‘Merlin’: Series 1 episode guide

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Coming this autumn, BBC One’s new 13-part series Merlin updates the story of the infamous sorceror of Arthurian legend for a new audience.

> Buy the Series 1 boxset on Amazon.


Episode 1
Saturday 20th September 2008

Merlin arrives at the gates of Camelot as a young man, sent by his mother to start a new life. Bright-eyed with wonder, Merlin steps into the square where a crowd has gathered. A man, accused by the tyrannical King Uther of using magic, is executed right before a horrified Merlin’s eyes. In Camelot, the price for using magic is death. As the axe falls, an old woman, Mary Collins, swears that one day she will avenge King Uther for the death of her son, before disappearing into thin air.

A shocked Merlin makes his way across Camelot to find Gaius, the Court Physician. Taken by surprise, Gaius falls from the top of a ladder: instinctively Merlin reacts and uses his magic powers to break Gaius’s fall. Instead of thanking him, Gaius turns on Merlin and warns him how important it is to keep his magic a secret or else he will face certain death.

As Merlin explores his new surroundings he sees a young man humiliating his manservant and decides to step in and stand up for the poor, ridiculed boy. This turns out to be a mistake on Merlin’s part as he soon discovers the young man is the King’s son, Prince Arthur. Merlin seems unable to heed Gaius’s advice to stay out of trouble!

Merlin is thrown into the stocks as punishment for fighting Arthur and he meets a young maid named Gwen, who is clearly impressed by his heroic actions. Merlin, however, doesn’t seem to notice her advances… When Merlin discovers the Great Dragon he begins to understand his true destiny – he must use his abilities to protect Arthur, the future King of Albion. Merlin refuses to believe this. Mary Collins returns to take revenge on Uther’s son, Arthur, and Merlin must now take control of his destiny. Will he be able to save the young Arthur in time?


Episode 2
Saturday 27th September 2008

With a shield bearing enchanted but hidden snakes who await only his command to strike, the Knight Valiant rides into Camelot to compete in the annual sword-fighting tournament. As Arthur prepares to fight Valiant in the final, a disgruntled Merlin, still getting to grips with his many arduous duties as Arthur’s new servant, discovers that Valiant is cheating. If Valiant unleashes the magical snakes upon him, Arthur will surely die. Merlin presents his evidence to Arthur, who has not exactly been impressed with Merlin’s lack of talent for his new job. Arthur is initially dubious, but takes a leap of faith and decides to trust the youthful Merlin.

Arthur makes his case to his father King Uther before the entire royal court, but is forced to withdraw the allegations. With his father disappointed in him, Arthur blames Merlin for his humiliation and dismisses him. Realising that he must master the magic that brings the snakes to life so he can expose Valiant and save Arthur, Merlin struggles through the night trying to learn the incantation. On the day of the tournament final, Merlin is running out of time…

As Arthur fights Valiant, dodging snake bites from the magic shield, Merlin finally masters the magic. He races to the amphitheatre and uses his own powers to expose Valiant by revealing the snakes to the world. But is Merlin too late to save Arthur, and will his own magic abilities be revealed?


Episode 3
Saturday 4th October 2008

Deep in a subterranean cave, a beautiful witch, Nimueh (played by Michelle Ryan), moulds a clay model of a tiny creature that she brings to life with a drop of water. She places the strange being into an egg and sends it hurtling down the river that flows towards Camelot. The egg surfaces in the water of a darkened vault, which supplies all of Camelot’s drinking water. As a terrible sickness spreads through Camelot, Uther demands to know the cause. Gauis is forced to admit that it is a magical plague and Uther orders Arthur to find the culprit.

Merlin tells Gaius that if the plague is a magical illness he wants to try to cure it with magic. But Gaius turns on him – if he’s caught practicing magic, he will be killed.

Gwen, meanwhile, discovers that her father has fallen ill with the disease. She goes to Gaius for help, but he can offer no hope of saving him. Gwen breaks down – if she can’t find a cure he won’t live through the night. Merlin overhears and can’t help but be moved by Gwen’s despair. Merlin sets off into the street, evades a curfew and risks his life to go to Gwen’s father. He disobeys Gaius’s advice and secretly cures him with his magical power.

The following morning, Merlin’s pleasure turns to shock as soldiers arrive and arrest Gwen for using magic. A guilt-ridden Merlin listens to her screams for help but doesn’t know what to do. Uther, however, quickly deems that she must be the sorceress who caused the sickness, then used magic to cure her own father of it. He sentences her to death. Can Merlin help to save Gwen without exposing his own abilities?


Episode 4
Saturday 11th October 2008

Bayard and the knights of the Western Isles are welcomed to Camelot for a feast celebrating a union between the two kingdoms. Nimueh, however, has other plans. Posing as a serving girl, she infiltrates Bayard’s party and enters Camelot with a view to seeking revenge on Merlin. Unaware of her true identity, Merlin befriends the young serving girl. Once she has gained his trust, Nimueh warns him that Bayard isn’t the friend he seems as he plans to poison Arthur.

Merlin bursts into the banquet and stops Arthur drinking from a poisonous goblet in the nick of time. Bayard denies trying to poison Arthur and Uther decides that the only way to determine the truth is for Merlin to drink from the cup himself. Merlin falls to the ground, poisoned. The guards arrest Bayard and his knights. Merlin falls into a deep coma.

Gaius discovers that Merlin has been poisoned by the Morteaus Flower and can only be saved from certain death by an antidote made from the leaf of the same plant. However, the flower is rare and only grows in the caves of Mount Argeaus, which are found deep within the forest of Balor. As Merlin’s health deteriorates fast, Arthur, humbled by his servant’s bravery, believes he must set off on a quest to retrieve the flower himself. But Uther forbids him to go because the danger is too great. Morgana counsels Arthur and helps him realise that he is his own man and should do what he thinks is right, even if it means disobeying Uther. Will Arthur find the flower in time to save his friend or will Nimueh place more danger in his path?


Episode 5
Saturday 18th October 2008

Merlin narrowly escapes with his life when he is attacked by a mysterious and terrifying creature with the body of an eagle and the head of a lion. At the last moment a young stranger appears and manages to fight the monster away. He tells a grateful Merlin that his name is Lancelot before promptly passing out.

Merlin rushes Lancelot to Gaius to treat his wounds. Meanwhile, a distraught Uther and Arthur visit a village which has been torn apart by the strange winged beast. It has left all livestock intact, preying only on humans – whatever this thing is, it has a taste for human flesh. When Lancelot comes round he tells Merlin of his dream to protect the kingdom by becoming a Knight of Camelot. On hearing that only those of noble birth may serve, Lancelot is so devastated that Merlin fakes some credentials for him. Though Lancelot is reluctant, Merlin persuades him use them to convince Arthur of his nobility. Lancelot impresses Arthur with his fighting ability and quickly progresses through basic training before receiving a knighthood from the King.

However, Lancelot and Merlin’s merriment is short-lived. The following morning, guards storm Gaius’s chambers and arrest Lancelot. Uther has found out about Lancelot’s lies and, stripping him of his knighthood, he throws him in jail. Gaius discovers the identity of the winged beast – it is a Griffin, a creature that can only be defeated with magic. Gaius tells Uther of his findings, but his advice falls on deaf ears; the King tells Arthur that his Knights will do battle that evening. Deeply concerned for Arthur’s safety, Gaius knows that this creature will not be killed with spears and swords alone. He tells Merlin that he must harness the powerful magic needed to defeat such a beast. Otherwise Arthur will surely die…


Episode 6
Saturday 25th October 2008

A mysterious and scarred man enchants a bunch of flowers which are then delivered anonymously to Morgana. As she sleeps, an enchanted beetle creeps from the bouquet and enters her ear, making Morgana seriously ill. Gaius is summoned to help but, unaware that it is magical, cannot find the cause of the disease. Edwin, the scarred man, arrives at the palace – he is a physician and claims to have a cure for all ills. Desperate for answers, Uther urges him to start examining Morgana right away.

Edwin secretly uses magic to remove the beetle from Morgana’s head, thus curing her of the illness. Though grateful for his help, Gaius is suspicious of the mysterious stranger and his methods. Uther, meanwhile, is impressed and encourages Edwin to stay on in Camelot. Merlin is curious about Edwin and takes it upon himself to see what he can find out about this mysterious stranger. Snooping around the physician’s chambers he finds a wooden box of “dead” beetles. Reading the spell on the lid, Merlin accidently conjures the beetles to life. Edwin catches Merlin and realises he must have magical powers to be able to perform such a feat.

Meanwhile, Gaius starts his own investigation, and enlists the help of his old friend, Geoffrey of Monmouth. Gaius manages to get his hands on a copy of an old records book from the time of the Great Purge. Studying the book from dusk till dawn, Gaius finds what he was looking for – evidence of Edwin’s true identity. Deeply concerned for the King’s safety, Gaius visits the Great Dragon looking for advice, but doesn’t like what he hears and leaves Camelot. Merlin is devastated.


Episode 7
Saturday 1st November 2008

When Arthur becomes besotted with a mysterious girl, he stands to lose more than just his heart. Morgana has a terrible nightmare showing Arthur’s death at the hands of a strange but beautiful girl. She does not fully understand what it is about, but the intensity of the dream scares her.

While hunting in the forest, Merlin and Arthur come across a girl, Sophia, and her father, Aulfric, under attack from bandits. The prince wades in and, with a little covert magical help from Merlin, successfully sees off the vagabonds. Seeing the rescued couple are shaken, Arthur offers them refuge in Camelot.

It becomes apparent that Arthur is quite taken with the beautiful Sophia, but when Morgana sees her she is far from happy – this is the girl from her nightmare; Arthur must not trust her. Morgana tells Gaius of her dream and, wary, he sneaks into the guest chambers where he finds Aulfric’s staff, which has ancient scripture carved into it. Before he can investigate further, Aulfric returns. Gaius makes his excuses to an angry Aulfric and leaves, but not before he notices a red flicker in the stranger’s eyes…

Convinced that the guests are up to no good, Gaius confides his suspicions in Merlin. The young warlock follows Aulfric to a lake where their concerns are verified: Merlin’s powers allow him to see a gathering of magical people hovering over the water. Aulfric converses with them, begging passage back to Avalon, the land of eternal life, from which he and his daughter have been banished. The elders refuse – Aulfric can never return. His daughter’s passage may only be bought with the life of a mortal prince – so Aulfric promises to bring Arthur as payment. A stunned Merlin rushes back to Camelot to tell Gaius what he saw. The pair work out that Sophia and Aulfric must be Sidhe, a magical people with the gift of enchantment. Merlin knows he must warn Arthur. But it might be too late…


Episode 8
Saturday 8th November 2008

When a druid and his young boy apprentice are caught in Camelot, the terrified pair make a desperate bid for freedom, with guards in hot pursuit. Throughout the chase, Merlin hears the boy’s telepathic cries for help. Unsure what is happening, he is increasingly concerned and feels compelled to help the terrified child. Merlin ushers the child inside the nearest door, only to find Morgana and Gwen hiding there. To his surprise, when the guards knock on the door, Morgana covers for the boy and the guards pass.

Though the boy is saved, his druid master is caught and executed in the main square. Before the axe falls, Uther makes a strong speech, declaring that whoever is hiding the boy will be severely punished. The distraught boy refuses to speak, but continues to communicate telepathically with Merlin.

Merlin goes to the Great Dragon to ask him about the boy. The Dragon tells Merlin that the druids predicted the boy’s arrival and that the boy is dangerous.

The next morning, the boy is unwell. Morgana begs Merlin to ask Gaius for help. Merlin is torn but, seeing how ill the child is, makes the decision to do as Morgana bids. Gaius reluctantly treats the boy.

Later that night, Morgana attempts to free the boy but they are both caught and the boy is sentenced to death. Merlin returns to the Dragon. He wants to know why the Dragon warned him against the young boy. The Dragon is angry that Merlin defied his earlier advice and tells him that this boy is Arthur’s nemesis, Mordred.


Episode 9
Saturday 15th November 2008

At Arthur’s coming-of-age ceremony, the celebrations are interrupted when a mysterious Black Knight crashes his horse through the window. He throws down his gauntlet and challenges the knights of Camelot to single combat. Sir Owain, a young, eager knight, picks it up and accepts the challenge – they will fight the next day. Uther is as white as a sheet as he watches the knight go, staring intently at the distinctive crest which marks his helmet.

The following day, a large and nervous crowd gathers to watch the fight. Sir Owain strides out to the waiting Black Knight and the pair do battle. The Black Knight is an awesome warrior, and it looks like Sir Owain doesn’t stand a chance. However, Merlin is delighted when the young knight successfully strikes his opponent. He sees the blade go in but the Black Knight doesn’t even flinch and, seemingly unaffected by the blow, he goes on to slay Sir Owain.

Later, Gaius takes Merlin down into the crypt below Camelot and to the tomb of Tristan De Bois. Gaius is horrified to see that it is empty – his body has gone. Merlin listens as Gaius explains that the mysterious knight bears the crest of Tristan De Bois, who was the brother of Uther’s wife. Driven mad with grief, he blamed Uther for his sister’s death in childbirth. Gaius tells Merlin that he thinks the Black Knight is Tristan De Bois, brought back from the dead to exact his revenge.

Merlin discovers that there is only one way to kill a vengeance wraith – with a sword forged in a dragon’s breath. But is it too late for Arthur who, determined not to lose any more of his knights, is due to fight the Black Knight the following day?


Episode 10
Saturday 22nd November 2008

Merlin is stunned when his mother, Hunith, turns up in Camelot, bruised, battered and desperate for help. Their village, Ealdor, has been attacked by a bandit, Kanan, and his men. Kanan is demanding all of the harvest and will be back in a week to collect everything – or the villagers will pay with their lives. If they give their food to Kanan, however, they will starve to death.

Merlin gets Hunith an audience with King Uther, who listens to her story but refuses to do anything. Ealdor is beyond the boundary of Camelot’s realm and none of Uther’s soldiers can cross the border – to do so would be an act of war.

Merlin, meanwhile, tells Arthur that he can no longer be his servant. He has to protect his mother and friends and will leave in the morning. Merlin goes to Gwen to pick up some weapons and armour but, when he gets there, he finds Morgana with Gwen. After hearing Hunith’s appeal, they couldn’t let Merlin go alone. He tries to argue with them but they’re both determined to help the villagers.

The gang sets up camp for the night in the woods and, as Merlin lies awake, unable to sleep, he hears the sound of a horse approaching through the darkness. It’s Arthur, who tells him that he has come to help fight, too. When they arrive, they find Kanan and some of his men ransacking the place. There’s a stand-off and Kanan is forced to back down as Arthur demonstrates his prowess with the sword.

Arthur convinces the villagers that they have to fight, but an old friend of Merlin’s, William, refuses – he blames Arthur for riling Kanan. Merlin realises that, unless he uses his powers, there is no way that they can defeat Kanan and his men, but will he risk exposing his abilities to save his friends and the villagers?


Episode 11
Saturday 29th November 2008

When Arthur kills a unicorn while out on a hunting trip, a curse descends on Camelot. Could this be the end for the mythic city? An upset Merlin rushes to the animal’s side as the knights cheer Arthur for killing this most highly prized of beasts. As the unicorn dies, Merlin sees a wizened old man watching the scene amongst the trees. Their eyes meet and then he disappears.

The next morning, Arthur and Uther survey a valley in which the crops in the fields below have died overnight. It’s the same story all over the kingdom. If they don’t do something, the people will starve. When, later that day, the water in Camelot’s well turns into sand, Arthur and Uther become desperate – the town is now facing a famine and a drought. Gaius suggests that these events cannot be a coincidence and that a curse has come to Camelot.

That night, Merlin and Arthur are on patrol when they come across a strange man – it’s the same person Merlin saw in the forest. He introduces himself as Anhora, the keeper of the unicorns. Anhora tells them Arthur is responsible for the curse, revealing it was unleashed when Arthur killed the unicorn. Arthur doesn’t accept this and is angry at the suggestion he is responsible. Before he disappears again, Anhora tells Arthur that he will be tested and, until he has made amends for his actions, Camelot will be damned.


Episode 12
Saturday 6th December 2008

When Gwen suffers tragedy at Uther’s hand, Morgana becomes hell-bent on revenge. Against his better judgement, Gwen’s father, Tom, agrees to help a renegade sorcerer, Tauren, turn lead into gold using a magical stone. Halfway through the act, a voice rings out – they’re both under arrest. Several guards appear out of the shadows, led by Arthur. Tom goes quietly but Tauren uses his magical powers to escape.

Morgana and Arthur plead mercy for Tom but Uther is adamant – he will face trial and, if he is found guilty, there can be only one sentence. Morgana tells Uther that if he kills Gwen’s father, she will never forgive him. Morgana goes looking for Gwen and, amongst the debris of the chase in the forge, she finds the magical stone which the sorcerer must have dropped during his escape. Morgana places the stone in her pocket and heads off. Merlin can sense the stone but is unsure what the powerful feeling of magic means.

Morgana realises that Tom’s trial is just a formality – Uther has made up his mind and will find him guilty no matter what. She therefore decides to take matters into her own hands and steals the keys to Tom’s cell – sneaking down into the dungeons and slipping them to a stunned Tom.

Later that night, Tom makes a bid for freedom. But, when the guards discover his cell is empty, Uther orders that he be found – and executed on sight. Despite his best attempts, Tom is caught and struck down on the spot – Gwen is devastated. Morgana is furious and confronts Uther, but her actions land her in serious trouble when she is sent to prison by the angry King. Will Morgana’s rage push her too far and endanger the lives of those closest to her?


Episode 13
Saturday 13th December 2008

Arthur’s life hangs in the balance. Merlin is the only one who can save him – but at what cost? Whilst out on a hunting trip, Arthur and his men encounter a huge and terrifying monster that has the body of a lion and the head of a serpent, with a huge pair of dripping fangs. Gaius explains that what they encountered was a questing beast, said to have been conjured from the nightmares of a long-dead king. It is a creature of great power from the old religion, whose bite is always fatal. Uther refuses to acknowledge such folly and sends the knights out to kill it.

Arthur and his men, meanwhile, creep through the forest to find the tracks of the beast and nervously follow its trail to a cave. As they cautiously enter its lair, the beast jumps out of the darkness at Arthur. Merlin rushes to help but doesn’t get there in time, and the beast hurls Arthur to one side. Merlin uses magic to send a sword flying at the creature and it vaporises before his eyes. The beast is dead, but Arthur lies unconscious on the floor, blood dripping from his shoulder. He has been bitten and it looks like he may not survive.

Merlin seeks the help of the Great Dragon, who tells him he must go to the Isle of the Blessed and ask the old religion to save Arthur – it alone has the power. Merlin goes back to Gaius with the clues the dragon has given him. Gaius fills in the gaps – the ancient magic which has the power to mirror life can reverse death itself. But there is a price to pay: in order to save a life, a life must be taken. Merlin has some tough decisions to make that could see his world changed for ever.