The Biggest, Best and Original A-Team; in an Old Lorry Depot in Wales the Lost World of Ancient Greece Has Been Recreated for BBC One's New Saturday Night Family Drama Atlantis. Abbie Wightwick Visited the Set to Find out What It Takes to Make Fantasy TV on a Grand Scale
Byline: Abbie Wightwick
Deep inside a cavernous 170,000ft former lorry depot near Chepstow vast sets have been built to recreate the lost world of ancient Greece for the 13-part series Atlantis.
Fibreglass caves rise up beside palaces strung with vines built beside streets strewn with straw, where terracotta pots rest against walls and a collection of arches transforms from a prison to a kitchen.
The king of Atlantis' palace stands near the house of Hercules through winding alleys to the temple of Poseidon, god of the sea, who casts a constant shadow on the story - Atlantis, after all, is lost beneath the waves.
It's in this spectacular fantasy land, hidden inside a gigantic lorry depot, that executive producers Julian Murphy and Johnny Capps, makers of BBC's former fantasy hit Merlin are working their magic once again.
Atlantis, like the Greek legends it draws from, is television on a grand scale.
The size and scope of special effects, sets and scenery feel more Hollywood than small screen with up to 300 cast and crew working on the Welsh set each day.
They've also filmed on location in Morocco with the Atlas Mountains as background, creating a street scene the size of a football pitch.
"In the Temple of Poseidon there is a 75ft statue of a bull.
"We have done everything on that scale," says Julian proudly.
"People want to escape on television and want this kind of experience.
"Our job is to deliver that 10 times over. "We think of (each episode) as a Hollywood film. We aspire to making Indiana Jones (each week).
"I hope when people open this doorway on Saturday night they will go to a city where they've never been and leave it wanting more."
Set in an ancient world of gods, heroes and mythical creatures Atlantis has all the classic ingredients we've come to expect from BBC One Saturday night family drama - strong characters protecting a society under threat, humour, adventure, action, love and magic, only this time there's a rich seam of storylines from the endless pot of Greek legend.
"The mythology is so rich, so much richer than the Arthurian legends," agrees Johnny.
"There are so many stories and strands. "We don't have to go to big epic battles because there are so many interesting characters to explore."
The three main characters, Hercules (Mark Addy), Jason (Jack Donnelly) and Pythagoras (Roberts Emms) are like a Greek version of the A-Team, the go-to gang when problems arise in Atlantis.
But the trio are more than cardboard cut-out heroes; these are three men who share a house and show their human as well as their mythical side.
Together the three unlikely friends tackle beasts, sorcery and even an abandoned baby.
They are definitely modern mates in an ancient world.
Their house on set, all muted colours, rugged wood and straw, is just a step away from the grand palace of the king of Atlantis.
Inside live the royals, a fractious family causing tension in the kingdom.
Ariadne (Aiysha Hart), daughter of the king and Jason's love interest, has an uneasy relationship with her step mother and yearns to join the A-Team on their quests.
Meanwhile trouble looms in the form of Medusa who mysteriously arrives to befriend the three heroes.
Although she doesn't have snakes in her hair, she may well turn out to be as wicked as Morgana was in Merlin, reveals Jemima Rooper who plays her.
"I am hoping for something similar to Morgana. I'm hoping she'll go bad. There's scope for that," she teases.
"Escapist fodder is what we all want nowadays and this series is very much that."
Mark Addy, who plays the aging Hercules, agrees.
The actor, who was stripper Dave in the film The Full Monty, is clearly having a ball making Atlantis, racing about the immense sets chasing beasts and breaking hearts. …