THE jury is still out on BBC1’s major new Saturday night series Merlin.
But there was, naturally, plenty of enthusiasm for the 13-part drama at last night’s launch in London.
Some 500 cast, crew and media crammed into the BFI IMAX near Waterloo station for a screening of the first episode.
Then it was off to the eighth floor of The Oxo Tower with its panoramic views over the capital.
Aimed squarely at the family audience in the Doctor Who and Robin Hood slot, Merlin gives us a new twist on the Camelot legend.
Seeing the first episode on the giant IMAX screen didn’t actually do it any favours.
I’ll reserve my own judgement until I see it on a normal TV.
But it’s definitely Harry Potter meets Lord of the Rings, with one or two seriously scary moments.
Youngsters will almost certainly warm to Colin Morgan as the teenage Merlin.
While Bradley James as the young Prince Arthur is portrayed as a hard to like bully who Merlin must guide.
It’s his destiny, whether he likes it or not.
“If I can’t use magic, I might as well die,” protests Merlin, in a land where all sorcery has been banned on punishment of death.
BBC controller of fiction Jane Tranter made a nine minute speech before the screening.
She described Merlin as a world of “mystery and fantasy – a world of dark secrets, imagination, heroism, intrigue, adventure, humanity and entertainment”.
After the screening I spoke to Stockport-born actor Will Mellor, who guest stars in episode two as knight Valiant.
His verdict on that first episode?
“It blew me away, I must admit.
“It shows what we can do in this country. I think viewers are going to love it.”
Already sold to American TV, Merlin begins on BBC1 at 7.30pm a week tomorrow – Saturday Sept 20.
BBC bosses are hoping the series gets off to a wizard start.
It’ll need to.
That 7.30pm timeslot puts it in direct competition with The X Factor.
BBC Merlin Official Site