Tag Archives: Alexander Siddig

BBC America’s ‘Atlantis’ far from all wet

Jack Donnelly, Mark Addy and Robert Emms star in 'Atlantis,' premiering tonight on BBC America.

Jason (Jack Donnelly), Hercules (Mark Addy) and Pythagoras (Robert Emms, from left) find themselves in a bind in BBC America’s new fantasy series ‘Atlantis.’


Hardline classicists probably will want to give a wide berth to BBC America’s Atlantis, a new fantasy series premiering tonight. For the rest of us, however, this lavishly produced and imaginatively written riff on well-known yarns from mythology adds up to some first-rate and generally family-friendly entertainment.
Tonight’s premiere opens in the modern world, where a young man named Jason (Jack Donelly) is preparing to make a dive in a mini-sub in search of some clues to what happened to his father, who vanished from this particular stretch of ocean without a trace. Jason has had only a glimpse of what may be some related underwater wreckage when his craft is rocked by mysterious turbulence and bathed in eerie lights.
The next thing Jason knows, he is regaining consciousness, naked and disoriented, on a beach. Grabbing some conveniently abandoned clothing, he makes his way to a nearby city that looks to be the stuff of legends, where he inadvertently sets off a ruckus in the marketplace before being rescued by a bookish math geek named Pythagoras (Robert Emms, War Horse). Jason learns he is in Atlantis, where he feels an uncanny sense of familiarity. This impression of déjà vu is only heightened after he meets the revered Oracle (Juliet Stevenson, The Hour), an enigmatic seeress who offers Jason guidance and her personal protection.
He’ll find use for the latter almost immediately, too, because Jason has appeared in Atlantis on the day when all local citizens are required to draw stones in an annual lottery ordered by King Minos (Alexander Siddig, 24) to determine which of them will be sacrificed to the town’s fearsome monster, the Minotaur. Offering further help in this quest, however reluctantly, is none other than Hercules (Mark Addy, Game of Thrones), a formerly great hero now gone to seed.
Sharing the nearby palace with Minos is his beautiful but cruel queen, Pasiphae (Sarah Parish), who may well have a secret command of the dark arts, and their daughter, the princess Ariadne (Aiysha Hart), who takes an immediate liking to Jason.
Created and written by Howard Overman, who did likewise on the British cult hit Misfits, Atlantis has top-notch production values and zippy dialogue that mingles pseudo-classical speech with contemporary, self-aware irony (Jason tells Pythagoras at one point that his triangles and theorems “are destined to bore children for centuries!”), while the extended sequence inside the dimly lit maze of the Minotaur is satisfyingly creepy and suspenseful.
“It is both a privilege and a delight to have the opportunity to take audiences on a journey into the fantastical world of Atlantis,” Overman says. “Drawing on the Greek myths for inspiration, we aim to tell classic action adventure stories in unexpected and exciting ways.”
'Atlantis' is ruled by Queen Pasiphae (Sarah Parish, left), King Minos (Alexander Siddig) and Princess Ariadne (Aiysha Hart).

Queen Pasiphae (Sarah Parish, left), King Minos (Alexander Siddig) and Princess Ariadne (Aiysha Hart) make up the royal family of ‘Atlantis’ on BBC America.

Starz conjures some devilishly entertaining ‘Demons’

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Tom Riley and Laura Haddock
The life of Leonardo da Vinci was dazzling and eventful enough that, even played straight, it probably could drive a successful historical drama series. Instead, however, David S. Goyer (FlashForward) has used Da Vinci and his world as a jumping-off point for Da Vinci’s Demons, a very promising new historical fantasy premiering tonight on Starz.
Set primarily in 15th century Florence, Italy, the series introduces us to Leonardo (Tom Riley) in his twenties, on the cusp of fame but still searching for a patron. Cocky and impetuous, he looks like a rock star in his provocative leather outfits (by all appearances, Leonardo apparently invented hair gel at some point), but as the illegitimate offspring of a local nobleman and a servant whose face he can’t remember, Leonardo is haunted by a need to clarify his identity – particularly regarding a mysterious episode in his childhood that he can recall only in fragments.
He crosses paths with Al-Rahim (Alexander Siddig, 24, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine), aka The Turk, an enigmatic figure who shares a mind-expanding pipe bowl with Leonardo and tells him some of the answers he is seeking may be found in a mystic volume called The Book of Leaves, which, alas, is also highly sought after by the ruthless Count Riario (Blake Ritson), nephew to Pope Sixtus (James Faulkner) in Rome.
Meanwhile, Lorenzo Medici (Elliot Cowan), the de facto ruler of Florence, commissions Leonardo to paint a portrait of his mistress, the beautiful Lucrezia Donati (Laura Haddock), but Medici also becomes fascinated with Leonardo’s sketches for war machines and hires him to create new weaponry to help protect Florence in the looming conflict with the surrounding papal states, whose formidable armies are led by Count Riario. Smitten by Lucrezia’s breathtaking beauty, Leonardo rashly embarks on a torrid affair with her, one that could turn deadly: Unbeknownst to both Medici and Leonardo, Lucrezia is working her own agenda, one that is unlikely to help either man.
It’s probably obvious to you by now that Goyer throws a staggering amount of information at us in tonight’s premiere episode, and forgive yourself if you find yourself struggling to sort out all the characters and where they stand in the immensely complicated Renaissance power plays that figure throughout the story. Just go with it: By the time you hit the second episode, the storytelling becomes much more focused and you’ll start to work things out with relative ease.
And trust me, Da Vinci’s Demons is worth the effort. I know Starz has had a somewhat spotty track record with its original series, apart from its guilty-pleasure Spartacus saga, but Goyer’s series is intelligently written, well acted and lushly produced. As we expect these days, the scenery is CGI-enhanced, but the juncture of what is real and what is computer-generated is surprisingly seamless, and designer Annie Symons’ eye-popping costumes give a fantastic twist to historically accurate garb of the period. And while Goyer does take Leonardo on flights of fancy, he’s careful to keep the story anchored in Italian Renaissance reality.
This being Starz, I probably don’t need to add that sex and nudity are plentiful, yet not truly gratuitous (although Downton Abbey fans may be stunned to see a major cast member from that international smash contributing a small, uncredited and extensively nude cameo appearance during the opening moments of tonight’s premiere). So if you were thinking this might be an ideal way to spoonfeed the kids some world history: not so much.
I’ve seen the first three episodes and they only left me wanting to see more. Riley is ideally cast as the mercurial title character and so far, the story moves at a very brisk clip, and looks glorious as it does so. Da Vinci’s Demons just may be the most promising original series Starz has fielded to date. If adult sexual content isn’t an automatic deal-breaker for you, check it out.