[GUEST POST] Christine Donatello Analyzes The Death of Starz’s ‘Camelot’

Before I begin, I must make something clear – I’m a lifelong fan of the tale of King Arthur. Because of this, I’m also extremely hard to please. I have strong tastes when it comes to what I look for in the Arthurian legend, and I’ve hated more interpretations than I’ve liked.

When I heard that Starz was coming out with their own rendition of the legend, to say I was skeptical would be the understatement of the century. I tried to be excited but I’d been let down so many times before. I was jaded, and rightfully so I might add. My favorite character, Merlin, has been so wrongly portrayed so many times before that I’d practically given up hope that anyone would ever get it right.

Here’s where Starz comes in. I reluctantly sat down for the first episode of Camelot expecting the usual – a sub-par interpretation of the legend. I wasn’t prepared for what I’d find next. For the very first time I finally came across a version of Camelot that I actually could fall in love with. It only took about five minutes for me to realize that what I was experiencing at that moment was a dream come true for a diehard Arthurian fan like myself.

I practically devoured each and every episode right through the finale. However, something went terribly wrong. After a very successful first season, Camelot wasn’t renewed. The cast, crew and fans were shocked. How can such a show, which was able to embrace this legend and breathe new life into it, be cancelled? The reasons haven’t been officially released (for the record, it wasn’t due to ratings), but even so, there are some things that Starz could’ve done differently that might’ve aided Camelot in its survival. Let’s explore those right now.


Find a different actor to portray Arthur

Yep, that’s right. As much as I loved the show, I had no love of Jamie Campbell Bower as King Arthur. I assume their plan was to try to find a younger man who did not look like he had a royal presence, but did they need to find one that looked like a stoner? Personally, I believe Philip Winchester (who played Leontas) would’ve been better suited for the role. He had a young appearance and was dashing, and yet could appear somewhat courtly. Bower was just the wrong choice.

Have Merlin use more magic

I think this one is a given. Let me make one thing clear though – the special effects in this show were superb! From the lake scene to the falling, burning leaves, I was stunned by what I witnessed as I progressed through this series. Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough of it. To be fair, there was very, very little. It was like a magic drought. Initially it was so refreshing to see Merlin casting elemental magic rather than the fairy dust other “Merlin wannabes” have cast in the past – why they wouldn’t have more of it is beyond me. I’m thinking cost might’ve been a factor and I can appreciate the idea of “quality over quantity.” Even so, the lack of magic was disappointing.

Less romance, more action

I bet this is something you wouldn’t think to hear from a girl. Being a huge Spartacus fan myself, I know what Starz is capable when it comes to good ol’ violence. I expected Arthur and his knights would defeat the realm’s enemies in brutal hand-to-hand combat so I was surprised not to see any real blood spurts in Camelot. I did enjoy the romance story between Igraine and Merlin, and Guinevere and Arthur respectively. I just wish they could’ve kept that and upped both the frequency and graphic detail of the battle scenes a bit more.

This was the best interpretation of the Arthurian legend I’ve ever seen, and I was hugely disappointed it wasn’t renewed when the ratings were obviously there. I can only hope that as time goes on, Starz will decide to reinstate it at some point because, for me, all other renditions fall terribly short.

A self-professed “geek girl” at heart, Christine Donatello considers herself extremely lucky to share her passion for science fiction with others. Her early exposure to sci-fi at the hands of her father no doubt fueled her interest at a young age and set the foundation for her lifelong love of anything not of this world. She’s the owner of ScienceFictionZone.com, a website dedicated to sharing both breaking news and entertainment with both new and diehard sci-fi fans alike. Christine is also a freelance writer by day and has been working in this field since 2009.

5 thoughts on “[GUEST POST] Christine Donatello Analyzes The Death of Starz’s ‘Camelot’”

  1. I was also looking forwards to the show, even with all the terrible renditions in the past.  Why?  Becaue I’d recently watched Spartacus:Blood and Sand, which was as beautiful as it was violent and disturbing.

    I wasn’t surprised that Camelot was cancelled, I had problems with it as well.

    The settings were uninspired in general.  

    The scripts were way to didactic in a TH White kind of way.  Wrong tone people, leave that to the producers of Merlin.

    They were looking, I think, for another Jonathan Rhys Meyers in Jamie.  They missed.  But he was at least was better in the roll than Nigel Terry.

    Women’s wear that borrowed to heavily from Victoria’s Secret.

    What I was hoping for was that the series would recall Boorman’s Excalibur.  Instead we got something closer to and noticeably inferior to the Game of Thrones adaptation.

     

  2. I agree that the actor was a bad choice for Arthur, and the guy who played Leontes would have been a better choice, because he can bridge the gap between carefree youth and military leader – and he could actually fill a suit of armour.  

    On the other hand, the main problem with the actor was arguably that everyone swore allegiance to this weedy little kid far too easily.  I wonder what might have happened if they’d kept the actor but lengthed that portion of the story, making it more about political scheming, blackmail and trickery (all things that seem like Merlin’s stock in trade)…  Actually, that sounds a lot like some elements of Spartacus!

    Not so sure about giving Merlin more magic – he’s all about the cost of using magic (which is nicely done in the show, I think) and I think his level of magic is about right.  However, I’d like to see more of what he’s up to with those drawings in his room.  That seems like it could be interesting but what I’ve seen so far doesn’t go into that in much depth.

  3. Becaue I’d recently watched Spartacus:Blood and Sand, which was as beautiful as it was violent and disturbing.

    I couldn’t agree more about Spartacus: Blood and Sand.   Speaking of, have you seen Gods of the Arena?  I think it’s even better than B&S.

    I wasn’t surprised that Camelot was cancelled,

    Well honestly, it should be at least a little bit surprising considering they had the ratings they needed.  I did an exclusive news story during this time and none of the cast nor crew anticipated the cancellation – everything was supposed to go as planned.  So obviously something happened, and the head honchos over at Starz are remaining tight-lipped about it.

    The settings, clothes, tone etc didn’t bother me at all.   Maybe I didn’t notice any of that because (with the exception of Jamie) the characters were just so well cast.  Eva Green was breathtaking as Morgan, and Joseph Fiennes made a superb Merlin. 

    Instead we got something closer to and noticeably inferior to the Game of Thrones adaptation.

    I respectfully disagree.  I think both are winners in their own way but for me Camelot takes the cake.  Reason being, Starz had to take a legend that had been told ad nauseum throughout the ages and then make it interesting once again, adding their own touches and interpretations to it to make it both suitable and captivating to contemporary viewers.  GoT is pretty brand new (compared to the tale of King Arthur).  It hadn’t been told over and over and over again throughout the course of history so its newness was a factor that played in its favor.

  4. On the other hand, the main problem with the actor was arguably that everyone swore allegiance to this weedy little kid far too easily.  I wonder what might have happened if they’d kept the actor but lengthed that portion of the story, making it more about political scheming, blackmail and trickery (all things that seem like Merlin’s stock in trade)…  Actually, that sounds a lot like some elements of Spartacus!

    Excellent point!  They were a bit trusting in the beginning weren’t they?   And it definitely does sound like some elements of Spartacus.  Man, I miss that show!

    Not so sure about giving Merlin more magic – he’s all about the cost of using magic (which is nicely done in the show, I think) and I think his level of magic is about right.  However, I’d like to see more of what he’s up to with those drawings in his room.  That seems like it could be interesting but what I’ve seen so far doesn’t go into that in much depth.

    I see what you mean and it does make sense.  Maybe that’s what makes the magic so appealing…the fact that there wasn’t that much of it so it left us wanting more.  I’ll have to ponder that for awhile, but I do see where you’re coming from.  Ah yes, the drawings.  I really think if they’d made a season two they might’ve touched on those a bit more – I was curious about them myself.

  5. Excellent point!  They were a bit trusting in the beginning weren’t they?

    And a bit trustworthy!  It might have been a more interesting story if the lesser lords and landowners had been more self-serving.

    Maybe that’s what makes the magic so appealing…the fact that there wasn’t that much of it so it left us wanting more. 

    Perhaps, but I was also thinking that it feeds into Morgan’s story as well.  You see Merlin not using magic that often, and he says that’s because of the cost involved, and then you see Morgan using magic a lot more, and in some ways becoming a pawn for the forces she seems to have made deals with.  That’s another thing that could have been fleshed out a lot in a 2nd season.

    Well honestly, it should be at least a little bit surprising considering they had the ratings they needed.  I did an exclusive news story during this time and none of the cast nor crew anticipated the cancellation – everything was supposed to go as planned.

    I’m not really surprised, not because it deserved to be cancelled but because it’s what happens to sf shows these days.  

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