Atlantis: The Earth Bull

You're the largest broadcaster in Britain and your popular Saturday night fantasy adventure series has come to an end after five years leaving a gap in your autumn line up. What do you do? Simple, just get the people who made that show to make another that is pretty much exactly the same.

Welcome to Atlantis.

When I was at school, one of the classrooms used to have this great big majestic poster of all the Greek gods looking all big and majestic. It instantly kick started my life long love of Greek mythology. Because of this I had hopes for Atlantis. Not high ones, admittedly. British television has a somewhat sketchy track record when it comes to shows like this. Doctor Who is great (if occasionally very bad), Merlin had its ups and downs, Primeval was pretty much blah for its entire run and Robin Hood just proved that we'd all been a little too hard on Kevin Costner.

So what about Atlantis? Well, if I had to sum up this episode in a single word it would be underwhelming. If I had to sum it up in four words it would be underwhelming and annoyingly familiar. As this is from the same creative team responsible for Merlin, I was expecting there to be more than a few similarities between the two shows. But not this many. Everything about this show screamed Merlin! Okay, maybe not all that sunny Moroccan scenery, but certainly the tone, the music. the 'not as funny as the writers think they are' jokes and the quality of the FX were all classic Merlin.

Even the structure of this episode resembled 'The Dragon's Call', Merlin's pilot episode. Merlin Jason (after getting zapped back in time and conveniently losing all his clothes) arrives in the fabled city of Camelot Atlantis, which is ruled over by the tyrannical King Uther Minos. Before long he is quickly getting into some lame comedy hijinks, running around like he's playing Prince of Persia and making friends with the likes of Pythagoras, the bane of maths students everywhere.

Now, as I'm sure no one is asking, why is Pythagoras in Atlantis when it was supposedly destroyed thousands of years before he was even born? Well, it seems this Atlantis is going to have a similar approach to Greek history and mythology as Hercules and Xena, where everything was happening all around the same time. One week the good guys were at the Fall of Troy, the next they were mingling with Homer as he told them about Spartacus.

So the Atlantis this series has created is something of melting pot of the ancient world, a place where anyone who's anyone from classic mythology seems to live and work. So far the city's residents include Hercules, Minos, Pasiphae and Ariadne, with Medusa (before she had the mother of all bad hair days) due to show up next week. If any more show up they might as well rename this show Midnight in Atlantis and have Jason played by Owen Wilson.

With Minos family around it was no surprise that the second half of the episode became a retelling of the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, only minus Theseus (he's too busy being Superman these days). The CGI Minotaur wasn't too bad, but the final fight between it and Jason was lame. And even the caves in this scene, both the real and computer enhanced ones, reminded me of Merlin. I swear some of them just reused footage of the Great Dragon's cave.

While the many, many similarities to Merlin were distracting, they weren't Atlantis' biggest problem. That was the characters. There was not a single one I liked or even felt mildly curious about. Jason is just too bland, while Pythagoras is just too nice. It looks like they are trying to set them up as the new Arthur and Merlin, only with less bickering and the bromance toned down considerably. So basically none of the things I actually loved about Merthur.

Also, having Jason be from modern day felt like an unnecessary addition. At first I assumed it was so the writer could have a hero in their Greek myth show who makes a lot of pop culture references. But that didn't happen. In fact, Jason didn't talk or act at all like someone who had been Connecticut Yankeed into ancient times. Even his hair felt right for the period.

The rest of the cast were just as unimpressive. Mark Addy played Hercules as a more cowardly version of Robert Baratheon, a routine that quickly grew tiresome and was all a little too Scooby Doo for my liking. Meanwhile, Juliet Stevenson stepped into the John Hurt role as the respected veteran actor playing a mysterious figure in a cave giving our hero cryptic advice and telling them they have a great destiny and must conceal their true identity. Knowing the people behind the show, this means no one else will discover Jason's secret (whatever the hell it is) until the last five minutes of the last episode.

Two out of four reasons to see what else is on on a Saturday night.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011. More Mark Greig.


CrazyCris said...

Kind of sums up my feelings Mark! Pretty "meh" and disappointed. I had hoped to like it more, but I was afraid I wouldn't. Still, as someone who was fascinated by Greek Mythology as a child I'll definitely stick around for a few more episodes to see how it develops. It's hard to prejudge a whole show based on the pilot... sometimes they do get better! ;o)

Comparisons to Merlin: you forgot to mention the spoiled Princess who likes to defy her parents when it suits her! And I'm guessing Medusa will stand in for Gwen? :p Difference here will probably be Medusa goes evil and Ariadne stays good... Swapping Gwen and Morgana's roles!

I just find myself wishing (for the umpteenth time) we could have gotten a 6th season of Merlin instead of this! *sigh* There was no need to rush into Camlann so soon, with them so young, and Merlin's secret still in the closet! :o(

Paul Kelly said...

Whilst watching, I couldn't help but wonder who this show is actually made for. It's too like Merlin to really draw in the Merlin crowd. As Cris correctly stated above, why not just make another season of Merlin? And they've messed around so much with mythology and history, it's hard to see it truly satisfying the ancient history/mythology buffs. The thing which really pisses me off about the BBC is that they keep making the same old product over and over again. Same teams, same production values, same writers, same sort of look.... they just change the central hero and hope nobody will notice. Strictly Come Dancing followed by Atlantis is not my idea of a top notch night in.

Henrik Bennetter said...

Thankyou Mark! That's a big WNW (Will Not Watch) for me then! Glad you saved me the time and aggravation. :D

ChrisB said...

As this finally made it across the pond, I gave it a watch. It is as dreadful as you say, Mark. Too bad -- the mythology could have been a lot of fun.