Merlin (2008 TV series)
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|Also known as||The Adventures of Merlin|
|Created by||Julian Jones
|Written by||Julian Jones|
|Theme music composer||Rob Lane|
|Opening theme||"Merlin's Arrival at Camelot"|
|Ending theme||"The Call of Destiny"|
|Country of origin||United Kingdom|
|No. of series||5|
|No. of episodes||65 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Julie Gardner
|Running time||45–50 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Shine Limited
|Original network||BBC One
BBC One HD (Series 4 – Series 5)
|Picture format||1080i (HDTV)|
|Audio format||Dolby Digital 5.1|
|Original release||20 September 2008– 24 December 2012|
|Related shows||Merlin: Secrets and Magic
Merlin is a British fantasy-adventure television programme created by Julian Jones, Jake Michie, Julian Murphy, and Johnny Capps, starring Colin Morgan in the title role. It was broadcast on BBC One from 20 September 2008 to 24 December 2012 for a total of 65 episodes. The show is loosely based on the Arthurian legends of the young wizard Merlin and his relationship with King Arthur, but it differs from traditional versions. The show was influenced by the US drama series Smallville about the early years of Superman, and was produced by independent production company Shine Limited.
The show was picked up by the BBC in 2006 after unsuccessful attempts. The series premiered in 2008 to mixed reviews but good ratings which improved as the series went on, and proved popular on the BBC's digital catch-up service iPlayer. It was shown in the United States on NBC, though it later moved to the cable network Syfy. It is a mainstay in both Netflix US and UK.
Merlin is a reimagining of the legend in which the future King Arthur and Merlin are young contemporaries. Arthur's father Uther Pendragon has banned magic in Camelot, its use punishable by death, forcing Merlin to keep his magical powers secret from everyone in Camelot other than his mentor Gaius. Arthur grows from a young, self-absorbed boy to the mighty king in the legends, and Merlin develops into his colossal role in creating the powerful Camelot. The series was immensely popular and very well received by the public. It was responsible for bringing much of the young cast to international prominence and transformed their careers. In 2012, the show's producers announced that its fifth series would be its last, with a two-part finale on 24 December 2012.
Merlin (Colin Morgan) is a young warlock who arrives in the kingdom of Camelot after his mother arranges for him to stay with the court physician, Gaius (Richard Wilson). He discovers that the king, Uther Pendragon (Anthony Head), outlawed magic twenty years ago in an event known as the Great Purge and imprisoned the last Dragon deep under the kingdom. After hearing a mysterious voice inside his head, Merlin makes his way to the cavern beneath Camelot where the Great Dragon (voice of John Hurt) tells Merlin that he has an important destiny: to protect Uther's son, Arthur, who will return magic to Camelot and unite the land of Albion.
When Merlin meets Arthur, he believes that he is an arrogant bully and Arthur (Bradley James), likewise, has a less than stellar opinion of Merlin. After saving the prince's life Merlin becomes his servant and the two begin to respect and trust one another. Merlin eventually becomes close friends with Arthur, and another servant named Guinevere (Angel Coulby). But when Uther's actions eventually cause his ward Morgana (Katie McGrath) to turn against Camelot, Merlin must work together with the Once and Future King (Arthur) to save Albion.
- Colin Morgan as Merlin, Arthur's servant and Gaius' ward, who must secretly develop his magical gifts under the gaze of kings Uther and Arthur, both of whom despise the art. Although Merlin is (falsely) accused of sorcery several times during the run of the series, only Gaius and Lancelot are aware of his magic. Merlin also has an alter-ego, "Dragoon the Great" (conjured when Merlin performs an aging spell upon himself), who is considered a criminal by both Uther and Arthur, and inspires profound fear in Morgana, who recognises him as "Emrys," her prophetic nemesis.
- Bradley James as Arthur Pendragon, the prince and later King of Camelot, and the commander of the kingdom's knights. Despite being charged with carrying out his father's harsh edicts, Arthur is portrayed as a far more compassionate man, who defends the falsely accused before the king, and even secretly defies him from time to time. Additionally, he welcomes commoners Lancelot, Gwaine, Mordred, and Percival as knights, and falls in love with Gwen, a mere serving girl. Most importantly, he comes to regard his servant Merlin as a close friend and confidant, never realising how many times Merlin has had to save his life using magic. Arthur initially promises to lift Uther's ban on magic when he becomes king – but changes his mind when magic kills his father.
- Katie McGrath as Morgana Pendragon, Uther's ward who is later revealed to be his daughter. Initially portrayed as a kind and empathetic young woman, Morgana comes to despise Uther when she realizes he would never accept her if he knew of her magical powers, and begins covertly plotting against him. She becomes the show's primary villain by the third series, relentlessly coveting Arthur's throne and coming to recognise Merlin for the formidable foe that he is, despite not knowing of his powers.
- Angel Coulby as Guinevere ("Gwen"), Morgana's servant who later rises to become Queen of Camelot. Her relationship with Arthur at first causes conflict within the kingdom, as Uther considers her unworthy and forbids Arthur to court her, even accusing her of witchcraft when Arthur's affections for her do not diminish. However, Gwen proves popular among the people (being one of them herself), and strives to make Arthur and his advisers approachable to them.
- Richard Wilson as Gaius, the court physician and Merlin's guardian and mentor. Once a sorcerer himself, Gaius has long since abandoned the practice but even so is willing to help foster Merlin's talents, and comes to love him as his own son. An eminently wise man with a long memory, Gaius is one of Uther's closest advisers, and always among the first to realise what is really happening when magic threatens the kingdom.
- John Hurt as the voice of The Great Dragon, the last of his kind after Uther destroys all of his kin and makes an example out of him by imprisoning him in a vast underground cave. The Great Dragon gives Merlin grudging advice and forges the sword of Excalibur in his breath for Arthur, but persistently demands his freedom in return. Merlin eventually does release him, unwittingly unleashing a full-on assault on Camelot by the dragon, seeking revenge for his murdered kin. However, Merlin learns from his father that he is descended from a long line of dragonlords, and is able to use their craft to control the Great Dragon.
- Anthony Head as Uther Pendragon (Series 1–5), Camelot's stubborn and hard-hearted king, who shows Arthur repeated tough love and ruthlessly enforces the kingdom's strict ban on sorcery. Although meaning well, Uther earns himself many enemies in his brutal fight against magic, and Morgana's ultimate betrayal leaves him a broken man.
- Nathaniel Parker as Agravaine de Bois (Series 4), Arthur's uncle who steps in after Uther dies, reputedly as a trusted adviser to Arthur, but is soon identified as a traitor and spy for Morgana. Merlin and Gaius especially distrust him.
- Key: = Main Role
- Key: = Recurring Role
- Key: = Guest Appearance
- Key: = No Appearances
|Series 1||Series 2||Series 3||Series 4||Series 5||Total|
|Bradley James||Arthur Pendragon||13||13||13||13||13||65|
|John Hurt||The Great Dragon||13||13||13||13||13||65|
|Katie McGrath||Morgana Pendragon||13||12||12||10||11||58|
|Anthony Head||Uther Pendragon||13||13||13||3||1||43|
|Rupert Young||Sir Leon||7||6||13||13||39|
|Eoin Macken||Sir Gwaine||4||13||13||30|
|Tom Hopper||Sir Percival||1||13||13||27|
|Adetomiwa Edun||Sir Elyan||3||13||6||21|
|Nathaniel Parker||Agravaine de Bois||13||13|
|Michael Cronin||Geoffrey of Monmouth||3||3||4||2||12|
|Santiago Cabrera||Sir Lancelot||1||1||1||3||6|
|Series||Episodes||Originally aired||Ave. UK viewers
|First aired||Last aired|
|1||13||20 September 2008||13 December 2008||6.32|
|2||13||19 September 2009||19 December 2009||5.99|
|3||13||11 September 2010||4 December 2010||6.78|
|4||13||1 October 2011||24 December 2011||7.17|
|5||13||6 October 2012||24 December 2012||7.13|
The programme was conceived by Julian Murphy and Johnny Capps. The BBC had been keen on showing a drama based on the character of Merlin for some time; a year before the Shine series was initiated, writer and producer Chris Chibnall had been developing a project aimed at a BBC One Sunday night slot, but this was ultimately not commissioned. The Shine version of the project was put into development in late 2006, commissioned by Controller of BBC One Peter Fincham and BBC Head of Fiction Jane Tranter, with Fincham keen on having more series on his channel which embodied "three generation TV – that's TV you can watch with your grandparents and children. There's not enough of that about."
Merlin is influenced by the US show Smallville, about the early years of Superman, according to Shine producers Murphy and Capps, who said that it provided the idea that Merlin would see a "Camelot that existed before its golden age". Capps said: "Just as in Smallville we wanted to subvert expectations. Camelot is a land where magic is banned [and] Merlin ... is a young boy who works as Arthur's manservant and has to hide his abilities."
The series went into production in March 2008, with filming in Wales and France (at the Château de Pierrefonds). Two Kent locations were also used; The Barons Hall and Garden Tower at Penshurst Place and Chislehurst Caves for the first series. The series was produced by Shine in association with BBC Wales, whose Head of Drama Julie Gardner was executive producer for the BBC. Doctor Who's chief writer Russell T Davies had been an important influence on the tone and style of Merlin. CGI special effects for the series were provided by The Mill. The Old English for spells was written by university scholar and medievalist Dr. Mark Faulkner, and later by the script editing team. An initial series of 13 episodes, Merlin began transmission in the UK on 20 September 2008. A trailer was prepared in advance for television, cinemas, and online.
US broadcaster NBC began airing Merlin on 21 June 2009; but, after a decline in viewers, it was moved to cable network Syfy, where it began broadcasting Series 2 on 2 April 2010. On 19 September 2009, Series 2 began airing on BBC One. On 5 September 2010, BFI Southbank in London previewed Episodes 1 and 2 of Series 3 for its September Film Funday programme. A ten-episode fourth series was confirmed on 25 October 2010 (though it was rumoured to air in early 2012, later than its usual slot in autumn) so that it would not clash with the BBC's other primetime drama Doctor Who which would possibly run during the same period. In March 2011, this was revised, and the fourth series was extended to the standard 13 episodes. The fourth series was broadcast in the United States on the Syfy Channel "in early 2012." In UK, the fourth series began on Saturday 1 October 2011.
Capps and Murphy confirmed on 24 July that BBC had commissioned a fifth series. Filming for the fifth series began March 2012 in Pierrefonds, France and near Cardiff, Wales. 13 episodes were ordered. Series 5 started broadcasting on 6 October 2012. On 26 November 2012, it was announced that the series 5 of Merlin would be the last, with a two-part special concluding the series over Christmas.
A documentary series called Merlin: Secrets and Magic explains how the series was created. Apart from the initial 50 minute special, which was broadcast directly after the series two premiere, and the first episode, shown first on the Sunday repeat, all new 50 minute episodes were shown after each Merlin episode repeat on Saturday, Sunday, Monday or Friday evening on BBC Three. The show is frequently shown on CBBC.
In April 2008, United States broadcasting rights were purchased by NBC, where it was shown on Sundays at 8 pm (EST), starting 21 June 2009. This made it the first British drama in over 30 years to be shown on US network television, as opposed to PBS or cable. The programme moved to Syfy, a cable channel also owned by NBC, for the second series, which premiered on 2 April 2010. Syfy aired the third series in early 2011, after the conclusion of the initial broadcast on BBC. It was later announced the series would air after WWE SmackDown beginning 7 January 2011 at 10 pm (9 pm Central). The distributor, FremantleMedia Enterprises, also sold broadcast rights to CTV in Canada, Network Ten in Australia and Prime in New Zealand. Currently airing on Choice TV . The series was broadcast in 183 countries.
Series one and two were released on DVD in the United Kingdom, United States, and Australia. Series three is available in the United Kingdom, and was released in Australia on 4 August 2011. Accompanying box sets are featurettes, video diaries, and commentaries. Behind the Magic, a two-part overview of making Merlin is included with the UK series one box set, while the documentary series, Secrets and Magic, is included with series two.
In Australia Series 1 was released on DVD and re-released in new packaging on 4 August 2010. Series 2 was released on 22 July 2010 and then re-released in new packaging on 6 January 2011. Series 3 was released on 1 August 2011. Series 4 was released on 1 March 2012. Series 5 was released on 13 February 2013.
All five series are available on DVD (and some on Blu-ray) in North America.
|Complete Series||Release dates|
|Volume 1||Discs||Volume 2||Discs||Complete Box Set||Discs||Complete Box Set||Discs|
|1st||24 November 2008||3||9 February 2009||3||5 October 2009||6||20 April 2010||6|
|2nd||23 November 2009||3||8 February 2010||3||8 February 2010||6||18 January 2011||6|
|3rd||15 November 2010||3||24 January 2011||3||24 January 2011||5||17 January 2012||5|
|4th||28 November 2011||3||23 January 2012||3||23 January 2012||5||15 January 2013||4|
|5th||26 November 2012||3||21 January 2013||3||21 January 2013||5||23 April 2013||4|
|1-5||-||-||-||-||28 October 2013||27||TBA||TBA|
A soundtrack for the first two series featuring music from selected episodes was released on the MovieScore Media record label. Merlin composer Robert Lane was nominated for Best Original Score for Television for the 10th annual Movie Music UK Awards (2008), the 8th edition GoldSpirit Awards (2008), and the 5th annual International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA) Awards (2008). In early October 2012 MovieScore Media released the soundtrack from the third and fourth series along with that from the start of the fifth series.
|Series||Release Date||Catalog Number|
|Merlin Series 1||4 November 2008||MMS08021|
|Merlin Series 2||17 November 2009||MMS09027|
|Merlin Series 3||2 October 2012 (digital) / 12 November 2012 (CD)||MMS12010|
|Merlin Series 3 & 4 Best Of||2 October 2012 (digital) / 12 November 2012 (CD)||MMS12011|
Fandom and popular culture
Being a cult series, Merlin has garnered a dedicated fanbase. They are active online, and many have written fanfiction stories about the show, with queer readings of the male characters being particularly popular, known as slash fiction.
UK publisher Attic Brand Media launched an official magazine for the show in September 2011 featuring articles, puzzles and a comic strip written by Damian Kelleher and drawn by Lee Carey. The monthly magazine cost £3.20 per issue and was distributed in UK newsagents.
Merlin: The Dragon Tower
An attraction has been created at Warwick Castle entitled Merlin: The Dragon Tower, in which visitors are “transported to the heart of Camelot to discover the secrets that are hidden deep inside the Tower before your ultimate encounter with the Great Dragon himself.” People can meet Merlin from the BBC TV Series Merlin, or at least a true-to-life wax model-which was created with over 300 measurements—and a catalogue of reference shots of Colin Morgan. Upon seeing his wax work, Morgan said, "Little did I think that when I visited Madame Tussauds as a kid that I would have the honour of having the same fantastic team making a wax figure of myself. It’s truly amazing and I can’t praise their hard work enough in creating such a brilliant life-like me."
The wax model cost £150,000, and the entire castle experience is a £3-million investment by the Merlin Entertainment Group to promote the show.
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