Merlin (2008 TV series)

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Merlin - Screen Capture.jpg
Genre Serial drama
Medieval fantasy
Created byJulian Jones
Jake Michie
Johnny Capps
Julian Murphy
Starring Colin Morgan
Angel Coulby
Bradley James
Katie McGrath
Anthony Head
Richard Wilson
Nathaniel Parker
Theme music composerRob Lane
Opening theme"Merlin's Arrival at Camelot"
Ending theme"The Call of Destiny"
ComposersRob Lane
Rohan Stevenson
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of seasons5
No. of episodes65 (list of episodes)
Executive producers Julie Gardner
Bethan Jones [1]
Production locations Wales, Kent and
Running time45–50 minutes
Production company Shine TV
Distributor Endemol Shine UK
Original network BBC One
BBC One HD (Series 4 – Series 5)
Picture format 1080i (HDTV)
Audio format Dolby Digital 5.1
Original release20 September 2008 (2008-09-20) 
24 December 2012 (2012-12-24)
Related shows Merlin: Secrets and Magic
External links

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, Julian Murphy for the BBC, it was broadcast for five series on BBC One, between 20 September 2008 to 24 December 2012. The programme starred Colin Morgan, Bradley James, Richard Wilson, Angel Coulby, Katie McGrath and John Hurt.


The programme is a reimagining of the traditional legend, in which a skilled young sorcerer called Merlin is sent to the bustling kingdom of Camelot by his mother, and becomes personal servant to Prince Arthur Pendragon, the (slightly arrogant) son of the tyrannical King Uther. During his time in the city, Merlin forms a close friendship with the prince and the pair experience a handful of thrilling, often life threatening, adventures. However, Merlin must hide his magic from everyone in Camelot (apart from wise and trustworthy court physician Gaius) as Uther has outlawed the use of magic in the land and anyone caught practising it is executed. Despite this, Merlin is determined to keep Arthur safe from any harm and does 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, as well as the future of Albion.

Merlin received mixed reviews when it premiered, but gained good ratings which improved as the story progressed, becoming the most popular programme to watch on the BBC's digital catch-up service iPlayer. During its time it was nominated for several awards, winning the 2011 British Academy Film Awards for best visual effects. Broadcasting rights were sold to over 180 countries, becoming a mainstay on digital network platform Netflix in both the US and the UK.

Series overview

Merlin (Colin Morgan) is a young and 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 deep under 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 son, Arthur, who is destined to unite the land of Albion as ‘the greatest king Camelot will ever have.’

When Merlin meets Arthur, he believes that he is nothing more than an arrogant bully and Arthur (Bradley James), likewise, has a less than stellar opinion of Merlin. However, the pair end up stuck with each other when Uther appoints Merlin as personal servant to his son. Despite their rocky introduction, the two experience many wild and wacky adventures, over the course of which, they form a close friendship and begin to respect and trust one another. Along the way, Merlin meets a whole bunch of characters that each play their role in Camelot’s tale, like the courageous warriors that eventually become the legendary Knights of the Round Table under Arthur’s reign (Tom Hopper, Rupert Young, Eoin Macken and Adetomiwa Edun) as well as the lovely Guinevere (Angel Coulby) who, over the course of the story, wins Arthur’s heart and eventually becomes his queen. However, everything changes when Uther's actions cause his ward, the magic-wielding Morgana (Katie McGrath), to turn against Camelot and form a plan to destroy the kingdom. Now, Merlin and Arthur must unite the whole of Albion and band together with friends, old and new, in order to save their home and fulfill their destinies.


From left to right: Guinevere, Gaius, Morgana, Merlin, Arthur, Uther and the Great Dragon in the background Merlin Full Characters.jpg
From left to right: Guinevere, Gaius, Morgana, Merlin, Arthur, Uther and the Great Dragon in the background

Character appearances

CharacterPortrayed bySeries
Series 1
Series 2
Series 3
Series 4
Series 5
Merlin Colin Morgan Main
Guinevere Angel Coulby Main
Arthur Pendragon Bradley James Main
Morgana Pendragon Katie McGrath Main
Uther Pendragon Anthony Head MainGuest
Gaius Richard Wilson Main
Agravaine de Bois Nathaniel Parker Main
The Great Dragon / Kilgharrah John Hurt Recurring
Geoffrey of Monmouth Michael Cronin Recurring
Hunith Caroline FaberRecurringGuest
Nimueh Michelle Ryan Recurring
Tom David DurhamRecurring
Sir Gregory Gary Oliver Recurring
MorrisEd ColemanRecurring
Sir Lancelot Santiago Cabrera GuestRecurring
Mordred Asa Butterfield
Alexander Vlahos
IseldirTrevor SellersGuestGuest
Sidhe ElderMichael JennGuestGuest
Sir Leon Rupert Young Recurring
Morgause Emilia Fox RecurringGuest
Ygraine Pendragon Alice Patten GuestRecurring
Freya Laura Donnelly Guest
Balinor John Lynch GuestGuest
Sir Gwaine Eoin Macken Recurring
Sir Elyan Adetomiwa Edun Recurring
Cenred Tom Ellis Recurring
Sir Percival Tom Hopper GuestRecurring
AudreyZee AshaRecurringGuest
Helios Terence MeynardRecurring
Queen Annis Lindsay Duncan Guest
Alator Gary Lewis Guest
The DorchraidMaureen CarrGuest
Princess Mithian Janet Montgomery Guest
BerounBarry AirdRecurring


SeriesEpisodesOriginally airedAve. UK viewers
First airedLast aired
1 1320 September 2008 (2008-09-20)13 December 2008 (2008-12-13)6.32
2 1319 September 2009 (2009-09-19)19 December 2009 (2009-12-19)5.99
3 1311 September 2010 (2010-09-11)4 December 2010 (2010-12-04)6.78
4 131 October 2011 (2011-10-01)24 December 2011 (2011-12-24)7.17
5 136 October 2012 (2012-10-06)24 December 2012 (2012-12-24)7.13


The Chateau de Pierrefonds in northern France was used for filming Camelot scenes Chateau de Pierrefonds vu depuis le Parc.jpg
The Château de Pierrefonds in northern France was used for filming Camelot scenes

The programme was conceived by Julian Murphy and Johnny Capps. [2] 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. [3] 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." [3]

The series went into production in March 2008, [4] with filming in Wales and France (at the Château de Pierrefonds). [2] Two Kent locations were also used: The Barons Hall and Garden Tower at Penshurst Place, and Chislehurst Caves for the first series. [5] The series was produced by Shine in association with BBC Wales, whose Head of Drama Julie Gardner was executive producer for the BBC. [2] Doctor Who 's chief writer Russell T Davies had been an important influence on the tone and style of Merlin. [2] CGI special effects for the series were provided by The Mill. [1] The Old English for spells was written by university scholar and medievalist Dr. Mark Faulkner, [6] and later by the script editing team. [7] 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. [2]

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. [8] On 5 September 2010, BFI Southbank in London previewed Episodes 1 and 2 of series 3 for its September Film Funday programme. [9] 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. [10] In March 2011, this was revised, and the fourth series was extended to the standard 13 episodes. [11] The fourth series was broadcast in the United States on the Syfy Channel "in early 2012." [12] 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. [13] Filming for the fifth series began March 2012 in Pierrefonds, France and near Cardiff, Wales. 13 episodes were ordered. [14] Series 5 started broadcasting on 6 October 2012. [15] 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. [16] [17]


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. [18]

In April 2008, United States broadcasting rights were purchased by NBC, [19] where it was shown on Sundays at 8 pm (EST), starting 21 June 2009. [20] This made it the first British drama in over 30 years to be shown on US network television, as opposed to PBS or cable. [21] The programme moved to Syfy, a cable channel also owned by NBC, for the second series, which premiered on 2 April 2010. [22] Syfy aired the third series in early 2011, after the conclusion of the initial broadcast on BBC. [23] It was later announced the series would air after WWE SmackDown beginning 7 January 2011 at 10 pm (9 pm Central). [24] 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. [25] [26] The series was broadcast in 183 countries [27] and is now streaming on platforms such as Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Home media

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. [28] [29] [30] 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. [28] [29] In Australia "The Complete Collection" boxset (23-Discs, Seasons 1-5) was released on May 13, 2015. [31]

All five series are available on DVD (and some on Blu-ray) in North America.

Complete Box Set
Complete Box Set
Volume 1Volume 2Complete Box Set
Release dateDiscsRelease dateDiscsRelease dateDiscsRelease dateDiscsRelease dateDiscs
1st 24 November 2008 [32] 39 February 2009 [33] 35 October 2009 [28] 620 April 2010 [34] 630 July 2009 [lower-alpha 1] [35] 4
2nd 23 November 2009 [36] 38 February 2010 [37] 38 February 2010 [29] 618 January 2011 [38] 622 July 2010 [lower-alpha 2] [39] 4
3rd 15 November 2010 [40] 324 January 2011 [41] 324 January 2011517 January 2012 [42] 52 August 2011 [43] 5
4th 28 November 2011 [44] 323 January 2012 [45] 323 January 2012 [46] 515 January 201341 March 2012 [47] 5
5th 26 November 2012 [48] 321 January 2013 [49] 321 January 2013 [50] 523 April 2013 [51] 413 February 2013 [52] 5
1st–5th28 October 2013, 17 September 2018 [53] 274 November 201427??
  1. Re-released 4 August 2010.
  2. 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. [54] Merlin composer Robert Lane was nominated for Best Original Score for Television for the 10th annual Movie Music UK Awards (2008), [55] the 8th edition GoldSpirit Awards (2008), [56] [57] and the 5th annual International Film Music Critics Association (IFMCA) Awards (2008). [58] 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.

SeriesRelease DateCatalog Number
Merlin series 14 November 2008 [59] MMS08021 [59]
Merlin series 217 November 2009 [60] MMS09027 [60]
Merlin series 32 October 2012 (digital) [61] / 12 November 2012 (CD) [61] MMS12010 [61]
Merlin series 3 & 4, Best of2& October 2012 (digital) [62] / 12 November 2012 (CD) [62] MMS12011 [62]

In other media

Official magazine

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. [63] The monthly magazine cost £3.20 per issue and was distributed in UK newsagents.

Merlin wax work at Warwick Castle Merlin Wax Figure in Warwick Castle.jpg
Merlin wax work at Warwick Castle


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." [64]

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. [65] 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'. [66] In 2012, a 'real-time cooperative' video game adaptation named 'Merlin: The Game' was announced and launched on Facebook. [67] It has since been taken offline.

Awards and nominations

Related Research Articles

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