Merlin grows up for later slot

Colin Morgan as Merlin Colin Morgan's Merlin has 'experience'

Merlin, the Saturday night fantasy drama, will go out in a later slot when it returns to BBC One this autumn.

Scheduled to start at 8.15pm - two hours later than the first series was broadcast - series five will have to compete for viewers with ITV1's X Factor.

'In a way it's not the best slot,' admits Julian Murphy, exec producer for Shine TV, the independent production company that makes the series for BBC Wales. 'But something about Merlin seems to suit the audience who don't watch X Factor.'

The show, which is popular with children, has evolved since its 2008 debut, with series four taking a significant leap into darker storylines, greater characterisation and a more sophisticated tone.

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Something about Merlin seems to suit the audience who don't watch X Factor”

End Quote Julian Murphy Executive Producer, Merlin

'It was conscious - the show gradually got older,' confirms Murphy, speaking after a press screening of the series opener. But this doesn't have to be at the expense of a family audience, he insists.

'It's a little bit richer, [with] a little bit more psychology, a little bit more depth. If you look at a good Hollywood PG family film you get all of that.'

Little blood

The producers are mindful of young fans when it comes to violence - which is not explicit and features little blood - and subject matter.

'Gawain and the Green Knight is something we've talked about, but never done. Because deep, deep down it's about sexuality,' Murphy explains.

Johnny Capps, also an exec producer for Shine TV, adds: 'There's a certain amount of innocence at the heart of the show. If you get too dark, too violent, too sexual, you'll lose that innocence.'

The new series, which introduces multi-stranded stories for the first time, focuses on the four key characters, taking each on a journey.

Gwen (Angel Coulby) gets to prove herself as a worthy Queen, while Arthur (Bradley James) matures as King.

'Morgana [Katie McGrath] is a much more damaged character,' says Murphy. 'We've taken her to a more extreme place.'

'And Merlin [Colin Morgan] is not as innocent or naïve as he once was,' considers Capps. 'There's experience now.'

The end

Neither exec is considering a sixth series just yet, and they don't know when they'll have to draw the legend to a close.

'We've known the end since the beginning,' says Capps. 'It's always been about the end.'

Murphy adds: 'There's something about this legend that works because it fails. How we get there and how long it takes is an open question.'

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