Merlin - Keep the Magic Secret (British tv series) - Lots of Spoilers

Discussion in 'Archive: SF&F: Films and Television' started by dianethx, Mar 3, 2009.

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  1. dianethx Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 1, 2002
    star 6
    I'm quite surprised no one has started a Merlin thread. Here's a bit of background.

    Merlin is a British television drama series that started in 2008. Based on Arthurian legends, it explores Camelot and its inhabitants from the point of view of a young warlock, Merlin. Produced by Shine Limited for BBC One, it follows the exploits of Prince Arthur Pendragon and Merlin (a warlock in disguise) along with several other characters. The four main characters are all about the same age - in their late teens to early 20s.

    Prince Arthur (Bradley James) is a heroic warrior, also a bit of a bully. Headstrong, reckless, he's often out saving people but also is a prime target for assassination. He and Merlin don't get along in the beginning but find themselves becoming friends as the series progresses.

    Merlin (Colin Morgan), is a country bumpkin with a natural gift for magic and also getting into trouble. By the end of the first episode, he has the job of manservant to Prince Arthur - neither of them happy about it. He also has to keep his magic a secret. One slip and he's toast - literally. The King loves to kill sorcerers, either by fire or ax. In fact, the beginning of the first episode, someone is executed for sorcery.

    Morgana (Katie McGrath) is Uther's ward and irritating non-sibling to Arthur. She has her own secrets and her gift for seeing the future is just beginning. She must keep this from Uther who would have no problem killing her off.

    Gwen or Guinevere (Angel Coulby) is Morgana's maidservant. Sweet, loyal, always tripping over her own words, she's the friend that Merlin needs at Camelot.

    Older characters include:

    King Uther Pendragon (Anthony Head of Buffy fame) is a ruthless dictator who has banned all sorcery on penality of death. He treats Prince Arthur with disdain. He has a dark past and there are many questions surrounding the death of his wife, Igraine.

    Gaius (Richard Wilson) is court physician and Merlin's mentor and friend. He's the only one who knows Merlin's secret.

    Dragon (voiced by John Hurt) is a dragon chained deep under Camelot and gives sage but sometimes confusing advice to Merlin.

    Nimueh (Michelle Ryan) is the sorceress and the main protagonist for the first season. She doesn't show up until the 3rd episode.


    Shine says that they filmed the series as if each episode was a film. It shows. The stories are well plotted and the characters grow over the course of the 13 episodes. They also used Pierrepont (a castle rebuilt in the 1800s) in France for Camelot's location. It gives a realism that isn't found in CGI.

    Episode 1: the characters are introduced. Merlin comes to Camelot to stay with Gaius. He meets and is not impressed with Arthur who is a bully and not very nice. King Uther has killed one sorcerer and the mother threatened Arthur for revenge. Merlin has to learn to keep his gifts hidden.


    So anyone else watching this besides me? The DVDs are out in the UK and NBC has bought the first season to show in the States - hopefully in the spring or fall of this year.


  2. Koohii Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    May 30, 2003
    star 5
    Drama? sounds like a bad comedy series...
    Mind you, I haven't actually seen any of it, so I'll have to reserve comment until it is released on DVD. Sadly, the version starring Sam Neill was awful, in spite of SN. Just couldn't stomache it.
  3. dianethx Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 1, 2002
    star 6
    While there are funny moments to the show, sometimes laugh out loud moments, most of it is dramatic. It's quite brilliant actually, not at all like any of the other Merlin/King Arthur series I've seen. There are episodes on youtube but hopefully in the spring or fall, NBC will get their act together and show the darn thing!
  4. goraq Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    May 15, 2008
    star 4
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0130414/

    Is similar too this?
  5. dianethx Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 1, 2002
    star 6
    goraq - I've never seen that one. Here are some links.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1199099/episodes

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merlin_(TV_series)

    and the trailer they showed in the cinema

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6XtW_hhFz0
  6. goraq Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    May 15, 2008
    star 4
    Thanks.

    Not bad, the guy looks like young Spook.
  7. dianethx Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 1, 2002
    star 6
    In a way, Merlin does look like a young Spock but he's certainly a lot more emotional.

    I was surprised that there weren't more Brits on the boards who had seen the series. Ah, well. At least NBC has bought the series and plans to show it... eventually.
  8. JediMasterGuff Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 18, 2002
    star 5
    I'm here, and I've been watching it at my own pace. I sort of drifted away a few weeks before the finale and mainly forgot about it. I think I've still got 2 or 3 episodes left to watch it.

    It's good, and I'll definitely be watching next series, but compared to the other "Let's throw away historial accuray and just tell a good, fun adventure!" series that's on just now (Robin Hood) I don't feel it's as good. As excellent as Tony Head is, his Uther is just no match whatsoever for the Legend that is Keith Allen's Sheriff of Nottingham.
  9. dianethx Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 1, 2002
    star 6
    I watched a couple of the Robin Hood episodes (I'm assuming you mean the latest series and not the Showtime series of several years ago - which I loved) but just never got engaged with it. I guess the RH is more adventure and sticking with the legend vs Merlin which is having fun tweaking the storyline and the mythos.

    So what are the UK fans of both series saying? Are they happy that Merlin is showing or it is something they'll watch if they get around to it?
  10. Merlin_Ambrosius69 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 4, 2008
    star 5
    A US fan and Arthurian semi-scholar here. I've watched a few scenes -- not whole episodes -- on youtube and to me it plays like Smallville meets King Arthur. The numerous, questionable changes to the main source material annoy me, but ultimately the legends of Arthur and Merlin are so varied that I'm compelled to say "why not?" and just roll with it. I do miss Ector and Kay, and I hope the series will find a way to add these anchors to the story of Arthur's youth later on.
  11. dianethx Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 1, 2002
    star 6
    I've been reading about the King Arthur legend for years - even went to a number of places in England where Arthur could have lived (historically, archaeologically) so I'm always up for a good version of Arthurian legends. I've never seen Smallville but the producers did mention that they'd hoped it would play similar to that.

    The changes to the source material depends on which source - I lean more toward the 500 AD version Celtic/Roman chieftain than the medieval Arthur but this is meant to be more fun than accurate. After all, sandwiches, potatoes and those clothes... too absurd for words.

    As for Kay and Ector, it may be that they'll show up next season. There hasn't been much backstory on Arthur's life in this series so I could really see the producers going in that direction for at least one episode.
  12. Kast_Morben Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 18, 2001
    star 4
    I would say Robin Hood is the far superior series. Merlin was pretty slow to get going, and I really didn't enjoy the acting to begin with, although it does pick up as the series gets going. It does pick up, but Robin Hood is better made, better acted and more enjoyable.
  13. Sith_Lord_Linkoping Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jan 19, 2001
    star 5
    I liked the first season. It has it's ups and downs, but these days, that's something that almost every series has. The only really disappointment is that it does stray a little bit to much from the Arthurian legend that i've become familiar too.
  14. Sven_Starcrown Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Mar 10, 2009
    star 4
    Is John Hurt any good in this? I might consider watching it.
  15. JediMasterGuff Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jun 18, 2002
    star 5
    He's just the voice of the Dragon, which doesn't appear in every episode. He (well, his voice) just tends to have cameos throughout the series.

    He does provide the opening narration though.
  16. Sven_Starcrown Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Mar 10, 2009
    star 4
    In this case i am no intrested bu thanks for the answer.
  17. Merlin_Ambrosius69 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 4, 2008
    star 5
    Well then, it appears we share a passion. I've done a great deal of research into Arthurian matters, both the history and the legendry. I have close to 100 books on the subjects of Roman and Celtic Britain, Arthurian romance and legends, and "Dark Age" archeology.

    As it happens I've written some unpublished fiction on the matter as well, set in a historical context in the late 400s, centering on young Merlin's acquisition of wisdom, and the plottings of his attempted murderer, Vortigern, for purposes of sacrifice. It details the early life of Merlin as the story existed in medieval times, which you never see in film or TV shows. Tumbling castles, writhing dragons, sacrificed youths, you get the idea. The true original legend of Merlin which, even though it exists in various forms according to one source or another (Bede, Geoffrey, et al.), is far better in terms of drama and mysticism than anything we've seen in any TV series or movie about the old enchanter/prophet.

    The current series doesn't have any of this either, but it is a decent show.
  18. LAJ_FETT Tech Admin and Collecting/Games Mod

    Administrator
    Member Since:
    May 25, 2002
    star 8
    We had a thread going on this over in the UK Regional Fan Force Forum. I watched the first few episodes and then kind of drifted away. (I have a feeling it was because the new Clone Wars series was showing at the same time). It wasn't bad, but given the choice between CW and it, CW won.
  19. Neon Star Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 30, 2000
    star 5
    Have not managed to watch a full episode yet, but a lot of pieces of various ones. Adore the series, mainly for the character relationships, and seriously can't wait till NBC puts it up.

    Have to agree with Merlin_Ambrosius69, on pointing out about Smallville and Merlin. It's seriously got similarities, with the main character hiding what they really are, and the other main character having that feeling that the other is hiding things. There are other comparisons, but that's the big one. Of course, Arthur will not be trying to kill Merlin in the very distant future, one would hope, as that other pair in Smallville will be/are doing.

    Of course, it does pretty much walk it?s own path. But it's a lot of fun, and is both dramatic as well as amusing. As I said, the draw for me is the relationships, there's a great mix that really works out between the characters that one doesn't see in a lot of shows now a days.


  20. NYCitygurl NSWFF Manager

    Manager
    Member Since:
    Jul 20, 2002
    star 9
    I've watched the first 3 episodes (Diane got me into it) and I like it. Some of it's slow, but so far I like it. The only historical thing that really irritates me is the architecture, and that's just because I'm an art history nerd :p And meh to mythological inaccuracy - I'd rather have the fun of the story than the "historical" detail, especially since every version is different.
  21. dianethx Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 1, 2002
    star 6
    Lovely responses!

    Kast_Morben ? I think it really depends on your tastes. I found Robin Hood to be boring and I lost interest pretty quickly. I did give it a couple of episodes. But then again, maybe I wasn?t seeing something in it that you did. Tastes differ and that's cool.

    Sith_Lord_Linkoping ? I agree with its ups and downs. There are a few episodes that I really didn't like and I tend not to rewatch those. Others, I watch over and over again. As for straying from the Arthurian legend, I can see where that might be a problem. Sometimes I laugh at how out there they get.

    Sven ? like JediMasterGuff said (thanks!), John Hurt is only the voice of the Dragon.

    Merlin_Ambrosium69 ? I think you are probably more knowledgeable about Arthurian legends than I am. I haven't studied them in a long time and I'm more interested in the earlier versions than the later ones anyway. I hope that if I get something wrong, you'll let me know.

    LAJ_Fett ? yes I saw that. As for choosing between CW and Merlin, for me Merlin won. I still watch CW, though. That's what DVRs are for.

    Neon Star ? Oh, you have to watch the whole episode. Sometimes there are little things that get missed! I haven't seen Smallville although I've heard several people say that Merlin reminds them of it. I have to agree that it's the characters that draw me more than anything else. If I were focusing on the costumes or things they got wrong (and there are soooo many of them), I'd have run screaming for the hills by now.

    NYCitygurl ? It does get better. I really like the episodes starting with Excaliber and the writing gets tighter during and after that. Yes, the architecture is a little wacky. They chose that castle because it was intact inside and out (apparently they had looked all over Britain but more of them were in ruins) and that they didn't have to use CGI nearly as much (and kept the costs down). I like all the turrets. I can imagine that it must be pretty hard work to walk all the way up to the top of some of them.


    So let's talk about some of the characters. First up ? Merlin.

    In the show, Merlin is this gawky country bumpkin with a secret that is both powerful and potentially deadly. He may be a great wizard with natural talents but he's hiding in plain sight. Working as a manservant for Prince Arthur with whom he does not get along at first, he's in a prime spot to help the Prince avoid deadly magical beings (on an almost weekly basis). We do get to see his mother in a couple of episodes and about all we learn is that there is no mention of his father. He makes friends easily and is trying to do the best he can with the problems he faces. The Druids call him Emrys.


    In mythology, there isn't that much that is known about Merlin or Myrddin Emrys.
    In Historia Brittonum written after 833 AD (ascribed to Nennius), Ambrosius (Merlin) was found when Vortigern AD 425?(possibly a real king - Bede mentions him although that was 8th century) tried to erect a tower which kept collapsing. The wise men told him that he had to find a child that had been born without a father and take his blood to sprinkle on the foundation. The tower was really collapsing because two dragons (red and white) were fighting under it.

    Geoffrey of Monmouth takes some of the old legends and reformulates them. According to wiki - The standard depiction of the character first appears in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, written c.1136, and is based on an amalgamation of previous historical and legendary figures. Geoffrey combined existing stories of Myrddin Wyllt (Merlinus Caledonensis), a North British madman with no connection to King Arthur, with tales of the Romano-British war leader Ambrosius Aurelianus to form the composite figure he called Merlin Ambrosius.

    Geoffrey also had him helping Uther in getting Igraine with child. Geoffrey doesn't have Merlin as advisor to King Arthur.
    A later author (Robert de Boron) suggested that he could shapeshift and that Merlin had a/>
  22. Merlin_Ambrosius69 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Aug 4, 2008
    star 5
    I have no quibbles at all with that summary of Merlin's legendary material. Very well put, actually! I would make an addition or two, namely that Geoffrey of Monmouth combined Myrddin Wyltt -- the historical king who went mad after a battle, and became a seer in the woods -- with Nennius' Ambrosius, as you stated, but also with the 6th-century poet Taliesin and the Icelandic "triple-death" hero, Lailoken. Geoffrey named the character "Merlinus" because the Latinization of the Welsh name Myrddin would have been "Merdinus" -- which means "crappy" or "****ty" The ancient tapestry of Merlin is very, very dense indeed.

    Also, it's worth noting that Merlin was originally a prophet, not a wizard. In Bede, Nennius, Geoffrey and Robert de Boron he is a soothsayer, a prognosticator, a teller of royal fortunes and a godly man; even as late as Malory (late 15th century) he was still prophesying future events, not enchanting magic spells or making potions.

    I like the jovial, joking aspect of young Merlin in this series. It fits well with his ancient character as something of a trickster out of step with the social norms of his time.

    And I can't wait to learn more about Merlin's mother. I wrote an unpublished novel about her, so I'm hoping they do her character justice. Her story can be found in Geoffrey and in Nennius, among others.

  23. dianethx Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Mar 1, 2002
    star 6
    I also like the jovial Merlin. Besides making him more likable for the audience, I think he's a good foil for Arthur - the heroic figure. He seems a bumbler and quite out of step with reality at times; how he could not know how to hunt growing up in the small village he was at was beyond me - normally, but he seems the dreamy sort, often not paying attention to things while he's off into his magic realm. While he's also a teenager with the steriotypical messy room, he's also quite good at doing his job which seems to be keeping Arthur out of trouble.

    I also think we'll hear more about Merlin's background in the upcoming season. I hope!
  24. goraq Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    May 15, 2008
    star 4
    I decided to give it a shot afterall.
    Its not bad so far.
    Good acting.
  25. Sven_Starcrown Jedi Youngling

    Member Since:
    Mar 10, 2009
    star 4
    I almost finished it. Are we going to see a season 2?
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