Season one of the weekly syndicated series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys picks up the action where the fifth of the Hercules TV movies, 1994's Hercules in the Maze of the Monsters, left off. Olympian goddess Hera is determined to wreak vengeance upon her husband, Zeus, king of the gods, for the outrageous act of impregnating the mortal Alceme (played during this season by Elizabeth Hawthorne) -- the result of this union being, of course, the mighty half-god, half-human Hercules (Kevin Sorbo). Hera's wrath is aimed specifically at Hercules, whom she punishes by murdering his wife and children. This tragedy causes a near-inseparable rift between Zeus and Hercules, with the latter renouncing his godly birthright and responsibilities and embarking upon his own campaign of destruction and devastation on Earth. Fortunately, Hercules sees the errors of his ways before it is too late, and together with his mortal friend Iolaus (Michael Hurst), he sets upon the first of many journeys to use his super-strength for good rather than evil throughout Greece and the known world. Though Hercules' main mission is to rescue the human race from the pettiness and casual cruelties of the less savory Gods, he also finds time to "reform" a number of Olympian deities, demigods, and monsters who have temporarily taken the wayward path, beginning with the misguided Cyclops.
It is during season one that Hercules meets for the first time Salmoneus (Robert Trebor), an itinerant salesman and erstwhile promoter whose many get-rich-quick schemes do far more harm than good, and whom our hero must periodically save from the consequences of his greed and foolish ambition. Additionally, the mighty muscleman experiences his first conflict with the redoubtable Ares (Kevin Smith), god of war, whose unsavory allegiances and fluctuating loyalties will continue to bedevil the series' "good guys" for the next five seasons. Hercules also has memorable encounters with his childhood sweetheart, the goddess of retribution Nemesis (Karen Witter) -- who, need it be added, more than lives up to her name -- and with gorgeous female blacksmith Atlanta (Cory Everson), a muscular blacksmith who develops a strong attraction to Hercules, the only man who could ever come up to her standards of strength and fortitude. By far, however, the more significant of Hercules' run-ins during this first season are those with the fearsome warrior princess Xena (Lucy Lawless). At first mortal enemies, Hercules and Xena gradually develop a begrudging respect for one another, and by the time the final episode of season one rolls around, Xena has seen the errors of her warlike ways and vows to emulate Hercules by performing good deeds for one and all -- and, hopefully, expunging all the wickedness she has perpetrated in the past. (This plot development proved to be an ideal segue into Lucy Lawless' own starring series, Xena: Warrior Princess.) ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi