Merlin the magician

Merlin, the Wizard

By Keith McDonald

The magician of legend. Merlin was eccentric and excitable, and his magic was essential to most of the winning quests in the early years of Knightmare.

The legendary wizard, Merlin, was a regular feature during the first four series of Knightmare.

Merlin was eccentric and forgetful, and sometimes introduced himself by other names. Equally, he was a remarkable source of knowledge and magic.

That's right! Two out of two, or it just won't do.


Merlin the Magician, played by John Woodnutt, as seen in Series 1 of Knightmare (1987).
Merlin in Series 1 (1987)

Moment of testing

Merlin's original chamber was a library in Level 2. It normally contained some magical apparatus that could be used to summon him. His key, Casper, might help teams to reach Merlin.

In Series 3, this changed to an astral room with a pit. Teams had to evoke steps to cross and summon him.

Merlin tested teams with riddles and supplied magic to those who performed well. In Series 3 and 4, this meant getting all his riddles correct. Teams who failed did not last long without his magic.

He could also be summoned in Level 3, offering additional help, magic and reassurance.

Merlin the Magician, played by John Woodnutt, as seen in Series 3 of Knightmare (1989).
Merlin in Series 3 (1989)

Merlin's decline

The switch away from handpainted rooms in Series 4 signalled the beginning of the end for Merlin. He now appeared in a variety of places, often locked in the pillory.

This was presented as testing other qualities of the questers. But it gave the sense that his eccentric genius was waning.

The exception to this was one quest where he spoke in opposites, which the team struggled to understand.

We saw glimpses of the charismatic Merlin when he was called to preside over a winning quest. However, his final act was to welcome Christmas in an insipid end-of-season finale.

Merlin the Magician, as played by John Woodnutt in Series 4 of Knightmare (1990).
Merlin in Series 4

Merlin's alter-ego

Just as Merlin was a source for good, his alter-ego Mogdred was a terrifying presence for dungeoneers. Merlin warns teams that Mogdred is the dark side of his nature and of his magic.

This plays on most depictions of Mordred in Arthurian myth as a conflicted figure associated with betrayal.

The dichotomy between the two characters is effective as both are portrayed by the same actor, John Woodnutt.

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