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DVD Review: Merlin: The Complete First Season

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Merlin is a prime time drama series based on the legend of Camelot. Originally airing on the BBC in 2008, the series premiered in the US in June, 2009 when NBC bought the American broadcast rights. The second season of Merlin ran on the BBC from spring 2009 to September 2009. Filming of a third season began in Wales in April of this year. Camelot is said to be the center of King Arthur Pendragon's realm in Britain although, according to many historians, Camelot was not a real place and has no real basis in history.

King Uther Pendragon (Anthony Head, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) is a tyrant who rules Camelot. He banishes magic from his realm and condemns to death anyone who practices it. Merlin (Colin Morgan, Doctor Who) is a man with magical powers who arrives in Camelot during this time. He learns that his future is tied to the young Prince Arthur (Bradley James, Portobello 196). Merlin learns to control his powers and help Prince Arthur with the help of court physician Gaius (Richard Wilson, Demons) and the Great Dragon (John Hurt, Hellboy).

Merlin: The Complete First Season takes place when all the characters are teenagers so it's loaded with lots of typical teenage angst including rebellion against father figures, teen romance, and drama. The characters are, of course, mostly gorgeous and attractive which further leads to the appeal to the younger crowd. This is a great way to draw a new generation into the story of Camelot although if you're looking for historical accuracy you won't find it here.

While Merlin is very entertaining, it doesn't hold true to the standard Arthurian legend at all although it wasn't the producers' intention to stay true to the legend. Merlin should be an old man and well versed in magic use and not a teenager who doesn't do magic very well. They took out the entire incestuous aspect of the legend where Merlin enchants Arthur to look like Morgan's father so that they can be intimate. Uther Pendragon was ambushed and killed when Arthur was just a baby according to legend; however in this movie he's alive and well. Guinevere in the movie is black and definitely wasn't in the legend. There are a number of other inaccuracies but the show is still very entertaining and should serve to interest a whole new audience in learning more about the "real" legend of Arthur.

You would think that with magic banished, the story would be lacking in the magic area, but there's tons of magic and special effects shown in the show. The special effects are pretty good but nothing amazing. I think they could have done the dragon a bit more realistically. Most of the scenes in Merlin were filmed in Pierrefonds, France in a real castle which lends to the feel of authenticity. Thankfully, the series isn't loaded with teen sexcapades with everyone falling into bed with everyone else which means this makes a fantastic family show that is suitable for all ages except the very young since there are a few scary scenes that might be a bit too much for them.

Overall I enjoyed the series. It doesn't really follow the legend very well so if you try to think of it too much as the legend of Arthur it gets confusing trying to mesh the two together. However, if you look at it as a magical adventure set in ancient England, it's quite enjoyable.

Merlin: The Complete First Season contains all 13 episodes from the television drama series. It is contained on five discs and has over two hours of special features including two making-of featurettes, video diaries, photo galleries, audio commentary, and wallpaper.

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About Ellen Christian

Ellen is a busy mom of two teenagers who left the corporate world in 2008 to focus on a more eco-friendly life. She lives in rural Vermont where she juggles family, two blogs and a career in social media. You can find her at http://www.confessionsofanover-workedmom.com/ and http://the-socialites-closet.blogspot.com/.
  • MerlinFan

    “Guinevere in the movie is an African American and definitely wasn’t in the legend.”

    Angel Coulby, the actress that plays Gwen, is British, born in London, England. She isn’t African American, that term only applies to Americans.

  • Sara

    Anthony head doesn’t play King Arthur Pendragon as mentioned in the article, he plays King Uther Pendragon

  • Chris

    You have so many inaccuracies here that it’s freaking hilarious. You should do actual research before you, you know, CRITIC.

  • Morgana Le Fay

    I’m sorry, but your review is so inaccurate it’s actually a hilarious read!
    In addition to the mistakes mentioned before, the creators have mentioned time and time again that it wasn’t their intention to stay true to Arthurian legend, but to re-imagine the characters and stories when they were young.
    You really should watch it sometime – I think you’d enjoy it.

  • Oh man, no incest? … Bummer? (*snort*)
    Thanks for a hilarious read. It’s a bit ridiculous that a reviewer whose criticism revolves around historical (btw, this isn’t history, ma’am, it’s legend) accuracy would write a review that’s like a minefield of inaccuracies and lazy mistakes.
    But truly, I did enjoy it. Really funny. Made my morning.

  • Amy

    You, madam, are a joke. try actually watching the show before you post up your ignorant opinions. NONE of this is fact.

  • Kels

    The internet can be your friend, ma’am. Yes, there are historical inaccuracies up the wazoo [I will admit that they make me cringe occasionally] but as an above commenter said, the creators were not so much trying to make a History Channel masterpiece as attempting to give an age-old legend [noun; An unauthentic or non-historical story, esp. one handed down by tradition from early times and popularly regarded as historical] a little face-lift.

  • Kilgharrah

    “I think they could have done the dragon a bit more realistically.”
    I’m curious, have you seen many dragons in real life? Perhaps you should send The Mill [the special effects company working on Merlin] some photos for future reference.

  • MerlinFan2

    In agreement with the other reviewers here. There are too many inaccuracies in the review for it to be of any value. The Arthurian legend is LEGEND, not history, as the writer seems to believe. Taking license with legend is a creative tradition. It expands and enriches legend, and I think this show does just that. As a fan of the show, I recommend it. It’s smart, imaginative, dramatic, and very well acted.

  • Jordan Richardson

    Guinevere in the movie is black and definitely wasn’t in the legend.

    Not to pile on, but what? Why is changing the race of a character a problem when adapting a legend to a television show?

    Perhaps the Amazon product description offers a clue:

    “Merlin is a new drama series that updates the story of the infamous sorcerer of Arthurian legend for a new audience.”

    Ah, there it is.

  • Gwen

    African American?

    ROFL. Lady, what is wrong with you.

  • We almost feel as though there is less magi in season 4.

    Here is our take on season 1 with lots of pics and perhaps a little wit if you are interested.