Well, well, well… whodathunk? Atlantis turns out to be worth watching, after all. If you too, are still coming down from the thrill-ride that was the opening episode, then brilliant, it means I’m not alone. Not that it was without flaw – but before I run away with myself, a quick recap of The Plot. Jason (Jack Donnelly) is our puppy-dog eyed hero, who sets out to find whatever is left of his missing father on the ocean floor. Presumably there’s not much, but just as he claps eyes on some wreckage of the man’s missing vessel (ominously named The Oracle), a white light sucks our hero into another world – stripping him starkers in the process.
Luckily for Jason, his blushes are spared by a kindly yet mysterious fisherman who leaves him a handy pile of clothes – complete with matching belt and wristbands – so he can stumble into the nearest city without being arrested. While we didn’t need three guesses as to where he was, Jason was clueless, and it was only thanks to mathematical whizz Pythagoras (Robert Emms) that he learned he was in Atlantis – the lost city beneath the ocean.
The action followed thick and fast as he met Hercules “I’m not fat, I’m big boned” (played by Mark Addy) and who gets the pick of the glib, throwaway lines, and The Oracle (Juliet Stevenson). Sadly, the latter meeting didn’t go well, as she told Jason his father was dead and Destiny had some big plans for the newcomer, but she would be a bit slow to reveal precisely what they were.
Things heated up for our hero and his new pals when King Minos (Alexander Siddig) announced it was time for seven residents to be fed to the minotaur in the labyrinth, and rather than see his new-found pal Pythagoras eaten by a bull, Jason went in his place. By a cruel twist of fate, the mathematician and Hercules ended up going with him anyway, but things worked out fine and they were all home in time for tea. Or olives. Or sardines. Or whatever it was ancient Atlanteans ate.
Part of me really wanted to pour cold water all over this show, especially as it mixed up legendary figures from across ancient history (to the best of my knowledge, it was Theseus who slew the minotaur, and Pythagoras never knocked about with demi-gods). I wanted to be snotty and derisive and cynical. But the truth is, after about 15 minutes it didn’t matter a jot.
The production values – a couple of dodgy CGI shots aside – were top-notch, and some of the fight scenes were amazing. The whole thing looks gorgeous (the costumes in particular of the royal family were sumptuous). As if that wasn’t reason enough to stay glued to the screen, then the lashings of humour definitely were. As previously mentioned, Hercules was handed the pick of the lines, and Mark Addy delivered them with aplomb, but occasionally Emms got in on the act and Donnelly too.
Speaking of the hunky young leading man, he’s going to be catapulted into the big time, and deservedly so. His Jason is by turns vulnerable and sweet, brave and funny, and looks like he’s going to be a hugely enjoyable character to follow. If we can just persuade Sir Bruce to step aside in favour of someone funny, then the BBC will be the perfect place to spend Saturday nights for the forseeable future.
Atlantis Continues Saturday’s at 8.25pm on BBC ONE.
Contributed by Scheenagh Harrington