Friday, October 03, 2008

BBC's Merlin #2

Due to work I couldn't watch the second episode last week but did a big catch up yesterday on iPlayer - Heroes, Sarah Jane adventures, and Merlin.


Let's talk historical and fantastical contexts. It was pointed out to me, quite rightly, that although if Arthur had ever existed he would have been post-Roman pre-1066 (as I mentioned in my previous blog on the subject), the mythology was written down in the Medieval knights-in-shining-armour chivalric time. And all the stories had this chivalrous knight element built in, which just doesn't fit with the "real" period.

Which means you either do a "real" Arthur and lose the chivalry and armour, or you do a medieval version which can't fit the historical timeline.

Personally I'm in favour of the former, however if you're going to do the latter it would be as well to actually research your subject which, I feel, the creators of Merlin have not. Did they read their Malory?

What they have actually done is invented a whole new, in places ludicrous and inconsistent, society and mythology and given some of the characters the same name as the Arthur mythology in an effort to draw people in.

If they had done their research they would know that there is a huge source of material on Merlin's young life. Real research yields real stories.

So what about this episode? It had its moments. I thought the overall plot was reasonably sound you can see they are playing for some series arc though it's a bit thin on the ground. The character of Merlin is still far too 21st century, and much more dramatic tension could be generated by actually trying to adhere to the social structures (servants do not talk back to their masters on pain of, at best, pain).

It's possible they think they're doing "Knight's Tale" but if so they missed the basic fact that Brian Helgeland (writer, director, producer) researched it thoroughly which is why the 21st century elements blend perfectly. He spent a very long time working on the story and it wasn't until he discovered that there was a missing year in Chaucer's life that the story finally came together. His modern elements complemented and enhanced the historical elements.

But this TV show, Merlin, is a camel - designed by committee to be "appealing".

And that's never a good thing.

What's on the turntable? Still nowt

1 comment:

script doc said...

'King' Arthur was born in 559 in Fife. His friend Menwaedd ('Little Shout') of Arllechwedd went mad after the Battle of Arderydd (573) and was thereafter known as the 'Crazy Mad' or Myrddin. In 1138 Geoffrey of Monmouth changed the name to 'Merlin'.

You're right: the only intelligent version of the Merlin story would be set in the Dark Ages, and in northern Britain.

Good luck with the writing. I'm at