Tag Archives: Juliet Stevenson

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.

New on DVD: Two ‘Masterpiece’ classics from Acorn

They say that politics makes strange bedfellows, and two noteworthy new releases today from Acorn Media Group – The Politician’s Wife and The First Churchills – both revolve around marriages that are tested by affairs of state.
The Politician’s Wife, which first aired on PBS’ Masterpiece Theatre in 1996, stars Juliet Stevenson as devoted political wife Flora Matlock, whose world is turned upside-down when news breaks that her husband, conservative family values Member of Parliament Duncan Matlock (Trevor Eve), once had an affair with a professional escort (Minnie Driver). Duncan swears on his life that it was a meaningless one-time fling with an admirer who had stalked him and caught him in a weak moment and, as his male colleagues, including Flora’s father (Frederick Treves), circle the wagons around Duncan, she agrees to stand by her man. That’s before she receives an anonymous envelope containing a cassette tape that captures an incredibly steamy phone-sex session between Duncan and his “stalker,” clearly indicating that the affair had been mutual and ongoing.
Humiliated and seething, Flora puts on a good face and outwardly offers plenty of spousal support, but privately, with the assistance of one of Duncan’s disenchanted staff members (Anton Lesser), she resolves to expose her husband’s shenanigans – which, she soon discovers, extend far beyond simple marital infidelity.
Today, 15 years after its original U.S. premiere, The Politician’s Wife may sound shopworn and over-familiar, partly due to scandal fatigue in real-life American politics and also because the basic premise has fueled several TV movies and the hit CBS series The Good Wife. But The Politician’s Wife is in a class by itself, thanks to Stevenson’s subtle yet searing performance in the title role, as well as Paula Milne’s adult teleplay (both Milne and Stevenson won several awards, and the miniseries itself snagged an International Emmy as best drama series).
A few additional notes: Although Driver’s name and likeness figure prominently on the DVD cover, her role actually is quite small. Also, while there is some mild female nudity, the frank language, particularly in those phone-sex sessions (yes, there are several), keeps this production firmly in the adult entertainment category. All three episodes, complete with optional subtitles for the hearing impaired, are affordably packaged on a single DVD.
Also released today, The First Churchills, which launched the series premiere of Masterpiece Theatre back in 1971, chronicles the marriage of John and Sarah Churchill, who wed for love and endured extensive turbulence starting in the court of King Charles II and stretching through five decades of sometimes violent regime changes in 17th- and 18th-century England. Susan Hampshire won an Emmy for her strong work as Sarah, whose wit and ingenuity captured the attention of many power players, but whose fundamental tactlessness eventually wrecked her decades-long friendship with Queen Anne (Margaret Tyzack) and, ultimately, the political fortunes of her own husband (John Neville).
The 12 episodes are featured on three beautifully engineered discs with a visual clarity that often, unfortunately, calls attention to the unsubtle makeup and the flimsy sets that occasionally shake when a door is slammed that were typical in British television productions of that vintage. After you watch the series, be sure not to miss the also-included 20-minute interview with Hampshire made some years later, in which the actress delightfully dishes plenty of behind-the-scenes dirt, including the fact that she was hired as a last-minute replacement for Judi Dench, a casting change that put Neville’s nose royally out of joint. All episodes also contain subtitles for the hearing-impaired, and you’re likely to need them at least occasionally given the heavy foreign accents some of the cast members employ for their characters.