Merlin: Enter the Knights of the Round Table

Thursday 25 November 2010, 11:38

Rachel Knight Rachel Knight

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The Arthurian legends are ripe with tales of magic and prophecy, love and hate, courage and adventure. They have a large cast of exciting characters and enduring narratives.

As such, using them as a basis for ideas is a storyteller's dream. For centuries, every generation has had their own version of the legends and I feel proud to be continuing that tradition with Merlin.

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Whilst we are constantly developing the series, we've always tried to stay true to the original ethos - to tell action adventure stories for all the family that are primarily about friendship.

That hasn't changed and hopefully never will as, underneath all the monsters and magic, it is the relationships between our core characters that give each episode its heart.

As co-producer, I have a hand in pretty much every stage of the production from story lining to post production.

Every day presents a new challenge, be it deciding what language a pixie should speak, to figuring out how we physically put a sword in a stone.

Sometimes the magic behind the scenes can be just as exciting as the magic on it - such as when the special effects boys mix up their various powders to create spectacular explosions.

Other times it is slightly more mundane - the perfect rat stew, for example, is made from microwaved burgers torn up and thrown into mushroom soup.

Merlin, played by Colin Morgan, with Gaius, played by Richard Wilson

Whatever the solution to the problem, I love being able to see something I've nursed from an idea at storyline stage come to life many months later on screen.

When we were first given the green light to make Merlin, one of the biggest tasks we faced was finding a suitable Camelot for the exterior shots. The search for the perfect location went on for some time and took us all over the UK, but nothing was quite right.

We had to set our net a bit wider and eventually ended up in France at the Chateau De Pierrefonds.

Viollet-le-Duc's showpiece of medieval architecture is as fantastical as it is magical and it was obvious from the off that this was the perfect place for us.

However, there was never any question that we could shoot the entire show in France as it would be far too expensive, so instead we visit three times a year to film all of our big exterior scenes and set pieces.

The castle is huge and we are exceptionally lucky to be able to use pretty much any part of it that we want to. Rooms such as the Salle des Preuses - which doubles as our Throne Room - are just stunning, but equally fascinating are all the underground tunnels and dusty towers - the bits the public never get to see.

It can become quite spooky though when we are shooting at night and I wouldn't recommend getting lost on your own after hours...

The most demanding parts of the year are definitely when we are filming at the Château.

We run two units (what we call cast and crew together) in a day, which can mean shooting scenes from a mixture of up to six episodes.

Morganna, played by Katie McGrath, sits on the throne

Looking after a crew of over 200 alongside a cast of up to 20 principle actors and 100 supporting artists isn't ever easy. We have tight schedules and work long hours in all weathers so anything can happen.

However, when we're there, our home is a pretty village in Picardy, our office the castle. There are prosthetics, stunts, explosions, tournaments, croissants... it'd be a lie to say it wasn't fun.

I'm primarily on hand for all the cast and crew should they have any questions or queries about the scripts so work with everyone from costume and make up to directors and actors.

But I'm also a spare body and need to be willing to turn my hand to whatever is necessary, be that running a second unit shoot when the director is waylaid, rewriting dialogue at the last minute on set, playing nurse when people are ill, or making tea when there's no-one else to do it.

When we're not in France, we spend our time in Wales, split between the studios just outside Cardiff and various locations dotted about the countryside.

The reality of location shooting is anything but glamorous - 4.30am starts, thermals, smelly portaloos in the corner of a field - but it's always interesting.

We're fortunate that there are so many fantastic locations on our doorstep. From the ruins of Neath Abbey, to the wilds of Trefil, Merlin just wouldn't be the same without them.

They need to be pretty spectacular to stand up to the Château, but I'd say they more than hold their own.

I have always believed in what we were making, but nothing could have prepared me for the success of Merlin. I still find it exciting to overhear people in the street or on the bus talking about that week's episode.

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Without a doubt the most exciting points of each series for me are when we take iconic moments from the legends and spin them in our own way, be that meeting Mordred for the first time or seeing Excalibur forged.

This series sees more of those moments than ever - Excalibur emerging from the lake, Guinevere being crowned Queen and, for those of you that haven't guessed, we are finally bringing together that infamous group of warriors, the Knights of the Round Table.

The formation of this special group marks a new era and I can't wait to start exploring where we can take them in the next series.

But first of all you need to see how this year plays out. The final two episodes are full of spine-tingling moments - I just hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

Rachel Knight is the co-producer of Merlin.

Merlin is on BBC One at 7.45pm on Saturdays and repeated on BBC Three at 7pm on Mondays. For further programme times, please visit the upcoming episodes page.

Series three of Merlin is available in full series catch-up in iPlayer until Saturday, 11 December.

Comments made by writers on the TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 1.

    Dear Ms Knight,

    I love Merlin and watch it religiously.
    Obviously you all work very hard on the show.
    It's so much better than some of the other "Saturday night entertainment".
    Can I ask why there have been no secrets and magic behind the scenes series on BBC3 as there has been in previous years?

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    Comment number 2.

    Also can I ask do any of the cast read the Merlin thread on the Points of View messageboard, which is one of the biggest threads on there which to me just shows how popular the programme is, and if so whom are they? I probably won't get an answer to that but I do wonder sometimes if they do read the Merlin thread messages.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 3.

    This series of Merlin has been sensational! My whole family watches it! Keep up the great work :)

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    Comment number 4.

    This should be in HD

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    Comment number 5.

    I love this series. I always waited for the new episode. I never posted a comment on such things but this series forced me to post a comment because i feel it would be very unfare if i dont pay tribute to the whole team who bring this wonderful series to all of its BBC viewer.
    Thanks to all of you

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    Comment number 6.

    I'm going crazy here! Not easy keeping track from the US.. please BBC let me access video on your site.. please.. please.. Absolutely adore Merlin and think Season 3 has been the best yet.. I can hardly wait to see the tale unfold over the years.. Great Job!

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    Comment number 7.

    Now tell us again who the goodies and baddies really are..? :D

    Druids: magic, save a dying knight with the Cup of Life (applause).

    Uther: the tyrant who murdered thousands of magic innocents in his "purge", sends Arthur to steal the Cup (boo hiss).

    Arthur: holds his sword to a child's throat for a Cup he has no right to (boo hiss).

    Morgause: kills a vile slaver and Camelot's thuggish enemy Cenred (hooray!)

    Morgana: protects and comforts Gwen (hooray!)

    Merlin: loses the precious cup the Druids begged him to guard (roll eyes)

    Morgause and Morgana: defeat Uther and take Camelot (hooray hooray!)

    Sadly, it can't last. But Morgause and Morgana sure do look pretty in charge :)

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    Comment number 8.

    Good full location list on this website http://merlinlocations.com/

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    Comment number 9.

    As someone who has great love for the ”original” Arthurian legends, I really didn’t expect much from this show. But you show such great respect for them. The craftsmanship in all parts of production is just so beautiful, and it has been a pleasure to see bigger budgets (I presume☺) put to good use! Particularly, great thanks to storywriters, director and actors for making main characters so believable, and for keeping focus on character development. Am looking forward to many more seasons!

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    Comment number 10.

    Realize that you have heard all this a thousand times, but seemed rude to enjoy something so much and not say thank you … and I guess there is no such thing as to much praise is there?
    Can’t wait for the last ep.

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    Comment number 11.

    All of my family think Merlin is FANTASTIC from retirement age to our grandaughter. Please please don' t let the series ever finish. Many thanks for a wonderful series. Valiantbudehaven.

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    Comment number 12.

    I always though the lady in the Lake was Vivian (?) Merlin's love interest. It will be interesting to see if they work that into the Storyline.

    Excellent series. I hope it doesn't end too soon like Robin Hood.

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    Comment number 13.

    when is the next series 4 be on love every minute of merlin, i also love the banter between Arthur and Merlin cant wait for part 2 hope there is more series to come

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    Comment number 14.

    We love Merlin and have been lucky enough to see filming in action at Pierrefonds as we have holidayed in the area for many years. I am assuming the 'lady-in-the-lake' will be Freya from previous episodes? And am hoping that Merlin gets to show his magical powers next week?! (fingers crossed). Hope the banter from the writing continues in the next series, we love it!

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    Comment number 15.

    I just wish to thank everyone involved in the "Merlin" series, it feels to me that it is the most delightful, intriguing and evocative drama I have ever seen on television. It feels more than television, possibly because of the deep antiquity of the stories, as over the course of one thousand five hundred years this truely is a history which became legend which became myth. Please never compromise the depth and scope of "Merlin" let it grow and develop and please tell a whole story, take time over the coming 4th and 5th series to give it completeness.

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    Comment number 16.

    Just love Merlin. Great story lines, acting, locations. Can't get enough! My only critism is that for a show which has been a great hit and money spinner for the BBC they don't appear to promote it enough. The publicity is very poor when compared with Dr Who. When series 3 started there was hardly any mention of it in the Radio Times whereas other tv magazines had pictures on the front covers of the main stars telling everyone it was back. Also the trailers for the programme are few and far between compared to other programmes which are sometimes over promoted. Please BBC give Merlin the treatment it truly deserves.

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    Comment number 17.

    I love Merlin. It's one fo the best family dramas I've seen on TV and deserves every piece of praise it recieves. I'm so so glad to hear there's a 4th series coming (although I'm not looking forward to the wait I'll have to endure after tonight's episode). Merlin and Arthur's friendship is so genuine, you can't help but find yourself drawn into it and Arthur and Gwen's love story is so perfectly formed that, even though we know she'll be queen, I find myself desperately rooting for them to get together!
    Thank you so much, everyone involved in making this! I live my weeks waiting for Saturday night! SO thank you for all the hard work and wonderful television you make for us!

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    Comment number 18.

    I love Merlin and I consider myself an Arthurian geek. I love the way you're retelling these myths and legends for a new generation.

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    Comment number 19.

    Fantastic finale, especially the round table scene, hair tingling all over my body!! :D Series 4 is shaping up to have some great storylines, can't wait for it!

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    Comment number 20.

    Terrific finale and the series is quite the archetype to set us toward a magnificent world! As another reviewer has asked, please please include us here in America from across the pond....we've really enjoyed and adored the series! The accents make it so very romantic and enriching...I really could just listen to the series without visuals and be completely in LOVE....with the actors, its been just mesmerizing...thank you for tellin and showing us such an elegant and epic story. After all in days gone by, storytelling was a true art- you've really taken it to the stars in so many ways. We hold our breath from week to week, anxiously waiting for the next installment. Many heartfelt thanks to you all.

 

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