I only caught Johnny Capps and Julian Murphy's alleged brainchild Merlin once a few years back, and quickly wished I had not. It was a dull fantasy series created to no doubt cash-in on some franchise about a kind of magic kid named Harry. Fortunately, someone else finally figured out the show was a dreary excuse for all things interesting, and Merlin came to an end in late 2012. But with an empty timeslot and the broadening possibility of life in the unemployment line on the horizon, TV producers Capps and Murphy had to think of something new. So, with the help of Misfits creator Howard Overman, the trio decided to touch upon something as old as recorded history itself: Greek Mythology.
Or, to be a bit more specific, what might happen were all Greek Mythology to intertwine in that legendary continent (city) of Atlantis - with a contemporary hero well-versed in sarcasm and something half-resembling sex appeal to be sucked back in time. You know, just like Kathy Ireland was in Alien from L.A., a not-at-all-respected 1988 B-grade comedy from the fine folks at The Cannon Group.
Indeed, one who has watched far too many silly movies in his or her lifetime will no doubt see a tiny bit of resemblance in this premise. Fortunately, such similarities end right there - as Atlantis actually surfaces as being a fairly decent series. And I dare say that most of this is attributable to Mr. Overman's clever writing. Or re-writing, as is the case here. After a brief and intentionally unimportant introduction to our hero (Jack Donnelly, who plays a character named Jason - a christening that we will no doubt "argo naut" with later in time) is magically whisked back to ancient (legendary) Atlantis following an accident (shades of Life on Mars?, perhaps), wherein he instantly befriends a math nerd named Pythagoras (Robert Emms) and his roommate, a guy known by the handle of Hercules.
And here's where Overman gets cute. In a good way, to boot. Hercules is not portrayed as the gallant, fearless, muscular demigod hunk we've always read about and envisioned. Instead, the fabled character is actually a cowardly, boisterous, drunken, womanizing, fat fellow who is the first to flee at the sight of danger - as well as the first to take credit for any accomplishments others may achieve. Cast in this wonderfully unique take on the Greek hero is none other than Mark Addy ( aka The Big Guy from The Full Monty), who may have finally found his crowning role here; one that could very well be as grand as Ben Kingsley's and/or Michael Caine's Sherlock Holmes in another 1988 comedy, Without a Clue.
Throughout the course of this thirteen-episode series (the UK appears to be getting more American in its number of episodes per series/seasons), Jason, Pythagoras, and Hercules - often accompanied by a pretty young lass named Medusa (Jemima Rooper), with whom the Hercster develops an unhealthy crush on - travel to and fro ancient locales in order to throw in just about every mythological egg into one basket. Honestly, it works: Atlantis somehow manages to keep things fresh and enjoyable throughout as it mixes ancient folklore with contemporary action and humor. Also featured in this instant win of a series are Sarah Parish as Pasiphaë, Aiysha Hart as Ariadne, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine co-star Alexander Siddig as King Minos, and Juliet Stevenson as the mysterious Oracle who conveniently is able to link one episode to another with the simple sacrifice of a poor piece of poultry.
BBC Home Video brings Atlantis: Season One to Blu-ray in a three-disc set that presents the title with a very crisp presentation overall. Some of the green screen definitely look as finely polished as the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy movies (read: it's noticeable, kids), but it isn't too terribly distracting overall. That said, the fact that this release only boasts a DTS-HD MA 2.0 Stereo is a bit of a letdown, but nevertheless manages to suffice admirably. Disc Three of this set includes a behind-the-scenes featurette, which is, sadly, the only bonus goodie to be found here. On the plus-side, a second season has been commissioned by the BBC, so we can only hope the next home video release contains more special features.