Merlin (Ep 3)

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Merlin‘ is a 13-part series produced for BBC One by Shine Limited. It focuses on the teenage years of the wizard Merlin from Arthurian legend. The series was conceived by Julian Murphy and Johnny Caps; the creative minds behind Sky One show Hex.

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  • Colin Morgan as Merlin
  • Bradley James as Prince Arthur
  • Richard Wilson as Gaius
  • Anthony Head as Uther Pendragon
  • Angel Coulby as Guinevere (Gwen)
  • Katie McGrath as Morgana
  • John Hurt as The Great Dragon
  • Michelle Ryan as Nimueh

Brief plot summary: The Mark of Nimueh – Far from Camelot, a young sorceress, at the end revealed to be Nimueh, conjures a creature that enters the castle’s water supply, spreading a plague.  An act of kindness from Merlin, to save the father of one of his friends, results in her being accused of witchcraft and sentenced to death.  With Arthur and Morgana’s help, Merlin defeats the creature without revealing his powers to his friends, but does reveal them to the sorceress.

There are certain problems I have regarding the extent of the artistic licence used with the Arthurian legend (and the strange blending of different timelines), as well as the use of modern words and phrases, which seem ill at ease in the period setting, but I will deal with them in a separate review.  For now we shall simply say that they still remain and as such cast a small cloud over proceedings.

However, given those problems, the episode itself is not too bad.  The actors are beginning now to feel at ease with their roles and the storyline is quite tense, given the teatime transmission.  The production cannot hide it’s obvious low budget completely but by never really showing the creature fully in any one scene it at least keeps those budget constraints from being so obvious that it undercuts the drama.

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I did have major reservations about watching this episode after the severe problems of the first two, and was quite prepared to do a hatchet job on this but the episode sped at an enjoyable clip, the actors were engaging and there was at least a sense of drama and tension that were woefully missing from the opening episodes.

Whilst it is far from perfect, the episode was at least a small step in the right direction and as such I will be tuning in next week to see what happens next.

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Episode 4: The Poisoned Chalice airs on BBC One on the 11th October at 19:05 in Scotland and the 12th October at 15:25 in the rest of the UK.