|A classic in the making? Or an epic fail?|
The Greeks have an (English) word for it
|Jason, Hercules and Pythagoras. Without whom |
no triangle would be complete.
Anyway, five minutes in and I was ready to give the show full marks for not wasting any time before plunging us headlong into the heart of the story, and none at all for building a credible scenario with characters who respond to events in a realistic manner. Even the Pevensie children had the sense to show a little disbelief when they stepped through a wardrobe and found themselves in Narnia.
Jason, in contrast, acclimatised within minutes of arrival and proceeded to take everything in his stride. During the rest of the show he spent next to no time questioning how he came to be in Atlantis and none at all how he might return to the surface world. Tsk! Remember when scientists used to want to search for answers?
New myths for old
|Ariadne. Her mother had sex with a bull.|
Did you know 'therapy' was a Greek word?
The pattern for the rest of the series was also established very early on. Jason met his two companions: a cowardly Hercules (played by the always lovable Mark Addy) and the triangle-obsessed maths-nerd Pythagoras (Robert Emms). Without giving away too many spoilers, it's clear that these characters are there to provide comic relief and that the show intends to play fast and loose with Greek mythology. Forget about Theseus, Perseus and Odysseus. In this show, it's Jason who's clearly destined to defeat all those ancient beasties as he tries to discover the truth about his father's death and why it is he feels so at home in this alien world.
Of course, feeling at home is always easier if there's a love interest to keep the hero company and in Atlantis Jason is helped by the princess Ariadne. Oh, and he rescues a peasant girl Helena from a particularly gruesome death. It's not clear whether Helena will have any role to play in Jason's future but it seems as if Ariadne is destined to provide a little womanly affection. Perhaps she'll take the place of half a dozen different Greek heroines, just as it appears Jason will be substituted for a whole phalanx of different heroes.
Surprisingly in this age of political correctness, Ariadne has not been reinvented as a sword-wielding, butt-kicking action woman, but is allowed to act as befits the daughter of a king, helping Jason in more subtle ways. As someone who believes the tough action heroine has become as stale a cliche as the damsel-in-distress stereotype it replaced, I found that quite refreshing.
Greek temple or sunken ruin?
For a UK TV production, the acting in Atlantis is actually quite good. It's a little hammy at times but, for the most part, that suits the light tone of the show. Alongside Mark Addy, the best known member of the cast is probably Juliet Stevenson who plays a Greek oracle. Like many film and TV oracles before her Stevenson's role, it seems, is to give Jason just enough information about the future to get himself into danger, and never quite enough to answer the questions he really wants answered. Pfft! Oracles, eh?
Inevitably, the CGI environments are not up to the standards of a Hollywood blockbuster movie and would certainly never fool a Frodo Baggins, but they are reasonably convincing. I was particularly struck by the fact that, while some bigger budget TV productions, like Spartacus, have resorted to monochrome to disguise the shortcomings of CGI imagery, the buildings in Atlantis look light and airy, bright and colourful - the kind of buildings you might actually want to live in and around.
|The oracle. Knows everything but prone to mislead.|
You know, like the internet.
So, overall, I quite liked this first episode, but I do question the BBC's decision to pitch this as a prime time evening show. With so many issues glossed over, quickly resolved or even more quickly forgotten, I still see Atlantis as a show for kids, just as I did Merlin. It's a superior show for kids, admittedly, and one for parents who want something that's not too condescending that they can watch with their kids. It's light drama, and I feel it would do much better in an early evening time slot where it wouldn't be compared to far better financed fantasy shows from the US, like Fringe or Haven. If only they'd had access to an oracle, maybe someone at the Beeb would have foreseen that!
Have you managed to see this show yet? What did you think? Is there a future for a show set so resolutely in the ancient past? Or, like Atlantis itself, is it destined to sink without trace?