Season 3 Episode 5

The Crystal Cave

Aired Unknown Oct 09, 2010 on BBC
out of 10
User Rating
169 votes

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Episode Summary

After an unexpected meeting with the enigmatic old sorcerer Taliesin, the wizard takes Merlin to the crystal cave allowing him to witness a glimpse of the future. However, this gesture turns out to be more of a curse than a gift when, much to his horror, Merlin sees Morgana set to kill Uther. The young warlock knows he must do his best to try and stop the future from playing out. But changing the pages of destiny is a very dangerous game and his actions end up having fatal consequences. With the whole of Camelot in a state of grief, will Merlin be able to change the course of destiny and undo the damage he has caused, or will it be too late?moreless

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  • A darker, more compelling episode of Merlin features some of the best moments in the series to date. Arthurian legend is front and center in this character-driven piece.

    What Worked:

    Colin Morgan – Colin Morgan's acting is almost always spot-on but this episode stands out for the intensity a palpable weight on Merlin's shoulders as he enmeshes himself in yet another time paradox with dire consequences. Morgan is outstanding as Merlin takes matters into his own hands. During the confrontations with Gaius, the Great Dragon, and Morgana, Morgan show's a Merlin who has learned to take charge. Further the way he twitches as he tries to control the power the Dragon gives him while healing Morgana was nicely done. Morgan shows Merlin is far more grown up these days. Arthurian Time Tale – Once again we learn the lesson that attempting to control the future is fraught with peril. Merlin causes the events to unfold rather than prevent them. The introduction of the Crystal Cave, Talesian, and details of Morgana's parentage were excellent Arthurian legend components which gives a greater sense of weight to the series. Talesian's confusing use of past-tense for future events also makes us wonder if he was time travelling or discussing prophecy. This was a turning point episode which sets up the rest of the series (Series 3 and beyond). Direction – An in media res opening with Arthur and Merlin running full pelt in slow motion with their hearts pounding was a captivating start. Arthur beating a practice dummy in the rain, Merlin remotely observing the people's pain, and a broad use of locations and sets were impressive directorial touches for the episode.

    Merlin/Arthur friendship – Surly Merlin bossing Arthur around a bit was a nice touch as well as his support during Arthur's pain. This is the heart of the show and was well treated in this episode. Partial Success:

    Morgana Reveal and Consequences – We all saw it coming, Uther is Morgana's father. That Uther once again reaches for the Old Religion to save his own is a nice bit of consistency in his position as chief hypocrite in charge. This is the episode that pushes Morgana over the edge. She could have taken Uther out at any other time but she resorted to direct attempted patricide, under cover of an "intruder". Perhaps Morgana's caution to take advantage of her birthright rather than revenge will stay her hand but Morgana crossed yet another line in this episode. What was lacking, however, was depth in Morgana's reaction. The words on the script were there but we should have seen Morgana more unhinged if this was to be her turning point.

    What Didn't Work:

    Gaius' Guidance – Gaius gives the worst guidance: downplaying the warning signs and suggesting Morgana's imminent death was not Merlin's fault. Gaius' role was once again the foil to Merlin's thinking but it does harm to the character when he makes statements that don't track. Presumably it was done to isolate Merlin in his actions but they should have written better logic for Gaius' perspective.

    Overall grade 9.0. The lack of depth in Morgana's reaction was really the biggest detractor to this episode. The use of legend, Colin Morgan's acting, and superior direction makes this an outstanding episode.

    Upon Second Review: This was the turning point episode for the entire Series 3 (Morgana now seeks the throne) and likely the entire show (all 5 years). While Colin Morgan did a fantastic job as the protagonist, unfortunately Katie McGrath did not rise up to the level of worthy antagonist. There was a wonderful "heat" to their exchange when Merlin directly confronted her but the depth of her character development was lacking mostly due to execution. Certainly the script could have been more obvious but throughout the entire Series 3 the lack of rationale for Morgana's turn to evil undermines the show. After listening to DVD commentary, discovering Uther rejected acknowledging her as his child was apparently the point of no return for Morgana and that was not evident in the episode. This could have been a significant moment and it was a missed opportunity.moreless
  • Colin Morgan at his finest and his most amazing portraying of Merlin's feelings of the whole series so far. A real masterpiece which outperforms the Fires of Idirsholas, the Last Dragonlord and the Tears of Uther Pengradonmoreless

    To be fair, I loved this episode from the first five minutes. The relationship between Arthur and Merlin is shown for what it is: the power balance is reversed, with Merlin taking no notice of Arthur's commands and leading the way. I loved the allusions to past episodes (clotpole, superscillious, etc.). Merlin meets a man who uses magic to cure Arthur and shows Merlin the Crystal Cave, which reveals the future Merlin faces. Back at Pendragon Manor, it's Morgana's birthday, and Arthur is so kind and thoughtful as to give her a present. Merlin's actions cause the future he show in the cave to come to pass, and Morgana gets very badly injured. There come two amazing fleeting scenes: the nice Gwen/Arthur "cuddle" (which got me to scream "CLOSE THE DOOR" at the TV) and the brilliant dummy bashing in the rain.

    Some big revelations and uses of magic later, Morgana is all better and set on killing Uther, which is only avoided at the very last second through the use of some very crafty magic from Merlin.

    Only downside to the episode: this clearly belongs to a longer story, and the end of the episode felt a bit rushed. The next episode looks like a silly one again, which, in my opinion, is probably going to turn out to be a shame.moreless
  • Wow!

    I vow to say 'wow' when I'm genuinely extremely positively stunned. Not knowing how to describe this episode, I'll describe how it affected me: I was always on the edge, never bored, too preoccupied with everything that was going on that I couldn't really turn on the analytical part of myself, nor could I actually predict what was going to happen. I was captured by every single moment, and lost there. The episode didn't feel too long, but not short either. There was no filler. And atmosphere was completely fitting to Morgana's state of mind. Actually it could be called 'The Night of Morgan le Fey'. This was the best performance so far by Katie McGrath, she really shone in this one.

    As for the episode, I couldn't really describe it. It is fantasy, but also horror, and there is science-fiction as well with those alternative time-lines, intermingling future, past and future.

    There is happiness, there is grief, there is light and there is dark, family and friendship, loyalty and love.

    I don't know how else to describe it. It is perfect.moreless
  • Squeeeeeeeeeeee!!!!

    What an awesome episode! This is probably my favorite this season so far. We get action, drama, and angst galore! A juicy secret is revealed by Uther, Merlin see's the future, Merlin and Morgana face off again, and the all the character's battle with different types of grief during the whole episode.

    I love getting another appearance of the dragon, and it's was interesting to see a distraught Uther openly weeping in the presence of Merlin.

    The whole episode was dramatically intense, but wonderfully enjoyable. My whole family loved it, and I was left wanting to watch it all over again lol :)moreless
  • The Crystal Cave

    The Crystal Cave was another great episode of Merlin. This episode was full of action and intrigue. Merlin and Arthur are running from some bandits when Arthur is wounded and nearly dies. Merlin is taken to the Crystal Cave by an Old Wizard, and glimpses the future. Merlin see's more than he has bargained for, and trys to change the future. To his dismay, his actions keep leading to the outcome he saw in the Crystal Cave. This episode centered upon this story line, and it was interesting to see Merlin create what he was trying to avoid. The power of attraction perhaps, lol! In any case, we learned once again that it is better to not know the future.moreless
Karl Johnson

Karl Johnson


Guest Star

John Hurt

John Hurt

Voice of the Great Dragon

Recurring Role

Emilia Fox

Emilia Fox


Recurring Role

Featured Episode Clip

Trivia, Notes, Quotes and Allusions


  • TRIVIA (17)

  • QUOTES (32)

    • Merlin: Are they still after us?
      Arthur: I told you we'd outrun them.
      Merlin: You sure?
      Arthur: Why is it you never trust me, Merlin?
      (Men can be heard shouting behind them)
      Arthur: Come on! This way!
      Merlin: Where are we going?
      Arthur: Trust me!
      (Merlin feels magic and stops abruptly)
      Merlin: Arthur!
      Arthur: What are you doing? Come on.
      Merlin: What is this place?
      Arthur: The Valley of the Fallen Kings.
      Merlin: Is it cursed?
      Arthur: No. Not unless you're superstitious.
      Merlin: It is.
      Arthur: It's a myth. They'll never follow us in here. They won't dare. Trust me.
      Merlin : (Whispering) If you say that one more time...!
      (They are followed once again)

    • (After an arrow pierces the back of his chainmail and knocks him to the ground)
      Arthur: What was that?
      Merlin: An arrow.
      Arthur: An arrow? Oh, good. For a moment I thought it was something terrible.

    • Merlin: (To an unconscious Arthur) Come on. Dollop head... I need you to recover. (He casts a spell) Listen to me, clotpole. I don't care if you die, there are plenty of other Princes. You're not the only pompous, supercilious, condescending, royal... imbecile I could work for. The world is full of them. But... I'm going to give you one more chance.

    • (Merlin is crying because he is not able to cure Arthur)
      Taliesin: Tell me... why are you so sad?
      Merlin: My friend is dying. I can't help him.
      Taliesin: Then do not waste your tears. For I can tell you that the time for him to die is not yet upon us. Don't be afraid. My name is Taliesin.
      Merlin: I'm Mer...
      Taliesin: I know who you are. The moment of our meeting has been written for many, many years. You are Emrys.

    • Merlin: What is this place?
      Taliesin: This is where magic began. It is the Crystal Cave. What is it you see? Images, flashes...
      Merlin: I've seen something like this before... in the Crystal of Neahtid.
      Taliesin: What you see here is exactly the same for the Crystal of Neahtid was hewn from this very cave. Look into them, Emrys, really look. Much will be revealed.
      Merlin: No. Take me out of here. How do I get back to Arthur?
      Taliesin: The future is hidden to all but a very few, Emrys. You are one such person.
      Merlin: No. I've been through this before.
      Taliesin: Perhaps there is a reason you were brought here at this moment in time.
      Merlin: What reason?
      Taliesin: Only the crystals can tell you. They contain futures that are not yet born. The secrets they reveal, Emrys, are unique to you... and you alone. Look into them, Emrys, really look. Use what you see for good.

    • Arthur: You look like a startled stoat.
      Merlin: Yeah? Well... at least I don't look like a bone-idle toad. Let's go.
      Arthur: Are you saying I look like a toad?
      Merlin: Yeah, maybe one day you'll magically transform into a handsome Prince. But as magic is outlawed, it'll probably never happen. Come on, let's go.
      Arthur: Merlin...
      Merlin: What?
      Arthur: I'm the one who gives the orders. Remember?
      Merlin: Yeah. You ready? Let's go.

    • Arthur: I don't understand. You said I had an arrow in my back. How come all I can feel is a slight bruise?
      Merlin: Don't know.
      Arthur: Merlin... did something happen that you're not telling me about?
      Merlin: No.
      Arthur: Come on... I'm missing your usual prattle.
      Merlin: You're certainly making up for it.
      Arthur: You still haven't answered my question.
      Merlin: The arrow didn't pierce your armour and when you fell you knocked yourself out.
      Arthur: All right, I don't normally say things like this, but... you did a good job back there. Did you hear what I just said? All right, maybe I should give you some kind of reward. What do you want?
      Merlin: Some peace and quiet.

    • Arthur: The bandits probably have a stronghold somewhere in the White Mountains. How we escaped, I'll never know. Although some credit must go to my servant, Merlin.
      (Gwen elbows Merlin, who doesn't react)
      Uther: Dispatch a patrol, I want these men caught and brought to justice.
      Arthur: Immediately, father.
      Uther: We feared you might miss Lady Morgana's birthday.
      Arthur: It would take more than a bunch of thieves to keep me from such a feast. Uther: Tomorrow promises to be quite a night.

    • Merlin: Gaius, I can't get these visions out of my head.

    • Gaius: Taliesin was a seer to the great Kings of old. It is said that the Crystal Cave was the source of his prophecies.
      Merlin: He told me... he said there was a reason I was brought there at this moment in time. Why? It must mean the events I saw are imminent. Morgana is going to kill Uther.
      Gaius: You must be careful. The crystals are treacherous. What you saw may not be all that it seemed.
      Merlin: So I do nothing?
      Gaius: There is nothing to suggest that what you saw is imminent, is there?
      Merlin: No.
      Gaius: So, I wouldn't let it put you off your soup.
      Merlin: You're right.
      Gaius: Come on, eat up.
      Merlin: What is it?
      Gaius: Sometimes it's best not to know.

    • Arthur: It's Morgana's birthday. I have to get her a present.
      Merlin: What are you getting her?
      Arthur: It's a secret.
      Merlin: Come on, you can tell me.
      Arthur: A dagger.

    • Arthur: Morgana's present. What do you think? Beautiful, isn't it? Feel the balance. Feel the sharpness of the blade.
      Merlin: Yeah, it's just what every woman wants, isn't it?
      Arthur: What do you mean?
      Merlin: Well, I'm no expert, but don't women normally go for pretty things, like, maybe, jewellery?

    • Merlin: How do I look?
      Gaius: Same as you always do.
      Merlin: Handsome.
      Gaius: You've brightened up.
      Merlin: I've seen Morgana's present.
      Gaius: The dagger?
      Merlin: It's very plain, bit boring.
      Gaius: And not like the one you saw?
      Merlin: No, that was sumptuous, ornate. I'd probably be disappointed if I were Morgana.
      Gaius: Good, so now you can stop worrying.
      Merlin: Oh, I have. I'm going to continue as if I'd never even met Taliesin. I'm going to enjoy this feast like everyone else.
      Gaius: Even if it's for Morgana.

    • (Arthur has changed the plain dagger for an ornate one, just like the one in Merlin's vision)
      Arthur: It's not often you're right, Merlin, but this is one of those rare occasions. Girls do like pretty things. Thanks.
      (Merlin is stunned as he watches Morgana holding the dagger)

    • Merlin: It's coming true.
      Gaius: We can't be certain about that.
      Merlin: We have to stop her.
      Gaius: How? Merlin, we don't know when this is going to happen. We don't even know if it will.
      Merlin: We have to watch her.
      Gaius: Night and day?
      Merlin: I was shown these visions for a reason.
      Gaius: This is madness.
      Merlin: We'll take it in turns. She cannot be left alone.

    • Gwen: You've got some lovely presents.
      Morgana: Mainly hairbrushes.
      Gwen: (Reading the note attached to a mirror) Who is King... Gremoaus?
      Morgana: At least he doesn't think my hair needs brushing.

    • Gaius: We've done the best we can. I can heal her skin, Gwen, but her skull, the cranium is broken. She's bleeding inside.

    • Merlin: I had to stop the future. I had to stop Morgana killing Uther. I didn't mean to do it like this.
      Gaius: It wasn't your fault, Merlin.
      Merlin: I've prevented something much worse from happening. I just... wish it could have been some other way.
      (Gaius puts an arm around Merlin and comforts him)

    • Merlin: I'm sorry about Morgana. If Gaius could do something, he would.
      Arthur: After all we went through to rescue her... for her to survive all that...
      Merlin: I know.
      Arthur: And to lose her now, like this. I've grown up with her. She's like a sister to me. I would sacrifice my place on the throne for her to see another sunrise.

    • Uther: So beautiful.
      Gaius: Yes, Sire.
      Uther: I cannot watch her die, Gaius.
      Gaius: I wish there was something I could do...
      Uther: No. You don't understand. I cannot lose her. No matter what happens, she cannot die.
      Gaius: I will do everything I can, Sire, but...
      Uther: No, Gaius. Whatever it takes, whatever. I don't care. You must save her.
      Gaius: If I knew a way...
      Uther: You're not understanding me, Gaius. Cure her. I don't care what remedy you use. In all these books there must be something. Something in the Old Religion?
      Gaius: Are you suggesting...?
      Uther: Sorcery, yes.

    • Gaius: I know she is dear to you, Sire, but surely you're not going to risk everything for Morgana.
      Uther: Gaius... you don't understand. There's something you should know. Something I've told no one. Morgana is my daughter. (Merlin is overhearing from his room) It was whilst Gorlois was away fighting in the Northern Plains (Morgana's fingers and eyes move slightly suggesting she is conscious and listening) Her mother...Vivian... grew lonely.
      Gaius: I understand, Sire.
      Uther: I've said enough. The people must never know who Morgana really is... for Arthur's sake.
      Gaius: I assure you, Sire, your secret is safe with me.
      (Uther leaves. Gaius joins Merlin in his room)
      Gaius: That explains everything. No wonder he spent a year looking for her. Now we know why she can do no wrong.

    • Uther: You are Gaius's boy?
      Merlin: He is my guardian.
      Uther: You are like a son to him.
      Merlin: Yes.
      Uther: I see the way he cares for you. You feel your child's every joy... and their pain. You watch their failings and you see your own. All you want is for their happiness. For them to escape the sufferings of life. Why? Why has this happened? I would do anything. Any... (He bursts out crying and Merlin leaves him alone)

    • Merlin: I have been to the Crystal Cave. I saw Morgana make an attempt on Uther's life.
      The Great Dragon: It does not surprise me.
      Merlin: But I stopped her.
      The Great Dragon: To change the future is no simple matter, Merlin. To do so is fraught with danger.
      Merlin: I know, and as a result of my actions, Morgana is dying.
      The Great Dragon: Then you should rejoice!
      Merlin: I want you to help me to save her.
      The Great Dragon: Merlin, have you learnt nothing?
      Merlin: I did not mean to kill her. All I wanted was to avoid the future that would've unfolded, to prevent Uther's death, to prevent Camelot being torn apart.
      The Great Dragon: I will not cure her!
      Merlin: She is Uther's daughter!
      The Great Dragon: Yes.
      Merlin: You knew. Why didn't you tell me?
      The Great Dragon: It makes no difference.
      Merlin: Whatever she was about to do, I stopped her. There's no need for people to suffer.
      The Great Dragon: The witch must die, as she should have done long ago. I will not save her.
      Merlin: I am a Dragonlord, you cannot refuse me!
      The Great Dragon: How dare you treat me such! How dare you abuse your power!
      Merlin: I command you.
      The Great Dragon: Very well. But I warn you, the evil that will follow is of your doing and yours alone.

    • (Uther is sitting on a recovered Morgana's bed, embracing her)
      Uther: It's truly a miracle. Thank you, Gaius. I knew you would not fail me.
      Gaius: I assure you, Sire, I did nothing.
      Uther: Of course. I understand. I won't ask any questions. But I will not forget this, Gaius.

    • Merlin: I couldn't watch everyone's grief.
      Gaius: I know, but you're playing with things that are beyond you.

    • Uther: I couldn't ever let you die. I think I somehow willed you to live.
      Morgana: You've always been so good to me. I am grateful.
      Uther: You and Arthur. You mean everything to me, Morgana.
      Morgana: I know I could have no better guardian. Being so close to death has made me realise how important you and Arthur are to me. How close we are to each other.
      Uther: Yes.
      Morgana: You are like a father to me.
      Uther: Yes.
      Morgana: I wish the people knew that.
      Uther: They do.
      Morgana: Not really.
      Uther: Of course they do.
      Morgana: In the eyes of the people I am no more than your ward, a guest.
      Uther: What matters is what we feel. That's what's important, not what the people think.

    • Morgana: Uther is my father. I am his daughter.
      Morgause: Uther?
      Morgana: He has been lying to me all these years.
      Morgause: But this is glorious news!
      Morgana: He disowned me. He wants people to think that he's the perfect King. It's more important to him than his own flesh and blood.
      Morgause: Don't you see? This is wonderful. You have a legitimate claim to his throne.
      Morgana: No, sister, you don't understand. He must pay for this. (Bells toll) You must go.
      Morgause: No. I don't want to leave you like this.
      Morgana: You must or they will find you here.
      Morgause: Do not do anything rash, Morgana. Promise me. We must bide our time.

    • (Gaius is holding the bleeding hand of a dead servant as blood drops fall forming a puddle on the floor)
      Gaius: Merlin? What's the matter?
      Merlin: That was the next image I saw in the crystal. I haven't stopped anything.

    • Gwen: Have they found the intruder?
      Morgana: Not yet.
      Gwen: Looks like it's going to be a bad night.
      Morgana: Yes.

    • Morgana: What are you doing here?
      Merlin: Arthur sent me to look after you. He's worried about the intruder.
      Morgana: I don't need you.
      Merlin: He was quite insistent.
      (They struggle)
      Morgana: Get out of my way! (Performs magic and throws Merlin up in the air and against a wall, knocking him unconscious. A chandelier is also knocked and a fire starts. Morgana leaves)

    • (Morgana is about to stab Uther. Merlin performs magic and blows a window open, making Morgana fall backwards against a wall)
      Uther: (Jerking awake) What's going on?
      Morgana: Uh... there was a fire... and I was scared (She approaches the bed, kicking the fallen dagger under it) I wanted to be with you. You're the only person I feel safe with.

    • Gaius: You saved the King's life.
      Merlin: Only just. I thought I could alter the future, but instead, I caused it, I made it happen.
      Gaius: What you did was dangerous, even for someone as gifted as you. But, what's done is done. There are more important things for us to worry about. I fear that Morgana knows the truth.
      Merlin: About what?
      Gaius: She knows the King is her father. That explains why she acted so suddenly. Arthur must be careful.
      Merlin: Why?
      Gaius: Morgana is of royal blood. If Uther were to die, Arthur is all that stands between her and the throne of Camelot.

  • NOTES (5)

    • International Airdates:
      Canada: February 12, 2011 on Space.
      France: March 20, 2011 on Canal + Family.
      Germany: October 26, 2011 on RTL.
      Italy: April 4, 2011 on Italia 1.
      Poland: April 2, 2011 on Polsat.
      Spain: January 22, 2011 on Antena 3 Neox.
      Turkey: February 6, 2011 on CNBC-e.
      USA: February 11, 2011 on Syfy.

    • From this episode onwards, Morgause is either shown in close shots or wearing a cloak due to Emilia Fox's pregnancy.

    • Also Known As:
      France: L'Antre De Cristal, meaning The Crystal Den.
      Germany: Die Kristallhöhle.
      Italy: La Caverna Di Cristallo.
      Poland: Kryształowa Grota.
      Portugal: A Caverna De Cristal.

    • Filming locations:
      Château de Pierrefonds, Pierrefonds, Oise, France (Camelot).
      Cardiff, Wales, UK (Studio sets).
      Puzzlewood, Perrygrove Road, Coleford, Gloucestershire GL16 8QB, England, UK (Opening scenes with Arthur and Merlin running through the woods. Meeting point of Merlin and Taliesin).

    • Broadcasts:
      Sat 9 Oct 2010 at 19:40-20:25 on BBC One.
      Mon 11 Oct 2010 at 19:00-19:45 on BBC Three.


    • Taliesin was an early British poet whose work has survived in a 14th-century manuscript containing 56 poems, some of the oldest in Welsh, entitled the Book of Taliesin.

    • The Stone Statues in the Valley of the Fallen Kings bear some resemblance to the Argonath from The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring movie.