Ok so that’s not original but clearly, the BBC’s new flashy drama Merlin is a Smallville for medieval times. You’ve got the younger versions of the main characters, not necessarily settled in their hero/villain roles (Arthur’s a jerk, Morgana seems ok), nor in their eventual romantic configurations yet (Arthur fancies Morgana, as does our young wizard, though there’s some Guenivere-Merlin banter that must be going somewhere). The formula works (for Smallville, time will tell for Merlin) because you get to play with people’s expectations whilst having a sense of familiarity. Plus you can do all those oh-so-funny wink at the audience jokes such as Guenivere’s “Who on earth would want to marry a king?” line.
I enjoyed it but it felt padded. They really overdid the setting up the fact that a) Merlin and Arthur not getting along and b) Merlin can move things with his mind. Maybe the budget was overstretched by the CGI dragon (not that great to be honest) but some of the later seemed rather minor and once the point had been made (e.g. by saving the falling Gauis) I’d’ve cut the others.
I also can’t quite understand why you’d cast Richard Wilson as the mentor when you’ve got frikkin’ Giles on the payroll! Failing that (and allowing for the fact that possibly Tony Head wanted to do something different) you’ve got John Hurt, although he may have just signed up for the voice work knowing that it would be a lesser commitment.
Having said that I did enjoy enough of it to watch again. Eve Myles did a great job in making the witch creepy and threatening – enough for a saturday teatime audience anyhow – and I enjoyed the ‘spell-singing’ at the end.
Overall – a bit of nonsense with enough about it to keep me watching, for now – 6/10