I posted about the recent ROBIN HOOD movie the other day, so to go from one British legend to another . . . We’ve been watching the first season of the BBC series MERLIN on DVD and just finished it up. Like ROBIN HOOD, MERLIN takes considerable liberties with the traditional version of the legend. In this one, Merlin isn’t a wise old wizard but rather a young man struggling to come to grips with the powers he possesses, while living in a kingdom where magic has been banned by its ruler, Uther Pendragon. Merlin winds up working as a servant for Uther’s son, Prince Arthur, and discovers that there’s a dragon – the last of the dragons – chained up in a cavern underneath Uther’s castle. The dragon, who talks and sounds just like John Hurt, informs Merlin that his destiny is to protect Arthur and insure that he becomes a great king. And from that set-up, off we go adventuring, as various threats to Camelot crop up and have to be dealt with, mostly by Merlin who has to keep his powers a secret, otherwise Uther will have him killed as an evil magician.
There are a lot of special effects, nothing really fancy but reasonably good most of the time, considerable sword-fighting (always a plus in my book), and a few hints of romance. In this version, Morgan le Fey is Morgana, Uther’s ward and the daughter of one of the king’s old friends who died in battle, and Guiniviere is Morgana’s maid. Arthur is a well-meaning but somewhat dense young knight. At times the mostly young and pretty cast make this come off almost like CAMELOT 90210 (yes, I know that’s a cheap shot), but I got caught up in the storylines and wound up enjoying the series quite a bit. The writing is okay, and the cast does a good job, especially Anthony Head (who was Giles in BUFFY, THE VAMPIRE SLAYER) as Uther, taking a basically unsympathetic character and giving him some depth.
I believe our friend Gary Dobbs, proprietor of The Tainted Archive, is in either this season or the second one, which hasn’t come out yet on DVD. I looked from him in these episodes but didn’t see him. This gives me another reason to watch Season Two when it’s released, but I probably would have anyway. MERLIN is decent fantasy adventure, and if you’re a fan of that genre, it’s worth watching.