Atlantis: 109 “Pandora’s Box” Review
Reviewed by John Hussey.
Atlantis begins its final stretch towards its first finale and what a way to bring about that countdown than with a tip into Hades and the unleashing of all the terrible things that lurks within this world trapped inside a box of an unearthly secrets.
It has been two-weeks since we last saw Atlantis on our screens after Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary Special ‘The Day of the Doctor’ took up its slot for its grand occasion. So it felt weird seeing it after its short break, but alas it was worth the wait. Like with Atlantis’ last instalment, ‘The Furies,’ the series took on a darker route and began building the foundations towards the first finale. As we knew from Medusa’s first appearance within ‘A Girl by Any Other Name’ she would become the evil creature who held snake for hair and had the ability to turn all those who had looked at her into stone. ‘Pandora’s Box’ was the story to bring this terrible fate/destiny into reality.
This all started out due to Hercules’ desire to gamble his money away and in doing so fills himself with debts that led to many consequences for himself and his friends. In this case Kyros threatened to kill Hercules due to him being unable to pay another debt which lead to a deadly deal of high consequence. Hercules was forced to enter the Underworld (i.e. Hades) in order to retrieve Pandora’s Box. If he didn’t cooperate then Medusa would’ve paid the price with her life. As usual Jason was dragged into the situation and had to help bail Hercules out of trouble. Jason’s ever-growing kind heart and heroic attitude made him determined to do what was necessary in order to save Medusa. It is fair to say Jason is willing to do what is necessary to save his friends.
It was nice to see familiar Greek Mythology being played out within this story. One of the most iconic usages of this was with the arrival of the ferryman Charon. The ferryman delivered both Hercules and Jason into the Underworld through the misty waters after Pythagoras placed a coin upon their mouth to pay their fee.
Upon entering the Underworld we were met with a surprise reappearance from Cyrus, who we had last seen in ‘A Boy of No Consequence’ before his untimely death. This was a bit of a strange return as his character wasn’t all that well known, and if I’m honest, remembered. I was at first unsure as to who he was (but then again I hadn’t seen his episode for many weeks so that may have had something to do with it). I guess his character was brought back for the purpose of guiding our heroes in the right direction but apart from that he didn’t really do all that much, making his return seem almost pointless. Nevertheless I can see from a writer’s perspective as to why this was significant. Cyrus was known to both Jason and Hercules back in the world of the Living and it saved time within the narrative. Instead of using some random resident of the Underworld to help out our heroes, for whatever motive that could be created, it seemed much easier and straight-forward to have an old friend come back and help them out with the simple motive of helping out a friend.
The story’s dark nature revolved hugely around the idea of our heroes stepping into the deepest, darkest pits of Hell itself (along with the shocking revelations towards the end of the story but I shall touch up upon that later). It was certainly an eerie atmosphere created simply by a dark space within a cave. Simple but effective and that’s all that is needed sometimes to create a good atmosphere to a scene. What finished off this darkened world was the appearance of the tormented souls who basically reminded me of zombies (sorry to be crude but they did remind me of mindless creatures who only craved to eat the living, which they pretty much did in a sense).
As soon as Jason, Hercules and Cyrus passed them it was inevitable that they would awake at some point within the narrative, it was just a question of when. When they did finally awake, as an attempt to prevent our heroes living Hades with Pandora’s Box, it actually did make me jump when they first screeched. It was a tense few moments of will Jason and Hercules escape (well of course they were, but then again show’s these days do like a twist)? It was of course a massive relief when they did finally get out and return to Atlantis. Though was I the only one who was a bit disgusted with the fate of Cyrus. He had risked his very soul in getting Jason and Hercules to their destination in time to save Medusa and the thanks he gets is an eternity of torment. God only knows what those foul creatures did to him. I digress.
The hideous monster, Campe, which attempted to prevent Jason and Hercules was certainly a major improvement within the special effects department. I for once actually considered believing the said creature was in fact a real being within the scene. I think this is more down to Atlantis still trying to get off its feet and therefore its production budget probably wasn’t as high as other major special effects shows such as Doctor Who. Either that or budget was concentrated in other areas such as location shooting, which would seem plausible due to the extensive overseas filming. Either way I’m confident production value will improve as the series goes along.
The part within the narrative that seemed off to be this week was the dramatic pantomime performance by Pythagoras. It just seemed one of those typical scenarios where nothing went right for the bumbling sidekick who got left behind to look after the bodies of the heroes while their minds travelled into another dimension. The fact that it was one bad thing after another and was a case of they were on another side of the city at each point Pythagoras believed he was getting closer was just plain silly in my eyes. First him going to the wrong place before ending up discovering that his friends bodies were buried. It nearly broke apart the seriousness of the story contained within Hades. This is just a clear example of the series still being in its earlier days due to continuity within plotlines, characters and tones. I sometimes get the feeling they’re not always quite gelling in well with the current narrative or things that have already been established. Pythagoras’ character was made to be a clown in this story, something that was supposed to be Hercules job, and he committed silly acts that just seemed out of character (especially when we got a deeper, darker character developed within ‘The Furies’ that made him out to be a murderer to his own father). Apart from that little sidetrack within the narrative, it was a great story.
The true highlight was the beginning of Medusa’s destiny that came about in a very tragic form. We already knew that she and Hercules had grown fond of one another and their relationship was beginning to really kick off. Now in a horrible twist of fate, nudge-nudge “Romeo and Juliet”, she became cursed by Pandora’s Box and was given her horrifying appearance and powers. She was no longer the innocent servant-girl but now an evil creature that killed all those she gazed upon. The reasoning this plot-development was so sad was because of the love between Hercules and Medusa. It was a cruel turn of events for the both of them. Hercules wasn’t even allowed to look upon Medusa’s actual face and he had to bare the sorrow of seeing her current state and the sadness it brought to her. It was just plain cruel (which in this day and age brings about good storytelling. People wouldn’t watch television if it was always a nice happy ending as that would be considered dull.)
I do believe Medusa’s turning was handled with great care and was brought about in an interesting way that made an impact. I think it would’ve made a bigger impact had we have had Medusa turn in the second series, thereby having her relationship with Hercules been more of a long developing progress. But I think the writers just wanted to make a huge impact to their audience for the shows first series and so in that respect I can see why it was done so early on within the narrative.
With Medusa’s turn now put in place, it has left Hercules a broken man and now given Jason an aggressive impulse against the Oracle’s said destinies (i.e. him one day killing Medusa in order to protect Atlantis from her evil) and the Gods themselves. We were left with our hero taunting the Gods to do their worst upon him and this leaves the series in a very dark place that should see some interesting developments within the last few stories of the series. I don’t know about the rest of you but I certainly can’t wait to see where this will all take us and just what is really going on with Jason and his secret prophecies for Atlantis? Also when will Jason’s contract with Circe be addressed again? I hope all will be revealed soon.