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Camelot: Season 1
Camelot: Season 1
Principal Cast
Joseph Fiennes -- Merlin
Jamie Campbell Bower -- King Arthur
Tamsin Egerton -- Guinevere
Peter Mooney -- Kay
Philip Winchester -- Leontes
Eva Green -- Morgan
Claire Forlani -- Queen Igraine
A review by Dominic Cilli

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The earliest known writings about King Arthur date back to the eleventh century publication of Historia Brittonum. Over the next thousand years people have been writing about Arthur with a fair degree of regularity and fact and fiction have become comingled almost to the point of convolution. Hundreds of authors like Sir Thomas Malory, T.H. White, John Steinbeck, Mary Stewart and Mark Twain have all dabbled in the Arthurian mythos at one time or another so much so that the legend of King Arthur and his knights of the round table has become deeply ingrained in our culture and quite frankly in fantasy circles, it has almost become cliché. So when it came time to watch the premiere of the new Starz series Camelot, I was nonplussed. Yes, it is great to see another fantasy series on television to accompany HBO's fantastic Game of Thrones, but if Starz could have possibly chosen a more played out storyline, I can't think of one. When you consider the fact that fantasy literature, for the most part, is virgin territory as far as the big screen and television go and the fact that there is an enormous amount of high quality material out there to choose from makes Starz decision to create another version of King Arthur and Camelot a rather boring, yet safe, choice to base a new television show.

The pilot episode begins with the poisoning of Uther Pendragon at the hands of his daughter Morgan Pendragon. Merlin gets Uther to sign over the succession of his kingship to his bastard son Arthur who has been kept hidden away and his identity unknown, even to himself, until Merlin shows up to gather Arthur up to take the throne and repair the now crumbling monarchy. In subsequent episodes Arthur establishes his court by gathering his knights and rebuilding the ancient fallen Roman stronghold known as Camelot while Morgan continues to plot for the throne using her dark powers.

After the first few episodes, a couple things became readily apparent. First of all, Starz was going to take a much starker, more realistic approach to the story of Arthur then has been common in the past. You won't find any knights in shining armor, majestic castles or Merlin with his traditional long white beard and wizard's cap. What you will find if you're able to sort through the jumble of facts that is the actual history of King Arthur, is that Starz is creating their own vision of Camelot based on some very accurate historical research comingled with a bit of artistic license and, of course, sex and violence. Throughout the series viewers will see alternative takes on commonly know elements of the Arthurian mythos like the sword in the stone and the lady of the lake. Morgan's and Merlin's magical powers are very well handled and, at times, even seem plausible.

Yes, the cast are all a little too pretty to have lived in England in the fifth century, but hey that's television for you and for the most part the cast is excellent. Eva Green as Morgan Pendragon, the incredibly beautiful and wickedly sexy half sister of Arthur, is an exceptionally well done character. She was a Bond girl so you know she is amazingly sexy but she also happens to be a very talented actress. She steals the show for me as she will for most male viewers between the ages of 15 and 85. I would be remiss if I failed to mention the other cast member that really stands out in my mind and that would be British actor Joseph Fiennes (Shakespeare in Love and Elizabeth) as Merlin. He is terrific and his acting along with the show's writers give this version of Merlin a much different feel than what we have been used to in the past. Overall, I think Camelot is very well done. I was pleasantly surprised at the approach Starz is taking to this series and for fantasy fans it's well worth your time to catch the first season. It's not exactly ground-breaking television, nor is it going to be worthy of any Emmys for drama, but this is highly entertaining television with enough original ideas mixed in with the traditional Arthurian mythos to keep the show entertaining and fresh.

Copyright © 2011 Dominic Cilli

When asked to write a third-person tag line for his reviews, Dominic Cilli farmed the work out to an actual 3rd person, his friend Neal, who in turn turned it over to a second person who then asked his third cousin to help out and this person whom Dom doesn't even know then wrote in 8th person Omniscient mode "Dom's breadth of knowledge in literature runs the gamut and is certainly not bounded by the Sci-Fi/Fantasy genre. One thing I can say with certainty is that of all the people I don't know who've ever recommended books to read, Dom's recommendations are the best.


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