The Boy Merlin - The Complete Series [DVD] 
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This enchanting children s drama series, devised by Anne Carlton and written by Stewart Farrar, develops the theme of the single play first shown in 1978 as part of Thames acclaimed supernatural anthology series, Shadows. The play and all six episodes are included in this set, complete and uncut. Set in Wales during the Dark Ages, the series tells the story of the young apprentice magician Merlin the grandson of King Conaan, fostered by the family of Dafydd Ismena. Merlin s father is unknown; some say he was a demon of the night. His foster-grandmother, Myfanwy, who also possesses magical powers, is the only one to realise that Merlin s destiny lies at the court of King Arthur, and it is she who schools him in magic and witchcraft. However, because of the circumstances surrounding his birth, Merlin is in constant danger from Vortigern, the Saxon High King, and his beautiful queen Rowena...
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Stewart Farrar, the writer, was a noted white witch, and really knew his Matter of Britain. The script is entirely compatible with Geoffrey of Monmouth, with a little Mallory thrown in for the Excaliber references. The magical material is also authentic; witness Merlin's analysis of the uses of Vortigern's tower, or the Ogham writing on the stone hob.
The cast is never more than ten in a show; there are perhaps three sets and a single outdoor location; the special effects, good for the time, are hardly Industrial Light and Magic. And yet this modest little production blows the modern MTV-Merlin-for-perfect-complexioned-teenagers OUT OF THE WATER.
Why was there no second series? One can only speculate, since the show was clearly succesful. Perhaps ITV balked at allowing a Wiccan (Farrar) more exposure on children's TV. I suppose a modern kid wouldn't know what the fuss is about. Well, nuts to modern kids, who are every one of them violence-desensitised Britpop-loving homunculi! Acquire this, my hoary-bearded contemporaries, and enjoy!
In this version Merlin (Ian Rowlands) is fostered by a blacksmith and his wife, formidable gran Myfanwy (Rachel Thomas good) the one teaching him much about magic. Gradually introduced are the ingredients of future legends: Excalibur, the stone from which it will be drawn, the Round Table, the Lady of the Lake. Uther has yet to be king, his son Arthur yet to be born.
Release of the DVD (picture quality excellent) was no doubt prompted by the current success of BBC1's "Merlin". Those hoping for similar spectacle, special effects and excitements will be disappointed. Here the budget is small and so is the cast. There is nothing to dislike. Staid by modern standards, the series does capably what it set out to do.
I highly recommend this to anyone who likes historical tales and fantasy, or just a good story.