Atlantis 1.06 “The Song Of The Sirens” TV REVIEW(opens in new tab)
Writer: Lucy Watkins
Director: Declan O’Dwyer
THE ONE WHERE The witch Circe turns Hercules into a pig when he turns to her for help to woo Medusa.
VERDICT While there are some similarities with the previous episode (a relative of the royal family lures Jason and co out of the city for the purposes of advancing the arc plot a bit), “The Song Of The Sirens” is a lot more fun. Whereas as “White Lies” felt unsatisfyingly like a small cog in a larger wheel, there’s enough drama, incident, confrontation, comedy and big revelations in “Siren” to keep it rattling along.
Of course, the fact that it’s a Hercules-centric episode helps as it gives Mark Addy a few decent, meaty scenes to act his acting teeth into, rather than the constant light comedy shtick. He’s great throughout, but his initial confrontation with Circe is a very powerful scene, especially when he’s telling the tale of his late father. The only problem with it being so good is that it overshadows Jason’s later meeting with the witch, when, really, that should be the keystone scene.
Hercules’ flirtations with Medusa are also very sweet and it’s a shame they’re based on a lie, because they make a great couple. The moment when Medusa says she’s finally found a home, makes you wonder where the barrier between enchantment and true affection lies. One of the episode’s few major missteps, though, is not showing Medusa’s reaction to learning what Hercules had done to her. Instead the scene is reduced to a bit of comedy reportage from Pythagoras, and it robs Jemima Rooper of a potentially powerful moment.
Elsewhere, scriptwriter Lucy Watkins pulls off the delicate balance of comedy and tension superbly. An episode in which Hercules is turned into a pig seems like an excuse for wall-to-wall buffoonery, but Watkins knows when to make things funny and when to switch to serious. So while there are some brilliantly amusing moments (and a fart gag, of course – that must be in the writers’ commissions) they never make Circe look frivolous, or lacking in threat. Indeed, Circe is chillingly played by Lucy Cohu and looks set to be a superb recurring villain.
The other main problem with the episode is the non-appearance of the Atlantean royal family. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue, but the drama of Circe coercing Jason into agreeing to kill Pasiphae lacks some punch when Pasiphae is nowhere to be seen. The grudge between the two sister needed to feel personal, but instead it felt a little abstract.
Also, while the flying monsters were great, they were used far too sparingly. And the Sirens’ song was more irritating than alluring.
But overall, a massive improvement over “White Lies”.(opens in new tab)
DESTINY/FATE COUNT Only two “fates”, but, amazingly, neither from The Oracle. She manages to get through two entire scenes without a “fate” or a “destiny”.(opens in new tab)
IT’S WOSSERNAME! Circe is played by Lucy Coho, who telefantasy fans may remember as Alice Carter, Jack Harkness’s daughter, in Torchwood: Children Of Earth . She appears to be wearing one of Morgana’s hand-me downs.(opens in new tab)
THAT’S JOUST COPYING We made a big deal about the similarities between Merlin and Atlantis in the review of the premiere episode, and those similarities are not letting up. It seems that a bit of arena action every few episodes is going to be Atlantis ’s version of Merlin ’s tournament episodes.(opens in new tab)
FRUIT ABUSE This week we get a gratuitously extreme close-up of a pomegranate being sliced.(opens in new tab)
BROMANCE WATCH “As much as I love him,” says Pythagoras of Hercules, “I fear she does not feel the same.” Considering his trigonometric obsession, Pythagoras should be happy bring part of a love triangle, surely? Later in the episode he uses some excuse about checking up on Hercules’s injuries in an attempt to rip the big guy’s shirt off. And as is if that weren’t enough…(opens in new tab)
THE PITS Did we really need to be subjected to their fetishes?(opens in new tab)
MYTHBUSTERS In classic Greek myths, Circe was indeed sister to Pasiphae, and a sorceress whose MO was changing her enemies into animals. However, she was not (as here) deformed and outcast by Pasiphae: she was exiled for killing her husband, the prince of Colchis.
Hercules: “One day he came home with that tooth, plucked from the foaming jaws of Cerberus, the beast that guards the underworld… or so he said.”
• Atlantis is currently airing in the UK on BBC One, Saturday evenings
• Read our other Atlantis season one reviews