TV Review: BBC America’s ‘Atlantis’

Atlantis BBC America

Brits' latest mythological tea-time show doesn't do much more than tread water

Essentially another British tea-time show with an inordinately good cast around the fringes, “Atlantis” plunges right into its reimagining of Greek mythology, where only the names (Hercules, Pythagoras, Medusa) bear much resemblance to our perceptions. Playful but thin, this good-looking hour (partly lensed in Morocco) is filled with portentous dialogue – yet another youthful protagonist told time and again of his “great destiny” – and an affordable dollop of CGI creatures. It’s not bad, but don’t come to BBC America’s latest import burdened by high expectations, since this ship doesn’t do much more than tread water.

In that respect, the show falls squarely in the vein of previous series like “Merlin” (which comes from that skein’s creative team) and “Sinbad,” U.K. productions with presold names that found a home, if only marginal viewership, on content-hungry U.S. channels.

Young Jason (Jack Donnelly) is introduced as he prepares for a deep-sea submarine dive, looking to uncover the truth about what happened to his long-missing father. A gush of water later, he awakens on the beach of a strange land known as Atlantis, where he soon encounters Pythagoras (Robert Emms) – a bookish sort who knows all the angles (heh heh) – and Hercules (Mark Addy), who, his name notwithstanding, is not only paunchy but has yet to meet a threat from which he won’t run away.

In short order, Jason visits the Oracle (Juliet Stevenson), who tells him, “Only you can bring an end to the people’s fear and suffering.” Still, if you’re waiting for something to specifically explain why that’s so in the three episodes previewed of this 13-episode series – the last of which unleashes a pretty obvious “Gladiator” homage – odds are you’ll wind up feeling fleeced.

Addy is a pretty inspired choice as this not-so-heroic reworking of Hercules, while Sarah Parish plays the mysterious (and initially, underused) evil queen, and Aiysha Hart the beautiful princess, as the series careens through threats like the Minotaur and murderous crones.

Ultimately, though, there’s a certain sloppiness to this latest mythological mishmash, which joins BBC America’s Supernatural Saturdays franchise, piggybacking on a “Dr. Who” special. And while one suspects Jason will have to wait a while before being reunited with that sub in which his journey began, about the best one can say regarding this leaky vehicle is that it proves slightly better than substandard.

TV Review: BBC America's 'Atlantis'

(Series; BBC America, Sat. Nov. 23, 9 p.m.)


Filmed in Wales and Morocco by Urban Myth Films and BBC Cymru Wales.


Executive producers, Johnny Capps, Julian Murphy, Howard Overman, Bethan Jones; director, Justin Molotnikov; writer, Overman; camera, Dale McCready; production designer, Paul Cripps; editor, Simon Reglar; music, Rob Lane; casting, Andy Pryor. 60 MIN.


Jack Donnelly, Mark Addy, Robert Emms, Jemima Rooper, Aiysha Hart, Sarah Parish, Juliet Stevenson, Alexander Siddig

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  1. Dave Jewell says:

    I agree with the reviewer, and with Nathan Jones’ comment on dwindling viewing figures. The first episode was reasonably good, though the use of names such as Pythagoras and Hercules (neither of whom is remotely connected with Atlantis) was bound to irritate. Similar comments apply to Medusa who never had anything to do with Pandora’s box.

    For me, far too much of each episode is taken up with bland banter between our three heroes. This is interspersed with action scenes in which Jason predictably gets out of each scrape through the over use of his remarkable gymnastic abilities.

    Just watched the episode in which the three amigos go off to rescue Medusa from the cave in which she is ensconced. The situation at the end of the episode is exactly the same as it was at the beginning. Medusa still snake-ridden and hiding in cave, Hercules still love-sick, Jason still (like the rest of us) desperately searching for the overall purpose behind it all.

    I’ll probably stick it out to the final episode of Series 1, but unless the series ends with some mind-blowing revelatory cliff-hanger, I doubt I’ll be back…

  2. katie says:

    I dont think this show can be compared to Merlin at this point. The show has to many holes like Hercules for instance. He will NEVER be hercules IMO. He doesnt meet the criteria. I will give it 1 season to see where it goes..

  3. Gary Lockley says:

    Apparently, US “standards” for TV have infected the BBC. Sorry guys, but when you lay down with our dogs don’t be surprised when you get up with our fleas.

  4. Kay Bryant says:

    I loved the show, I can’t wait for more episodes!

  5. katie says:

    I like the show and will give it a chance but I am dissapointed in hercules.. He was a demigod and he should not be a fat middle aged lazy guy that is afraid of his own shadow.

  6. Jacques Strappe says:

    Meh, it was passable cheese, if not entirely forgettable entertainment that felt more like it should be a USA SyFy channel production or something like that Kevin Sorbo Hercules syndicated series than a BBC one. Mark Addy is certainly an interesting choice for a re-imagining of Hercules but still can’t quite erase his cheesy role in the dreadful CBS sitcom, “Still Standing”. I suppose if Jason goes shirtless more often he will probably develop a loyal female fanbase but I see this Atlantis reboot sinking back into the sea sooner rather than later..

  7. I like the show. It is entertaining and it is nice to be able to watch something lighthearted and appropriate for the younger audiences.

  8. Victoria says:

    ‘Atlantis’ may be from the same creative team as ‘Merlin” but the acting on ‘Merlin’ >>>> than on ‘Atlantis’. Okay, Mark Addy is good and Jemima Rooper has promise but the rest are not much more than cardboard.

  9. Mr. Sickofhavingtoslogthrusuchsexistbullfeces says:

    Brian Lowry is sexist and irrelevant.

  10. lotrfan says:

    Fat hercules is funny in the beginning of the series, but it gets old real quick. Now it’s just annoying. Hercules is fat and useless.

    • nathan jones says:

      Atlantis has reached episode 9 now in UK and has limped along like a wounded animal. Actors Mark Addy (Hercules) and Sarah Parish (Evil Queen) have tried to inject some life into the lame scripts but with little success. The reason viewers keep watching is the same reason why viewers watched “Stargate Universe” and “Star Trek Enterprise” for so long-there is little sci-fi/fantasy on TV for fans of the genre and there is the constant hope that it will get better as the premise is good. Unfortunately, as with those two series, patience will eventually wear thin and viewers will depart. Already,in UK, the series has dropped from an initial 8 million viewers to approx.4 million and dropping. That says it all.

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