Callisto’s character such as when we discover that one of her most loyal men has fallen in love with her, but Callisto is so dead to emotion that she not only can’t experience love herself, but even warns her henchman that if he is in love with her she will have to kill him.

Really the only thing that drags this episode down is Gabrielle’s love interest Perdicus.

Perdicus is such a boring, sappy character and he and Gabrielle are a revolting schmoopie couple too. I was waiting for Callisto to gut him like a fish to be honest.

Gabrielle and Perdicus.

Its an old trope having the archenemy kill a friend of the hero to make them seem menacing and it normally works, but here I guess Perdicus was just so boring nobody cared sadly.

Oh no Perdicus has been killed off. Said no one ever, anywhere, at any point.

The best part of Return of Callisto is its final scene which sees Callisto suffer the first of her many deaths.

This moment really stuck in my head when I first watched it as a young boy in the 90’s. It was so shocking watching Xena just let a pleading Callisto sink to her death.

I have always said its more shocking to have the hero do something horrible to the villain, but this wasn’t even like Superman promising Darkseid that he was going to be a smear on his fist.

What was even more disturbing about this scene was the way that Xena ‘s reaction to it is so cold.

Xena is not killing Callisto out of rage and anger. She is doing it for purely practical reasons. She realises that Callisto is beyond redemption. Xena has tried to get through to her better side, and given her chance after chance, but its now obvious that Callisto does not want to change. Or even if she does who knows how many innocent people she will have killed before then.

Does Xena have a right to risk so many more innocent people’s lives just in the off chance that Callisto decides to change like she did?

No she doesn’t, so for purely practical reasons Callisto has to die.

Thus she shuts off all of her emotions. Her anger, her compassion, her guilt. She just stares at the terrified and pleading Callisto with no expression whatsoever. Lucy Lawless’s underplaying of the scene is just perfect.

Once again this scene demonstrates how the Xena/Callisto feud is not just a simple case of black and white, good vs evil like Batman and the Joker.

Xena’s actions here are utterly deplorable. Not only is it ruthless and cold but also complete moral cowardice too. She knows Callisto has to die, but she can’t bring herself to actually murder her out of guilt for what she did to her family. So she just doesn’t save her. That way Callisto’s blood wont technically be on her hands.

Its disturbing to think that in many ways Xena is delighted when Callisto falls into the quicksand. She can’t believe her luck. Here this evil, relentless enemy of hers who will keep slaughtering innocent people just to spite her, and who she knows she wont ever have the moral courage to kill has fallen into quick sand and is going to die in a way where she wont have to actually kill her.

All her problems have been fixed by this sheer dumb luck. In addition to repressing her guilt and sorrow over Callisto when she watches Callisto die. Xena is probably repressing her joy and relief at this horrible situation finally coming to an end.

It would have actually been more humane of Xena just to simply stab Callisto when she was trapped in the quick sand and finish her off quickly. Instead she lets Callisto sink underneath it, where Callisto much like the rest of her family will die a slow and lingering death.

However at the same time can we really blame Xena. Yes it was cowardly and ruthless, but if she had pulled Callisto out of the quicksand and stuck her in a prison then she would most certainly have escaped and burned more villagers and killed more innocent people, possibly hundreds more before being put in prison and escaping yet again to cause more death.

Xena just does what we wish every hero would do. Think of how many people Batman could have saved if he had done this to the Joker. There’d probably be less graveyards in Gotham!

So whilst Xena’s actions may have seemed dirty and underhanded, ultimately what was she to have done? The situation with Callisto was horrible and there were no easy ways out of it.

Its also quite a nice touch to see Callisto actually terrified of dying. In her previous appearance she tried to commit suicide many times. When angry villagers toss a torch into the prison she is being kept in she doesn’t even attempt to flee from the flames and just stands there barely reacting before Xena saves her.

Similarly at the end of her first episode after losing her battle with Xena, she throws herself to her death and screams out in fury when Xena catches her.

Here however when it becomes apparent that Xena isn’t going to save Callisto this time. We see genuine, outright hysteria as she sinks lower and lower. This goes to show that there was a dark side to Xena that even Callisto didn’t know about.

Ironically she of all people who had suffered the most due to Xena’s darker nature, had in fact underestimated how ruthless Xena actually could be. .

Callisto’s undignified and pitiful end.

Originally the intention was for Xena to save Callisto in this sequence and this alternate scene was even filmed, but fortunately it was decided at the last minute to have Xena just let her die.

I am so glad they made the right decision. It just would have been so much worse if Xena had spared Callisto. It not only wouldn’t have seemed right for their relationship, but it also would have made this episode just a total remake of the first Callisto episode if they had done that.

Callisto gets out and does shady things and Xena saves her and puts her in prison at the end and Callisto vows she is going to get her.

That type of story is okay for comic books, but in a tv show where you have limited time I think you have to move the story on and that’s what this episode did. It raised the Xena and Callisto feud to a whole new level by having Xena wrong her once again.

The original ending. In an alternate universe Xena spares her nemesis from her grizzly fate.

Of course just because Callisto was dead did not mean that we wouldn’t see her again. Oh no far from it.

The character would return later that same season in fact in the episode “Intimate Stranger”

In this episode Callisto’s spirit is able to attack Xena in her dreams. Constantly tormenting her and playing on her guilt over having murdered her.

It is revealed that Callisto is being aided by Ares the God of War who is able to switch Callisto and Xena’s minds allowing Callisto to live in Xena’s body whilst Xena takes Callisto’s place. In Xena’s body, Callisto begins a relationship with Ares, but ultimately he discovers that she is just using him and he leaves her.

Xena meanwhile is given one day to bring Callisto’s soul back to Hades or else she will take her place there forever. Callisto very nearly burns Xena’s village to the ground, but Xena with the aid of Joxer and Gabrielle is able to knock Callisto out. Whilst Callisto dreams Xena has the ghosts of her victims confront her.

With Callisto’s own mother being among them saying that even though she still loves her daughter, she must face her own sins. Callisto for the first time is overwhelmed by the guilt of what she has done as her victims souls confront her. Xena is able to subsequently defeat her and take her place on earth albeit whilst still in Callisto’s body.

“Intimate Stranger” is an old idea of the villain switching bodies with the hero, but that still doesn’t stop this episode from being yet another classic.  To start with Lucy Lawless and Hudson Leick clearly relish the opportunity to play something different from their usual roles.

Lawless is delightfully over the top as Callisto. I think she doesn’t get the credit she deserves as one of the greatest hams of all time. I mean we are talking William Shatner, Tom Baker level of being a ham. No performance better demonstrates that than her turn as Callisto.

Lucy Lawless hamming it up even more than usual (if that was possible!)

However Hudson Leick I think is really the one who steals the show. Though that is often the case in stories where the hero and villain switch bodies. The actor who normally plays the hero looks like they have more fun, but the actor who normally plays the villain really gets a chance to show off their serious side more.

Just like “The Return of Callisto” the best moment is the final confrontation. Here in a great twist its Callisto’s own mother, someone who Xena killed, that helps Xena defeat her.

Callisto’s own mother is horrified at what her daughter has become and wants her to stop, but the only way she can get that is too make her face the responsibility for her own heinous actions.

It is true that Xena wronged her, but she did not need to do any of the horrible things she has done. As Xena points out to her, how many of her victims had families just like hers that she torched? What has become of the man whose son she cut down in cold blood in her first appearance? Ultimately she cannot blame Xena for this. She made her own choices and she must pay for them and that’s why even her own mother, herself a victim of Xena forces her to face those she has wronged.

It also shows us how despite what she says Callisto is not so entirely dead to emotion. She cannot bare to look at the men, women and children she butchered in her crusade even for a second. All the guilt that she has spent ages repressing comes flooding out and its enough to practically destroy her.

This episode also starts the Ares/Callisto relationship which would lead to some interesting stories across both Xena and Hercules.

Overall “Callisto, “The Return of Callisto” and “Intimate Stranger” together serve as an excellent trilogy. They develop the Xena/Callisto relationship over all three episodes perfectly. In the first episode Xena is so guilty over what she did to Callisto that not only can she not kill her, but she actively stops other people from killing her and even stops Callisto from committing suicide.

However by her second appearance Xena realises that Callisto will never change and has to die to save others. She still can’t bring herself to kill her however and lucks out when Callisto falls into the quick sand and she wont have to kill her.

The final story sees Xena face the consequences of her cowardly actions in leaving Callisto to die and admit that what she did was just as bad as cold blooded murder anyway. Still ultimately it also finally sees Callisto face the truth about herself as well.

Callisto is responsible for what she became. This has been hinted throughout the first two Callisto episodes where we see other people endure tragedies yet not go down the same path as she did.

First of all there is the man whose son Callisto murders in the first episode who tries to murder her, but after his actions very nearly cause Gabrielle’s death he realises the horror of what he has done, and what he is in danger of becoming and forgets his feud with Callisto.

Gabrielle herself loses her husband, but ultimately finds she is unable to take another life even Callisto’s.

Even Xena fits this pattern to some extent as she lost her brother and unlike Gabrielle she did go down a dark path, but even she never went as far as Callisto did and was ultimately able to pull herself back from the brink.

Callisto however became a monster and killed hundreds of innocent men, women and children. At the end of the day she is responsible for those crimes, not Xena, and unlike Xena who was never as bad as she was; she was given chance after chance to stop but she refused.

In many ways Xena and Callisto’s relationship is like that of a child who is abused by their parents and spends the rest of their life making mistakes and blaming everything they do on that.

Hudson Leick would play Xena who was still trapped in Callisto’s body for one more episode before Ares switched them back, but we wont be looking at that episode as its not really a Callisto episode.

The only reason that Xena and Callisto didn’t switch back immediately was because Lucy Lawless had injured herself and thus Hudson had to fill in for her for one episode.

Appearance on Hercules

Callisto would next appear on Xena’s sister show Hercules. This followed on directly from her last appearance in Xena. Callisto makes a deal with Hera to be released back onto earth to kill Hercules. Callisto is more than happy to not only because she will be given new life, but also because she wants to make Hercules, the man who redeemed Xena and saved her soul pay.

Callisto is given one day of life to kill Hercules. Not trusting Hera due her past alliance with Ares, she decides to trick Hercules into giving her immortality. She poisons his family and says that the only cure for the poison is magic apples, which can be found in the Labyrinth. If a dying person eats them they will be cured, but if a healthy person eats them they will become immortal.

Hercules is forced to help Callisto make her way past the numerous traps, puzzles and threats in the Labyrinth to get to the apples.

Callisto naturally turns on Hercules once they reach the apples and devours one of them gaining her immortality. However Hercules is still able to defeat her and both scar her and leave her trapped in the maze of the Labyrinth and use the apples to save his family.

Callisto was the first major Xena villain to cross over into Hercules. After this Ares would appear and go on to become a major villain in Hercules.

Surprise is overall a great episode. Hudson Leick and Kevin Sorbo who plays Hercules have quite a good chemistry with one another. Sorbo generally tends to underplay the character of Hercules which on screen contrasts quite well opposite Leicks hysterical over the top performance as Callisto.

Its obvious that the character of Callisto lacks the same dynamic with Hercules that she had with Xena. It like having Superman fight The Joker. Yeah that’s fun, but its not the same as Batman and the Joker together.

Still this story does mark a change in Callisto’s character as this shows her becoming an immortal. From this point on the character of Callisto would never just be an ordinary human being ever again.

Further Battles with Xena and Hercules and Second Death

Callisto would next pop up on Xena in another season 2 episode “A Necessary Evil”.

This story followed on from “Surprise” as we saw Callisto still trapped in the Labyrinth doing nothing but killing rats all of which she names Hercules.

Callisto is ultimately freed by Xena of all people who needs her help.

An enemy of Gabrielle’s, an Amazon named Velasca has managed to steal Ambrosia and used it to become a goddess. Velasca now plans to destroy Gabrielle and pursues her across all of Athens.

Realizing that she is no match for a goddess, Xena seeks Callisto who is an immortals help. Xena promises Callisto the Ambrosia allowing her to become a goddess if she helps her take down Velasca. Callisto agrees, but soon not surprisingly turns on Xena and tries to make an alliance with Velasca. Velasca is wary of trusting Callisto, but Callisto assures her that they can be allies, even friends, due to Velasca’s hatred of Gabrielle and her hatred of Xena. Xena however ruins their fledgling friendship by making it appear that Callisto is trying to trick her.

Xena later lures Velasca to a bridge above a large pit of lava. There Callisto is able to steal Velasca’s ambrosia and become a goddess. Whilst Velasca and Callisto are fighting Xena cuts the ropes on the bridge sending both villains plummeting to the lava below, where they are trapped seemingly forever, whilst still fighting with one another.

Overall this is another brilliant episode. Its not hard to see why they kept bringing Callisto back as every single episode she was in had been an absolute classic at this point.

Hudson Leick as always is excellent here. Even just little bits like when she winks at a grieving Gabrielle are wonderful moments of villany and dark humour.

Callisto and Velasca played by Melinda Clarke play brilliantly off of one another too.

They are both such different villains. On the one hand Callisto is a more sympathetic character than Velasca, who in contrast to Callisto had a happy upbringing and eventually murdered her own adopted mother Melosa to try and gain power.

At the same time though whilst Callisto might be more sympathetic, she is actually far more evil and destructive than Velasca. Velasca is just a spoiled brat who wanted to rule the Amazons. Callisto is a damaged, unhinged sociopath who has suffered unimaginable loss and pain. She has even died and come back.

Velasca is completely out of her league when she goes up against Callisto. The final moment where Callisto becomes a god and we actually see Velasca recoil in sheer terror at just the sight of the goddess Callisto is brilliant. Velasca has never shown fear before as she is so arrogant she believes herself to be superior to everyone around her, even Xena herself, but the sight of Callisto’s mad face staring back at her is enough to penetrate even her arrogance.

My only problem with this story is that it turns Callisto into a goddess which no longer makes her a good match for Xena.

Xena is a Batman type of hero. She is an ordinary human being who uses both her skills as a fighter and her overall intelligence to fight villains. Now Batman and Xena both work when fighting villains who are ordinary human beings. Like look at Batman’s rogues gallery. The vast majority of them lack super powers. Similarly Xena’s rogues gallery lack super powers too for the most part. Callisto, Draco and Cesar are all ordinary human beings.

Ares is a god, but he does not want to kill Xena. He merely wants her back, so he wont kill her. Instead Xena vs Ares is more her trying to overcome his constant mind games, dirty tricks, and manipulations into making her go evil again.

With Callisto as a goddess however its different. She is not an ordinary human being any more, she could kill Xena with the flick of her hand, and unlike Ares she really, really, really wants too.

So when Callisto still loses to Xena also not only makes Xena too powerful, but also ruins Callisto’s menace too. As a goddess she often just gets buried under rocks by Xena.

Callisto’s next appearance after “A Necessary Evil” was in season 3, in the episode “Maternal Instincts”.

In this episode Callisto is freed from the Lava by Hope, Gabrielle’s demonic daughter. Earlier in season 3 Gabrielle was raped by the ancient Demon god Dahak and gave birth to his daughter. Though Hope was a creature of pure evil, Gabrielle found she could not murder her and lied to Xena that she had.

Gabrielle placed Hope in a basket and allowed her to float down a river to safety, Hope has since grown from a baby into a child (with her demonic nature allowing her to grow at an alarming rate) Hope frees Callisto, but not Velasca. Velasca presumably remains trapped, though it is possible that Callisto killed her.

Whatever the case Callisto and Hope go after Xena’s son Solon who is eventually murdered by Hope. Though Xena is able to defeat Callisto and trap her in a mine. Things are tense to say the least between Xena and Gabrielle.

Now “Maternal Instincts” is one of my all time favourite ever episodes of Xena. I think it is a tv classic. Solon’s death is an excellent twist. It brings a whole new dynamic to Xena’s relationship with Callisto and Gabrielle.

How simple it would have been to have had Callisto, Xena’s ultimate enemy kill Solon, but having it be Hope, just makes it all the more horrifying and I applaud the writers of the show for being that brave.

Things really are never quite the same between the Warrior Princess and the battling bard ever again. I feel that this incident both drives them apart, but later brings them closer together as Xena ultimately forgives her, and Gabrielle later forgives Xena who in the next episode very nearly tortures Gabrielle to death in revenge. If they can get over that, then they can get over anything.

Both Lucy Lawless and Renee O’Conner’s acting in that scene where they realise what Hope has done is among the best in the entire series. Its hard to say what is more effective Xena’s anguish or Gabrielle’s horrible feelings of regret, knowing that she has caused the death of her best friends son and also the realisation that her daughter is an utter monster after all.

Callisto’s almost orgasmic reaction to Xena’s anguish is deeply disturbing too.

I also love Callisto’s confrontation with Xena in the village after Solon has been murdered. Here Callisto comments on how despite her initial joy, Solon’s death brings her no happiness. She thought it would. After she lost her family her hatred was all that kept her going, but now that she has inflicted the worst pain she ever possibly could on Xena, making her lose her child, she has nothing left.

Worse as she is now a goddess she can’t ever die. She’ll have to live as an empty shell for all eternity.

Once again even though Callisto has taken part in the death of an innocent child. (She may not actually killed Solon, but she still helped Hope do it). You still can’t help but pity her that she is just so damaged and broken she can’t experience anything any more.

Sadly however Callisto’s status as a goddess does limit her effectiveness at the end of the story. Her final fight with Xena at the end is just lame. Callisto barely puts up a fight. She was seemingly a lot stronger when she was a human. It also undermines the menace of Velasca too. Why the hell did Xena need immortal Callisto if she could just beat up a god no problem.

Though I suppose you could say it was because of Callisto’s lack of enthusiasm for anything that she didn’t fight back.

Callisto would appear in the next episode. The musical episode of Xena the Warrior Princess “The Bitter Suite”. However its only in hallucinations or as an apparition in the musical land of Illusia.

Callisto’s next proper appearance was in the Hercules two parter “Armageddon Now”. This two parter was another classic (it seems at this point they couldn’t give Callisto a bad episode if they tried). Ironically goddess Callisto works better in Hercules than she does in Xena, as goddess Callisto is able to actually fight with Hercules and still seem like a genuine threat due to his super strength.

“Armageddon Now” sees Callisto freed from the mine Xena trapped her in by Hope. After realising how evil she was, Gabrielle poisoned her own daughter, and burned her corpse. Hope’s spirit however is able to reform parts of her charred corpse into a new zombie like body. In this form, Hope frees Callisto who is reluctant to keep working for her until Hope offers her a chance to rid her of her pain, provided she wipes Hercules from the history of the earth.

Callisto soon goes to Ares. Ares who is tired of having his and his underlings plans constantly thwarted by Hercules agrees to work with Callisto to get rid of him once and for all. Ares and Callisto using their combined god abilities, free the evil alternate reality version of Hercules trapped in the nothingness between realities. The two also take the Hinds blood, the only thing that can kill a god from him. When the real Hercules shows up and fights his evil twin, Ares and Callisto open the portal to the nothingness between worlds and send both Hercules there.

Callisto demands Ares give the Hinds blood to her. Ares not trusting her fights with Callisto for it. Callisto proves to be no match for Ares and gets thrashed by him pretty badly. However Callisto is soon given help from Hope who injects the power of her father Dahak into Callisto. Armed with this extra energy Callisto soundly defeats Ares and steals the Hinds blood from him. She then smears it on a dagger and stabs Strife, Ares underling to death.

Now armed with the Hinds blood Callisto is safe to travel back in time with Hope’s help. All gods can travel backwards in time and that was why Callisto needed the Hinds blood as no god can stop her as she has the means to destroy them just like she did Strife, whom she merely tested it out on.

Callisto goes back to try and murder Hercules before he was born by killing his mother whilst she was pregnant with him. Iolus is sent back by Ares to stop her, but he fails and Callisto murders Hercules’s mother and erases him from history.

Callisto then travels back to when Xena originally raided her home village and save her family from Xena’s army. This was part of the deal she had with Hope that she would agree to kill Hercules as long as she got to save her family from certain death. Though Callisto as a goddess had the power to time travel anyway she did not know how to use it properly having been born a mortal without hopes help. Unfortunately for Callisto in trying to stop Xena’s army from burning them, she ends up killing her family by mistake, just making her pain even worse.

Ioalus meanwhile travels back to the present only to find it a very different place without Hercules. Without Hercules’s influence Xena was never redeemed and is a ruthless emperor having conquered most of the known world. She is also utterly devoted to Ares and has Gabrielle who is head of a resistance movement against her tortured and then crucified before a horrified Ioalus. Ioalus is later able to find another way to travel backwards in time and manages to save Hercules’s mother from Callisto setting the timeline on its correct course. Both Ioalous and Callisto arrive back in the present now as it was. Callisto attempts to kill Ioalus, but Hercules manages to escape from the nothingness between worlds and after a battle with Callisto, is able to throw her through the portal, leaving her trapped between dimensions.

“Armageddon Now” is a classic Hercules episode. Though it is riddled with plot holes. For instance if Callisto had managed to change her own history by sparing her family then she would never have become evil and never have gone back and changed her history. Also as Gabrielle is killed in the revised timeline by Xena then Hope herself would never have been born either.

Still despite this overall this is a pretty strong story. Like I said earlier Callisto actually seems like a force to be reckoned with again in her battles with Hercules.

Having her murder her own family by mistake in the aborted timeline is also a truly magnificent irony.

I think Callisto as a goddess could have been in more Hercules episodes. This was the first time she was better suited for Hercules rather than Xena and its a shame they didn’t take advantage of it more. Callisto, a renegade god who wasn’t part of Olympus could have been a brilliant idea to explore on Hercules. I would have loved to have seen more episodes that pitted her and Ares together. Their fight on “Armageddon Now” is a definite highlight. Compared to the almost fun brawls between Hercules and Ares we are more used to seeing, this is just so brutal, vicious and nasty.

Sadly Callisto would not appear on Hercules after this story. Though she did make a cameo in the next episode “Yes Virgina the is a Hercules” where she is comically shown to be playing rock scissor papers with Ares. Hudson Leick also played a parody of Liz Friedman a writer of the series in this episode as well another episode of series 5. Sadly however this proved to be Callisto’s last battle with Hercules.

Callisto’s next appearance was in the Xena season 3 two part finale “Sacrifice”. Sadly however this two parter for me is one of only two weak Callisto episodes. I suppose they had to give her a poor story sooner or later.

“Sacrifice” sees Callisto escape from the portal between worlds simply using her own godlike powers. She returns to our reality and begins working alongside Hope yet again with her reason being that she wants to die, and believes only Hope can give her the oblivion she desires. Callisto seeks eternal nothingness. No afterlife, no memories just nothing. Hope is finally able to repair her burned and damaged body and assumes the form of her mother.

Hope is ultimately planning to allow her father Dahak to enter the world to ravage it. With that being her plan all along. Ares ultimately joins forces with Dahak, which in turn causes Callisto to switch and work with Xena with the promise once again being that Xena will kill her once this is all over. Armed with the hinds blood dagger that Callisto herself created Xena tries to murder Hope, but it is Gabrielle who pushes her into a pit of lava and seemingly falls in with her. Callisto laughs at Gabrielle’s death and remarks that this has finally given her a reason to live again. Xena however overcome with grief and rage at having lost everything, stabs Callisto in the stomach with the Hinds blood. Killing her a second time. Xena states coldly to Callisto “No more living for you” as Callisto falls to the floor dead.

My main beef with this story isn’t really with how Callisto is portrayed. More Ares. I don’t like the way he switches sides and joins Dahak virtually without an explanation. Its so out of character for Ares to be happy being someone else’s lackey, or to betray Xena the woman he loves and whom he later gives up his godhood for, at the drop of a hat.

Still I do like how Callisto is written in this story by and large. Unlike Ares, Callisto’s motivation for working with Hope and later even Xena makes sense. Her desire for permanent oblivion after all of the pain she has endured is rather moving, and ties in with the previous stories where she viewed her godhood as a curse.

Sadly however as a goddess Callisto is at her most useless. She must get buried under rocks about 7 times in total throughout the story. I can definitely see why they killed her off as a goddess after this episode. The character works best as a normal human.

Her death is a brilliant moment too. After having failed to work up the courage to kill her for so long, Xena finally does it in a moment of despair. Also the fact that she does it when Callisto has finally after a life time of misery found a desire to live again, is such a cruel irony and yet another time that Xena has wronged her.

Callisto would not reappear for an entire year after “Sacrifice”.

Damnation and Redemption

Callisto next appeared in the story “The Ides of March” where she is shown to have been sent to hell this time. She is given a chance by Satan himself to live again by bringing Xena’s soul to him by taking her off of the path of redemption. Callisto can not hurt Xena or interfere directly, instead she must manipulate her.

Though Callisto who appears to Xena as a demonic spirit tries to manipulate the Warrior Princess, ultimately her plan fails and Callisto soon loses her temper and throws he shakram into Xena’s back breaking it. A crippled Xena and Gabrielle are soon captured, tortured and crucified. Though Callisto is robbed of her chance at life she takes solace in having finally achieved her revenge, as Xena and Gabrielle die in agony on the cross.

“The Ides of March” is yet another all time classic. Here the character is given a brand new motivation. She agrees to help Satan get Xena’s soul, not so much because she wants to live again, but just because she can’t stand the idea of Xena’s soul going to heaven.

Once again the viewer can have some sympathy for Callisto who is enduring eternal torment in hell having to watch as Xena the woman who wronged her so many times ascends to Heaven. Just the thought of it is enough to drive Callisto insane with rage and despair. I also liked how Callisto’s vision of hell wasn’t just the usual fire and brimstone but rather apparitions of Xena and Gabrielle laughing at her and then vanishing before she can strike them.

Callisto would go on to reappear in the first episode of season 5 “Fallen Angel”. In this story Callisto has now become a Demon and attacks Xena and Gabrielle’s souls as they are ascending to heaven. She manages to drag Gabrielle’s soul to hell where she tortures her and very nearly transforms her into a demon.

Unfortunately for Callisto. Xena leads a squad of Angels to hell and battles the demons. Though they are able to defeat Callisto Xena takes pity on Callisto who vows that she will spend eternity seeking revenge on her. Xena ultimately sacrifices herself and sends her angelic life force into Callisto’s soul. This purifies her and not only causes her to become an Angel but also forget her evil past and become what she would have originally become had Xena not burned her family. It is revealed that without Xena’s influence Callisto would have been a sweet natured, kind, loving and compassionate figure after all.

Xena meanwhile takes Callisto’s place in hell as a demon and leads the rest of Hell’s forces to overrun heaven leading to an all out war. It is ultimately the newly redeemed Callisto that is able to save the day by helping Xena’s friend Eli bring both Xena and Gabrielle back to live. With Xena now restored as a human the forces of hell lose their leader and are driven back. As her reward for saving heaven Callisto is reunited with her family one last time.

“Fallen Angel” is another classic episode, but it does suffer from some flaws. On the one hand it is a very exciting and dramatic story, and it probably contains one of the best performances from Hudson Leick in the entire series. Hudson as always is fabulous as the evil, now demonic Callisto, however she proves to be just as good as the sweet natured, heroic version of Callisto at the same time.

There also many moving moments throughout the episode such as Gabrielle forgiving Callisto for murdering Perdicus and Callisto finally being reunited with her parents actually made me tear up the first time I saw it.

Sadly however I don’t think this episode really resolves the Callisto storyline quite as well as I had hoped. It completely contradicts the original Callisto trilogy by making out that Callisto is evil only because of what Xena did to her. The whole point was that whilst Xena certainly let that side out, ultimately it was clearly always there. That’s why Callisto became a monster, whilst Gabrielle and the man whose son Callisto murdered and even Xena herself ultimately didn’t.

Here however Xena is shown to be 100 percent responsible and we find out that without Xena burning her family she would have been a sweet, wimpy goody two shoes. Also its a bit much after everything we have seen Callisto do that in the end all that happened was Xena shot a big bright white light into Callisto and she became good.

I actually think that the ending they had for Callisto on Hercules would have been better. Callisto was to have originally appeared in the first episode of season 6 of Hercules called “Be Deviled”. Here her demonic soul would have escaped from hell and tried to save her sister. It would have been revealed that her sister had actually survived Xena burning her village after all, and now her sister was being driven by the same hatred she had into becoming a monster. However ultimately Callisto would have prevented her from going down this path and making the same mistakes she did.

I am so annoyed that they didn’t use this story. This would have been so much a better ending to Callisto’s character. It would have tied into the original story arc so much better by having Callisto actually achieve her redemption on her own. Rather than just have Xena pull the switch on her back from evil to good.

Also having her return to hell to willingly face her punishment too would have been a fitting end that would have tied into “Intimate Stranger”. They fact that they ditched this story and went with the angelic Callisto is in my opinion as big a mistake as if they had had Xena pull Callisto out of the quicksand in “The Return of Callisto”.

Sadly it would get even worse for the character in her next and final appearance “Seeds of Faith”. This story was a truly dismal end to Callisto’s character. She basically does nothing but float around going on about how fabulous everything is. Ares is in the story, but he and Callisto have no scenes together which is annoying. I also don’t really like the idea of Callisto becoming Xena’s daughter as it basically wrote off any chance to see the villain ever again.

Of course Callisto being Xena’s daughter would lead to Eve the reincarnated Callisto, who was in many ways the scrappy of Xena, though a large part of that was probably because she killed Joxer. I guess Callisto finally got Joxer after all.

Still I am not going to look at Eve as most people do not consider her to be the same character as Callisto and truth be told she isn’t.

For us to end on that note is a little sad, still even with the unsatisfactory resolution to her arc, I would still rank Callisto as one of the greatest villains of all time. She is easily one of the best written and acted villains in tv history.

I think its such a shame that she is so overlooked. I think Callisto deserves to be seen as one of the great archenemies that everybody knows like Professor Moriarty, The Joker, and Lex Luthor. I think in her own way she is every bit as strong as any one of those characters. Up until the end Xena and Callisto have the perfect villain/hero feud.

Xena the Warrior Princess is overall very overlooked nowadays. You virtually never see it referenced any more which is such a shame. It is still very influential on other programmes. You’d be hard pushed to find another show from that era that has had as big an impact save Buffy. Sadly however it tends to be looked down on by mainstream critics.

I only hope this changes and in time when people mention the great hero and villain feuds, Callisto/Xena is mentioned alongside Batman/Joker, Superman/Luthor, The Doctor/The Master and Harry Potter/ Lord Voldemort as Xena/Callisto can certainly hold its own with any of them.

Comparisons with other Characters

Callisto was very clearly influenced by the Joker, Batman’s archnemesis.

It makes sense as Xena in many ways could be seen as a female Batman. Xena is Batman to Hercules’s Superman. Hercules and Superman are the all powerful and perfect heroes who are beloved and trusted by everyone. They tend to fight all powerful beings like Ares and Darkseid.

Xena and Batman however are the darker heroes who are more human. They have no powers and have to rely on their wits and intellect and own remarkable physical prowess to save the day. They are also not always trusted by everyone around them either due to their darker nature. Also where as Superman and Hercules are very honest, likable and trustworthy, Xena and Batman are very quiet, reserved even somewhat humourless and dour on the surface. Both Batman and Xena tend to fight evil human beings, crooks, mobsters and warlords.

Also finally Ares could be seen as Xena’s version of Catwoman, but with the gender roles reversed. He is the villain that tempts the hero and is in love with them at the same time too.

Thus what Xena who was for all intents and purposes a female Batman really needed was a Joker. She had her Catwoman with Ares, now she needed a nemesis who truly hated her and was completely and utterly unpredictable. A villain whose more jovial and gleefully evil personality would contrast with the stoic silence of the main hero.

Callisto fulfilled this role perfectly. She was Joker to Xena’s Batman. They have the same type of interactions with one another with Callisto often having a big evil grin on her face and making sick jokes and laughing her head off, whilst Xena often always had a serious look on her face and was very dour and humourless in the face of her more flamboyant enemy.

The comparisons between Callisto/Xena and Joker/Batman run deeper than that. Batman as well know made the Joker. In most versions the Joker is pushed into a vat of chemicals which scars his face, turning his skin chalk white, his hair bright green and deforming his mouth into a hideous grin. This drives the Joker mad and leads to his life time of villany. Similarly it was Xena who made Callisto. She burned Callisto’s family causing her to go insane.

Both the Joker and Callisto have regularly said the exact same words “You made me” to Xena and Batman and that’s what makes the Joker and Callisto such effective villains for those heroes. They literally could not exist without Batman or Xena, and they and the misery they cause are constant reminders of both Xena and Batmans failures.

I think Callisto is really the classic example of a modern day nemesis who is created more in the mould of the Joker. When you look at earlier works of fiction a heroes archenemy was often created in the mould of Professor Moriarty.

However I think that Callisto being one of the first villains who was created in this mould other than the Joker himself, was also among the most influential.

For instance I think that the Master in the new Doctor Who was inspired to some extent by Callisto among other things.

The Joker was clearly the biggest influence on the Master in the new who, but one shouldn’t still discount Callisto’s influence. Russell T Davies the showrunner of the new Doctor Who series from 2005-09 is a huge fan of Xena and has cited it as a big influence on his career. He has cited the character of Xena a lesbian icon as being a big influence on creating his own gay icon Captain Jack Harkness.

Many have also drawn comparisons between Xena and Harkness as both are bisexual characters who reverse the negative stereotype of LGBT characters being weak and effeminate. Both star in much darker spin offs from more established series. Both also have dark pasts as well, with Jack even being at one point pursued by someone he wronged in his past. His very own brother whom he left to suffer at the hands of aliens and who is driven completely insane as a result. There are shades of Callisto and Xena in Jack and his brother John Gray with John Gray wanting to tear Jacks life apart and feeling he made him into the monster he is by abandoning him to endure decades of torture at the hands of vicious aliens.

The Master during Davies’s time had some similarities to Callisto. Like Callisto he was someone who had been scarred as a child and driven completely insane by it. We find out in Davies’s time that as a child the Master had been forced to stare into the untempered schism a hole in the fabric of time and space itself. All time lords were forced to do this at a young age. It was an initiation ceremony and most of them were inspired after staring into it, whilst some ran away (such as the Doctor) but in the Masters case it drove him mad. From that point he first looked into it he heard a constant drumming in his head that tormented him and made him into the homicidal lunatic he is now.

Like Callisto we are left to wonder what the Master could have been had it not been for this tragic event. However just like with Callisto it is also hinted that perhaps the Master was always destined for this many times too and the drumming just let the real him out.

The Master and Callisto as children in the moments that haunted them for the rest of their lives. In both cases we as viewers are left to wonder if it was really these two moments that made them, or if the monster was always there lurking under the surface of even those two sweet innocent children and would have always found a way to emerge sooner or later?

In John Simm’s final performance as the Master we see how it was actually the time lord Rassilon who planted the signal in his head that was the source of the drumming that drove him mad. When he confronts Rassilon the Master even repeats both the Joker and Callisto’s famous line “You made me”.

Finally the Doctor and the Master’s relationship has shades of Xena and Callisto. Though the Doctor did not make Callisto, he still feels protective of the Master and even refuses to kill him. In some ways the Doctors refusal to do so is out of guilt not out of having made the Master, but at having killed his own people. With the Master being the only other member of his kind left the Doctor hopes that perhaps by saving the Master he can redeem himself of his past sins. Thus much like with Xena and Callisto, its guilt that prevents the hero from killing their worst enemy.

Finally Callisto also bares a similarity to two villains from the Buffyverse.

Some have drawn comparisons between Faith, Buffy’s nemesis and Callisto.

I must admit I have not seen the similarities between these characters quite as much. There are some such as the episode where Buffy and and Faith switch bodies that has shades of “Intimate Stranger” and the way that Buffy once again feels a certain sense of guilt and responsibility for how Faith turned out. Plus Buffy and Faith’s interactions with each other are all somewhat similar to Callisto/Xena. Right down to the sexual innuendo, villain blaming the hero for their mistakes and heroes sense of guilt over the villains descent into darkness.

However it is Daniel Holtz, Angels archenemy from the spin off series that I feel is most like Callisto. Holtz much like Callisto’s family was killed by the protaganist of the series, the Vampire Angel when he was evil. Like Callisto he gets no solace in Angels redemption and still seeks to make him suffer. Like Callisto, Holtz even goes after the main heroes son and uses someone very close to the hero to do that in Angels case, Wesley Wyndam Price.

Just as Xena tried to torture Gabrielle to death; Angel tries to murder Wesley for betraying him to Holtz.

Angel was in many ways just a male Xena. Angel just like Xena began as the love interest of a more straight forward hero before getting his own show. Angel just like Xena had once been the most evil person of all time. Xena had once been the destroyer of nations whilst Angel before being cursed with a human soul was the scourge of Europe.

Angel has to deal with someone who tries and lures him back to the dark side just like Xena. An old lover the vampire Darla. Darla fulfills a similar role to Ares in Xena. Both are in love with the main hero and want to see the main hero return to their former evil ways, so that they can resume their relationship with them, and because they believe they are not living up to their full potential by being a whiney do gooder.

Angel has his Hercules with Buffy, the noble hero who had redeemed him, and he had his Ares with Darla the old flame fro his past who tried to take him off the path of redemption. What he needed was a Callisto, a villain who he had actually wronged and thus was a reminder of his dark past in a different way. Holtz ultimately fulfilled that role. He was a male Callisto as much as Callisto herself was a female Joker.

Joss Whedon has regularly cited Xena as a big influence on both Buffy and Angel and fans have drawn a number of comparisons between many characters on both series.

As you can see Callisto not only drew very heavily from the Joker but also was in some ways influential on a number of villains who came after her too..