Past Features

Turning Off The TV #8: BBC’s Merlin

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Welcome to my regular Thursday feature, Turning off the TV! In this feature I recommend books similar to TV shows or films you may have enjoyed, both series and specific episodes. Today’s post comes a little late, thanks to some website errors that had me tearing my hair out, and also may have had me in tears at one point (even though everything is backed up, I’m kind of terrified of one and a half years of work just going down the drain). But now it seems to be okay… I really hope I haven’t spoken too soon.

The TV series this week is: BBC’s Merlin.

Merlin is a reimagining of the legend in which the future King Arthur and Merlin are young contemporaries, however Arthur’s father Uther Pendragon has banned magic in Camelot on pain of death. It shows the growth of King Arthur from a young, self-absorbed boy to the mighty king in the legends as well as Merlin’s colossal role in the creating the powerful Camelot.

This may not be a series I’ve watched myself (I’ve only occasionally caught bits of episodes, mostly when it first started), but I love Arthurian legend. Which kind of leads me to question just why I haven’t watched this…

The Arthur Trilogy by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Arthur: The Seeing Stone by Kevin Crossley-Holland Arthur: At the Crossing Places by Kevin Crossley-Holland Arthur: King of the Middle March by Kevin Crossley-Holland

I first read these books when I was about ten or eleven, and have read them many times since. I still have my original copies. They’re not a straight retelling of the Arthurian legend, and in fact don’t follow King Arthur himself but a young boy called Arthur, whose life is strangely linked with the monarch. Merlin is a prominent figure in the books, as the friend of his father, and who gives Arthur a piece of obsidian that seems to set off the course of events. It’s a picture of twelfth century life, as well as a look into the myths and legends of King Arthur and his court. And now I want to re-read the trilogy thanks to writing this… Just another re-read to add to the list!

The Pendragon Cycle series by Stephen R. Lawhead

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I spent the large majority of my time in sixth form (optional school years at the ages of seventeen and eighteen) in the school library, which is probably not much of a shock. I was always drawn to this series – but they NEVER had the first book. Always book three onwards, occasionally book two, which was really frustrating because I really wanted to read it. It is a six book series, using Arthurian legend and other myths like that of Atlantis, to create the story.

The Once and Future King by T.H. White

The Once and Future King by T.H. White

A classic series of epic fantasy and legend, the first book being The Sword and the Stone, this is a massive retelling of the traditional story. A young boy named ‘Wart’ is tutored by Merlyn – and goes on to be crowned Arthur, King of the Britons. This is in fact the book that the Disney film of the same name was based on.

Are you a fan of Merlin? Do you have any recommendations to add?

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26 thoughts on “Turning Off The TV #8: BBC’s Merlin”

  1. I’ve only seen the first half of series one. I stopped because I thought it was dragging a bit, although I was still very much enjoying it. I’m looking forward to starting back up again soon! I’ve heard sooooo many amazing things about the Lawhead books! I can’t believe I haven’t read them yet. I should get on that next time I’m on a fantasy kick. I didn’t know it included Atlantis! SOLD.

    1. I really wish I’d hunted down the first book elsewhere at school, then read through the rest of the series. It sounds so epic. I didn’t realise it included Atlantis either until earlier, when I was reading the synopsises (synopsi?) for the books!

  2. YOU HAVEN’T SEEN MERLIN???? You are missing out on such an amazing show. I loved it and really do need to rewatch it…

    I haven’t actually read too many books based on the Arthurian legend, and have only ever heard of The Once and Future King (now I am thinking of the dragon in Merlin cause that’s part of quite a few of his lines khsfkjdshfd). I want to check that out one day and will definitely have to look into the others.

    1. I knowwwww! I don’t know why I didn’t start watching it when it first started, because it’s totally my kind of thing – and now I’m just watching so many shows/catching up with so many things that the thought of starting ANOTHER one is a bit daunting!

      Haha! I’d heard of The Once and Future King, but I didn’t realise that actually it’s four different books, and The Once and Future King is apparently the collective title. I highly recommend the Arthur Trilogy =) I also have a book called The Song of Arthur which is a nice, short little read.

  3. I haven’t seen Merlin either even though I love Arthurian legend! I have to agree with the previous comment you made – I should have started watching when it started and now I have too many things to catch up on! But these book recs are great, I can pick them up anytime!

    I haven’t heard of your first two choices, but I loved The Once and Future King when I read it in high school! I will definitely check out The Arthur Trilogy and The Pendragon Cycle!

    1. Yes – we can always make time for books ;D For some reason a TV show feels like way more dedication than ten or twenty books.

      Glad to hear you enjoyed it =)

    1. I don’t know, but I hope so! I’ve not really read any reviews of the books either. I just know that the covers and subject matter always caught my attention =)

  4. I love love Merlin so much. I remember when it was first shown on NBC and loved it but the second season never came on. Then I found out it was continuing and I found it online. Later the syfy channel played it so people were able to see it. I love it!

  5. I watched Merlin, all five seasons of it haha and meh, it dragged quite a bit but if you get attached to the characters, it’s not so bad.

    !!! I loved the Arthur trilogy!! I own the first two books and even bought the companion, Gatty’s Tale and gahhh I need more D; Seeing you mention it I definitely want to reread it now haha.

    1. That often happens with long series though, doesn’t it? For example, True Blood…

      YAY another fan of the series! I read Gatty’s Tale too, but I never actually owned that one. I know, a re-read is definitely overdue – but I’m kind of feeling that way with a lot of the books I read when I was in my pre-teens. I think I just want to read ALL THE THINGS before I go off to study again.

  6. I LOOOOVE Arthurian legend! SO MUCH. So why have I not read more of this stuff? I don’t know. It’s the perfect blend of history and fantasy for me, which is basically my HEART.

    Will have to check all these books out!

    And Merlin <3333333 You know what, that show wasn't perfect. But it was so much fun and there were a number of high points where it was brilliant. I miss it. You should definitely watch the whole thing.

    1. Ahhh, you must read them then! The Arthur trilogy is aimed at younger audiences but I’m sure it’ll still be enjoyable =) The Pendragon Legacy looks quite a bit heavier – but I reeeeeeally want to read it.

      But what shows are perfect? I love shows that are fun but sort of cheesy. They give me the warm fuzzies =)

  7. BBC’s version of Merlin destroyed my feelings and they still haven’t properly recovered. The show is a beautiful, beautiful thing up through the end of season three. After that, the Merlin creators thought they would be getting a longer run, but in reality had only two more seasons and a lot of crap went down that literally pulled my heart out and shredded it to pieces. I still haven’t watched the last two episodes of season five (aka the season finales) because I refuse to believe the show is over.

    The only book devoted to Arthurian Legend I’ve read is the Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, and I’ve only read the first part because I did my lit crit on it in 10th grade, but I do plan on reading the rest!

    1. Oh no! Several people have said this now – too many shows, too many feels =( Oh gosh, I didn’t realise that – so they basically shoved several series of material into one? I can imagine that left some loose ends.

      I had a similar thing with Game of Thrones. I put off watching a *certain* episode so I didn’t have to accept that certain events had happened. Even though I’ve read all the books and obviously I already knew what was coming. And when I did watch that episode… it hurt. Damn television, toying with our emotions! 😉

      I did think of adding that one, but I thought it was a more obvious choice and wanted to go for some potentially ‘lesser known’ series. It’s quite a brick, isn’t it?

  8. Whoa, Rinn, you got an all new blog look while I was on hiatus! 😀 And to answer your question about whether I love BBC Merlin… I saw this post title and clicked on it quick as I could while saying OMG YES I LOOOOOOOOOOOVE MERLIN! Haha you’ve got me spaz clicking and talking to myself over here!

    Oh gosh I don’t even know where to begin about how much I adore this show. There are so many admirable characters and engrossing storylines. I think I cry every time something bad or emotional (or even great!) happens to one of the leading characters! And OMFG Gwen and Arthur?! Talk about freaking swoony. The show is pretty hilarious too and I LOVE love love the joking camaraderie between Merlin & Arthur.

    Rinn, you MUST watch this show! It’s available in its entirety on Netflix. I haven’t watched the whole series yet because honestly I’m trying to ration out the episodes! I have 18 left (*sob*) before I’m done and it’s so hard battling between having a marathon, and extended the experience.

    All of the characters have huge troubles and hard choices to go through all the time and how they choose to bring themselves out of it makes me just love them all the more. The story is set in the midst of some dark times, but the characters usually make for a very uplifting experience. I tend to watch more serious and darker shows for the most part, so when I need a pick-me-up, Merlin is a definite go-to. You really nee to try it out, Rinn! You’ll get hooked. 🙂

    1. I did indeedy! I changed it… last week? I think. Haha, I didn’t realise you were a fan! =D

      I’ve seen a lot about the show on Tumblr, and there do seem to be a lot of humorous bits (and glances between Arthur and Merlin…). I love fantasy shows like this that inject a bit of humour =)

      I don’t get Netflix. So many BBC shows are available in the US but not the UK – and Merlin is one of them =/ But I get what you mean about not being sure what to do – I love marathoning shows (I did it with Parks & Rec and Community), but at the same time I’m really sad when I catch up. I recently rewatched Community with my friend who was watching it for the first time, and I was a bit jealous that she got all the first time excitement and I didn’t =(

      I reckon I really would get hooked. It’s COMPLETELY my kind of thing, and like I said I have no idea why I didn’t watch it when it first started…

      1. Haha I haven’t seen those glances between Arthur and Merlin floating about the internet, but I imagine they’re the same between Sam & Dean from Supernatural. Or Dean & Castiel, or a number of other character match-ups.

        Oh that’s such a shame you don’t have Netflix! I really do love finding BBC shows on there, because I’m finding I like them more than a lot of American shows. People here will watch *anything* and it’s really filling the possible pool of TV material with a lot of worthless stuff.

      2. Yup, Tumblr is FULL of both of those 😉

        We do have Netflix (I love it, I can rewatch Doctor Who all I want), but there’s no Merlin on there… Sorry, that was badly phrased! By ‘I don’t get’ I meant ‘I don’t understand’ Netflix (maybe it’s a British colloquialism, or maybe I just chose the wrong words? I love how sentences can mean TOTALLY different things in different countries =P) – the fact that you can watch loads of our shows in the US via Netflix, but we can’t? Surely it would be easier for them to get a license for BBC shows for UK Netflix? I have no idea, all I know is that there are loads of BBC shows I can’t watch on there =( Like Sherlock…

        But I watched The Office US via Netflix and I have to say… I prefer it to the original UK one. Jim and Pam are the CUTEST.

      3. Oh, we say that here too! I’m just so used to talking to people about Netflix at work and them saying they don’t get it, that I assume it means “have” instead of “understand.” Haha, oops! That is really strange, though! You’d think your own country would get the UK shows before the US ones! I wonder if it’s something like they expect to show reruns on TV, so it’s harder for Netflix there to get the licenses early.a

      4. Hehe =) That’s quite possible… I wonder if that’s why we don’t have the newest episodes of Doctor Who, because of re-runs. But then I’d think we’d have the first two series of Sherlock or something, and I don’t think Merlin has been shown again =o

      5. Otherwise I will just have to use… ‘other channels’ (how else would I keep up with shows like Community and Parks & Recreation? =D)

  9. I love Merlin!!! I think Colin Morgan is great and definitely my cup of tea *squeal a bit* 😛 But I must admit Merlin is not a good show to watch for marathons as the episodes follow the exact same routine… so it gets boring after a while. About 2 episodes a day would be a good practice!

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