Season 1 Episode 9


Aired Unknown Nov 15, 2008 on BBC
out of 10
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203 votes

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Episode Summary

Uther's past comes back to haunt him as a mysterious black knight interrupts Arthur's coming-of-age celebrations, throwing down his gauntlet and challenging the Knights of Camelot to combat. The Black Knight, seemingly unstoppable, makes easy work of his combatants. But who is the Black Knight, and why is Uther so uneasy?moreless

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  • Nimueh comes back again to pay back Uther for his treachery. She has raised the Black Knight and sent him to Camelot to eventually kill Uther. Also we see a very poorly invented version of how Excalibur came into being.moreless

    Enjoyable episode about Knights and sorcery but I am not sure what this has to do with Arthurian Legend anymore.

    This was an enjoyable tale of a risen Knight who felt betrayed and Nimueh who used her sorcery to give it life. As a Wraith only something magical could kill it. Similar to the Nazgul characters of The Lord of the Rings. In that case no "man" literally could kill the Nazgul only a women. Again I really enjoy this series a lot but do they have to butcher the actually mythology as much as they have? It is true that Excalibur may have been forged by Dragon's Breath but the one of the major stories in Arthurian Legend is based on The Lady of the Lake and how Excalibur came to be. It was not chosen by Arthur out of a pile of swords and breathed on by a dragon to become the ultimate weapon. It was originally Uther's sword.

    Also the Black Knight was a character that the Knight Perceval defeated in combat over a misunderstanding. That's it, nothing so extraordinary as a Wraith Knight.

    Even so a very interesting story and the action and twists were interesting. I wonder what the evil result the dragon was speaking of would come from Uther using the sword? They really didn't clarify that and Merlin threw the sword in a lake. How appropriate considering that is where it comes from originally. Uther is said to have driven the sword into a rock at his death to avoid anyone else wielding it except the rightful heir to the throne. That of course is when Arthur pulls Excalibur from the stone and becomes king.

    It will be interesting to see where they take all of this going forward. Thanks for reading...moreless
  • The relationship between Arthur, Gaius, Nimueh and Uther.

    Nimueh was back in this episode and Michelle Ryan's beauty was mesmerizing, as always. However I think her acting could be better. She doesn't feel like an evil sorceress but more like a beautiful princess that read a book on black magic. The problem is that the episodes with her always follow the same pattern. First we see her casting some spell and saying Uther Pendragon, then a creature rises. I think they should come up with more creative ways to introduce the story. It's not because Merlin is clearly for teenagers that it has to be predictible. However summoning a Black Knight was definitely an interesting thing. However when it broke the window during Arthur's Camelot prince ceremony I was quite disappointed to see that most of the characters weren't afraid. They were just standing there waiting for the Black Knight to slash them one by one. Arthur drew his sword but it felt like he wasn't on his guard, when he should have been. I wish his appearance would have been more terrifying like when the sorceress enchanted everyone in the pilot episode, The Dragon's Call. There was too light in the room. Its entrance should have stormed the place or something to scare us should have happened. But of course producing such impressive visuals would require a far higher budget, it's clearly not Smallville. Instead the Black Knight looked more like a scarecrow on a horse. In fact I couldn't help myself comparing it to the one from the Monty Python and the Holy Grail film, specially when he was standing still in the courtyard.

    However it got better once the first fight started, even if the sky was blue and the birds were singing peaceful. I wished the scene had been filmed during a rainy day for example, like in Jurassic Park when the T-Rex begins its rampage. After all the fight endings were quite dramatic. About the fights, I found them quite dynamic and brutal but the close shots reminded of how Christopher Nolan filmed the fighting scenes in Batman Begins. Worst choregraphy ever in my opinion because you don't see anything. Only a crazy camera and body parts moving quickly. I prefer when a fight scene is filmed like in a Jackie Chan movie for example. You see everything and how good the actors are. So again I think I'm asking too much but I think it can be better.

    I was also quite disappointed how Merlin managed to forge Excalibur. He spent like two minutes in the library searching for a weapon books. The weird man, Gaius old friend with the crappy make-up, helped me and he ran for Gwen and asked her to give him the best sword her father had even made. I don't mean to be rude but Gwen jokes are annoying. She's always saying she would do anything for Merlin and the next second she says the contrary. I find her very annoying and useless. She's just too nice. I also can't help myself thinking the producers were forced to pick that actress because of the color of her skin. I think it's disrespectful. Actors should be chosen because of their talent, not for so called ethnic reasons. I wish Merlin was black and Morgana a Korean princess, seriously. However it got better when Merlin met the Great Dragon, asking him to forge the sword to help Arthur defeat the Black Knight. His warning was quite interesting because it meant the sword would probably be used by someone else. It was clear Uther would take Arthur's place but finding how it would happened was gripping. About the Great Dragon I still like how it's rendered, it's a good computer graphics (CG) creature. In fact it reminds me of Draco from Dragonheart, one of the greatest fantasy film of all time. Moreover the scenes between him and Merlin are always refreshing as they happen in a dark cave and the dialogs are quite interesting. I like the way the Great Dragon talks, always hinting and never clearly explaining him things. It's up for Merlin to understand things. The Great Dragon is only supervising his destiny in some way, like a teacher. I like the bond between them.

    So there were great moments but some others were bad. For example the scene where Merlin casts a fire spell on the Black Knight is just useless. I know there're some heavy Harry Potter fans around but come one, we're not that addicted to magic. I don't need my weekly doze of magic. I want it to be used only when it's useful. It was clear the scene was only here to entertain and didn't really serve any purpose. Moreover it didn't feel like the fire was burning him, the separation between them was clear so the pirotechnique effect was disappointing. An other con was the characters begging Arthur not to fight the Black Knight. First Uther, then Merlin and finally Morgana. They should have chosen one character and filmed a great scene instead of filming three average ones. Moreover I didn't understand why Arthur menaced Merlin with his sword, it didn't make sense. I mean Arthur is clearly not the bad guy, it's Uther's role. However I'm not saying Arthur is all good in heart, because like Merlin he has to learn the different between good and evil. About Morgana, she's getting better every episode. At first I hated her but now I think that character is interesting even if I'm not really fond of the actress. She's just too skinny to portray her. I mean in Marion Zimmer Bradley's books the women of Camelot are described as beautiful and gorgeous creatures. The beauty I'm talking about is the one like the girl in the The Gates Of Avalon episode for example. As cute as a child but with all the female attributes. She was just charming. I think Merlin misses a real woman. There're mature men but not women. We need a wife for Gaius or Uther. Moreover you can't just grow up being taught only by a Great Dragon and physicist. It's one of the bad thing in the Arthurian Legends and that's probably why Bradley wrote books with female protagonists.

    I think the best scene in this episode was Nimueh talking with Uther about the good and evil old days. We learnt about her relationship with Uther and how Arthur is involved with it. It explained us why Uther is so against magic and will do anything to forbid everyone from using it. So his attitude in the past episodes finally made sense. Nimueh also explains a few things about magic, how it's balanced with life. It reminds me of the alchismist because if you want to create an object you have to destroy something else, it's all about transforming things. A birth, a death. A heaven, a hell. What about the characters ? Who is Merlin true Nemesis ? Last but not least I was also glad to see a new side of Uther, learning about how he felt about his wife. After all no one is born evil, but every one can become one. You just have to choose your side, even if it's easier to say than to do. The scenes with Uther and Gaius were also good as we learnt more about their friendship and how the first trusts the other about his secret.

    The part where Uther managed to exchange role with Arthur to fight the Black Knight had a few cons but overall it was quite good. The scene where Gaius drugged Arthur was quite bad, specially the acting. Usually I'm pleased with Gaius but here they both did things that didn't really make sense. Why did Arthur trust him so easily when he nearly killed Merlin ? And how come he didn't understand what was happening to him when Gaius asked him to lay down ? If it was me I would at least put up a fight. I don't think you can't just drug someone so easily. Can you ? However I quickly forgot it once Uther, brilliantly played by Anthony Head, entered the arena. I couldn't wait for him to fight against the Black Knight and watching him play with Excalibur while Merlin was helping get ready for the battle was great. I also noticed how he was quite surprised about Merlin's decision to forge the sword for Arthur. It was a nice character development and the information will probably be used in an upcoming episode. Is it a good or bad news for Merlin ? In my opinion I think he shouldn't have told about it. It's what Gaius warned him about, he should be more careful. Because everything he does and says have consequences. Let's hope he'll learn from his mistakes, it's the only way to age stronger and wiser.

    When Uther began to fight the Black Knight with Excalibur I was really expecting something terrible to happen, because of the Great Dragon warning. In fact I thought Arthur would managed to wake up sooner and fight him, but it didn't happen. So when the Black Knight was killed I was quite surprised and couldn't understand what just happened. It's only when Merlin returned to the cave that the Great Dragon told him he betrayed him and that he had to waste the sword where no one could even find it. I think the writer should have come up with something more original. For example they could have prevented Uther from using the sword. Killing the Black Knight could also have backdrafted on him, it's all about balance after all. Excalibur could have turned into a Vorpal sword, like in the Dungeons & Dragons universe. They were dozens of better ways to do it in my opinion. Last but not least the last scene where Merlin runs for the lake and throws the sword in it was just painful to watch. I mean, what the hell ? Is he dumb or something ? It's such a cliché. Everyone knows what will happen. Someone will find it someday and use it to do evil. When he ran for the forest I was expecting him to find a stone and use his magic to put the sword in it but it didn't happen. They did it in The Legend of Zelda : A Link to the Past so why not in this episode ? You might think I'm just trying too hard to follow the Arthurian Legends but I think there're events you just can't tell differently. I could compare it with what happens in Smallville this season for example. It's awesome because they're many references to Lois & Clark. I think that's what misses in Merlin, the cultural references. It's really hard to relate to the Arthurian mythology. I'm sure they're trying their best but I think they should try harder.moreless
  • well the trend continues with this show:)

    I love this show and this episode i think the whole black knight was a well writing and big part of the story of Merlin. I really think Merlin is starting to take shape to be a great show and have opened more doors now that they have brought the sword in to the show it will give them alot to work with in future episodes. when i do think back i think they killed the black knight a tad to easy but thats just really picking. i think this episode had a lot going on but yet it was easy to watch! which i think is why i like the show. apart from the fantasy side

    great show top marks here of ***** 5 starsmoreless
  • 'That is the law of magic. To create a life, there had to be a death. The balance of the world had to be repaid... If I had foreseen her death and the terrible retribution you would seek, I would never have granted your wish.' (SPOILERS)moreless

    For me, the strongest and best episode of the series to date, Excalibur is excellent. Uther's past comes back to haunt him- literally- when a mysterious Black Knight crashes into Arthur's coming-of-age celebration and throws down his gauntlet, challenging the Knights of Camelot to mortal combat. A young knight, Sir Owain, gamely takes the challenge but finds himself at the wrong end of the sword at the battle the following day. Gaius discovers that the Black Knight carries the crest of Tristan De Bois- and that Tristan's tomb is empty. The conclusion is that Tristan has been summoned back as a wraith, determined to wreak revenge on Uther for the death of his sister Ygraine (Uther's late wife and Arthur's mother, who died giving birth to her son). However, a few family secrets involving Arthur's birth are threatened to be revealed as the true culprit behind Tristan's resurrection reveals herself. Moreover, the hunt is on to find a weapon that will defeat the wraith. A sword forged in the breath of a dragon should do it... Visually stylish, a great script and good performances all round highlight the strengths of the series.

    Considering the story deals with Uther's past, it's unsurprising that Anthony Head takes centre stage this week- and he does it with aplomb. Struggling to hide the truth of Arthur's birth against mounting odds, he is willing to sacrifice himself to save his son. The truth behind Uther's rather ruthless vendetta against magic is explained and you can kind of understand- his beloved wife so desperate to produce an heir dies at the hand of magic which granted her wish. The showdown between Uther and Nimueh where this backstory is told is an excellent two-hander between Head and Michelle Ryan (whom it is good to see back). There are also several good scenes between Uther and Gaius as they discuss the past and the final scene where Uther expresses how much Arthur means to him is moving without being mawkish. Uther really does care for him: to the extent that he'll drug him so he can't fight an unstoppable killing machine. That's fatherly love if ever I saw it.

    Richard Wilson is as dependable as ever as Gaius: his scenes with Head are a delight. Bradley James has a few very good scenes where the sparks really fly. Ignorant as to the Black Knight's true reason, Arthur bravely challenges the knight to combat- proving his bravery as Crown Prince. The ladies don't get much of a look-in this week, although Angel Coulby gets a few good scenes with Colin Morgan, building on the Merlin-Gwen flirtation. Although, it has to be said, her awkwardness around him is starting to wear a little thin. Morgan is as strong as he's ever been in this episode, proving what a mature and capable actor he is. From witty and biting to full on investigative mode, as well as his encounters with the Great Dragon (more on that soon), it's a strong turn indeed.

    Michelle Ryan is a joy in Nimueh's confrontation with Uther and you do feel sorry for her. Having done what Uther asked, Nimueh finds herself banished and persecuted when the law of magic decrees a death for the gift of life. It's also good to get the backstory rather than just having her as a thorn in Uther's side. There's another good turn by Michael Cronin as court record-keeper Geoffrey of Monmouth and John Hurt is on top form- and more importantly, given scenes that last longer than 20 seconds- as the Dragon who is responsible for Excalibur's creation but who warns Merlin that it should only be used by Arthur. The Dragon's anger at the end when he finds out Uther has used it is justified- the blade was forged for Arthur and nobody else. Overall, it's a pacy affair- the fight scenes choreographed and directed nicely, with some very striking visuals (Morgana's token for Sir Owain lying in the dirt as he is slain; the Black Knight waiting impassively by moonlight; the creation of Excalibur) and a decent, meaty script by Julian Jones. Plus it's a bonus that the wraith was prosthetic rather than CGI (although the Black Knight's death scene looked a bit odd- I was thinking of the exploding Slitheen from Doctor Who). A very strong episode indeed.moreless
Michelle Ryan

Michelle Ryan


Guest Star

Kyle Redmond-Jones

Kyle Redmond-Jones

Sir Owain

Guest Star

Sean Francis

Sean Francis

Sir Pellinor

Guest Star

John Hurt

John Hurt

Voice of the Great Dragon

Recurring Role

Michael Cronin

Michael Cronin

Geoffrey of Monmouth

Recurring Role

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (20)

    • Goof: Sir Owain's shield is more scratched at the beginning of the fight than at the last stages of it.

    • Goof: The Black Knight's sword has no trace of blood whatsoever after he kills Sir Owain and Sir Pellinor.

    • Goof: It is mentioned that Tristan de Bois has been dead for 20 years and that he blamed Uther after Ygraine, Tristan's sister and Arthur's mum, died in childbirth. They fought and Uther killed him. That would make Arthur some 20 years old, which is consistent with his coming of age celebrations that mean he has just turned 21. However, in episode 1x06 A Remedy to Cure All Ills, we learnt that Gaius has served Uther for 25 years, since Arthur's birth. That would make Arthur 25 years old.

    • Records tell of ancient swords that could destroy anything, alive or death. The Chronicle of Beltain has Sir Marhaus witness a great sword begotten in the dragon's breath. Merlin asks The Great Dragon to burnish the best sword Tom has handcrafted, which will become Excalibur. However, as it has been forged for Arthur it must be wielded by him alone or it could cause great evil having been born of old magic.

    • Goof: Merlin would have suffered a serious injury as he gets the sword out of its fabric cover sliding it in the inner side of his hand. The blade of the sword should have torn both the fabric and the flesh.

    • The marks on the sword say: 'Take me up' on one side, 'Cast me away' on the other.

    • Sir Owain and Sir Pellinor, two of Camelot knights take up the Black Knight's challenge and lose their lives.

    • Goof: When Uther goes to the armoury before his fight with the Black Knight, he chooses a random armour even though they were custom-made.

    • Goof: Why isn't the Black Knight seized after having broken into the castle, interrupting Arthur's crowning celebrations?

    • Goof: After Sir Owain is killed by the Black Knight, Morgana's token can be seen on the ground. However, during the fight, it is constantly attached to the knight's right arm and there is no reason for it to have gotten loose.

    • Tom, Gwen's father, is not the royal blacksmith.

    • This episode features Arthur's coming-of-age celebrations, meaning he has turned 21 years old, as he is crowned Prince of Camelot.

    • Goof: After Uther kills the Black Knight, he is seen on a close shot taking his helmet off with his left hand. Then the camera pans away and we see him from the distance holding the helmet with his right hand while his left one is empty and his sword lies on the ground a few meters away. Then, in the next close shot, he throws the sword which he is holding with his left hand to the ground. Part of this can be explained since Anthony Head's stunt (used in long distance shots) is right handed unlike him.

    • Goof: As Merlin is trying to burn the Black Knight using his magic, the knight can be seen standing on packed soil with footprints around and a cobbled road nearby. However, and despite he doesn't move, when Merlin, Arthur and Uther look at him through the windows, the knight is standing on a grass field and there's no trace of the footprints or the cobbled road.

    • Goof: In the fight scene between Uther and the dead knight, the stunt actor who replaces Anthony Head is right handed unlike him; we can see Anthony Head balancing the sword with his left hand right before the duel.

    • It is revealed that Nimueh hates Uther for having slaughtered all of her kind and thrown her from the court after Ygraine died. She didn't foresee it as Uther claims, even though she told him that by law of magic, creating a life (Arthur's) will bring about a death to repay the balance of the world.

    • Goof: When Arthur stands up after being crowned, his hair is tucked under the crown but as he turns around, part of his hair is styled in front of the crown.

    • It is revealed that Nimueh used her magic to make Arthur's conception possible, which brought about Igraine's death in childbirth. The Black Knight is revealed to be Tristan de Bois, Ygraine's brother. Uther killed him since Tristan blamed him for his sister's death. With his dying breath Tristan cursed for Camelot to once suffer his return. Gaius knows about it and made an oath not to reveal the secret behind Arthur's birth.

    • Goof: When Arthur is named Crown Prince, he gets the same crown that he was already wearing at the end of episode 1x02 Valiant.

    • Despite the episode title, at no point in the episode is the sword referred to as Excalibur.

  • QUOTES (23)

    • The Great Dragon: So, does Arthur live?
      Merlin: Yes. The sword worked. It was incredible, amazing.
      The Great Dragon: As I promised.
      Merlin: But...
      The Great Dragon: Yes?
      Merlin: Things didn't go quite according to plan. I mean, they did. Except... It wasn't Arthur who wielded the sword. It was Uther.
      The Great Dragon: (yelling) NO!
      Merlin: I tried but he just took it!
      The Great Dragon: (yelling) NO!
      Merlin: He's the king! I couldn't stop him!
      The Great Dragon: The sword was born of the old magic. You have no idea of its power. In the hands of Uther, it will bring only evil.
      Merlin: I'll get it back.
      The Great Dragon: You have betrayed me. You are not ready to be trusted.
      Merlin: I'll bring it to you. You can destroy it.
      The Great Dragon: What is made cannot be unmade.
      Merlin: So what do you want me to do?
      The Great Dragon: Take the sword far from here and place it where no mortal man can ever find it.

    • Gaius: You know why I'm looking at you. Uther told me you provided him with his sword today. Must have been a very powerful blade to slay the dead. Did you enchant it?
      Merlin: No. I didn't.
      Gaius: Who did then?
      Merlin: It wasn't me.
      Gaius: Shame. It saved the king's life. I'd have been very proud of you.

    • Arthur: You had Gaius drug me! I was meant to fight him!
      Uther: No, you weren't.
      Arthur: But the knight's code...
      Uther: Be damned. I believed you would die, that was a risk I could not take. You are too precious to me. You mean more to me than anything I know. More than this entire kingdom and certainly more than my own life.
      Arthur: I always thought that...
      Uther: What?
      Arthur: Well, that, I was a big disappointment to you.
      Uther: Well, that is my fault and not yours.

    • (Gaius is tending Uther's wounds after he vanquished the Black Knight)
      Uther: I thought you said a wraith couldn't be killed.
      Gaius: Yes, it was remarkable. Is that a new sword, sire?
      Uther: It's the best I've ever fought with.
      Gaius: May I have a look?
      Uther: I was intrigued by those markings.
      Gaius: (examining the sword) On one side, it says 'take me up'. On the other, 'cast me away'.
      Uther: What does that mean?
      Gaius: May I ask who made it, sire?
      Uther: Merlin gave it to me. It was forged for Arthur.

    • (Merlin is preparing Uther to fight the Black Knight; Uther picks up Excalibur)
      Merlin: I'll get you your sword.
      Uther: This will be fine.
      Merlin: No, sire. You don't understand. That one was made specifically for Arthur.
      Uther: Who made it?
      Merlin: Tom the blacksmith.
      Uther: It's worthy of a king.
      Merlin: You would be better off with a sword you trusted.
      Uther: This has almost perfect balance. Tom's not the royal swordsmith. I'm surprised Arthur went to him.
      Merlin: That was me. I felt he needed a better sword.
      Uther: You show him the most extraordinary loyalty.
      Merlin: That is my job, sire.
      Uther: It's beyond the line of duty.
      Merlin: Well, you could say that there is a bond between us.
      Uther: I'm glad. Look after him.

    • The Great Dragon: Merlin.
      Merlin: Do you know why I'm here?
      The Great Dragon: It may surprise you, Merlin, but my knowledge of your life is not universal.
      Merlin: It's to do with Arthur. His life's in danger. He will die unless I can make a weapon that will kill the dead.
      The Great Dragon: So what do you come to ask of me?
      Merlin: (showing the sword) Will you burnish it, to save Arthur?
      The Great Dragon: The dead do not return without reason. Who has he come for?
      Merlin: Uther.
      The Great Dragon: Then let him take his vengeance, and the wraith will die without my aid.
      Merlin: But it's Arthur who's going to fight him. You have to save him!
      The Great Dragon: That is your destiny, young warlock, not mine.
      Merlin: But if Arthur fights the wraith and dies, Camelot will have no heir. I will have no destiny.
      The Great Dragon: A weapon forged with my assistance will have great power.
      Merlin: I know.
      The Great Dragon: You do not know. You can only guess. You have not seen what I have seen. If you had, perhaps you would not ask this of me.
      Merlin: What do you mean?
      The Great Dragon: In the wrong hands, this sword could do great evil. It must be wielded by Arthur and him alone.
      Merlin: I understand.
      The Great Dragon: You must do more than understand. You must promise.
      Merlin: I promise.
      (The Dragon breathes fire onto the sword)
      The Great Dragon: Heed my words. The sword was forged for Arthur and him alone.

    • Uther: You knew that, one day, this business would come back to haunt me.
      Gaius: Not quite so literally.
      Uther: I should have listened to you. You said that no good would come of using witchcraft at Arthur's birth.
      Gaius: You wanted an heir. You thought it was the only way.
      Uther: Nimueh told me there would be a price to pay.
      Gaius: You weren't to know that price would be Ygraine's life.
      Uther: I cannot let Arthur die.
      Gaius: Then you must stop the fight.
      Uther: No, I will take his place.
      Gaius: Do you know what you're saying?
      Uther: Ygraine gave up her life for him. So must I.
      Gaius: Uther...
      Uther: I have no other choice.
      Gaius: There must be another way.
      Uther: My death will stop the wraith and Arthur will live. But it means you are the only person left who knows the truth about Arthur's birth. I want you to swear to me that you will keep your oath.
      Gaius: I will take it to my grave.
      Uther: You've always been a good friend, despite my temper.
      Gaius: I always thought that would be the death of you.

    • Gwen: Merlin, what are you doing here?
      Merlin: I've come to ask a favour.
      Gwen: Yes?
      Merlin: I'm not sure how to ask it.
      Gwen: Ask, Merlin. You know I'd grant you anything. (pause) I mean, not anything. Obviously not anything. What is it you want?
      Merlin: I've come to ask for a sword. The strongest sword your father's ever made.
      Gwen: What for?
      Merlin: To save Arthur.

    • Merlin: I was looking for a book, for Gaius. He thinks the Black Knight is a wraith.
      Geoffrey of Monmouth: Then Arthur is in grave peril.
      Merlin: That's why I'm here. I need to find a weapon that will kill something that's already dead.
      Geoffrey of Monmouth: Well, I've read of such things in the ancient chronicles.
      Merlin: Really? What did they say?
      Geoffrey of Monmouth: Well, several fables speak of ancient swords.
      Merlin: That can kill the dead?
      Geoffrey of Monmouth: The swords the fables speak of could destroy anything, alive or dead.
      Merlin: Can you show me one of these fables?
      Geoffrey of Monmouth: Well... let me think... Yes.
      (Geoffrey turns to one of the bookshelves and starts looking through it)
      Merlin: I'm sort of in a hurry.
      Geoffrey of Monmouth: Yes, you young people always are.

    • (Nimueh appears to Uther)
      Uther: I should have known.
      Nimueh: It is more than I had hoped for, Uther. Soon Arthur will be slain. You will have sent him to his death.
      Uther: Haven't you tired of revenge?
      Nimueh: Haven't you? You began this war when you threw me from the court and slaughtered all of my kind.
      Uther: You brought it on yourselves. You practiced evil!
      Nimueh: I was your friend, Uther. You welcomed me here.
      Uther: You betrayed that friendship.
      Nimueh: I did as you asked! I used the magic you so despise to give your barren wife the son you craved.
      Uther: Don't ever speak of her in that way. She was my heart. My soul. And you took her from me.
      Nimueh: She died giving birth to your son. It was not my choice. That is the law of magic. To create a life, there had to be a death. The balance of the world had to be repaid.
      Uther: You knew it would kill her.
      Nimueh: No. You're wrong! If I had foreseen her death and the terrible retribution you would seek, I would never have granted your wish.
      Uther: I wish you hadn't.
      Nimueh: You wish you didn't have a son? Well, your wish will come true tomorrow.
      Uther: I will not let you take him.
      Nimueh: I have watched so many people I love die at your hands, Uther Pendragon. Now it is your turn.

    • Merlin: Just pull out. You're the Crown Prince. No-one wants to see you die over some stupid challenge.
      Arthur: I'm not a coward.
      Merlin: I know that. I've stood there and watched you overcome every fear you've ever faced.
      Arthur: That's what's required of me.
      Merlin: But you're more than that. You're not merely a warrior. You're a prince, a future king! You've proved your courage, now you must prove your wisdom.
      Arthur: I'm not backing down.
      Merlin: Please, Arthur. Listen to me. This is no ordinary knight. Look at him. He doesn't eat. He doesn't sleep. Just stands there in complete silence. Doesn't that tell you something?
      Arthur: No-one is unbeatable.
      Merlin: If you fight him, you will die.

    • Gaius: Tristan's tomb is empty. I believe he's been conjured from the dead.
      Uther: How is this possible?
      Gaius: I believe he's a wraith.
      Uther: A spirit?
      Gaius: He has come to take vengeance for Ygraine's death.
      Uther: It was magic that killed her, not I.
      Gaius: Nevertheless, it was you he blamed. You cannot allow Arthur to fight. No weapon forged by man can kill a wraith. It will stop at nothing until it has accomplished what it came for. Arthur cannot win. He will die.
      Uther: He will not listen to me!
      Gaius: Then you must tell him who the knight is.
      Uther: No!
      Gaius: You cannot hide the truth forever.
      Uther: I am the king! You will not tell me what I can and cannot do.
      Gaius: That is your choice, sire. You tell him or let him go to his death.
      Uther: No-one but you or I will ever know the secret of Arthur's birth.
      Gaius: The boy is of age. He should know.
      Uther: Never! Now, you made an oath. I warn you not to break it.

    • (Arthur has thrown down his gauntlet to the Black Knight, challenging him to mortal combat)
      Uther: How can you be so stupid? I'll revoke the challenge.
      Arthur: No. The knight's code must be upheld. That's what you told me.
      Uther: This is different.
      Arthur: Once a challenge has been laid down, it cannot be revoked.
      Uther: You are Crown Prince!
      Arthur: There cannot be one rule for me and one for all the rest.
      Uther: I forbid you to fight.
      Arthur: You want me to prove that I'm worthy of the throne. I cannot do that by being a coward.
      Uther: No, Arthur! This will be your death.
      Arthur: I'm sorry you have so little faith in me, father.

    • Gaius: It's my guess we're dealing with a wraith.
      Merlin: A wraith?
      Gaius: The spirit of a dead man conjured from the grave.
      Merlin: So this is the work of a sorcerer?
      Gaius: Powerful magic can harness the grief and rage of a tormented soul and make it live again.
      Merlin: How do we stop it?
      Gaius: We can't. Because it's not alive, no mortal weapon can kill it.
      Merlin: Surely there must be something.
      Gaius: Nothing can stop it until it has achieved what it came for.
      Merlin: And what's that?
      Gaius: Revenge.
      Merlin: On Camelot? What does that mean for Sir Pellinor?
      Gaius: I'm afraid it doesn't look good.

    • Gaius: Tristan De Bois was the brother of Ygraine, Uther's wife.
      Merlin: Arthur's mother.
      Gaius: Ygraine died in childbirth. He blamed Uther and came to the gates of Camelot and challenged him.
      Merlin: To single combat
      Gaius: Uther won. But in his dying breath, Tristan cursed Camelot to one day suffer his return. I thought it was the ramblings of a dying man.

    • Arthur: Why did you stop me?
      Uther: We have to give our knights the chance to prove themselves.
      Arthur: Have you seen how this stranger fights?
      Uther: And Sir Pellinor is more than a match for him.
      Arthur: He's not recovered from the wounds he suffered at Athanden.
      Uther: I can't help that.
      Arthur: So you send him to his death?
      Uther: It was his choice to take up the gauntlet! I'm not to blame.

    • Arthur: You've never fought in mortal combat before. It's different. It's not like the training I've been giving you.
      Sir Owain: Yeah. I know.
      Arthur: Listen to me. The problem is, we've never seen him fight. You have to quickly get the measure of him.
      Sir Owain: But I have the same advantage. He's never seen me fight.
      Arthur: True.
      Sir Owain: You've watched me.
      Arthur: Yes.
      Sir Owain: And?
      Arthur: And I know no-one braver. Remember, all it takes to kill a man is one well-aimed blow.
      (Gwen enters the chamber)
      Gwen: The Lady Morgana asked me to give you this token. She wishes you to wear it for luck.
      Sir Owain: You can thank her, and tell her I shall wear it with pride. But I won't need luck.

    • Gaius: I'm sorry to disturb you, sire.
      Uther: What is it?
      Gaius: The knight. The stranger. He bears the crest of Tristan De Bois.
      Uther: Yes.
      Gaius: But he's been dead for twenty years.
      Uther: I know. I killed him.
      Gaius: But how do you explain...
      Uther: Dead men do not return.

    • Gaius: You know why I'm here?
      Geoffrey of Monmouth: The Black Knight.
      Gaius: So it is he?
      Geoffrey of Monmouth: You saw his crest.
      Gaius: Have you confirmed it?
      Geoffrey of Monmouth: It is the crest of Tristan De Bois.
      Gaius: And he is the only knight ever to have carried such a crest?
      Geoffrey of Monmouth: Yes, according to the records.

    • Arthur: He shouldn't have picked up the gauntlet!
      Morgana: So put an end to it.
      Arthur: The challenge has been taken up. The fight cannot be stopped.
      Morgana: Then fight in his place.
      Arthur: I can't.
      Morgana: Why not?
      Arthur: Owain picked up the gauntlet. Owain is the one who must fight. That's the knight's code. He knew that.
      Morgana: But it's a fight to the death!

    • Merlin: Have you ever seen this Black Knight before?
      Gaius: I don't believe so.
      Merlin: Didn't recognise his crest?
      Gaius: Crest?
      Merlin: Which house is it?
      Gaius: I'm not sure. I didn't see it that clearly.
      Merlin: Yeah, but he's not someone you'd forget in a hurry, is he?
      Gaius: No.
      Merlin: So you don't think he's from around here?
      Gaius: That would seem likely.
      Merlin: Then what's he doing here?
      Gaius: Merlin, your faith in my all-seeing knowledge is both touching and wholly misplaced. If you've finished your work, you could go to bed and leave me to finish mine.

    • Gwen: So how does it feel to be servant to the Crown Prince of Camelot?
      Merlin: Washing his royal socks will be even more of a privilege.
      Gwen: You're proud of him, even though you complain about him constantly.
      Merlin: I am not.
      Gwen: You are! I can see it in your face.
      Merlin: Those socks are very clean. Of course I'm proud of them.

    • Uther: Do you solemnly swear to govern the people of this kingdom and its dominions according to the statutes, customs and laws laid down by your forebears?
      Arthur: I do, sire.
      Uther: Do you promise to exercise mercy and justice in your deeds and judgements?
      Arthur: I do, sire.
      Uther: And do you swear allegiance to Camelot, now and as long as you shall live?
      Arthur: I, Arthur Pendragon, do pledge life and limb to your service and to the protection of the kingdom and its peoples.
      Uther: Now, being of age and heir apparent, from henceforth you shall be Crown Prince of Camelot.

  • NOTES (30)

    • Also Known As:
      Ukraine: Екскалібур.

    • One of Colin Morgan's favourite magic tricks has been creating the fire that goes across the ground and burns the Black Knight because he was able to see it happening, whereas most of the time he has to way until CGI is added to the episode to see the result of his magic.

    • There are differences in several scenes between the original script for this episode as shown on the BBC website and the final product. The most important one is the following:

      The Great Dragon: The sword is in the world. It cannot be unmade. But now a curse will forever lie upon it.
      Merlin: What do you mean?
      The Great Dragon: The sword forged by Arthur is now destined to be used against him. It will bring about his doom.
      Merlin: What do you mean? Is Arthur going to die?
      The Great Dragon: Everything dies, warlock, it is only the manner of death that is in question. Your actions have made that choice for Arthur. What's done cannot be undone.
      (The Great Dragon turns and is gone. A worried Merlin stands there a moment, taking in what he's heard).

      The implication here is that Arthur would be killed with Excalibur, whereas in the episode the implication is that Uther wielding the sword would bring great evil.

    • The art department created a pre-cut shield for the scene where the Black Knight cuts through Uther's shield so the take could be repeated as many times as necessary.

    • Angel Coulby, Colin Morgan, Richard Wilson and Jeremy Webb (episode director) recorded an audio commentary for this episode.

    • Three shots are combined in the scene where the sword is thrown to the lake. The scenes at the shore of the lake were filmed in the Forest of Dean, then the sword was thrown in a park in Cardiff and finally it lands at the bottom of a water tank in Battersea.

    • The crypt depicted in the episode is the crypt of Pierrefonds castle. Replicas of actual tombs were used although none of them cracked, it was all painted on.

    • The Black Knight's horse jumped in Wales and landed in France. The horse's hooves were covered with plastic protection not to damage the floor of the Great Hall at Pierrefonds. The broken window is CGI.

    • The Black Knight's horse wasn't originally black so it was dyed with L'Oreal products. It was given antibiotics to prevent the paint from causing any harm.

    • The Black Knight who rides inside the Great Hall at Pierrefonds was a French actor who said his lines in French.

    • Richard Wilson got a new wig from this episode on.

    • The Council chambers were redressed with bookshelves to adapt them into a library.

    • During the fights sequences, the shots of the audience aren't hold for long since half of it is duplicated with CGI.

    • Some 5 different stunt men played the role of the Black Knight during this episode.

    • The fighting scenes were rehearsed in the UK before shooting them in France.

    • In the scene where Gaius and Merlin go down to the crypts and Merlin casts a spell to get some fire, the flame wouldn't lit and it took the special effects people a lot of tries until they achieved it.

    • The scene where Uther warns Gaius not to break the oath about the truth behind Arthur's birth was filmed as a day scene but in the end it was decided to make it a night one so the colours were edited darker in post production. The give away is that candles are not lit in the background.

    • To create the ring of fire around the Black Knight some gas was put into a tube so its length could be controlled. Then it was enhanced in post production because there wasn't enough gas to create a big flame.

    • The fighting scenes in which the actors' eyes can be seen through their helmets were recorded in Wales while the rest were filmed in France several weeks before.

    • Mark Coulier is the make up artist behind the Black Knight. It took four hours to be applied and another hour to be taken off. Despite the exhaustive prosthetic job, the Black Knight's eyes were darkened in post production. Rick English wasn't able to talk properly or even close his mouth with the prosthetic teeth on.

    • Jeremy Webb, the episode director, checked some web chat and found funny that some fans were excited about the fact that Merlin gets to wear a never seen before shirt during this episode (a white one). Colin Morgan admitted that he was pretty excited himself as well.

    • The lake where Merlin throws the sword into is the same location where Arthur is drowned in episode 1x07 The Gates of Avalon and Freya's final rest in episode 2x09 The Lady of the Lake. In this occasion and in 2x09, mountains were added in post production.

    • The fight between Uther and The Black Knight was shot on July 1st, 2008. Rick English does the stunt for the Black Knight and Mike Lambert does the stunt for Anthony Head. They are friends and experienced adversaries.

    • Bradley James (Arthur) and Kyle Redmond-Jones (Sir Owain) co-star in the Tom Harper's 2008 British TV movie Dis/Connected. Another Dis/Connected actors makes an appearance in Merlin: Caroline Faber plays Hunith in episode 1x01 The Dragon's Call, episode 1x10 The Moment of Truth and episode 1x13 Le Morte d'Arthur whereas Holly Grainger plays Sophia in episode 1x07 The Gates of Avalon.

    • Broadcasts:
      15 Nov 2008 at 19:20–20:05 on BBC One.
      23 Nov 2008 at 15:35–16:20 on BBC One (Northern Ireland only).
      2 Sep 2009 at 19:00–19:45 on BBC Three.

    • Filming locations:
      Château de Pierrefonds, Pierrefonds, Oise, France (Camelot).
      Cardiff, Wales, UK (Studio sets).
      Speech House Lake (where Excalibur is thrown to rest in its depths).

    • This episode is Anthony Head's favourite from season 1.

    • International Airdates:
      Australia: June 28, 2009 (Channel 10).
      France: January 6, 2010 (V TV).
      Germany: November 28, 2009 (RTL).
      Italy: January 13, 2009 (Italia 1).
      Poland: May 2, 2009 (Polsat).
      Spain: July 17, 2009 (Neox).
      The Netherlands: May 23, 2009 (KRO).
      Turkey: November 1, 2009 (CNBC-e).
      Ukraine: July 4, 2009 (1+1).
      USA: August 02, 2009 (NBC).

    • A working title for this episode was The Secrets Of Uther but it was changed just one week before its airing date.

    • The stunt double for the fighting scenes of the Black Knight is played by Rick English, who also plays the Afanc in episode 1x03 The Mark of Nimueh, a bandit in episode 1x07 The Gates of Avalon, does the stunt for the Black Knight in episode 1x09 Excalibur and the stunt for one of the Knights of Medhir in episode 2x12 The Fires of Idirsholas.


    • Gaius: Tristan De Bois was the brother of Ygraine, Uther's wife.

      In Arthurian legend, Ygraine (sometimes spelt Igraine) is Uther's wife and Arthur's mother. Ygraine was previously married to Gorlois, Duke of Cornwall, before her marriage to Uther. In Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae, Uther is in love with Ygraine and Merlin aids him in his seduction of her by disguising Uther as Gorlois- thus tricking Ygraine into sleeping with Uther. Gorlois dies in battle later that evening and Uther and Ygraine marry. There is nothing in the legends to say that Ygraine died in childbirth or needed magic to conceive Arthur, although one source- Robert de Boron's Merlin- does say that Ygraine dies before Uther.

    • Excalibur

      Excalibur is the famous sword associated with King Arthur, often associated with the rightful sovereignty of the land. It is another element that is associated with the Arthurian legend very early on. There are some variations within the tale as to how Arthur acquires the sword- some tellings of the legend associate Excalibur with the Sword in the Stone (which Arthur pulls from the stone to prove himself the true king), but most have Excalibur being given to Arthur by the Lady of the Lake. As in this episode, Excalibur is engraved with 'take me up' on one side and 'cast me away' on the other. Geoffrey of Monmouth claims that the sword was forged in Avalon and many legends end with Excalibur being thrown back into the lake after Arthur has departed for Avalon.