Those who crave medieval tales of sorcery and gallantry can enter a time of wizards and knights when watching Merlin, a BBC drama series now in its fifth season. It was adapted to screenplay by Julian Jones, Jake Michie, Julian Murphy and Johnny Capps.
Merlin is an adaptation of the legendary warlock’s early years as he arrives in Camelot, a kingdom where magic is outlawed by King Uther Pendragon. Those using it are burned at the stake. Aware of this but wanting a better life for her child all the same, Merlin’s mother sent her son to live with Gaius, an old friend and court physician to the king.
An alchemist by trade, Gaius was once a student of magic before the Great Purge, King Uther’s genocide of sorcerers. Acting as both mentor and guardian to Merlin, he gives the young wizard a book of spells to further his education in using magic for good. However, Gaius is not the only one Merlin gets sage counsel from. There is a creature of the Old Religion, whose knowledge of magic and destiny is unmatched. He is a dragon known as Kilgharrah, the last of his kind shackled in a cave below Camelot by King Uther. He and the wizard share a connection because they are both products of the Old Religion. Merlin was born with magic. He can slow time and move objects with his mind. When he does so, his eyes flare up. On the pilot, Kilgharrah calls out to Merlin while he’s sleeping, summoning the boy to explain his role in Camelot’s future. The wise dragon tells him it’s his destiny to protect Prince Arthur, Uther’s son who’s fated to become Camelot’s greatest king. The young sorcerer is to help Arthur bring about a new Albion, one where magic is not a crime. Kilgharrah refers to Merlin and Arthur as “two sides of the same coin.” Alas, belonging to the same coin does not signify harmony as the unlikely pairing constantly annoy each other.
With Merlin assigned as his servant, Arthur wastes no time in dictating the young wizard’s daily tasks. He commands him to repair his shield, wash his tunic, clean his boots, sharpen his sword and polish his chainmail. Sometimes the closing scene is Arthur bossing Merlin around. “My chambers are a complete mess,” Arthur said. “My clothes need washing, my dogs need exercising, my fireplace needs sweeping, my bed needs changing and someone needs to muck out my stables.”
There are also scenes that blend humor with drama such as the one I’ve prepared below, in which a treasure-seeking bandit throws sleeping gas to make Merlin look incompetent to Arthur so that he can take the former servant’s place. The servant of Arthur is the closest in proximity to his keys. Arthur has the key to the tomb of Cornelius Sigan, a powerful sorcerer buried with much plunder. Click the highlighted text to see the aftermath of the greedy bandit’s deception (Merlin feels stupid).
Merlin was made to look like an idiot. Everyone can relate to that feeling in some way. All of us have days where we feel humiliated. This is part of Merlin’s magical allure as a show. It has the ability to connect on an emotional level with its audience. That combined with the special effects of sorcery make Merlin a must watch.