Saturday, September 28, 2013

First Episode Thoughts: Atlantis (2013)

Broadcasting earlier today on BBC One was Atlantis, a new fantasy TV show to fill the gap left by the now-finished Merlin (with which it shares two producers), and it stars Jack Donnelly as Jason with Mark Addy, Robert Emms and Aiysha Hart, amongst others. There didn't seem to be a huge build up to it, with the first episode broadcasting around 8 months after being announced, and it's only in recent weeks that it seems like it's been marketed - the first promotional shots of the main cast were published just three weeks ago! Hence, I wasn't expecting it for a while yet and hadn't managed to get too excited. There's only one way to sum up how I felt about Atlantis, and like all good tumblr and Twitter users, I know that's with a gif. So I hereby present the gif that best summarises how I felt.


It's essentially a show for an older family - younger children might be a bit scared by it, as suggested by its 8:25pm broadcast slot - and in it Jason discovers Atlantis whilst searching for the wreck of his father's ship. Misadventures ensue, and finally Jason climbs into the house of triangle-obsessed Pythagoras (Emms). Here we also meet the third member of the party, Hercules (Addy), and the show is ready to move on to its first Atlantis-based storyline. It is time for seven Atlanteans to be picked to be sent to try to kill the minotaur (read: sacrificed), an event that will bind Jason, Pythagoras and Hercules together...

At its most adventurous, Atlantis is a very predictable show. It also seems to be stuck somewhere between comedy and serious drama, much in the same way as the recent runs of Doctor Who. It can't decide which it wants to be, and as such its jokes aren't particularly funny nor does it ever manage to be particularly serious. When the show tries to trip you up by throwing a curve ball, it's really easy to see where those balls will go, and not one aspect of the episode genuinely surprised me. I was also put off somewhat by Mark Addy's rather weak performance as Hercules (a target of ever-so-clever fat jokes a few times), which made me think less of a (slightly washed up) hero of legend and more of his role as Andy the Butcher in the sitcom Trollied, a role that was repetitive and tiresome. Indeed, I'd go as far as to say that his Hercules is fundamentally a carbon copy of his Andy.

The script was reasonably good, but it suffered heavily from the aforementioned predictability. Some as-yet-to-be-discussed plot points weren't so much implied as made blindingly obvious, and it made sure it repeated key points (for example, Jason's destiny) enough times that you couldn't miss them, not that they actually needed pointing out in the first place. And, as author Adrian Tchaikovsky pointed out (as did some of his followers), the show actually managed to make some fundamental mistakes with respect to some of its aspects. I also felt it needed to be slowed down somewhat, as it wasted little time getting us to Atlantis - there was no build up, no real context, just... BAM! We're going to Atlantis, strap in!

I don't think Atlantis was bad, it just wasn't hitting the right notes. Whilst the visuals were lovely and the soundtrack had me interested, the plotting was weak and the show closing on a repetition of an earlier fat joke really summed the whole experience up. It's unoriginal and it's repetitious, at least for the first episode. I am definitely on board for more, but it really needs to up the ante and soon, because a few more weak episodes and it won't even come close to the popularity of Merlin. It played it much too safe, causing it not to arrive with a bang, but instead it closed the door quietly and excused itself.

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