Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating * * * * *
Cast: Colin Morgan, Bradley James, Angel Coulby, Katie McGrath, Richard Wilson, Nathaniel Parker, Anthony Head, John Hurt, Michael Cronin, Eion Macken, Rupert Young, Alexander Vhalos, Emila Fox.
After a five series run, the B.B.C. television programme Merlin has come to its final ending. The trials and tribulations of the young apprentice sorcerer at the court of Camelot has reached its final and prophetic conclusion and whilst it should be mourned as it passes over to the realms of future repeats on unneeded digital channels and the mythology of future Trivia Pursuit questions. It should be noted that it was a much needed boost for Saturday evening television programmes, dominated at times by the surreal and those only ever interested in fame.
The programme has had a few unfair critical responses but this is more to do with the series taking away from the T.H. White or Mallory literary versions. There is no comparison really to be made and whilst both versions of the classic tale, especially Mallory’s is undisputedly great literature, modern audiences require more than the idea of courtly love to enjoy a night in and in this excellent series there was all manner of storylines to keep viewers entranced. From dragons, voiced by the legendary John Hurt, to supposed sibling rivalry, Merlin had it all.
The serial has made household names out of its younger stars, none the less the excellent Colin Morgan whose presence and portrayal of the young wizard marks him out as an exceptional actor, Coupled with this is his on-screen double-act with Bradley James. The man who grew into his role as the King of Camelot had one of the best partnerships to be in television/drama outside of the Steven Moffat Sherlock Holmes/John Watson or The Doctor/Companion. It takes exceptional writing to make this work and complete trust in the actor’s ability to bounce of each of each other with wit and good humour. In one of the final touching scenes of the series in which the young Merlin cradles the dying king was at all times supremely acted and a great testament to the series.
There will be those that say the B.B.C. should have done more to hang on to this top quality escapist drama, not least because the amount of viewers it garnered and coveted was far in excess of what a Saturday night television programme in the modern age should expect. However all good things must end, especially when there are only so many ways in which to present the much loved saga. Whatever the B.B.C. decides to put in its place next autumn, it will have to go a long way to beat the escapism that was provided by Merlin.
Ian D. Hall