- Genres: Drama, Family, Fantasy
- Actors: Colin Morgan, Angel Coulby, Bradley James, Katie McGrath, John Hurt, with Anthony Head, and Richard Wilson
Merlin arrives at the city of Camelot, where the king, Uther Pendragon, has outlawed magic and imprisoned the last dragon. Merlin, who was born with extraordinary magical powers, is taken as the apprentice of Gaius. Merlin later discovers, after being informed by the last dragon, who is held as a prisoner deep under the city, that he has an important destiny in protecting Uther’s arrogant son, Arthur, so that he may grow up to find a great kingdom.
The era in which the series is set is ambiguous; traditionally the Arthurian legends are set in the dark ages, and the idea of King Uther reigning over a small kingdom (which is present in both traditional legend and the television series) sets it before the union of England in 927. Despite this, the castle interiors are 15th century, making the series’ setting inconsistent with English history. Britain is never mentioned, although the dragon has used the name Albion, which is the oldest known name for Great Britain.
The television series deviates significantly from more traditional versions of the legend (i.e., canon), such as those written by Geoffrey of Monmouth and Thomas Malory. For instance, in the original myth, it is Arthur who builds Camelot, whereas in this series it pre-dates Arthur’s father Uther. Another key difference is that in the television series, Arthur and Merlin are of approximately the same age, whereas in traditional myth, Merlin is much older, and acts as Arthur’s tutor. This kind of relationship is played out between Gaius and Merlin. Morgana, normally shown as an evil sorceress, is here a kind and caring woman.
Other characters from Arthurian legend have appeared. Lancelot was portrayed as a commoner who longed to become a knight. Mordred has been shown as a young Druid boy who formed a bond with Morgana (in some legends Mordred’s mother) and who was prophesied by the Great Dragon to be the cause of death of Arthur (in the legend this occurred at the Battle of Camlann). Mordred and the Great Dragon referred to Merlin by his Druidic name, Emrys (the Welsh form of Ambrosius; Ambrosius Aurelianus was a historical figure whom Geoffrey of Monmouth partially merged with Merlin). Geoffrey of Monmouth himself has appeared as the court genealogist.