Swanky Launch For BBC’s Merlin

by Guest Editor Elliot Pickup

Since 2005, the new revival of Doctor Who has dominated Saturday night television and the genre of family-friendly drama. Everyone in Britain knows the Time Lord; he’s a large part of popular culture and part of our national heritage. But the end of the series is a massive gap in the BBC’s Saturday night line-up and only something equally as spectacular would fit the bill. Hence all the hype about Merlin – every inch a suitable replacement.

I took myself off to the swanky launch held in central London. The launch was in two parts; the first segment was a screening of the premiere episode of Merlin in Waterloo’s IMAX cinema. The ever-impressive IMAX was packed with a crowd ranging from hard-nosed hacks to some of the actors appearing in the series. The buzz of excitement was palpable as press, cast, crew and some lucky fans waited. Now obviously we can’t say too much about the episode itself, but I can tell you this: the first thing that immediately stands out is the impressive cast. The show is littered with familiar faces, such as Anthony Head (King Uther Pendragon), Richard Wilson (Gaius, the court physician) and John Hurt, who appears as the voice of the great Dragon. 

Other stars lined up include Santiago Cabrera from Heroes (as Lancelot) and former EastEnder/Bionic Woman Michelle Ryan as the evil sorceress Nimueh. Further guest stars will include Eve Myles (Torchwood), Will Mellor (Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps) and Julian Rhind-Tutt (Green Wing). Two not-so-familiar faces occupy the main roles of Merlin and Arthur: Colin Morgan and Bradley James, respectively. Playing opposite them as the leading ladies are Angel Coulby (Guinevere) and Katie McGrath (Morgana).

The show is set in the world of Albion and Camelot, but the series focuses on a young Merlin and Arthur who are finding their way and carving their destinies; Uther Pendragon, Arthur’s father, is still King. Aiming for a similar audience as Doctor Who, Merlin has the playful, more obvious and less sinister overtones that will capture the younger crowd. But there is also plenty for adult viewers to enjoy. The story isn’t too complex; everyone can keep up and no-one will be lost in the twists and turns of the plot. Production company Shine has done an amazing job creating this world and the characters. Equal credit must go to The Mill, the British Oscar-winning visual and special effects team behind Gladiator – the CGI is stunning and at times you forget that what you are watching isn’t real. I was very impressed with Merlin and if, as expected, it goes up against The X Factor, it will be a fantastic alternative to endless sob stories and emotional manipulation. 

After the screening, there was a reception at the OXO Tower in central London (top-notch canapés and drinks). The majority of the cast were there, which was really great. I spotted Anthony Head talking to Russell T Davies (Doctor Who revivalist) and Richard Wilson. I also saw Michelle Ryan (a real stunner in the flesh), Julian Rhind-Tutt and Will Mellor. I also spotted Bradley James and Colin Morgan having a drink together. All in all it was a great night and if the launch is anything to go by, the series itself will be a massive success.

Merlin starts on Saturday at 7.30pm on BBC1

by Guest Editor Elliot Pickup

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4 Responses to Swanky Launch For BBC’s Merlin

  1. Suzie Rhiannon says:

    Never seen such a load of old twaddle in my life.  The acting is ok and if it was a story about made up characters who did not already have many legends about them I guess it would be alright, but come on, the ages of the characters is nonsense, Merlin was an old man when Uther Pendragon was on the throne, Camelot was not in existance during the reign of Uther, it was created by Arthur, Morgainne was Arthur\’s half sister and at one point due to the magical meddlings of Merlin, was his lover and they had a son, Mordred, Guinevere was not a serving girl, she was to become Arthur\’s wife, etc, etc, etc.  What on earth possessed the BBC to change what is already a wonderful story, into a work of complete rubbish!!

  2. Catherine says:

    Some of the issues brought up by the poster below me could be excused by the BBC\’s license to adapt the storyline, but what i have a serious problem with is the fact that both Arthur and Merlin are more or less the same age…. Merlin is supposed to the the wizened wizard, complete with beard and eyebrows… Why not give him a young apprentice to help Arthur, rather than confuse all the younger viewers about the true fables?

  3. Suzie Rhiannon says:

    Well the BBC certainly have used their license to adapt to its max.  Having watched each episode, I have to admit, as a total work of fiction it is actually not too bad, a good bit of entertainment for a Saturday night, but as I said in my previous post, and the other poster the age of Merlin and Arthur is just so way off its a joke.  Merlin was indeed an exceedingly old man when Arthur was on the throne, and obviously when he was the age that he is supposed to be in the series.  I just wish they could have perhaps invented new characters and made it a complete work of fiction so people are not mislead completely.  A good book to get the more accurate story of Merlin and Arthur et al, is the Mists of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley, its an excellent read if you are into that sort of thing.

  4. SUE says:

    Who knows what, if anything truly existed anyway? I\’m a big fan of the Arthurian legend, but who can say if it\’s true or not? Therefore, this gives the BBC all the artistic licence they like. I for one am enjoying it for what it is………not what everyone thinks it should be.

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