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