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'Merlin' Julian Murphy Q&A: 'Any movie would be a reboot'

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Merlin Season 5 Volume 1 DVD pack shot
If you've been enjoying the fifth series of Merlin so far, you'll be happy to hear that the first six episodes are now available to buy on DVD! The Merlin: Series 5, Part 1 box set also includes plenty of exclusive bonus content, with Part 2 and the Complete Series 5 DVD / Blu-Ray scheduled to follow on January 21, 2013.

Digital Spy caught up with Merlin co-creator Julian Murphy - prior to the announcement that the show is to conclude this year - and grilled him on the first half of series five. Plus, with the show nearing its end, we quizzed him on what form the proposed Merlin spinoff movies might take...

One of the biggest developments in these first six episodes has been Gwen (Angel Coulby) going over to the dark side. What inspired that storyline?
"There are legends of this - I can't actually remember where they're from, but there are various medieval stories about Gwen going to the dark side. Well, not quite going to the dark side, but being on the opposite side to Arthur - that would be more accurate - and those are the stories that inspired it.

"It's been great with Gwen this series because she's so much more an active character - we knew that was going to work well and I guess this was just a development of that. But yeah, there are legends of Guinevere and Lancelot being at odds with Arthur, so we just tapped into that and then did it our own way."

Was it also an opportunity to give Angel something different to do?
"Yeah. You know, Angel's a fantastic actress, but it does give her more to do and it does allow us to explore different sides of her character. It also allows us to explore her relationship with Arthur in a very interesting way, I think, and throw a whole relief on that which we've never seen before.

"But I think even in episodes one and two - where Gwen was very much the established Queen - we'd already seen a very different side of her and how much she'd changed."

Merlin S05E08 - 'The Hollow Queen': Gwen (ANGEL COULBY), King Arthur Pendragon (Bradley James)

© BBC / Shine



Elyan's death was another big shock - why did you decide to kill him off?
"We'd had this band of knights together now for two series, or the best part of that, and we felt that to go through another series with nobody actually dying was not really right, and not a true reflection of reality, I suppose.

"It sort of felt right, when we took Gwen to that place, to do it immediately at that point - to turn and twist her grief. It made for more interesting drama, so that's what lay behind the decision."

Fans are debating whether Gwen's genuinely turned or is under the influence of dark magic. Will we learn the truth?
"Yes, you will. But I'm not going to tell you which it is!"

'The Dark Tower' is probably the darkest the show's ever been. Were you ever concerned about going too far?
"We're constantly aware of that, obviously - we're still a Saturday evening show, albeit one that transmits at... 8.20pm or something. We go out pretty late, and we're aware that our audience has got older and grown up with the show, as often happens in these [series].

"I think that episode was probably as close to the line as we've gone and will go, but to me, it doesn't contain things that you wouldn't see in a PG Hollywood film, and that's our deep-down guideline, really."

Merlin S05E07 - 'A Lesson In Vengeance': Merlin (COLIN MORGAN), Gaius (RICHARD WILSON )

© BBC / Shine



With Merlin (Colin Morgan) becoming a more adult character, how is that changing his relationship with Gaius (Richard Wilson)?
"It's changed it, undoubtedly. I think you'll find in the second half of this series that they do an awful lot together, but it is subtly different [to how it was before]. They're more equals and there are moments where you see Merlin's strength in relation to Gaius's vulnerability - which is very interesting and something that we've never seen before. That makes for some very nice drama in the second half of the series."

Uther also returned in series five's third episode - was it satisfying giving that character a final send-off?
"Yeah. We always intended to do that, and it was just a question of finding the moment to do it. But yes, that's been an idea for a storyline since we talked about his death, so it's always been part of the plan.

"It was a lot of fun to do. For us, it was fun to do a poltergeist episode - we've never done one of those before and it was fun and interesting to do. And actually quite scary at moments."

Merlin S05E03 - 'The Death Song of Uther Pendragon': King Uther

© BBC / Shine



Arthur and Uther's relationship ended on quite a sour note. Was there ever talk of giving them a happier ending?
"No... y'know, it's interesting - in people's minds, since he died, Uther's become this figure of affection, but actually Uther was a selfish, tyrannical, dictatorial king! And he behaved that way for his entire time on Earth!

"We didn't want to sentimentalise what was the truth of Uther's character, just because his death makes people view him more fondly. It was nice to twist it back, actually."

What hints can you give about where the Mordred (Alexander Vlahos) plot is going in future episodes?
"Well, I hope everyone's very intrigued! I don't want to give hints! We've set out to portray Mordred in a genuine way, and in quite a complicated way - I hope that is starting to come across and will grow.

"We didn't want to pre-judge the character, and hopefully the audience won't either. I think Mordred is a very interesting and quite complicated figure, and hopefully the drama will bring that out."

Merlin S05E08 - 'The Hollow Queen': Mordred (ALEX VLAHOS), King Arthur Pendragon (Bradley James)

© BBC / Shine



Alexander's performance seems to have gone down well with Merlin fans, but was there any trepidation about bringing in a new actor?
"Yeah there was, but y'know what... we didn't have any choice! We couldn't tell the story with a 12 or 13-year-old - there's no story to tell. We can't tell the story of Mordred as a Knight of the Round Table - which is a very interesting part of the legend - with a 12-year-old. So we had to recast.

"I think we were lucky with Alex - we found somebody who had a little bit of [his predecessor] Asa Butterfield's quality and look, and who's also a superb actor. That was lucky and perhaps it might not have turned out so well, but I think he has given a fantastic performance and I don't think you worry about where he came from at all."

There's talk of Merlin movies and rumours that the film trilogy could be a reboot. Would you ever make films with different actors as Merlin, Arthur et al?
"There is definitely ongoing talk and work on a movie, that's true. Will it to some extent be a reboot? Yes, inevitably - any movie would be. Will it be with the same or different actors? It's miles too early to tell."

Merlin Season 5, Episode 1 - 'Merlin's Bane - Part 1'. Colin Morgan

© BBC / Shine



Merlin is one of the few shows that has stood up to The X Factor, with audiences of 6 to 7 million every week. Why do you think it's such a strong opponent?
"It's very interesting and it's a real credit to Merlin that it does that. I think it's because it's very, very different. The reason it works is because Merlin has a very broad, very wide audience - it's a very unusual show in that sense.

"It has a substantial audience of men over 40 and a substantial audience of teenage girls - they both watch it! That's unusual - I'm using those two groups as an example of the range of it.

"I think to take on The X Factor you need a very broad audience base, because there's obviously a large proportion of the audience who don't particularly want to watch The X Factor - there's also a large proportion that do and don't get me wrong, it's a great show.

"But to get a substantial number against it, I think it's the breadth of your audience base that will make that happen. I suppose that would be my hunch as to why it works."

Merlin Series 5, Part 1 (episodes 1-6) is released on DVD on November 26, 2012. Series 5, Part 2 and the Complete Series 5 DVD / Blu-Ray are released on January, 21 2013 on Fremantle Media Enterprises. Order on www.amazon.co.uk.

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