Atlantis: 201: “A New Dawn: Part 1” Review
Reviewed by John Hussey.
It feels a long time since Atlantis was last on our screens and here it is back on BBC’s prime-time taking up the slot left by the latest series of Doctor Who. As far as series-openers goes Atlantis didn’t do a bad job, but it wasn’t without its flaws.
One of the major issues I found with ‘A New Dawn: Part 1’ was its pacing. It was far too fast for a series-opener and didn’t allow for any breathing space at all. As someone who didn’t buy the DVD of Series 1 I’m trying my absolute best to remember the characters and story left off by ‘Touched by the Gods: Part 2’. Sadly this series dived us straight into peril with no time given to allow the audience to become reacquainted with their beloved characters and the story set around them. Along with this, little to no importance was given to allow the audience to know what the heck was going on and even I, a life-long viewer of television and films, found it very hard to follow the plot and was left, for the most part, lost to the stories over- active story-arc. If someone like me felt alienated and confused then god-forbid what casual viewers made of this opener. I for one wouldn’t be surprised if it pushed them away somewhat.
As established right from the get-go King Minos is now dead and Ariadne is now Queen of Atlantis. This was the first scene which wasn’t really explained and threw us straight into the deep-end. There wasn’t even an intro-sequence which I found odd. Further confusion was arisen straight afterwards with the news that Pasiphae has learnt of the King’s death and prepares for war. Suddenly we are thrown into the battlefield with our trio Jason, Hercules and Pythagoras on a mission to escort Lord Sarpedon back to Atlantis. At first I’m unsure as to what’s going on, where the setting is (believing it to be at first Atlantis which I thought was incredibly fast) and most importantly of all who Sarpedon was. At that point he could’ve been a pottery salesman for all I knew and yet he was considered important enough for Ariadne to send Jason in to rescue him. This was another point that’s suddenly addressed out of the blue as it would appear now Jason does special errands for his love-interest-whom-he- can-never-be-with almost like a secret agent with his two side-kicks happily helping him along.
Straight after this we are established with the bizarre fact (a clear call out to Greek mythology and suspicious beliefs) that the city of Atlantis can potentially fall if a special statue, called Palladium, is removed. Sure enough a scheme was devised to have the statue removed, allowing Pasiphae to be able to storm the walls of Atlantis and reclaim the city she carefully tied to take in Series 1. Of course Jason is called forward by Ariadne to bring back Palladium before her wicked step-mother can destroy her city. Okay then, hold your horses Howard Overman. Let me get a chance to re-establish myself with the world you and your co-workers created. I do like being thrown into the deep-end but not at the expense of me having no idea what’s going on or any real commitment to keep me engaged. Yes there’s loads of action but where’s the character development and dialogue scenes to make me focus on the story and care for the characters. Action alone doesn’t accomplish this.
I believe too much happens within the first 10 minutes of the story. Things are happening way too fast for my liking and could’ve been paced out better. The plot occurring within this two-part opener could’ve done with being pushed back to a later episode in order to allow for the show to recommence and to build-up important plot-points. Yes Pasiphae’s defeat was clearly established at the end of the last series and a year has passed since then within the story but that doesn’t mean the plot should just explode with action the minute the show says go. In some respects it was a great idea to have such an explosive opener but not at the expense of being for the sake of it. The whole quest idea given to Jason, Hercules and Pythagoras was a massive journey to undertake within the first story and could’ve easily have been spread over the series to achieve build-up and suspense. The fact it happened so fast and they retrieved the Palladium in the same episode they were given the quest shows a rushed storyline to me. And that’s what the entire episode felt like: rushed, due to poor pacing. Everything was hurried and crammed far too much with action along with far too convenient plot-points to keep the story moving, like the trios escape with the catapult.
In many ways I fear where the story will go from here as it is clear that the writer’s have played their best card far too early on within this two-part opener. Everything will be resolved in the next story and leads me to think where the story can go from here. When a series opens with something as big as this there’s always the worry that the momentum of the rest of the series can’t cope with such a raised bar so early on. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next couple of episodes are rather weak stories in comparison to the opener due to it featuring so much action and twists. Here’s hoping I’m wrong but from my appearance with other shows, most notably The Walking Dead, it is fair to say my point above will happen and it could have a nasty affect on my enjoyment. Then again my enjoyment was hindered with this opening, and it was full of action. I guess what I’m trying to say is the structure was bad and the show needs to hurry and find ground because if it doesn’t sharpen itself after a second series then I believe it will never find itself and will be lost to poorly executed ideas that had potential.
The good point of the story was the show’s shift in tone which appears to be aimed at a more mature audience, similar to perhaps The Musketeers. This I found to be a nice development for the show and also the direction the writer’s wish to take their idea. I really enjoyed the brief conversation between Hercules and Pythagoras explaining why they follow Jason into battle. Hercules admitted that he wasn’t a hero and that he sees Jason to be that true hero, following in a vain hope to become the man he wished he was. I was left thinking that perhaps this could potentially lead to Hercules dying a hero’s death to save Jason, which would be a great way to transition himself into the hero. Pythagoras on the other hand had the simple notion of love, and felt his friends were his family. This scene showed great promise of character development but was sadly the only true occurrence of such direction with the rest episode blocked by for-the-sake-of-it action and a rushed storyline.
The other thing I liked was the sense of a true story-arc this year. This was something that made Series 1 weak because its flow was dampened by the lack of a story-arc which let way to too many one-off stories that didn’t really go anyway. I’m hoping this series will be different, especially with the promise brought about by Jason reemphasised prophecy and the vision he was given by the Oracle. That for me was my favourite scene just because it felt like the story was heading somewhere.
There’s nothing left for me to say really other than the story was quite weak in terms of pacing, too much action and lack of information given to support the action going on within the episode. This I have gone over enough throughout the review. I for one was left a bit disappointed by the episode’s execution because it felt shoddy and rushed in order to cram in action for the sake of action; an explosive opener in fools’ effort to gather in an audience.
There are far better ways to bring back a series, especially if a writer wants to not only re- establish his world but also establish new themes and threads that will lead to an on-going story throughout the new series. This two-parter was daring but I’m not convinced it’s paid off yet. In my eyes this two-parter could’ve been planned out better. That is the annoying thing about this whole episode, it wasn’t the story that lacked it was the execution. I’m just hoping that its conclusion can win me over otherwise we’ll be heading into some shaky grounds.