MERLIN Makes a Magical Return in a New Season of Spellbinding Adventure
On Jan. 6, Viewers Will Journey Back to Camelot as the Magical, Mystical MERLIN Begins a Fourth Season on Syfy
After casting a spell on ever-growing audiences in its first three seasons in the United States and experiencing series-rating highs in the U.K., the worldwide hit adventure MERLIN returns to Syfy at 10 p.m. ET/PT Friday, Jan. 6 … and as it does, Camelot faces its darkest moment.
The fourth season of MERLIN begins with a breathtaking reminder of the continued power of the evil Morgana (Katie McGrath). Her betrayal of her father, King Uther (Anthony Head), and his kingdom brought the third season of MERLIN to a memorable, action-packed close. It doesn’t get any easier for Prince Arthur (Bradley James) and Merlin (Colin Morgan) in the newest season, which finds the heroic pair seeking to halt her treachery while realizing their own fabled destinies.
“We’re at an incredible crossroads in our version of this mythic, enduring tale,” says executive producer and co-creator Julian Murphy. “It may seem to the people of Camelot that all hope is lost – Morgana has betrayed the kingdom, the King is inconsolable, and Arthur must find a way to restore Camelot’s power. For anyone who is new to our version of Camelot, Season Four is an incredible time to start watching MERLIN.”
The fourth season of MERLIN features one of Camelot’s most iconic creations: the Knights of the Round Table. Finally united at the end of Season Three, the Knights add new dimensions in storytelling and character to the rich adventure of the series. Under Arthur’s lead are Lancelot (Santiago Cabrera), Gwaine (Eoin Macken), Perceval (Tom Hopper), Leon (Rupert Young), Elyan (Adetomiwa Edun), and more.
“MERLIN has definitely grown up,” says executive producer and co-creator Johnny Capps. “The lightheartedness that is always at the heart of our story is certainly still there, but as the threat from Morgana and Morgause has grown, it’s become darker and more dramatic, with an incredibly compelling story of a kingdom on the brink of destruction.”
As the heroes grow in number for Season Four, so do the villains. Morgana adds a powerful new ally in Agravaine, Arthur’s uncle, who has come to Camelot to help rule as the condition of his brother Uther continues to weaken. Joining the cast as Agravaine is Nathaniel Parker, star of such feature films as Stardust and The Haunted Mansion, who is widely recognized for his title role in BBC’s international hit series The Inspector Lynley Mysteries.
A new season of MERLIN also brings a new cavalcade of stars from both the large and the small screen in guest-starring roles. This season features appearances from such notable actors as James Callis (Battlestar Galactica), Philip Davis (Vera Drake), Lindsay Duncan (Alice in Wonderland, Rome), Melanie Hall (Stardust) and Gary Lewis (Billy Elliott), to name but a few.
MERLIN has seen its audience grow since its first episode aired on Syfy in January 2009. The precedent is set for even greater success in the U.S., as the powerful drama and stunning magic of MERLIN propelled the series to its best ratings ever on BBC One this fall, attracting its largest-ever audience despite airing against the wildly popular X Factor.
With a fifth season already commissioned by the BBC and scheduled to air on Syfy in 2013, the timeless story of Camelot continues to provide a source of inspiration and entertainment for modern audiences.
“It’s an astonishingly deep story that has been told over and over again for more than a thousand years,” Murphy says. “Each age finds its way of revitalizing it. It has a mythic quality that catches our imagination, and we are proud to be able to stand on its shoulders.”
MERLIN airs Fridays at 10 p.m. ET/PT only on Syfy.
Season 4 premieres Friday, Jan. 6.
Don’t miss a minute of the magic!
MERLIN Seasons 1 and 2 DVD Box Sets are available at the BBC America Shop
from BBC Video. Season 3 debuts on DVD in January.
Episodes of MERLIN can also be purchased at the iTunes Store.
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT MERLIN – A fifth series has been commissioned by the BBC and will go into production in March 2012.
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Welcome to Camelot
A Visitor’s Guide to the Greatest Kingdom of Albion
MERLIN has become a TV favorite with families and fans of swords and sorcery, warlocks and warriors. For those who are new to the worldwide hit, a bit of background is important – because in Camelot, not everything is as it appears.
King Uther rules the land, with the increasing counsel and assistance from his son, Prince Arthur. For years – and for reasons known only to him – the King has banned the practice of magic from Camelot, under penalty of death. The young warlock Merlin perfects his considerable abilities in secret, under the tutelage of the court’s physician, Gaius.
The use of magic may be forbidden, but Camelot is nonetheless a magical place. The throne is under almost constant threat from the outside, and many of the rulers of nearby kingdoms in the land of Albion (as the entire region is known) have attempted to topple Uther.
The most potent of these attacks has come from the relentless Morgause, who has made it her life’s work to see Camelot destroyed and to ascend the throne with her half-sister, Morgana – who has long been the ward of Uther – at her side.
There are dangers and perils, yes … but Camelot is, above all, a land of enchanted adventure, enormous heroism and stunning bravery, best represented by Arthur – whose destiny is to take his father’s place as the rightful heir to this most magnificent kingdom.
Among the most prominent residents of Camelot and its surrounding territories are:
MERLIN (played by Colin Morgan)
Sent by his mother to Camelot, Merlin must hide his extraordinary powers in this kingdom where the use of magic is forbidden under penalty of death. Merlin became the ward of court physician Gaius and servant to Prince Arthur. Merlin is also a powerful Dragonlord and controls the Great Dragon, from whom he learned of his destiny to ensure that Arthur ascends to the throne … even in the face of great treachery and evil. With the exception of Gaius, no one in Camelot realizes that this humble servant is actually the greatest warlock the world has known.
ARTHUR (played by Bradley James)
Son of King Uther, he’s more fair and more tolerant than his father, and is always aware of his royal standing. Nonetheless, he has developed a bond of friendship with his servant, unaware that Merlin’s destiny is to be by his side as he becomes king. He also struggles with a forbidden love for the servant Gwen.
MORGANA (played by Katie McGrath)
All her life, Morgana has believed herself to be ward to the king – and is still reeling from her discovery she is Uther’s daughter and Arthur’s half-sister. She is also the half-sister of the evil Morgause, who will stop at nothing to take over the kingdom … including recruiting Morgana in her efforts. Evil has so consumed Morgana that she no longer has any loyalty to Uther … or to Camelot.
GWEN (played by Angel Coulby)
The beautiful handmaiden to Morgana allows herself to hope that one day she and Prince Arthur can be together without having to keep their feelings a secret. Fiercely loyal and innately adventurous, Gwen is quick to come to the aid of Merlin to assist Arthur – and Camelot – any way she can.
UTHER (played by Anthony Head)
A strong king, Uther has ruled for many years, commanding both respect and fear. He has banned the practice of magic in Camelot – under threat of death. But Uther has learned the truth about Morgana, and his heart has been broken. His power slipping away, Uther nonetheless maintains the respect of his prince, and even the magical Merlin himself.
GAIUS (played by Richard Wilson)
Wise court physician, he is also Merlin’s counsel and closest friend. The only person in Camelot who knows of Merlin’s powers, he has even come to use magic himself, though he knows the potentially grave consequences.
THE GREAT DRAGON (voice of John Hurt)
Having been freed by Merlin, the Great Dragon (whose name is Kilgarrah) cannot refuse a command by the Dragonlord … even when the command is to save the life of Morgana. The Dragon has offered a firm warning to Merlin: His actions could have disastrous results. But Kilgarrah knows of Merlin’s destiny, and is bound by duty to offer his aid.
GWAINE (played by Eoin Macken)
A silver-tongued, likeable rogue who is superb with a sword, Gwaine could be a knight as he is of noble birth – but prefers to live his life as an outsider. Banned from Camelot by Uther, he has become close friends with Merlin, and will come to his or Arthur’s service whenever called upon.
MORGAUSE (played by Emilia Fox)
A powerful sorceress, she is the half-sister of Morgana and is determined to see the fall of Uther and the destruction of Camelot. She is practiced in dark magic, and has swayed Morgana to join her awful quest.
CENRED (played by Tom Ellis)
His land borders Camelot and he so intensely covets the kingdom that he has formed an uneasy alliance with the equally obsessed Morgause.
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Colin Morgan on Becoming MERLIN
‘Merlin realizes how much he needs to be strong for Arthur’s sake’
Where is Merlin at the beginning of season 4?
COLIN MORGAN: He starts the series in a happy place. He now knows Camelot like the back of his hand and can do everything with his eyes closed. Of course, he’s not as talented a servant as he should be, but that’s not his thing – magic is his thing.
Does he have to use that magic quickly?
Absolutely – his magic powers are immediately challenged by the “Dorocha.” They are tortured spirits of the underworld. Morgana unleashes them, and they cause chaos in Camelot. They operate at night and can only be repelled by the light. If you find yourself alone in the dark with one, you’re a goner.
So, Morgana presents the greatest threat to Camelot?
Yes, she’s desperate to claim the throne, and the only person in her way is Arthur. She’s absolutely power hungry, fixated on regaining Camelot. You see within the first few minutes of the first episode just how ruthless she is. Merlin has to provide a huge amount of help in Arthur’s battle against Morgana. She is Merlin’s ultimate enemy.
What’s Arthur and Merlin’s relationship like at the start of this season?
They are master and servant, but they have also always been friends. They can’t help but like each other for their own quirks. What is different this season is that you see a vulnerable prince making use of Merlin as an adviser. For his part, Merlin realizes how much he needs to be strong for Arthur’s sake.
Is Arthur still in the dark about Merlin’s magical powers?
Yes, Arthur still has no idea about Merlin’s magic. People always ask me, “Why doesn’t Merlin reveal his magic to Arthur?” But he’d be an absolute fool to do that. At the moment, Arthur is like his father, King Uther, who created the rules that outlaw magic. If Merlin revealed his power to Arthur now, he could risk everything. Merlin’s dream is to live in a land where he can be free and ruled by the greatest king the world has ever known. It would be madness to risk that for the selfish reason of revealing himself now.
Why do you think the series has been so successful around the world?
They’re just really good stories. They deal in universal themes such as good versus evil and the triumph of true love. They also appeal right across the generations, from 8 to 80. It seems there is no one who isn’t touched by Merlin.
Does it help that this is a new twist on an old classic?
People all over the world are familiar with the Arthurian legend, but the good thing about this show is that you’re never sure how you will see it unfold. From the very beginning, the story has been constantly retold – and now we’re part of that tradition.
Have fans started to recognize you?
It does happen, but I’ve never had any nasty experiences – everyone is always so lovely to me. I can still buy a pint of milk. You can still do whatever you want, but there is always a chance now that it might not just be an anonymous shopping trip. People might notice you in a different way. Often they need convincing that I am who they think I am – they keep asking, “Are you really Merlin?” All the time, I’m thinking, “But I only want to buy a pint of milk!”
After three seasons, do you still enjoy playing Merlin?
Definitely! It’s a lot of hard work, but it is always exciting and it’s always worthwhile. It would be a different story if you put so much effort into something and at the end of it all you thought, “Why did I bother?” But when I finish filming MERLIN, I always think, “I’m so delighted to have been part of this.” It really is something special!
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Bradley James on Becoming a King
‘He has been thrown into the deep end of a very grave situation indeed.’
What has happened to Arthur since we last saw him?
BRADLEY JAMES: Arthur has to take the responsibility for the kingdom on his shoulders because his father has lost his mind. All eyes in the kingdom are now upon Arthur, looking to him, not to Uther, who is hiding in the corner of the room, rocking back and forth. Morgana poses an enormous threat to the kingdom Arthur is trying to protect. He has been thrown into the deep end of a very grave situation indeed.
How does Arthur cope with the responsibility?
It’s not always easy for him. He constantly has to learn lessons from his mistakes. But I would say he’s the man you would want in a crisis. He always sticks by what he feels is right, which is a very good quality.
Has this changed the relationship between Arthur and Merlin?
Their friendship has grown, and Merlin comes up with pearls of wisdom more and more often. It’s harder for Arthur to turn those into a joke and pretend Merlin is just being stupid. They are now forming a much closer relationship.
How does Arthur deal with Lancelot, his rival for Gwen’s affections?
Camelot always comes first for Arthur. If his love for Gwen causes friction, it holds back the kingdom. But if being with Gwen works for the kingdom, then he feels it should happen.
This season, the Knights of the Round Table become an integral part of the story. Do you enjoy working with them?
Absolutely! The Knights have a great camaraderie, which is what the Round Table is all about. They have a passionate dream, which they all want to achieve. The actors each bring a touch of individuality to their characters, and they are a joy to work with. Off-screen, we all get on famously. It’s great to be part of that. When I celebrated my birthday, they all came along to my place to celebrate. We made a great day – and night – of it. It’s been an absolute pleasure to have them around, and I’m quietly confident that that will translate to the screen.
Another important addition is Agravaine. Has he brought something extra to MERLIN?
Definitely. Very early on, the audience becomes aware that Agravaine’s allegiance is to Morgana. Naturally, Arthur is completely unaware of this, which creates great dramatic tension. Someone has to play dumb – and as we’ve come to find out in MERLIN, it’s usually Arthur! But it also adds to the drama of the series that someone so close to Arthur can be the one that digs the knife in and twists it. As far as Arthur is concerned, his mother’s brother is someone to be trusted implicitly. But the audience can see the cloaked dagger. Nathaniel Parker is very lively as Agravaine and has a great, dark look.
Based on their reaction to you at Comic-Con, can we assume that fans have come to recognize you for your role as Arthur?
Yes, I do get stopped quite a bit more now, but people are always very flattering – they love the show and want pictures and autographs. It’s lovely when what you do for your work comes across so well!
What do you think is the reason that MERLIN, particularly, has been a great success with viewers?
People relate to the ideals of the Arthurian legends and the myth of the Round Table, especially when it’s told in a way that is so entertaining and accessible. Everyone can identify with the tale, not just the British. On top of that, you have these great characters and this amazing magic and this astonishing period. All that shines through. People love to get lost in that world.
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Morgana, Gwen and the Destiny of a Kingdom
The Fate of Camelot Turns on the Actions
of the Unforgettable Women of MERLIN
Not long ago, one was the kind-hearted ward to the King of Camelot, who had reared her since childhood. The other was a handmaiden, a servant by birth and always eager to be of assistance to her lady.
Times have changed.
Morgana and Gwen have both become instrumental in the future of the kingdom. Now aware that she is King Uther’s secret daughter, Morgana has turned to evil, aligning herself with the vicious Morgause in a quest to bring ruin to Camelot. Meanwhile, a forbidden love between Gwen and Prince Arthur has come to light – and she is all but fated to become queen of the kingdom.
For the talented actresses who play them, the characters of Morgana and Gwen have turned into enormous – and enormously fun – challenges that are much different than they were just a couple of years ago.
“Morgana is an entirely different character now,” says Katie McGrath, who has twice been nominated for Golden Nymph Award at the Monte Carlo TV festival for her portrayal of the duplicitous Morgana. “She is much more confident. She has been ostracized from Camelot, but she is independent and in control. She remains very focused, poised and elegant. She’s the woman I wish I was!”
If Morgana embodies the jealous, deceitful ways of evil, Gwen (or, as she is more formally known, Guinevere) has taken a completely different path – watching Morgana’s betrayal first hand has led her to become true to her noble heart, a far cry from her introduction in the first season of MERLIN.
“She started off as a bumbling, shy creature,” says Angel Coulby, also a Golden Nymph nominee for her performance. “But she has become so strong and brave – she is by no means a doormat. You will see really heroic things from her during this season.”
Even as Morgana has engaged in ever-increasing mayhem, Gwen has seen her relationship with Arthur strengthen and deepen – a critical development in MERLIN and in the story of Camelot. During Season 3, Morgana learned of the forbidden love, which led to Gwen facing death by being burned at the stake, one of the iconic images of Arthurian legend.
But Gwen survived, thanks to magical intervention by Merlin himself, and while she still does not know of his secret powers, she is quite aware of Morgana’s evil nature.
“Gwen feels upset that Morgana has chosen to go down that path,” Coulby explains. “She feels badly betrayed and doesn’t trust Morgana anymore. But Morgana is still causing trouble, and Gwen lives in fear that one day she will come back to Camelot.”
The relationship between the two women is complex – as, McGrath notes, is Morgana herself. She’s much more than a mere villain. “Morgana is not just a two-dimensional, cackling baddie,” McGrath notes. “Of course, every drama needs a villain, but the best villains are sympathetic and you can see their point of view. In fact, she has become a very popular character over the past four seasons. People have lots of affection for her. Why? Because she’s amazing, of course!”
The struggle between good and evil is, of course, at the heart of MERLIN, and Coulby says she thinks it’s helped the series strike a chord with viewers around the globe. “Life can be very tough at the moment,” she says. “It’s nice to sit down and watch something that takes you away from our difficult world.”
But as the stakes continue to rise for Gwen, Morgana, Arthur and Merlin, surely Morgana could never succeed in her plans and take over Camelot? Series co-creator and producer Johnny Capps offers this observation: “That’s the beauty of telling an old tale in a new way: You never know what might happen.”
Gwen, Morgana and the magic of Camelot return in Season 4 of MERLIN, which debuts at 10 p.m. ET/PT Friday, Jan. 6, only on Syfy.
The first three seasons of MERLIN are available on DVD from BBC Video or at the iTunes Store.
(Information provided courtesy of Freemantle Media and JS Comm.)
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“MERLIN: The Little Show Stealing Hearts on Both Sides of the Pond”