Whoosh! Online Edition Episode Guide



Season 1, episode 4
Series 104
1st release: 02-06-95
2nd release: 04-17-95
3rd release: 07-24-95
1st USA strip release: 08-13-98
2nd USA strip release: 11-25-98
Last update: 12-24-04

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COMMENTARY by Kerrie Barney

Norman Forsey (Tiresias/Seer)
Jonathan Blick (Nestor)

Warren Carl (Pentheus)
Katrina Hobbs (Marysa)
Todd Rippon (Gudrun)
Noel Trevarthen (King Iphicles)
Ilona Rodgers (Queen Camilla)
Martyn Sanderson (Ancient Priest)
Darren Warren (Clarin/Cletis)
Bernard Moody (Old Drunk)
John Mellor (Thug #1)
Michael Dwyer (Thug #2)
Arch Goodfellow (Pyturis)
Patrick Kake (Hercules' double)

Edited by David Blewitt
Written by Andrew Dettmann and Daniel Truly
Directed by Peter Ellis


Hercules uncovers an elaborate plot calling for the murder of a king during a celebration honoring the god of wine.

It's prince against prince, and the good one has Herc on his side as the evil one plots against their wise and kindly father.

Hercules is summoned to prevent the hostile overthrow of the King of Meliad.

Hercules tries to unravel Ares' scheme involving royal murder during the festival of the new wine.

1st RELEASE: 02-06-95
An AA average of Not available
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(1) STAR TREK DS9 4th with 8.3
(2) BAYWATCH 8th with 7.1
(3) RENEGADE 18th with 5.3
(4) HERCULES did not make it in the top 20 (below 5.1)

2nd RELEASE: 04-17-95
An AA average of 5.5
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(1) STAR TREK DS9 4th with 6.9
(2) BAYWATCH 11th with 5.7
(3) HERCULES 12th with 5.5

3rd RELEASE: 07-24-95
An AA average of 4.7
Competition from Syndicated Action Dramas:
(1) BAYWATCH 6th with 6.0
(2) STAR TREK DS9 11th with 5.4
(3) HERCULES 20th with 4.7


Synopsis by CR.

Queen Camilla dreams that Iphicles, her husband, is about to be murdered by virgins. (Note: This is not Herc's brother Iphicles). She says he must cancel the festival but he refuses. She sends her son Nestor to find Herc.

Herc is caught in a drinking game with two identical twins who surreptitiously take turns. A tavern brawl ensues. Nestor arrives next morning and tells Herc there's a problem and he must come to the Festival of Dionysus. He promises hungover Herc that he won't have to drink at the festival.

In the temple, the old priest telling the virgins that after drinking the new wine, they will know the will of Dionysus, either to confirm the king in his reign or to kill him.

Pentheus, Nestor's older brother, is plotting with Ares and the general of the army to kill his father so that he can succeed to the throne. He has designs on Marisa, the lead virgin and Nestor's girlfriend.

Nestor and Herc are set upon by soldiers and defeat them, but their leader pulls a lever and drops them through the floor into a dungeon full of water. Pentheus gloats over them and tells them the whole plot, to control the wine and make the virgins kill King Iphicles. He releases a huge snakelike monster into the dungeon. Herc throws the snake up the dungeon wall where it sticks on a couple of convenient spikes. He and Nestor climb up it and escape from the dungeon. They make their way to the festival, eluding soldiers who are searching for them.

The maidens are about to drink the wine; Ares has cunningly infiltrated himself into the wine. Herc tries to stop them but is too late.

Iphicles and Camilla are waiting to find out their fate. Herc enters their room and warns them that the ceremony is being controlled, not by Dionysus, but by Ares. The virgins enter the king's chamber and stab the sleeping shapes on the bed.

In the next room, Pentheus hears a scream and puts on the royal crown in triumph. Hercules, Iphicles and Camilla burst in and catch him; the shapes on the bed were skins full of red wine. For good measure, Nestor socks Pentheus on the jaw. Pentheus drinks the wine and lets Ares take over his body. He does battle with Hercules; Hercules defeats him and destroys the hidden shrine to Ares that Pentheus had created.


This commentary is by Kerrie Barney

It's interesting that, in these first episodes of H:TLJ, none of the gods are played by actors. It makes for quite a different feel from later episodes when the pantheon stopped being peacocks and pools of blood and celestial eyes and instead became beings we could relate too. Hercules's character takes on a bit of added poignancy as the only deity to truly wear a human face, and the gods themselves seem much more alien, inscrutable, and thus more threatening.

Don't get me wrong. I wouldn't trade the coming performances of Kevin Smith and Alexandra Tydings et all for anything; their gifts transformed the gods from faceless supernatural forces into old friends I loved to see each week, and made later seasons of the show a thousand times more fun to watch. But since they aren't here yet, it's interesting to see how the series played without them.

And faceless or not, the gods are unquestionably the stars of "The Feast of Dionysus". The story of an ambitious prince's evil plot to kill his father and seize the crown ahead of schedule would be fairly uninteresting without the framework of religion and ritual the murder plot depends on.

While I have to question the wisdom of a people who rely on the God of Wine, of all people, to decide if their monarch is fit to rule another year, the rite does give us some very striking visual moments and much food for thought. It's nice to see TPTB giving a nod to the ancient concept of the Year King, a monarch whose life was tied inextricably to the turning of the seasons. It's even nicer to see them acknowledge that the life and death of such a king was traditionally in the hands of the women.

There's quite a lot for a feminist to like in this episode, actually. The Dionysian Virigns power over the king may be phrased as "the will of Dionysys"... but the truth is they hold the future of the kingdom in their hands nonetheless. And Queen Camilla is as powerful a female character as we've seen on the show thus far. It's never stated outright, but one has to assume she became Queen by killing the current king's father with her own hands--amazing! And she is the only member of the royal family with enough brains and gumption to question "the will of the gods". If she hadn't trusted her intuition and called for Hercules, the kingdom would have been in a pretty state indeed. Brava, Queen Camilla!

As far as creating a framework for future episodes goes, The Feast of Dionysus establishes four very important things:

1. Ares is a baaaad guy;

2. Humans can be possessed by gods, leading them to perform evil acts;

3. Hercules's reputation for hero-hood is really starting to spread--Queen Camilla sent her son to find him, even though Hercules has apparently never met any of the family before; and

4. Hercules, despite being a demi-god and almost able to out-drink two satyrs, is not immune to hangovers. Oh, and coffee has somehow managed to make it to Ancient Greece (perhaps on the same magical global foodstuff truck that brought tomatoes to Xena?) Hercules's first taste of the beverage, along with his resulting wince and pronouncement that the drink "isn't something to brag about" was the first line of the series to truly make me laugh aloud. Tea drinkers of the world, unite!


Hercules: The Legendary Journeys - Original Television Soundtrack. Joseph LoDuca. Uni/Varese Sarabande; ASIN: B0000014XJ.

(18) Inside the Harem/Turkish Delight
(19) Ritual of Daggers
(32) Temple of Ares


Click here to read a transcript of THE FESTIVAL OF DIONYSUS.


[No humorous disclaimer for this episode]

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