Xena and Hercules (5 Crossover Episodes) (1995)

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Released 27-Jun-2003

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 1995
Running Time 212:34 (Case: 210)
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (64:20)
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Bruce Seth Green
Jack Perez
Studio
Distributor

Universal Pictures Home Video
Starring Kevin Sorbo
Michael Hurst
Lucy Lawless
Renee O'Connor
Case ?
RPI $39.95 Music Joseph LoDuca


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame Full Frame English Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
French Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio None
16x9 Enhancement No
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.33:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
French
German
Czech
Hungarian
Greek
Polish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    This two disc set is a bit of a strange collection. Officially it is five "cross-over" episodes between Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: The Warrior Princess. That isn't quite true, as the first three episodes (for some reason, these are on disc 2) were the three Hercules episodes in which the Xena character was born. It was from the fan reaction to these episodes that it was decided to give the Xena character, and Lucy Lawless - the local New Zealand actress who played Xena in those episodes - a show of her own. Which means really there are only two cross-over episodes here.

    The second downside to this set, and a problem that affects most "best-of" episode collections, is that the episodes do end up seeming a little disjointed. There are only two episodes here that were actually aired back to back, while another was originally part of a large continuous arc in Hercules and has very limited impact on its own.

    The episodes are:

    These episodes are not too bad, but do feel quite disjointed. It would be nice to see Hercules: The Legendary Journeys come out as complete season box sets, a-la Xena (remembering of course that Xena is actually a Hercules spin-off), but that is not likely to happen, at least in the near future. In the wash-up, these episodes are probably strictly for die-hard Xena fans only, as Hercules fans will realise these are by far not the best episodes of that series. Also note the episodes are presented in the wrong order as chronologically speaking, disc two comes before disc one.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    As is to be expected when the source material comes from episodes of two different TV series, spanning around three years from earliest to latest, the image quality is quite variable. What is not expected is that it can be summed up very simply - the Hercules episodes look great, the Xena episode is a mess.

    The transfer is presented in the shows original aspect ratios of 1.33:1, and is therefore not 16x9 enhanced.

    The Hercules episodes display excellent sharpness and clarity of image - there is plenty of fine detail, while still appearing nicely smooth. There is little grain to mar these episodes, with only some light grain at 13:25 during The Warrior Princess, and from 5:11 to 5:14 during The Unchained Heart, showing up at all. Shadow detail is very good, with the darker scenes containing plenty of depth. The Xena episode is almost the complete opposite - the image is so far from clear as to be laughable. Grain is constantly high, and at times becomes so thick that it is difficult to make out the image for it, such as at 33:05. Shadow detail is almost non-existent, with any darkish areas disappearing into flat murkiness. The Hercules episodes contain no low-level noise, and presumably the Xena episode is the same, although the high level of grain makes it difficult to discern.

    Colours are generally good, and once again the Hercules episodes win out here, although this time the Xena episode is not so clearly inferior. Both show good saturation, but the Hercules episodes just have a slightly better depth to their colours - the greens are richer, the highlights more vibrant, but overall, not by much.

    Compression artefacts are a bit of a problem, which is strange, as this set fits five episodes onto two dual-layered discs, which should not really be a stretch. The Xena episode is obviously the worst affected, displaying a lot of pixelization on the high-grain areas. There are also a number of times when the image just seems to be a little "over-compressed", resulting in motion trails and other subtle side-effects, but these are not particularly common. There is virtually no aliasing, and only the occasional film artefact - neither will cause any real distraction.

    In a first for Xena DVDs, these episodes do contain subtitles. They are relatively accurate, and are rendered in an attractive typeface.

    This set features two Dual Layered discs. Disc one does not contain a layer change within an episode, while disc two is RSDL formatted with the layer change taking place at 21:54 of episode The Gauntlet, between chapters 3 and 4. It is exceptionally well placed right on a fade to black with no audio and is impossible to see or hear (I needed software assistance to find it).

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The audio transfer for these episodes is quite good. A low-budget TV series is never going to sound like a major Hollywood actioneer, but these episodes are not as far off as might be imagined.

    There are three audio tracks present on this disc. They are the original English dialogue, and dubs in German and French, all presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround at 192Kbps. An interesting point to note here is that the Xena box-sets to this point have not had the surround flag enabled (although they clearly can benefit from it), so this is the first time the soundtrack has been correctly flagged, but also means that the episode Prometheus - which is the only Xena episode in this collection - carries a different soundtrack here to the one in the season one boxset of Xena.

    Dialogue is clear and easy to understand at all times - there is no lack of clarity for only being a 2.0 soundtrack. Audio sync is spot on at all times, and never causes an issue.

    The score is provided by Joseph LoDuca, and despite being a little repetitive, is generally well-matched to the action, and gives each show its own unique flavour.

    Surround presence is not too bad for a TV series. While not constant, it does come in during action sequences, and to carry the score, and makes the viewing experience all the more immersive.

    The subwoofer is not extensively used, only being fed by redirected bass, and there is not all that much there to redirect. It rumbles on occasion, but for the most part delivers only small volumes, or nothing at all.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

    The first two seasons of Xena provided only two rather lame photo galleries. This time there is nothing at all - personally I think that is a better move than to slap on a useless photo gallery.

Menu

    The menu is static, not 16x9 enhanced, themed around the shows, and is silent.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This is an interesting region comparison. For starters, remember that these discs contain English, German, and French language soundtracks. It is not surprising then to find that what appears to be the same two disc set is available in Germany (Region 2). What is a little more surprising is that "Disc 2" - that is the three Hercules episodes in which Xena first appeared - and only disc two is available in France (Region 2) and the US (Region 1). I could not find it in the UK at all, but as they have six full seasons of Xena on disc, the boxset releases may have been preferred to this two-disc release.

    So what is the verdict? Basically, if you want all five of these episode, then the best bet is to grab them here. If you have no desire for the episodes on "Disc 1", then you could try to get just the other disc from overseas - although once exchange rates and shipping costs take their toll, it is probably cheaper to get both discs here than to import the one.

Summary

    Xena and Hercules are never going to win any dramatic awards, and this collection of episodes is even less likely to do so, as they are quite disjointed. Really only for the die-hard Xena fans.

    The video on the Hercules episodes is quite good, especially for an old, low-budget, TV show. The video quality for the one Xena episode is abominable - it is grainy, sports many compression artefacts, and is not all that pleasant to watch.

    The audio quality from both sources is very good - an impressive listen.

    There are no extras at all.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Nick Jardine (My bio, it's short - read it anyway)
Monday, October 06, 2003
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer DV-555K, using Component output
DisplayLoewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-DS787, THX Select
SpeakersRochester Audio Animato Series (2xSAF-02, SAC-02, 3xSAB-01) + 12" Sub (150WRMS)

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Comments (Add)
6 Full Seasons of Xena and Hercules -