Uneasy lies the Head that wears a crown in ‘Merlin’

Kate O'Hare Published: June 21, 2009
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In most Arthurian legends, Uther Pendragon is a king who conspires with the wizened wizard Merlin to trick his enemy’s wife into a night of passion. From this results Arthur, who is spirited away to live in secrecy until he pulls a sword out of a stone, becomes king, builds Camelot, founds the Knights of the Round Table, who go on a quest for the Holy Grail, etc., etc.

As for Uther’s fate, well, that depends on the version.

At 7 p.m. Sunday, NBC premieres "Merlin,” a British-produced series that keeps character names and a few odd bits from earlier legends, then proceeds to do something completely different.

For one, Uther (Anthony Head, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) is now raising his teen son Arthur (Bradley James), who’s a bit of an arrogant brat. Also, he’s the ruler of Camelot, played in large part by a fanciful late 19th-century castle called the Chateau de Pierrefonds near Paris.

(By the way, Head is Anthony Stewart Head in the States, for union reasons, but drops the middle name for British productions.)

Oh, and Merlin (Colin Morgan) is a teenager who can do magic, which, in Uther’s kingdom, is a forbidden thing, so he tries to keep it under his hat, metaphorically speaking (as he doesn’t have a hat, being dressed in a drab tunic and baggy tights, with an occasional change of neckerchief).

The multicultural cast features Angel Coulby as Gwen, Katie McGrath as Morgana and Richard Wilson as court physician Gaius, who becomes young Merlin’s mentor.

Oh, and a knight named Valiant shows up in episode two, but he doesn’t have the bowl haircut.

Head, though, does wear a crown — a lot.

"I must admit, the crown has been an ongoing thing,” he says.


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