5 of the best one-off characters in ‘Merlin’

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Merlin’s ensemble cast was brilliant – each actor was nothing like any other adaption of their character.

As the writers say in the DVD extras, two strong actors were needed who had already got a big reputation as a foundation for the story, which ended up being Richard Wilson as Gaius and Anthony Head as Uther Pendragon.

This meant that they could have lesser known actors portraying the main four characters. Now all of their careers have taken off, with some of them even managing to crack America!

Buy the complete Season 1-5 box set on Amazon here.

However, even though the main cast was brilliant, one thing I would look forward to each week was finding out who was going to be guest starring in the forthcoming episode.

Famous actors like Charles Dance, Sarah Parish and Julian Glover all brought great entertainment, so here are my five favourite one off characters…


Grettir, portrayed by Warwick Davis

Merlin Grettir Warwick Davis

Never has the saying ‘Every question I answer will simply lead to another question’ been more prominent (unless you are talking about Lost). Grettir was a complete mystery, nothing was really known about him which made it such a shame that he never reappeared. He was clearly a powerful warlock as he made Gwaine’s sword turn into a flower when he was threatened.

The fans clearly enjoyed the character as each following season fans were asking if he was going to return. I feel that the mystery might have been ruined if he had returned and more was explained about him. However, this is Warwick Davis we are talking about, who is universally adored by everyone so it’s always a pleasure to see him.


The Fisher King, portrayed by Donald Sumpter

Merlin The Fisher King Donald Sumpter

Perhaps I like ‘The Eye of the Phoenix’ too much as Grettir was an ally of The Fisher King. Another great Sorcerer, who sadly we only saw at the end of his existence, he was a man full of wisdom who helped Merlin on his path to the destiny which had been foretold for many years.

An actor as great as Donald, who is probably most famous in recent years for his TV work on Game of Thrones, is not at all wasted on such a small character. Perhaps if the character was portrayed by another actor then he might have ended up being a lot less memorable. Let’s not forget that the gift he gave Merlin helped him out in his hour of need by bringing him his true love to speak to, which nicely brings me onto the next character.


Freya, portrayed by Laura Donnelly

Merlin Lady of the Lake Freya Laura Donnelly

I know she wasn’t exactly a one-off character, but there was really only one episode in which she appeared – plus no one’s going to complain anyway as it’s Freya!

Just seeing Colin Morgan’s face so happy made it all the more cruel when Freya ended up being killed. It was nice to see her crop up every so often helping Merlin when he needed most as I thought the romance between the two of them could have been extended to more than one episode. You don’t get much bigger than being ‘The Lady in the Lake’, one of the most well-known figures in Arthurian legend, so she has to be on the list.


The Goblin, portrayed by Mark Williams

Merlin Goblin's Gold

Is there a funnier episode of Merlin than ‘Goblins Gold’?

It was the last big hurrah of comedy before the series turned a lot darker and a lot of the comedy came from the Goblin doing mischievous acts. A bald Uther being slapped on the head by Gauis, Arthur becoming a donkey… so many great moments just from one episode. I think it was right that he never returned as it would not have suited the new tone of the show, but it would have been good to have similar episodes earlier on in the series.


Balinor, portrayed by John Lynch

Merlin Balinor John Lynch

Once again, I know he appeared in two episodes, but the appearance in ‘The Diamond of the Day’ was more of a cameo so I thought he had to be included.

The rapport between John and Colin was so real it was great to watch, it had been previously hinted who his father was and it was no disappointment once we found out. Obviously to move the plot forward Balinor had to die or else Merlin would not have been able to become a true Dragonlord and I knew that as soon as we saw him he was going to be killed, but this didn’t take any emotion away from the heart breaking moment when he gets stabbed.

His cameo in the last episode was wonderful – I’d been looking forward to ever since it had been announced and it certainly delivered in what I wanted.


Buy the complete Season 1-5 box set on Amazon here.

Who’s your favourite one-off character in Merlin? Let us know below…