Hercules: The Legendary Journeys

Season 1 Episode 3

Hercules and the Circle of Fire

Aired Monday 5:00 PM Oct 31, 1994 on USA
out of 10
User Rating
37 votes

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Episode Summary

Hercules and the Circle of Fire
All over the world, the fires are dying. The planet will become an icy wilderness. Mankind is threatened with extinction. At the heart of this fiendish plot lies Hera, Queen of the Gods and Hercules' implacable enemy, who has taken the eternal torch before it is extinguished. Many dangers lay in wait: an invincible giant, a treacherous wood sprite and the wrath and jealousy of his father: Zeus, king of the gods. But Hercules must not fail; if the Eternal Torch dies, all life dies with it.moreless

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  • Hercules' Love Story

    Hercules and the Circle of Fire is the third entry into the Herc movie series and the half-way point for the films. And I have to say after the fun romp that was "Lost Kingdom" we lose a little steam here or maybe it's just the fact I'm a big Renee fan and loved "Lost Kingdom" more. Even still, it introduces a significant player into Hercules' world, his wife.

    This film not only introduces Hercules' wife (at least his first one) Deianeira. It also introduces Cheiron into the series, but seeing as this is an immortal Saytre and not a Centaur I'm assuming this Cheiron is a different Cheiron from Cheiron the Centaur who trained Hercules. Just as much as this Deianeira is a completely new character unrelated to the Deianeira seen in Lost Kingdom (and played by Renee O'Connor). I hoped there would be some room to assume different as I loved the previous Deianeira, but alas it is not so. There's really no question about it, this Deianeira had never seen Herc until she met him here.

    Even still, I like Hercules' newly appointed travel companion. She's a spunky, strong willed woman (like Renee's Deianeira) and isn't blow over by Hercules at first sight. The hero worshiping Herc girls are always boring. I don't think Hercules knows quite what to do with her at first and then the journey happens, Deianeira and Hercules are off to save fire and (in turn) save mankind who are due to freeze to death without Prometheus' gift. Along the way they meet a beast, conquer it together, fall in love. Wait a jouney, fight with a monster, companions fall in love... most of this relationship set up sounds a little like "Lost Kingdom" (in fact, this new Deianeira seems a lot like that other Deianeira). Is it possible they had considered extending that Deianeira as opposed to creating a new one and decided against it? Who knows? But the set up for the relationship seems a recreation and modification of the same general idea. And (ignoring the fact that this Deianeira and Hercules have obviously never met before) the relationship and personality dynamics are very similar. The story is very different and they liked it so much they did it twice. In Season 1 of Xena, Hera chained up Prometheus himself (who got a drastic makeover) and man slowly lost the gifts they gave him (Fire and the Ability to heal oneself). Hercules, Xena, Iolaus, and Gabrielle all went to save him.

    But flashing back to the now (of Circle of Fire), Once again Zeus is stalking his son and telling him to stay out of Hera's business (ignoring the fact, as he always does, that Hera's going to come after him with or without provocation). This time Zeus sends a little Nymph (Phaedra) to try and distract Hercules from his journey. This little girl is a scene stealer in every scene she's in and I only wish they had incorporated her into the show more. Anyway, it all leads to what is perhaps one of the coolest Zeus scenes ever. Zeus uses his godly powers (finally showing some power) to try and stop his Heroic son from the suicide mission of retrieving the Prometheus' fire from the "Circle of Fire" (which drains immortal life). The face off is emotionally powerful and for a moment I'm feeling Quinn as Zeus. But it was only a moment, after talking Hera down he again seems too frail to be the King of Gods. Namely when Zeus is retrieving Hercules from the immortal life destroying "Circle of Fire" and he can barely lift him. Not to mention he seems scared to face down Hera even while he's threatening to haunt her if she hurts Hercules, but yet he (BIG SPOILER HERE) effortlessly destroys her in the Season 5 Xena episode "God Fearing Child". I'm just not buying that this is the God who took down the mighty Titan Cronus. I'll give Zeus' charm to Quinn all day (as seen in his scene with Deianeira in this film and Lysia in the "Amazon Women"). I don't mind understated power (see Dumbledore in the Harry Potter books or Gandalf in Lord of the Rings for good demontstrations of such). They're colorful, charming, fun to be around old men. But when it comes down to moments of power, they're scary and threatening forces to be reckoned with. As Charming as Quinn is, he barely pulls off that kind of power. I never fully feel the Zeus in him, he's just some sweet old guy with a couple magic tricks to spare. Hera's the scary one.

    I think it's the Chieron the Satyr thing that sort of made this go down for me in the end though. For all intents and purposes I'm going to pretend there's two Cheirons and this one happened to be a Satyr and old Buddy of Herc.

    Then there's the whole Prometheus "God of Fire" thing. He isn't exactly a "fire entity". He's a Titan who STOLE fire from Zues and gave it to man. I think using that angle of him 'stealing godly gifts' and Hera feeling they should be returned would have given it an intresting angle, but this is Hercules' "true love" story so I suppose going there would have been a distraction. Fire was gone and man needed it back, that was the only catapult needed to move the story and therefore create the love story.moreless
  • The beautiful and headstrong Deianeira (Tawny Kitaen, a different character from the Deianeira of the previous instalment) joins Hercules on the quest to retrieve the gift of fire and healing, in this enjoyable and exciting third television movie.moreless

    This third television movie is a very enjoyable tale. Hercules costume is by now settling down into what it would be in the regular television series.

    After experiencing a vivid dream foreseeing his adventure to come, the story opens with Hercules on a mission to get a vial full of magical waters that is guarded by an evil witch. The witch turns out to be an unexpected person, and to defeat her, Hercules must stop her heart that is kept in a cauldron, before rescuing a damsel in distress and escaping across a floor covered in acid. This scene is exciting and fairly terrifying, and plays out a bit like an Ancient Greek Indiana Jones.

    The hopeful cure is for Herc's fried Cheiron the Satyr, who is immortal yet suffering from a bad wound, meaning that he is destined to spend the rest of eternity in pain unless Hercules can find the right cure. (In myth, Cheiron was a centaur, but was changed here to a Satyr for technical simplicity. A centaur would first be seen in the next movie, 'Hercules in the Underworld'). I couldn't quite make up my mind about Kevin Atkinson as Cheiron. Of course, many fans response to such friends is "It's not Iolaus", but I personally quite like to see other characters that Herc knows and encounters. In fairness, we don't really get to see Cheiron long enough in this movie to really make up our minds about him.

    At first it seems like the right cure has finally been found, only for the wound to return. Then suddenly, all of the fire disappears. Going to investigate the one place in the area where fire remains, Hercules meets beautiful but headstrong Deianeira, played by Tawny Kitaen. She instantly doesn't care for him very much, and the dialogue is well written and well acted.

    There is much speculation and confusion amongst the fan community over whether this Deianeira is an older version of the girl he travelled with in the previous adventure, 'Hercules and the Lost Kingdom' (there played by Renee O'Connor). I personally have come to the conclusion that it is a different (although in many ways similar) character, as it is portrayed that this is the first time the pair have met. This theory is confirmed in the final of the five TV movies, 'Hercules in the Maze of the Minotaur', when his children ask him to tell the story of how he first met their mother, followed by a flashback to their first encounter in this story. They could have made it clearer, maybe with Hercules here saying something like "I knew another Deianeira once. Actually you're not that different!".

    Kitaen plays her part perfectly, and has a real spark with Kevin Sorbo. In recent years, she has had a couple of brushes with the law, but none-the-less, here she shows what a capable actress she is.

    Fire is only left inside one of Hera's temples, where her followers are determined not to share it. Hercules is determined to liberate it, and this leads to an impressive fight, with leaping from scaffolding, sword fighting, and solders being flung everywhere, as Hercules attempts to keep his torch alight. What I like about these early adventures in particular is that Hercules isn't perfect – during the brawl, he accidentally knocks an urn of fire into a pool ("Oops"), and no matter his actions, he fails to impress Deianeira.

    The pair travel off to the temple of Prometheus, God of fire, only to find him and the whole place frozen. Barely alive, he tells them to retrieve the Eternal Torch – mankind's last hope - stolen by Hera and taken to Mount Ethion, before it dies out.

    The concept of this adventure – Prometheus being captured, causing mankind to lose the gift of healing and fire – is identical to that of the enjoyable first season 'Xena: Warrior Princess' episode 'Prometheus' (where Prometheus has a different appearance). Maybe the Ancient God's are able to change their appearance, as Ares and Zeus are also seen with different looks at different points in the shows run.

    Much of this movie plays out like an extensive quest, almost like 'Hercules and the Lost Kingdom' Mark II. That is no bad thing, although maybe does suffer very slightly for it coming directly after that excellent tale.

    As Hercules and Deianeira travel together, they start to grow closer to each other, and again the writing is sharp and the acting is good.

    The star turn of the movie is young Stephanie Barrett as mischievous wood imp Phaedra. At first seeming sweet, before guiding Herc and Deianeira into a battle with Antaeus (see below) and later tricks them a second time, Barrett delivers her lines like a seasoned performer. I would have loved to have seen the character turn up again in the series.

    One of the best sequences of this story (coming second only to the struggle with the witch at the beginning) is Hercules' duel with the Antaeus, a giant creature made entirely of branches and soil. Every time Hercules thinks he has defeated him, he rises out of the ground replenished. After the impressive CGI-animated battles, such as the Hydra in 'Hercules and the Amazon Women' and the sea serpent in 'Hercules and the Lost Kingdom', here we are back to more conventional filming techniques. But it's not bad, and the solution of how Herc finally defeats the creature (although actually Deianeira works it out) is clever and credible.

    The climax of the quest, as Zeus uses his powers thunderbolts and all, to keep son Hercules from the Circle of Fire for his own good is impressive, and a stark contrast from the cheerful and wily old man seen on other occasions.

    All-in-all, this is a highly enjoyable third adventure, with some excellent moments.moreless
Kevin Atkinson

Kevin Atkinson


Guest Star

Stephanie Barrett

Stephanie Barrett


Guest Star

Christopher Brougham

Christopher Brougham


Guest Star

Anthony Quinn

Anthony Quinn


Recurring Role

Tawny Kitaen

Tawny Kitaen


Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions