Merlin: The Final Two-Parter, Series 4 and Series 5?

Merlin producer Julian Murphy talks exclusively to SFX about the future of the hit fantasy show

Merlin series three kicks off its two-part finalé tonight on BBC1, and producer Julian Murphy promises that by the end of the second episode, things will never be the same again.

“The last two are very special episodes because probably there are more crucial moments from the legend in them than in any other,” he tells us. “In episode 13 there are three or four absolutely iconic moments.”

“The changes that happen in 12 and 13 are bigger than anything we have ever done before. Real game changing stuff. And they set up the direction that series four is going in. You get a good glimpse of the future.”

So, will Arthur finally discover that Merlin is a sorcerer? Murphy remains tight-lipped. “I’m not going to tell you what happens, which is really what you’re asking. But I will say I think people will be surprised at the direction the story takes.”

He does, however, reveal that we’ll see the first fall out of the events in “The Eye Of The Phoenix” (in which Arthur traveled to the land of the Fisher King) in episode 13.

He’s also happy to confirm that the show’s mentor figure, Gaius, played by Richard Wilson, won’t be suffering the usual fate of fantasy mentors, and meeting his maker.

“No, we see no end for Gaius – honestly,” he assures us. “As long as Richard wants to do it, which he does at the moment. He’s getting on, but he loves doing it. So I hope that he continues as long as possible. He’s certainly in series four.”

Talking of series four, Murphy reveals why it has will only be 10 episodes long as opposed to the usual 13.

“It was brutally about money,” he admits. “Merlin is an expensive show, no question of that. And what we are not prepared to do is cut its budget or production values. It’s not a programme you can do that with. For us, Merlin relies on those production values. So I think it was a combination of our desire not to change or reduce the budget, and the lack of money at the BBC and elsewhere. The BBC has had a really tough hit.

But the reduction in episodes could have a silver lining.

“We are now discussing the fifth series with the BBC, and I think it potentially preserves the programme for longer yes. There is talks of specials, there is talk about ways we can fill in the gap, but these are tough times for British broadcasters.”

Merlin is on BBC1 at 7.45 tonight.

Merlin Series 3 Volume One is available on DVD now.
Merlin Series 3 Volume Two is available on 24 January.
Merlin - The Complete Third Series in available on 24 January.

We will have more from Julian Murphy on series three – and it’s quite stunning viewing figures opposite the ratings behemoth that is The X-Factor – in the coming weeks.

Oh, and check our Spurious Awards for a very unexpected guest star in last week’s Merlin .