Wednesday, 23 October 2013

ATLANTIS, 1.4 – 'Twist of Fate'

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

written by Richard McBrien | directed by Alice Troughton

This was the worst episode yet, which isn't surprising. A lot of new shows tend to bury the weak hours mid-series. More worryingly, after a month on-air it's clear Atlantis is a creative misfire for a number of reasons, which I'll outline below:

  • It hasn't taken advantage of a fantastic concept. Wouldn't it be cooler if the Gods were actual presences on the show? Where are the big monsters? If Jason's a time-traveller, can we see him speaking modern lingo and confusing the people of Atlantis? Or having a tough time adjusting to such a primitive age? Or doing things that take advantage of the centuries of scientific knowledge he has? Even if he's no scientist, he should be able to do something that makes him a superstar? Or endears him to Pythagoras, the show's actual man of science?
  • It hasn't a clue what to do with some of its characters. What does Pythagoras even do on the show? Why isn't Medusa a leading character, considering she has more to do than Pythagoras? She could be the Hermione to Mark Addy's Ron, with Jason as Harry Potter. Or something.
  • It has a terrible lead actor at its centre. Jack Donnelly appears to have been cast because he has a muscled abdomen and a good chest, which the costume department tend to cover up with shirts and armour anyway. So that leaves his charisma and likability, which is extremely low compared to co-star Mark Addy. I'm beginning to think Atlantis should have been called Old Hercules, as they place so much on Addy's shoulders.
  • Some of the actors don't grasp the tone. A few know they're in a bit of light fluff, while others have convinced themselves this must be a budget Game of Thrones. There's very little middle ground. Sarah Parrish, Alexander Siddig and this week's guest star Donald Sumpter aren't in the Atlantis Jack Donnelly, Mark Addy and Robert Emms are in.
  • It's too much like Merlin. You can tell Atlantis is from the makers of Merlin, because it's basically that show with more togas, and with a few changes they simply had to make. Jason even has amazing parkour skills, in lieu of "amazing" magic. Unfortunately his athletics are staged and shown in slow-motion, so there's little joy in seeing them happen. Imagine if they'd cast someone who could genuinely do these kind of stunts, without any trickery? Where's the British Jackie Chan?
  • The history lessons are terrible. Obviously, the whole show would give your history teacher a heart attack, for reasons too numerous to go into. Just browse Wikipedia for ten-minutes to see just how much nonsense Atlantis is pouring into impressionable young minds. But even in terms of tackling Greek myths it's considerably less entertaining and imaginative than any myth you'd care to read about.
  • It has a general stupidity. This week's episode was about the gang protecting a baby abandoned by its royal parents, because it's cursed according to The Oracle. (She's the enabler of infanticide now?) The child will grow up to become Oedipus, which gave Jason goosebumps when Pythagoras named the child at the end of the episode. (I think it's Jason's job to get goosebumps whenever a famous name is mentioned on the show, basically.) Trouble is, would the target audience of children know about Oedipus to actually care about the shout-out? Maybe a show like Atlantis could surreptitiously enlighten them about the tragic hero of Greek mythology, instead of just spit out names for their parents nod over.
So yeah, I'm still not a fan of Atlantis. Even if my issues are mostly just 'growing pains' this series is going through, even a good version of what Atlantis wants to be isn't something I'm very interested in. They need to overhaul quite a lot to please me, which probably isn't possible or likely. Merlin took about three years to get within touching distance of the fantasy drama I wanted from Series 1, and I'm not stupid enough to wait that long again.

19 October 2013 | BBC1