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Saturday, 28 September 2013

Atlantis: The Earth Bull

Jack Donnelly as Jason

Springing from the mind of Howard Overman, the man who gave us Misfits, Atlantis is clearly the BBC's family-friendly, Saturday evening Merlin substitute to keep young fantasy fans distracted (and away from The X-Factor over on ITV) until the return of Doctor Who.

The first episode, The Earth Bull, started with the intriguing premise of our hero Jason (Jack Donnelly) on-board a ship in "our world", preparing to take a submersible under the ocean to try and find the wreck of his late father's sub.

And there's really no hanging around, Overman clearly wanted to get to the fantasy elements as soon as possible.

Once at the bottom of the ocean though, Jason's craft is drawn towards a bright white light and he finds himself waking up on a beach, near an ancient city.

He quickly finds that the city is Atlantis, a hodgepodge of Grecian myth and Dungeons & Dragons where he befriends weedy scribe Pythagoras (Robert Emms) and cowardly drunk Hercules (Game Of Thrones' Mark Addy).

Jason hen discovers, from The Oracle (Juliet Stevenson), that he was actually born in Atlantis but was whisked away to "our world" as a youngster because - for, as yet unexplained reasons - he has many enemies. I wouldn't be at all surprised if some kind of prophecy was involved.

Unfortunately, his arrival in Atlantis coincides with the annual lottery to find seven people to sacrifice to the Minotaur, who lives in subterranean labyrinth in the hills outside the city. We - and Jason - are told that if the sacrifices are not made the god Poseidon will destroy the city.

However (and this might be a slight spoiler, but really was an obvious occurrence) when the Minotaur is slain, everyone celebrates and you have to wonder why they went ahead with the whole sacrifice rigmarole when a company of soldiers could simply have gone into the labyrinth on day one and killed the monster!

The Minotaur is a pretty decent visual effect, although wisely kept largely to the shadows to conceal any budgetary shortfalls.

After a promising start, the episode sagged a bit in the middle, but once it reached the climactic, torch-lit exploration of the labyrinth and the fight with the Minotaur, the show was back on track.

One thing should already be obvious - Atlantis has attracted an incredible cast, especially when you factor in Deep Space Nine's Alexander Siddig as King Minos and Sarah Parish as Queen Pasiphaë.

The Earth Bull
was a flawed but engaging opening to the show (Atlantis is already starting off stronger than Merlin did in its first year), with plenty of mysteries to keep us watching and interesting possibilities raised by The Oracle's mention of this being just one of many worlds (will characters from other worlds or mythologies be appearing at some point?)

While Jason makes a strong lead, I'm not so sure about his two companions but we'll have to see how that dynamic shapes up over the next 12 episodes.

2 comments:

  1. I'm here for the Blitz, a day late. It sounds like an interesting show, and an interesting episode. I love Greek mythology.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think Atlantis has potential, so hopefully it will be popular enough that it'll make it across the Pond. Thanks for dropping by!

      Delete

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