Review by Craig Byrne The first season (or series) of Merlin aired here in the United States on NBC last Summer and recently re-aired...

Merlin Season 1 DVDReview by Craig Byrne

The first season (or series) of Merlin aired here in the United States on NBC last Summer and recently re-aired on the Syfy Channel in anticipation of tonight’s Syfy premiere of Series Two. While not setting the summer ratings race on fire, the show provided some good entertainment, and I can happily say that on DVD, it’s even better.

Merlin: The Complete First Season is released here in the States on April 20; and not only does it have a clearer picture than its NBC counterpart, it also avoids the pesky commercials and such. Merlin is a series that flows better without them, especially when it comes to the episode’s final moments leading into the opening credits. The music builds and builds at the end… into something good.

What is Merlin, you ask? Basically… and I mean this in the most respectful way… it’s a British Smallville. You have a young man discovering and mastering more powers than he knows what to do with. There’s a future king in the shadow of his domineering father. There’s a wise man hoping the young boy never gets caught, with fear of the consequences. The homoerotic flirting between the two male leads. (Don’t deny it; it’s there, even if it’s not meant to be.) There are so many parallels between the two series, but rather than seeming derivative, it is just FUN. (For example, the season finale? Totally Smallville Season 5).

Colin Morgan is the series’ title character, Merlin, and instead of being an old man, he’s reimagined as a young man charged with serving the prince. The prince in this story, Arthur (Bradley James), is not yet a king; the King of this land is his father, Uther Pendragon, played by Buffy‘s Anthony Head. Rounding out the cast of brilliant actors are Angel Coulby as Guinivere, Richard Wilson as Gaius, and Katie McGrath as Morgana. John Hurt is the voice of the Great Dragon. Guest stars in episodes include Heroes’ Santiago Cabrera, Torchwood‘s Eve Myles, and Bionic Woman‘s Michelle Ryan.

This is a show that’s perfect for marathon viewings; the episodes are so memorable that you’ll also want to revisit them. But if you’re thinking “oh, I can just watch those on Syfy”… think again. The bonus features on this disc make it well worth it.

The entire fifth disc of this set is packed with bonus features, the best of being video diaries of the cast. In my years of covering TV, I’ve been fortunate enough to interview several TV celebrities… and although many are fun, I don’t think any cast appears to get along as well as this one does on the DVD extras. I would pay to see a sitcom with Bradley James as goofball to Colin Morgan’s straight man. I still laugh at Bradley’s insistence that if people’s names matched their descriptions, he would be Angel and Angel Coulby would be… well, you watch it. Stars from other BBC programs randomly pop in to the DVD extras; I guess likeness-rights and DVD stuff isn’t the same overseas as it is here. I would love the opportunity to interview this cast someday… though I’d imagine I’d spend a good part of the time laughing.

There are also two “Behind the Magic” specials on these DVD’s. These, too, are interesting, although I feel the “video diaries” are better.

Unless for whatever reason you insist on only watching American television (and face it – shows like this and Doctor Who are loads better than most of what we have here), Merlin: The Complete First Season has my highest possible recommendation. I give it a 5 out of 5. You won’t be sorry!

Pre-order your copy of Merlin: The Complete First Season and support KSiteTV! For more on Merlin, including a recently-updated gallery full of images from both seasons, visit Merlinsite.com. Don’t miss the U.S. premiere of Merlin Series Two at 10PM (ET) Friday, April 2 on Syfy and be sure to talk about the show on our forums!

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Craig Byrne, Editor-In-Chief

KSiteTV Editor-In-Chief Craig Byrne has been writing about TV on the internet since 1995. He is also the author of several published books, including Smallville: The Visual Guide and the show's Official Companions for Seasons 4-7.