Merlin is a British television drama series that began in 2008. It is based on the Arthurian legends of the mythical wizard Merlin and his relationship with Prince Arthur, but differs significantly from traditional versions of the myth. Produced by independent production company Shine Limited for BBC One, the programme was designed to run in the same Saturday evening family drama slot as other UK series such as Doctor Who and Robin Hood. The second series began airing on 19 September 2009
The idea for the program was conceived by Shine producers Julian Murphy and Johnny Caps, who had previously worked together on Hex, a fantasy series produced by Shine for Sky One. The BBC had been keen on showing a drama based on the character of Merlin for some time; a little over a year before the Shine series was initiated, writer and producer Chris Chibnall had been developing a project aimed at a BBC One Sunday night slot, but this was ultimately not commissioned. The Shine version of the project was put into development in late 2006, commissioned by Controller of BBC One Peter Fincham and BBC Head of Fiction Jane Tranter, with Fincham keen on having more series on his channel which embodied "three generation TV – that's TV you can watch with your grandparents and children. There's not enough of that about
Merlin was also influenced by the US show Smallville, about the early years of Superman, according to Shine producers, Julian Murphy and Johnny Caps, who said that Smallville helped provide the idea that Merlin would see a "Camelot that existed before its golden age". Caps said:
"Just as in Smallville we wanted to subvert expectations. Camelot is a land where magic is banned [and] Merlin ... is a young boy who works as Arthur's manservant and has to hide his abilities."
This influence was apparent throughout the first series as the storyline forced Merlin to hide his abilities and make excuses for the supernatural acts he was responsible for, just as Clark Kent was made to for the first 3–5 seasons of Smallville. Critics have pointed to this repetitive and awkward plot device as a weakness of both series.
The series went into production in March 2008,with filming taking place in Wales and France (at the Château de Pierrefonds). The series was produced by Shine in association with BBC Wales, whose Head of Drama Julie Gardner served as executive producer for the BBC. Gardner had extensive experience of working on the BBC's Doctor Who, and said that show's chief writer Russell T Davies had been an important influence on the tone and style of Merlin. CGI special effects for the series were provided by The Mill, which had also worked on Doctor Who and its spin-offs. Consisting of an initial series of 13 episodes, Merlin began transmission in the UK on 20 September 2008. In advance of this, a special trailer was prepared for release on television, in cinemas and on line.
On 13 December 2008, the BBC announced that it had re-commissioned Merlin for a second series, which began filming in Spring 2009 and ended Autumn 2009.
A short promotional video for the second series on Amazonreveals that "series 3 [is] coming soon" though there is no official announcement as yet.