Digital Spy

Search Digital Spy
42

Cult Blog

'Merlin': Is it the right time for the BBC fantasy drama to end?

By
Merlin S04E04

© BBC / Shine/Nick Briggs

This morning at 00.01am, the BBC made the not-altogether-surprising announcement that the current fifth series of Merlin would be the show's last. Fans had suspected this was coming for quite some time, with stars Eoin Macken (Gwaine) and Tom Hopper (Percival) both signing up for roles in new US TV pilots.

But is this the right time for Merlin to end? Digital Spy currently has a poll running on that very topic and at the time of writing this blog - 2pm on November 26 - almost 62% of users have made it clear that they're not tired of Colin Morgan's young wizard just yet...

There's certainly a strong argument to be made if you're of the position that the axe has fallen prematurely on Merlin - the show may have been on our screens for four years and five series, but its relatively fixed format has meant that certain story developments that fans have been yearning for still haven't come to pass, with just a few episodes left to air...

Watch Katie McGrath (Morgana) take Digital Spy on a 'Merlin' set tour in 2010:


Sure, Arthur (Bradley James) will probably finally learn the truth about Merlin and his magic in the two-part series finale, but it might've been interesting to examine the long-term consequences of this revelation.

The impact that this twist will have on Arthur and Merlin's relationship surely deserves more than 42 minutes worth of exploration? Imagine an entire 13-part run that delved into the aftermath. Could the King ever trust his manservant again? Would he willingly conceal his secret? And how would it affect his feelings about magic in a broader sense?

Even putting plotting issues aside, the decision to wrap up Merlin at the end of this year would seem odd when the show's still-formidable ratings are taken into consideration. Since it launched in 2008, the show has consistently pulled in 6-7m every single week - that's a phenomenal achievement, particularly when one takes into account how audience figures in general are on the decline thanks to online viewings, personal video recorders and the like.

Watch Bradley James (Arthur) discuss the third series of 'Merlin' with DS in 2010:


What's more, Merlin is one of the few weapons that the BBC has in its arsenal capable of fending off the Saturday night assault of The X Factor - those 6-7m numbers seem yet more spectacular when you consider that the show's scheduled opposite ITV's reality TV singing contest behemoth.

"The reason it works is because Merlin has a very broad, very wide audience - it's a very unusual show in that sense," series co-creator Julian Murphy recently told Digital Spy - could any replacement show hope to replicate that success?

But, for the sake of argument, let's take a look at the flip side of the coin. Merlin was always intended to run for five years and it takes guts for the show's producers and the BBC to wrap it up when it's still creatively strong rather than let creative decisions be dictated by their wallets.

Watch Colin Morgan talk about 'Merlin' series four in 2011:


One only has to look at US drama Supernatural to see how quickly and drastically a show's quality can dip when its kept alive past its natural life-span.

Merlin's format, successful as it's been, doesn't necessarily lend itself to a more lengthy run - how many more times can a traitor inveigle themselves amongst the halls of Camelot while Arthur remains unaware and Merlin stands by powerless? Yes, it's possible that the abruptness of the show's axe could result in a painfully rushed conclusion, but broadly speaking it's always best to prioritise quality over quantity.

And for those of you for whom a life without Merlin is simply inconceivable, it's possible that the show could still go on in some form. Deadline has word that Shine and FremantleMedia Enterprises are in the early stages of developing potential Merlin spinoffs...

Watch the stars of 'Merlin' discuss the fifth and final series earlier this year:

Could we be looking at a film trilogy that reboots the Merlin franchise - a project that Julian Murphy has assured DS is still "ongoing"? Or is the long-mooted animated spinoff finally about to materialise?

Perhaps a US version of Merlin could even be in the works - either a remake or a side-project similar to new Primeval sister series New World?

Whatever ends up happening with Merlin in the future, come 2013 we'll have seen the last of the series in its current form. Is ending the show at this juncture a surprising decision? Certainly. But is it the wrong one? Quite probably not. As long as the two-part finale lives up to our expectations, we'll be more than happy with the five years we got.

Do you think the time is right for Merlin to end? Or is there still life left in the fantasy drama? Let us know your thoughts below!

You May Like

Comments

Loading...