San Diego Comic-Con – Merlin Panel & Press – 24th July, 2011

The Cast & Producers of Merlin

After a setback with our posting schedule because of contracting the infamous “Con Crud” — the plague that seems to have swept Comic Con these last couple years — we’re finally ready to start sharing with you all the fun had at the convention this year.  We’ll start with the show that we have a special love for, as it’s responsible for the existence of this site in the first place, BBC One and Syfy’s Merlin.

One of the things this writer appreciates most about the ever-changing landscape of the San Diego Comic-Con over the last few years is the slow rise in numbers of foreign television programs attending.  From the increasing popularity of Doctor Who to the smaller shows trying to vie for attention (such as Bedlam), Comic-Con is truly living up to its “International” title, and we can only hope the trend continues.

Merlin Panel

Last year was the first year Merlin graced the stage at Comic-Con, and it was a joy to have the cast and crew return this year after the less than stellar turn out for the panel last year (an occupational hazard of going up against juggernauts Supernatural and Glee, and this year Doctor Who).  This year the panel was bigger, allowing not only for Colin Morgan (Merlin himself), Anthony Head (Uther Pendragon) and co-creators and executive producers Johnny Capps and Julian Murphy to attend again, but also Bradley James (Arthur Pendragon), Katie McGrath (Morgana le Fay), and surprise guest Santiago Cabrera (Lancelot du Lac).

The panel kicked off with a “Previously on Merlin…” clip that gave us a bit of a refresher course on what went on in Series 3, before ending with the big news: even though the show is still filming its 4th series (airing in the UK on BBC One in the Fall, and on Syfy here in the States in the Winter/Spring), it has already been commissioned for a full 5th series.  The real joy of news like this is of course that it allows the producers and writers to work out the path of the story more easily, given the knowledge that they have at least that one more year to work with (likely all they’ll want or get based upon past comments of a planned five series arc, though there was one interview that seemed to imply there could be more…).

Merlin PanelAside from some “sword” innuendos that had the crowd giggling like teenage school girls (James just kept digging the hole deeper), the panel itself was a fairly subdued affair for this group, who are known to get a little silly at times.  It’s easily explained when taken into consideration the fact that they arrived in San Diego the night before, at midnight, and had to be up and beautiful to do Press before the panel.  Honestly, it’s amazing they had as much energy as they did.

As is always the best part of panels like this where the show has actually filmed things we haven’t seen yet, we got an amazing trailer for the upcoming Series 4, and some juicy tidbits of what is in store for our favorite characters this year:

  • Capps & Murphy promised us more surprises than ever before, and that by this time next year, we won’t be asking the question of why Merlin hasn’t revealed his magic yet, as all will become clear in Series 4.  Colin Morgan’s answer to this question is quite interesting, considering when asked the same question in the press room last year, even he admitted it was high time Merlin reveal his magic.  So, either the explanation we’re going to be given in Series 4 is really that good, or he’s been schooled on giving a better answer.
  • Morgana will return with magic “equal” to Merlin’s.  I thought Merlin was supposed to be the most powerful wizard ever?  Maybe equal was the wrong word?
  • Morgan promised the story will take a more mature twist, as Merlin struggles to find his true place in Camelot.  That, coupled with what we’d already heard from the producers about less one-off silly episodes, has me much more interested in the series.
  • McGrath said Morgana is a “ticking time-bomb” that will explode in Series 4.  Considering she did a pretty good job of exploding in Series 3, I think we can safely assume things are about to get worse for Camelot.
  • The love triangle between Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot will play out this series, with a “very unexpected twist to the tale.”  My money is on it playing out now, before Arthur is king, so that they can address this important part of the story without having to deal with the sticky part of Gwen eventually running away with Lancelot and leaving Arthur heartbroken during the show’s run.
  • The show is being filmed more on location, and on 35mm now which McGrath maintains gives it a more “filmic” quality.
  • Anthony Head maintained that “Uther will never give up the throne.”  This makes a shot at the end of the trailer, with Arthur kneeling and a crown on a pillow just behind him (in shot) seem even more interesting — especially considering some things heard and seen on set when the production has filmed at Pierrefonds this year.
  • Lancelot will apparently be meeting the Dragon (as this is Cabrera’s favorite scene so far, exclaiming he got to play it with John Hurt hiding behind a tree).  It’s about time someone else noticed a great big winged creature flying around Camelot!
  • Morgan promises that we’ll get to see Merlin kick some butt this time around.

Along with the Series 4 footage and the Q&A we got a lovely message from Angel Coulby (Gwen) apologizing for her absence and introducing us to Nathaniel Parker (who will play Arthur’s Uncle Agravaine in the new series), as well as a blooper reel that taught us that James’ horse is very uncooperative, Nathaniel Parker is nearly as giggly as Anthony Head, and Colin Morgan likes to do cartwheels on set.

Merlin PanelAll in all, an excellent panel which was obviously cut short far too soon.  My only complaint, and this is the fault of programming, was that Press was done before the panel.  This meant that all the great questions that always arise from a panel like that will have to go unanswered until the next event (likely BFI in October) or the show itself addresses them when it returns to UK television screens in the Fall.

For more photos from the Press & Panel for Merlin, take a look at our Facebook Album for Comic Con.  If you’d like to watch our roundtable interviews with Katie McGrath, Anthony Head, Colin Morgan and Bradley James, they will be up soon over at our affiliate Whedonopolis.  We will update this with the links when they’re ready!