[Review] - Atlantis, Series 1 Episode 4, "Twist of Fate"

Courtesy of the BBC
Well, this was a bit of a dog. For the second week in a row, Atlantis skips the direct mythical adaptation, but the resulting story could only be considered original, funny or clever if this were 1987 and Steve Guttenberg were involved. And while the episode had the potential to dig into Bronze Age politics, it chose instead to focus on fart jokes and being utterly, relentlessly dull.

Hit the jump for the review, which contains spoilers that


First, to the myth. Oediupus, he of the famous father killing and mother loving. Here, the first stage of the myth is explored (and avoids having to explain incest to a tea time audience), and pretty accurately at that. Laius of Thebes and his wife Jocasta are warned by an Oracle, (Delphic in myth, Atlantian in the show) that the child will murder Laius and marry his mother. To prevent this, they leave the child on Mount Kithairon, where he is discovered by a shepherd and taken to be raised by Polybus of Corinth. Very little about this set up is changed, with the trio of heroes and Pythagoras taking the place of the kindly shepherd. There is the addition of some "intrigue" where the baby must be smuggled to safety, after some completely unnecessary manipulations on the part of  Jocasta's loyal servant, played by a wasted Donald Sumpter. 

I no longer have any concept of the geography of the world of Atlantis, and I suspect neither do the writers. Atlantis is clearly on Crete, despite not having been named as such. The bull worship, the fact that Minos is king, the overall Creteness of the design all point to Atlantis being a substitute for Knossos. Crete in real life is the largest island in the Mediterranean, located quite south. Corinth is located in the Peloponnese, half an Aegean away (as is Kithairon). On the show however Corinth is both within walking distance of Atlantis and in the middle of a desert, which Greece traditionally is not. I have no issue with liberties being taken with mythical characters, but these are real world locations, places that have a physical place. Half of the best stories in myth are about the journeys between these remote locations, and the dangers encountered in the wilds. Where is the drama in being able to nip to any other city state at the narrative's convenience? The answer is, there isn't any.

I have very little to say about this episode, which was as disappointing as it was uninteresting. Everything that has been bad about the show to this point was present here: Siddig's William Shatner in the park style of acting, the padding out of a plot that can't really support a full episode, Pythagoras. It's all here and because there is nothing remarkable or distracting, it seems just that much worse. Even Mark Addy's reliability is over shadowed completely by the bad. And I've not felt as bad in some time for an actor as I did during the extended drunk-fart scene. I understand that the show is meant to appeal to a range of ages, but have the depths of humour really been so completely plundered so quickly that we have to resort to this. It was the farty troll of Merlin all over again.

There could have been a real opportunity here, to dig into the complex and often bloody machinations of the Greek political system in the days of kings and Gods. Pasiphaƫ and Ariadne do little more than trade barbs over suspicion and mistrust, with Pasiphaƫ's role in Laius' ordeal only hinting at her influence. Minos remains utterly oblivious, and rather than being interesting, or a tragic figure, he's just a goofy cuckold prancing about in drapes. When his fall inevitably comes, it won't be emotional, it'll be understandable. He isn't wise or mean enough to be king, he comes off as little more than a child.They alss took the easiest route to moving the Medusa-Hercules story forward, with a contrived evesdropping scene. Because Gods forbid Medusa should learn to love Hercules for himself, rather than get caught up in some kind of sympathy affection. No, no, this is faster, and means less.

With all the worst aspects of the show laid bare, it really doesn't inspire that much confidence in the series moving forward. Yes, it's possible that this was just a bad episode. Those happen. But the series hasn't been exemplary thus far, at best it has managed to break even. And if this is a sign of the writer's struggling to maintain that minimum, then rougher days might be ahead.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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