Review: Merlin Season 1 DVD

STUDIO: BBC/Freemantle | CREATORS: Johnny Capps, Julian Jones, Jake Michie | CAST: John Hurt, Colin Morgan, Anthony Head, Bradley James, Richard Wilson, Katie McGrath
RELEASE DATE: 4/20/2010 | PRICE: DVD $49.98
BONUSES: commentaries, two featurettes, video diaries, photo galleries, wallpapers
SPECS: NR | 568 min. | Fantasy television | 16:9 enhanced | Dolby Digital stereo

RATINGS (out of 5): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

An enthusiastic re-imagining of the legend of the soon-to-be-King Arthur and the wizard Merlin in their younger days as they cavort in and around Camelot, the BBC’s family-friendly TV show Merlin made its Stateside DVD debut after premiering on NBC, which made it the first BBC program to be broadcast on network TV in nearly 30 years.

The Complete First Season introduces us to teenagers Merlin (Colin Morgan) — a talented young magician who must keep his powers secret as Camelot’s fierce but fair King Uther Pendragon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s Anthony Head) has banned all magic from his kingdom — and Arthur (Bradley James), Uther’s son and the soon-to-be Excalibur-wielding Arthur. Their friendship, quite a tenuous one at the outset (that is, until Arthur’s life is first saved by Merlin, whose destiny is to watch over the future King), develops well over the season’s 13 episodes. There are many significant differences between the family-skewed Merlin and the more traditional versions of the Arthurian legend which are bound to elicit gasps from purists, but it’s a good-looking show and quite fun. And it gets better as it goes on.

The cast is actually the strongest selling point to those on the fence. John Hurt’s gruffly distinguished tones are right on as Merlin’s dragon “frenemy” Kilgharrah (who’s rendered competently with CGI) and James and Morgan are both fine as the young protagonists Arthur and Merlin. The stand-out is Head, whose presence as King Uther is both fatherly and appropriately regal.

Among the extras on the DVD are commentary tracks on four episodes, a pair of featurettes (the better of the two being a 15-minute look at the making of the episode “The Black Knight”) and a behind-the-scenes video diary segment which shows the cast and crew having a helluva good time as they’re hard at work.


Buy or Rent Merlin: The Complete First Season
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About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.