Atlantis: A Greek tragedy turned tragic

BBC One’s new series of the fantasy ‘drama’ (I use that term loosely) Atlantis aired last Saturday night. For those who don’t know, Atlantis is the capital city of a fictional island first mentioned and most probably fabricated by Plato. It was said to be inhabited by half-God half-human forms and was eventually submerged into the Atlantic ocean.

Filling their post-Strictly slot with a quasi-mythical drama series has previously been a successful formula for the beeb; Merlin, this slot’s previous occupier, drew in huge audiences. But where Merlin succeeded in blurring the line between a kids show and a bit of light indulgence for Mum and Dad, Atlantis falls short. The jokes are poor and few and far between; the performances barely pantomime-worthy. Classical scholars must be turning in their graves as the BBC smashes up the stories of Greek mythology to fit their politically-correct agenda.

Though this series of Atlantis promises a much darker timbre. “A year has passed and much has changed. With her father dead, Ariadne is queen and finds herself at war with her old adversary, Pasiphae.” The only evidence of this was in the frequent and highly frustrating lack of lighting. The story line is worryingly predictable. Our three best friends-cum-protagonists, Hercules, Pythagoras and Jason, are once more sent on a quest by Jason’s on-off flame Ariadne.

Unfortunately, Ariadne is now Queen, and with a name like Jason it doesn’t take a genius to work out the societal boundaries preventing their union. This is also an exact replica of Merlin’s formulaic cross-class love story in which, unsurprisingly, love prevailed. I would be prepared to bet the (small) remains of my overdraft that the same will happen here.

The most entertaining part of the show for me was scorning the many glorious moments of gratuitously hammed up acting. A particular favourite was the opening scene, in which a tearful Ariadne turned slowly to face the camera. Her expression resembled someone avoiding a bad smell. As she mourned her father’s death, Jason’s loving eyes were fixated on her and the silent tears descended. All the while, a drum beat slowly and emphatically in the distance. For a moment I was convinced I had stumbled across a weird Little Britain-style parody.

Putting the claws away, it has to be said that Atlantis does have its moments. The friendship between the mismatched characters of Hercules, Pythagoras and Jason, for example, is endearing; a sort of BC-style bromance. And you can’t fault the beeb for their impeccable stylistic continuity, first-rate sword fighting and mystical soundtrack.

Filling the boots of Merlin and Doctor Who was never going to be easy, and sadly Atlantis doesn’t quite make the cut. It’s trashy TV at best, but I can’t help feel the BBC know this. On a dismal Saturday night in front of the fire, frankly, a little trash can go a long way.

Rose Collard

Image property of the BBC.

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