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If there is one character who has divided opinion, it is probably Joxer. The introduction of his character in the season 1 episode Callisto - which also introduced that eponymous character aswell – was either a comic masterstroke or a giant misstep, according to your viewpoint. Originally considered to be a Wallace Shawn type character, Ted Raimi received some stick immediately for being the younger brother of Executive Producer Sam Raimi. Ted often acts in Sam’s projects, although apparently his casting was all down to Rob Tapert. Joxer is a warrior with no skills, a useless but generally well meaning clod! However, in that first episode he tried to join up with Callisto and kidnap Gabrielle. This bad boy act didn’t last though, and throughout the rest of his appearances, he usually had the best of intentions (even if he does frequent brothels!) Much of the characterisation was down to Ted Raimi himself. A lot of the physical comedy was improvised by Ted, who admits to a bad case of extreme clumsiness himself. Joxer did not really develop in a huge way as a character over the seasons, his main job was to be the comic relief. However, important episodes for him included For Him the Bell Tolls, where he becomes that great hero he wants to be whenever Aphrodite rings a bell. This was Joxer’s first chance to be the lead in an episode that came about after Lucy Lawless pelvic injury in 1996. The Convert in season 4 was one of my favourite Joxer episodes. He kills for the first time – albeit accidentally. Joxer is torn by his guilt after her victim’s son thinks his scumbag dad was a great hero. In season 5, there was quite a bit happening for Joxer. In Chakram he finally tells Gabrielle that he is in love with her. However, in Eternal Bonds a dangerously ill Joxer realises that Gabrielle will never love him in the way he wants.
Finally, there were three episodes that saw Ted get into the prosthetics to play a 25 years older Joxer. Looking Death in the Eye, Livia and Eve were three excellent episodes, and old Joxer was a further departure for Ted. While still rather boastful, his relationship with his son Virgil was nicely portrayed. Then there was Joxer’s tragic death…Personally, I thought they kind of swept his death under the carpet a bit. Xena forgave Eve a bit too quickly. Poor old guy didn’t even get the funeral dirge from Xena.
Joxer was undoubtedly the chief source of comedy and lighter moments on the show. Not everyone was enamoured with his style of pratfall comedy, and there were a few misses along with the hits, but generally, Joxer was a funny and likable character, who proved himself to be a good friend to Xena and Gabrielle time and again. Ted Raimi has wonderful comic timing and created a lovable character. With Ted due to return in one role or anther before the series ends, we see once again how NOT final death is in the Xenaverse!
Talking of death not being the end, Callisto must be a contender for the highest number of deaths in the Xenaverse! Of course as she was a goddess for quite a few of them, we probably shouldn’t bother counting. Generally considered the third most popular character ever on the show (after Xena and Gabrielle) Callisto as a villain was almost as unique a character as Xena. Initially, a slightly one note nutter with less than spectacular fighting skills, Callisto returned time and again to torment Xena and Gabrielle. What made her so intriguing was her motivation – she has a legitimate grievance against Xena – Xena’s army had burnt her town down years before, killing her family. It is this deadly bond that was explored time and again. Callisto’s obsession with Xena and Xena’s guilt meant neither was fully committed to killing the other – although Xena did manage to try it three times!
I was not a huge admirer of Hudson Leick at first. I found the first appearance of the character to be a little too over the top and lacking subtlety. However, by the second season and the episodes Intimate Stranger, Ten Little Warlords and A Necessary Evil she had grown on me, and I think Hudson really grew into the character, enjoying herself enormously. For many people, Callisto is always to be thanked for killing off Gabrielle’s drippy husband Perdicus in Return of Callisto. Actress Hudson Leick certainly seems to have enjoyed playing her character, and as with Lucy and Renee, it is impossible to imagine anyone else portraying the character, and in particular, her sense of snarling danger.
Significant episodes for Callisto include A Necessary Evil where a now immortal Callisto teams up with Xena and Gabrielle to fight Velasca. Deliciously evil once again, this episode also featured Callisto finally getting that apology from Xena, and taunting a well meaning Gabrielle.Sacrifice 2 featured Callisto wanting something from Xena again – but this time, it was her own death. Immortality must be boring…However, her actions in Ides of March are what causes Xena and Gabrielle’s deaths. That little minx….We once again see that Callisto is the only person apart from Xena to be able to throw the chakram accurately (although Eve shows her skills off later.)
Devil and Angel Callisto in the season 5 opener Fallen Angel were an odd pair of roles. Unsurprisingly, Hudson Leick was far more comfortable and convincing as the devilish Callisto. For many of us, there was just something WRONG about a pure of heart Callisto! Nothing against Hudson, but Callisto is just too unnerving as an angel.Interestingly, about the best Callisto story ever was actually a HERCULES episode. Armageddon Now was a complex 2 parter that took us back to Cirra when Callisto’s family were caught by Xena family. The episode featured a brilliantly poignant scene where Callisto herself travelled back in time to try and save her family, only to end up killing her parents herself! An outstanding episode, and one of the very best from either show.
Hudson has been quite busy on the convention scene lately, and for those of us lucky enough to see her, she is a fabulous performer and a very charismatic star. It is a shame that Callisto could not return for one last fling in the final episodes of season 6. Apparently Hudson Leick would not have been adverse to it, and it would have been great to have seen the best bad girl just once more.
Male sexiness on the show has one name: Kevin Smith! Ares, god of war has returned time and again to try to tempt Xena back to the dark side. He has almost succeeded a few times too. First seen with pretty bad, stick-on beard in the first season episode The Reckoning, Kevin Smith soon relaxed into the role, and with his trademark deep sexy voice, dark good looks and gorgeous body (phew, getting hot in here…) he soon became a favourite amongst the fans – especially the females! Apparently a big favourite on the set too, he is someone most of the actors love working with, as actually he is a very relaxed and friendly, regular Kiwi family man. Sorry ladies, wife and three kids….However, this hasn’t stopped him from getting to kiss just about every female star! What a hard life these actors have!
Kevin Smith, like Hudson Leick, has also appeared on HERCULES, and Ares was also a regular on the short lived YOUNG HERCULES tv show. As well as that, Kevin played Hercules half brother Iphicles in several episodes of HERCULES. For Xena fans, it is as the seductive and dangerous Ares that he will be remembered. While usually considered a bad guy, there were several episodes where Xena helps him out and vice versa. As with Callisto, it is the complexity of the relationship between Ares and Xena that made sure he was always a welcome guest star.
Ten Little Warlords was a significant Ares episode, as he had lost his powers and needed Xena help to regain his sword and his powers. A similar theme was seen in season 6’s Old Ares had a Farm as Xena helps out a helpless Ares. The reasons for his powerlessness are quite different however. In many ways, season 5 was one of the most important for Ares. In that season, it was shown that Ares really did love Xena, and indeed he sacrificed his powers to save Eve and Gabrielle’s lives, and try to win Xena. He and Joxer make quite a pair with their unrequited love for Xena and Gabrielle! However, there often seems quite a lively spark between Xena and Ares. Xena has used him in recent episodes, but there is a little bit of something between that keeps the relationship interesting.
The Bitter Suite was a revelation for Ares fans in that we heard what an amazing voice Kevin Smith has. A dazzling episode anyway, Kevin’s beautiful rich voice was one of the best things about a brilliant episode. "Melt Into Me" was just gorgeous.
However, he is not always a nice guy – thank goodness. Ares murdered Eli, pretty much in cold blood in Seeds of Faith, he seemed ready to let Xena die in The Reckoning, tried to trick her by pretending to be her father in Ties that Bind (and some people still think he might BE her father), then he set the Furies on Xena in The Furies, he was ready to team up with Dahok against the Olympians and the rest of the world in Sacrifice.Ares now has his powers back, and if the season 2 episode The Xena Scrolls is adhered to, Xena still has to trap him in a tomb before the season is out!
Three wonderful characters who have enriched the show with their presence.
Bruce Campbell as Autolycus was almost consistently wonderful. Bruce is a wonderfully talented actor, with a great sense of style. Autolycus always livened up an episode. (BTW got to mention my favourite ever description of Bruce I read somewhere that said he looked like a cross between Errol Flynn and Buzz Lightyear!)
There are many more actors and characters that I could mention who have contributed to the success of the show – Claire Stansfield (Alti), Alexandra Tydings (Aphrodite), Karl Urban (Caesar), Robert Trebor (Salmoneus), Jay Laga’aia (Draco), Marton Csokas (Borias), Allison Wall (Minya), Tim Omundson (Eli) and Adrienne Wilkinson (Eve). You may well have you favourites, but I think you will agree, generally speaking the guest stars are a great bunch!
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