Aired on: NBC
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
Summer television used to mean catching up on reruns of your favorite television series, either watching episodes you had already seen, or checking out episodes you missed during the main season. Now, summer television offers up something new. Now viewers can check out new television series that didnít make the fall line-up. On Sunday, June 21, 2009, one such series entitled Merlin made its 2-hour US debut on NBC.
Merlin originally aired on the BBC in the year 2008. The show caught my eye because it is based upon the legends of King Arthur that I grew up reading about as a child. In fact, one of my favorite movies of the 80s was Excalibur, the story of the rise and fall of King Arthur. I couldnít wait to check out this new version of the tale.
The series stars Colin Morgan as a very young Merlin who has been sent to Camelot by his distraught mother. Merlinís mother knows that he possesses incredible powers and she entrusts his care to Gaius (Richard Wilson), old friend and former sorcerer, now Camelot court physician. Understanding that sorcery has been banned in recent years, Merlinís mother hopes that Gaius will protect him and offer guidance in the years to come.
It is while apprenticing with Gaius that Merlin comes to meet Prince Arthur (Bradley James), arrogant and insolent son of Uther Pendragon (Anthony Head), ruler of Camelot. Merlin comes head to head with Arthur after interceding in one of his bullying sessions. Starting off as bitter enemies, the two become more friendly after Merlin saves Arthurís life.
Fans of the stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table should be warned - Merlin is very loosely based on these tales. In fact, this reworking of the series seems to be geared toward the younger generation, having a Smallville sort of feel to it while still attempting to stay on track with the basic story of Merlin and King Arthur.
Knowing that the adult version of Merlin is very sure of himself and his magic, it is amusing to see a younger, self-conscious version attempting to find his purpose in life. The Arthur that we meet in this series is quite unlike the Arthur of the tales I grew up with, but the series handles this in a way that allows for change as Arthur matures.
At first, I felt that the special effects were cheesy. Sure, The Great Dragon (voice by John Hurt) is cool, but Merlinís use of magic is often lacking in luster as special effects go. But then I learned that this was originally a BBC series and this sort of special effects are prevalent in these series. This keeps the budget down and the focus on the storyline rather than the effects.
All-in-all, although the pilot episode was not terrific, I found the second episode to be rather enjoyable. Merlin contains everything that todayís television viewer wants to see - action, magic, angst and the promise of romance. I have great hopes for this series and plan to check out the next episode airing at 8PM EST on Sunday, June 28, 2009.