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John Hurt as The Dragon
Colin Morgan as Merlin
Bradley James as Arthur
Anthony Head as Uther Pendragon
Richard Wilson as Gaius
Angel Coulby as Gwen
Katie McGrath as Morgana
Dolby Digital Stereo Sound
Running Time: 568 Minutes
The following is the official description of the series:
"The mystical city of Camelot, in a time before history began. A fantastical realm of legendary beats and mysterious peoples. A dangerous world in which magic has been banned by the ruthless tyrant. Uther Pendragon. When Merlin, a young man gifted with extraordinary magical powers, arrives in the kingdom he quickly makes enemies including the heir to Uther's crown, the headstrong Prince Arthur. But guided by Uther's wise physicians. Gaius, Merlin is soon using his talents not just to survive but also to unlock Camelot's mystical secrets. As he does so he discovers that his destiny and that of Arthur, the Kingdom's young leader-in-waiting, are inextricably linked."
"Merlin: The Complete First Season" is not rated.
The legend of Merlin has been told man, many times in many different ways. So how did the BBC put a fresh twist on the classic tale? Well, they essentially mixed "Harry Potter" with a bit of comic book superheroes and got "Merlin." Colin Morgan plays Merlin as a young man, only beginning to discover his magical abilities. The problem is that magic has been outlawed in the land under the penalty of death. So Merlin has an incredible ability like the "X-Men" and has to hide his talent like "Spider-Man." To further complicate things, he's told his destiny is to protect young Prince Arthur and assure that he rises to the throne and brings peace to the land. Unfortunately, Arthur is an egotistical bully who Merlin ran afoul of on Day One in Camelot. He's supposed to guide and defend his biggest nemesis. That, definitely, is the biggest change to the Arthurian legend. As the story progresses, Merlin faces various magical threats each week. In that sense it's like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" which, ironically, also starred Anthony Head.
Overall it's a solid production with good special effects. They even manage to occasionally show John Hurt as a CGI Dragon that actually looks quite good. CG effects on TV are often pretty poor looking, but generous applications of shadows and low light in caves under the castle make it work. Using real castles and locations in the UK doesn't hurt, either.
If this series has any downfalls, it's that the running time is a tad long for the stories and it's also somewhat predictable. The plots were somewhat basic and you could predict the ending well before it arrived. It's not necessarily bad. It's just not groundbreaking.
If you like swords and sorcery or if you're in the mood for something that's kind of in the spirit of "Harry Potter," then I think this is a series that will interest you. It's certainly better than a lot of what's on US television.
There's an entire disc of bonus features on this DVD. You get audio commentaries, making-of featurettes, video diaries, photo galleries, and other goodness. It's enough to satisfy all your bonus feature needs.