Merlin (2008 TV series)
|Created 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 seasons||5|
|No. of episodes||65 (list of episodes)|
|Executive producers||Julie Gardner|
|Production locations||Wales, Kent and |
|Running time||45–50 minutes|
|Production company||Shine TV|
|Distributor||Endemol Shine UK|
|Original network||BBC One|
BBC One HD (Series 4 – Series 5)
|Picture format||576i (SDTV) (2008-2011)|
1080i (HDTV) (2011-2012)
|Audio format||Dolby Digital 5.1|
|Original release||20 September 2008 –|
24 December 2012
|Related shows||Merlin: Secrets and Magic|
Merlin (also known as The Adventures of Merlin) is a British fantasy-adventure drama television programme, loosely based on the Arthurian legends regarding the close relations of Merlin and King Arthur. Created by Julian Jones, Jake Michie, Johnny Capps and Julian Murphy for the BBC, it was broadcast for five series on BBC One between 20 September 2008 and 24 December 2012. The programme starred Colin Morgan, Bradley James, Katie McGrath, Angel Coulby, Richard Wilson, Anthony Head, John Hurt and Nathaniel Parker.
The programme is a reimagining of the traditional legend, in which young warlock Merlin is sent to the bustling kingdom of Camelot by his mother, and becomes the personal manservant to Prince Arthur. During his time there, Merlin learns that his magical powers must be used to protect Arthur, but must also be kept hidden because magic was banned in Camelot by Arthur's tyrannical father, King Uther Pendragon, and those caught practising it are executed. Over the years and after several adventures together, Merlin and Arthur become trusted friends and companions, with the former doing his best to influence the latter into becoming the mighty king he is destined to be, unaware of what his actions will do in shaping this destiny.
Merlin received mixed reviews when it premiered, but gained good ratings that improved as the story progressed, becoming the most popular programme on the BBC's digital catch-up service, iPlayer. During its airing it was nominated for several awards, winning the 2011 British Academy Television Award for best visual effects. Broadcasting rights were sold to over 180 countries, and the show became a mainstay on digital network platform Netflix in both the US and the UK.
Merlin (Colin Morgan) is a young, powerful 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 earlier in an event known as the Great Purge and imprisoned the last Dragon Kilgharrah in the caves beneath the castle. After hearing a mysterious voice inside his head, Merlin makes his way to the cavern beneath the keep to find that he was hearing the dragon's voice. The Great Dragon (voice of John Hurt) tells Merlin that he has an important destiny: to protect Uther's only son, Arthur, who will return magic to Camelot and unite the land of Albion.
When Merlin meets Arthur, Merlin believes 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 is appointed as his personal manservant. The two experience many adventures, over the course of which they come to respect and trust one another. But when Uther's actions eventually cause his ward, Morgana (Katie McGrath), to turn against Camelot and pursue a path of destruction, Merlin and Arthur must join forces with friends, old and new, to protect their home and secure their destinies.
- Colin Morgan as Merlin, Arthur's servant and Gaius' ward, who secretly develops 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. Despite keeping his capabilities under wraps for years, by the end of the show, a grand total of eight people are aware Merlin possess magic (even though 5 of them are dead). They are:Hunith, Arthur, Gaius, Gwen, Uther, Morgana, Agravaine and Lancelot
- 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 common people (being one of them herself), and strives to make Arthur and his advisers approachable to them. Gwen is brave and selfless, always doing what’s right for Arthur and Camelot. She is a loyal friend to all and it is her compassionate and gentle nature that ultimately wins Arthur over.
- 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, Elyan, Mordred, and Percival as knights, and falls in love with Gwen, a mere serving girl, who he later marries and makes Queen. 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. Arthur is prophesied as “The Once and Future King”, which means, even though he is killed in the season finale, Arthur Pendragon will rise again.
- 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 not only for his prejudice against magic but when she realizes he would never accept her if he knew of her magical powers, she 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.
- Anthony Head as Uther Pendragon, 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- John Hurt as the voice of the Great Dragon, also known as Kilgharrah, 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 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.
|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."
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 2 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.
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  and is now streaming on platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.
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 "The Complete Collection" boxset (23-Discs, Seasons 1-5) was released on May 13, 2015.
All five series are available on DVD (and some on Blu-ray) in North America.
Complete Box Set
Complete Box Set
|Volume 1||Volume 2||Complete Box Set|
|Release date||Discs||Release date||Discs||Release date||Discs||Release date||Discs||Release date||Discs|
|1st||24 November 2008||3||9 February 2009||3||5 October 2009||6||20 April 2010||6||30 July 2009[a]||4|
|2nd||23 November 2009||3||8 February 2010||3||8 February 2010||6||18 January 2011||6||22 July 2010[b]||4|
|3rd||15 November 2010||3||24 January 2011||3||24 January 2011||5||17 January 2012||5||2 August 2011||5|
|4th||28 November 2011||3||23 January 2012||3||23 January 2012||5||15 January 2013||4||1 March 2012||5|
|5th||26 November 2012||3||21 January 2013||3||21 January 2013||5||23 April 2013||4||13 February 2013||5|
|1st–5th||—||—||—||—||28 October 2013||27||4 November 2014||27||?||?|
- Re-released 4 August 2010.
- Re-released 6 January 2011.
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|
In other media
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
A Merlin attraction was created at Warwick Castle entitled Merlin: The Dragon Tower, which featured a walkthrough, a projection of Kilgharrah the dragon, 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 was part of a £3 million investment by the Merlin Entertainment Group to promote the show. The attraction closed in 2014 and is now the site of the Warwick Castle Time Tower.
The BBC released two small Merlin-themed video games on the BBC website: a tower defense game called 'Camelot Defence', and an adventure puzzle game named 'Quest for the Mortaeus'. In 2012, a 'real-time cooperative' video game adaptation named 'Merlin: The Game' was announced and launched on Facebook. It has since been taken offline.
Awards and nominations
- 2009: International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA) - Best Original Score for a Television Series (Nom)
- 2009: British Academy Film Awards - Best Interactivity (Nom)
- 2009: Monte-Carlo Television Festival - Outstanding Actor - Drama Series: Colin Morgan (Nom)
- 2009: Monte-Carlo Television Festival - Outstanding Actress - Drama Series: Katie McGrath (Nom)
- 2009: 7th Visual Effects Society Awards - Outstanding Matte Paintings in a Broadcast Program or Commercial: For the Mark of Nimueh. For series 1 (Nom)
- 2009: TV Quick Awards - Best New Drama (Won)
- 2010: TV Quick Awards - Best Family Drama (Nom)
- 2010: British Academy Film Awards - Best Visual Effects (Nom)
- 2010: British Academy Film Awards - Best Design (Nom)
- 2010: British Academy Film Awards - Best Director - Film/Drama (Nom)
- 2010: Monte-Carlo Television Festival - Outstanding Actress - Drama Series: Angel Coulby (Nom)
- 2010: Monte-Carlo Television Festival - Outstanding Actor - Drama Series: Colin Morgan (Nom)
- 2010: Monte-Carlo Television Festival - Outstanding Actor - Drama Series: Bradley James (Nom)
- 2011: British Academy Film Awards - Best Visual Effects (Won)
- 2011: Monte-Carlo Television Festival - Outstanding Actor - Drama Series: Colin Morgan (Nom)
- 2011: Monte-Carlo Television Festival - Outstanding Actress - Drama Series: Katie McGrath (Nom)
- 2011: TV Quick Awards - Best Actor: Colin Morgan (Nom)
- 2011: TV Quick Awards - Best Family Drama (Nom)
- 2012: National Television Awards - Most Popular Drama Series (Nom)
- 2012: Royal Television Society - Best Sound: Drama (Nom)
- 2012: Television and Radio Industries Club Awards - TV Drama Programme of the Year (Nom)
- 2012: TV Quick Awards - Best Actor: Colin Morgan (Nom)
- 2012: TV Quick Awards - Best Family Drama (Nom)
- 2013: SFX Awards - Best Actor: Colin Morgan (Won)
- 2013: SFX Awards - Best Actress: Katie McGrath (Nom)
- 2013: Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films - Best Youth-Oriented Series on Television (Nom)
- 2013: National Television Awards - Most Popular Male Drama Performance: Colin Morgan (Nom)
- 2013: National Television Awards - Most Popular Drama (Nom)
- 2015: Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films - Best DVD/Blu-Ray Television Release For "The Complete Series" release (Nom)
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