The BBC's sword and sorcery show may be getting darker and more grown-up, but the showrunners tell us why they're not trying to ape HBO's George RR Martin adaptation in series five.
Speaking at Comic-Con 2012, co-creator and executive producer Johnny Capps revealed, "In episodes one and two we've got the northern plains, we've got snow. We're being ambitious; each year we push the look of the show. And script wise we're telling multi-stranded stories. We needed to grow the show up a little bit."
"It's a bit more adult and it takes to the characters to new places," agreed co-creator and executive producer Julian Murphy. "They're older. Take Gwen - she has to be a mature queen of Camelot now and you see stories where she plays the politics of that role in a very sophisticated way."
But when pressed on whether snow, politics, adult themes and multiple viewpoints means the BBC has an eye on HBO's Game Of Thrones , the pair are quick to deny any influence.
"I hadn't watched Game Of Thrones !" revealed Capps. "Then I noticed they had snow and I thought everyone's going to say 'you did snow because Game Of Thrones did snow!' But there's no such thing as an original idea, is there?"
Murphy also highlights distinctions between the production capabilities of the shows. "If you look at Game Of Thrones ... it's nearly four times our budget!" he told us. "Does it make a difference? Yes, a bit; we probably reject three or four stories a series on the grounds that we simply couldn't do it. We have to work within the world that we have. We have a budget. Our CGI capacity gets bigger which helps, so every year we put more on the screen I think. But practically there's a line in the sand that we can't go to."
Merlin returns in the autumn, airing on BBC One in the UK and Syfy in the US. Read more about the show – and get an exclusive first look at the new Mordred – in the new issue of SFX, on sale from Wednesday 22 August. It's part of our 24-page
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