"The Darkest Hour" is a two-part story consisting of the first and second episodes of the fourth series of Merlin. It is set a year after the occurrences in The Coming of Arthur. It also marks the deaths of Morgause and Lancelot.
Merlin faces his toughest challenge yet when Morgana's blinkered determination threatens not only Arthur's future, but also the very balance of the world. With her magic stronger than ever, the sorceress summons the mighty Cailleach to tear open the veil between the worlds.
Hellish creatures pour forth, killing all who succumb to their touch. With Uther a shadow of his former self, it falls to Arthur and his loyal knights, including Lancelot, to protect the kingdom, but it will take more than just swords to vanquish their enemy and Merlin is shocked to the core when he discovers the only way to restore the equilibrium requires a sacrifice of unimaginable proportions.
The kingdom is on the brink of collapse and Morgana poised to strike. As Lancelot races back to Camelot with the dying Merlin, Arthur must continue on his mission to vanquish the Dorocha without them. Though the Knights know their journey to the Isle of the Blessed is fraught with danger, none could anticipate the sacrifice Arthur intends to make there.
Friendship and loyalty are tested to the limit, but in the end, it's the power of love that changes all their lives for ever.
Sir Leon, Sir Elyan and two other knights of Camelot cross paths with Morgana in the middle of a wasteland, and are subsequently knocked unconscious by her magic. Morgana unwraps the cargo on her cart to reveal a disfigured and weak Morgause. Back in Camelot, life has just about returned back to normal, with the exception of Uther, who is still stricken and ill a year after Morgana's betrayal. Arthur's maternal uncle, Sir Agravaine, now acts as mentor and council to the prince.
Leon and Elyan return to court (the other two knights did not survive) to warn Arthur of Morgana. That night, as Camelot feasts, Morgana and Morgause arrive on the Isle of the Blessed, where the dying Morgause convinces Morgana to sacrifice her in order to tear open the veil to the other world and unleash otherworldly horror upon their enemies. Morgana hesitates, but upon Morgause's insistence, she complies. When the sacrifice is made, Morgana becomes unconscious and, miles away, so does Merlin. Both witness the arrival of The Cailleach, the gatekeeper of the "veil between our world and the next," who calls Merlin Emrys and tells Morgana that, though her enemies will suffer like never before, she also needs to be aware of Emrys, who is both her "destiny" and her "doom."
In Camelot, Gaius suspects that the veil to the underworld has been torn, most definitely by Morgana. A girl from a town in the outskirts arrives, telling Arthur and the knights about the death of her village at the hands of beings that had no faces but could be heard by their screams. Gaius identifies these creatures as the Dorocha, the spirits of the dead. When Arthur, the knights and Merlin visit the village, Merlin and Sir Lancelot discover that Merlin's magic does not work in the presence of the Dorocha.
The Dorocha attack Camelot, and the only way to repel them is with fire and light. The castle dungeons are soon filled with corpses of victims who have been frozen to death at the touch of the Dorocha. People from all over the lower towns gather in Camelot for protection, and Percival and Elyan nearly lose their lives while saving three children from the Dorocha in town. Merlin grows terrified of the Dorocha because his magic is useless against them, telling Gaius that he has never felt so weak. When he asks the seemingly at ease Arthur whether the prince is afraid, the latter confesses that he is probably more afraid than Merlin.
Arthur, Agravaine and Merlin learn from Gaius that the only way to close the veil may be to travel to the Isle of the Blessed and make another sacrifice. Arthur volunteers himself and goes to tell the inert Uther about his decision. As he is about to leave, Uther suddenly takes his hand and asks him not to leave, to which Arthur replies through tears that he must. Gwen, who is taking care of Uther, also asks Arthur not to go, but he makes her smile by asking her if she remembers the time he first kissed her. Merlin also prepares to depart; when Gaius asks him not to seeing as his powers don't work against the Dorocha, Merlin reveals his plan to sacrifice himself in place of Arthur. Meanwhile, Agravaine visits Morgana in her hiding place to inform her of Arthur's plan.
Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table and Merlin leave for the Isle of the Blessed. Lancelot continually encourages Merlin to leave and protect himself, but Merlin refuses. The group gets a fire going and Arthur and Merlin go collect more firewood, but one of the Dorocha attacks them and they lose their torch. The remaining knights, with only one torch left between them, decide to search for Arthur and Merlin. Hiding in an abandoned room, Arthur and Merlin attempt to reassure each other and Arthur tells Merlin that he is "a brave man," then joking adds "between battles." Merlin replies, "You have no idea how many times I've saved your life," to which Arthur says if he ever becomes king, he will make Merlin the court jester.
One of the Dorocha finds Merlin and Arthur's hideout as Lancelot and the others battle their way through the dishevelled castle with only one torch. As Arthur is about to rise, Merlin shoves him down and jumps to face the Dorocha himself, jumping straight though it and being flung across the room and hitting the wall.
Lancelot and the other knights barge into the room and vanquish the Dorocha. The knights rush to Merlin's still form slumped by the wall. Part I ends with Arthur turning over Merlin's limp body and seeing that his face is frozen and apparently dead.
Merlin has survived the attack by the Dorocha but is dying from his wounds. Arthur plans to take Merlin back to Camelot so that Gaius can cure him but Sir Leon tells him that they cannot abandon the quest to the Isle of the Blessed as more people will get killed by the Dorocha. Sir Lancelot then takes Merlin with him back to Camelot while Arthur, Leon, Sir Elyan, Sir Percival and Sir Gwaine continue on the quest. Lancelot stops along the way and encounters some creatures called Vilia who are spirits of the rivers and they tell Lancelot that they will protect them from the Dorocha and heal Merlin.
The next day, Merlin has recovered from his injuries and he, along with Lancelot, pursues Arthur and the others as they will need their help to complete the quest. Arthur and the others take a shortcut towards the Isle of the Blessed by going through a cave infested with Wilddeorren creatures and they narrowly escape the creatures. Merlin and Lancelot stop at a deserted house where they stay during the night. However, a Dorocha attacks them during their sleep, forcing them to escape. Merlin summons Kilgharrah, the Great Dragon, who repels the Dorocha with his fire and tells them that the Dorocha cannot remain in the living world and that a sacrifice will be demanded by the Cailleach to close the veil between the living and the spirit worlds so that the Dorocha are defeated.
Meanwhile, back in Camelot, Agravaine, who has taken charge of the kingdom in Arthur's absence, has the gate to the lower town closed to prevent food from running out and Gaius angrily confronts him about it. Gwen persuades Agravaine to reopen the gate and he reluctantly agrees. Agravaine meets Morgana, telling her about Gwen and Morgana, after telling him that she had a vision of Gwen becoming Queen and marrying Arthur, plans to kill her so her vision does not come true. As Gwen tends to Uther, Agravaine apologises to Gwen and summons her to his chambers to give him advise while Morgana enters Camelot through a secret tunnel. When Gwen leaves Agravaine with some knights guarding her, Morgana knocks them unconscious with her magic before leaving. Gaius finds Gwen and cures her, telling her that someone wanted to get rid of her but knock her out so that the Dorocha would kill her.
Merlin and Lancelot catch up with Arthur and the others and rejoin them as they continue their journey to the Isle of the Blessed. Arthur still plans to sacrifice himself to close the veil despite Merlin telling him not to. They eventually arrive at the Isle of the Blessed but are attacked by Wyvern. Merlin commands the Wyvern to leave but more Wyvern arrive. While Leon, Elyan and Percival hold off the Wyvern, the others move on and encounter the Cailleach. Arthur tells the Cailleach to close the veil but she tells him that she does not have the power to do it as she did not tear open the veil. After she knocks Gwaine unconscious with her magic to prevent him attacking her, Arthur then tells her that he can sacrifice himself but before he can, Merlin knocks him unconscious with his magic to confront the Cailleach himself. Merlin then attempts to sacrifice himself but the Cailleach tells him that his time among men has not ended and that he cannot sacrifice himself. Lancelot, who has decided to sacrifice himself, walks into the veil and vanishes as the veil is destroyed.
After Arthur, Merlin and the remaining knights return to Camelot, a funeral is held for Lancelot and Arthur says that Lancelot was one of the bravest and most noble knights Camelot has ever had. Gwen then tearfully tells Arthur that Lancelot did not sacrifice himself for Camelot but sacrificed himself to fulfil his promise to her on protecting Arthur with his life. Meanwhile, Morgana is enraged that her plans have failed and tells Agravaine of her belief that Emrys was the one who thwarted them as the Cailleach warned her about him, telling her that he was her destiny and her doom. She tells Agravaine to help her find Emrys and kill him. Agravaine then goes to Gaius's chambers and asks him if he knows of Emrys but Gaius just replies that he doesn't know. Gaius tells Merlin that Morgana had also seen the Cailleach and that she knows of his identity as Emrys. He also tells him that he suspects Agravaine is loyal to Morgana before warning Merlin that Morgana should never known the truth that he has magic and that he is Emrys.
- Merlin - Colin Morgan
- Voice of the Dragon - John Hurt (part 2 only)
- Gaius - Richard Wilson
- Uther Pendragon - Anthony Head
- Arthur - Bradley James
- Gwen - Angel Coulby
- Morgana - Katie McGrath
- Sir Leon - Rupert Young
- Morgause - Emilia Fox (part 1 only)
- Geoffrey of Monmouth - Michael Cronin (part 2 only)
- Agravaine - Nathaniel Parker
- Sir Lancelot - Santiago Cabrera
- The Cailleach - Gemma Jones
- Sir Gwaine - Eoin Macken
- Sir Elyan - Adetomiwa Edun
- Sir Percival - Tom Hopper
- Drea - Katie Moore (part 1 only)
- Audrey - Zee Asha (part 1 only)
- Ferryman - James Greene
- Rescued Child - Charlie Petryszyn (part 1 only)
- Rescued Child - William Rowlands (part 1 only)
- Rescued Child - Anya Davies (part 1 only)
- Sarah Beck Mather - Vilia (part 2 only)
The Darkest Hour Part One October 1 2011 - 7.50pm BBC One and BBC One HD
The Darkest Hour Part Two October 8 2011 - 8.05pm BBC One and BBC One HD
The Wicked Day October 15 2011- 8:15pm BBC One and BBC One HD
- The Darkest Hour (Part One) is the first episode of Merlin to air on the same night as an episode of fellow BBC Saturday night drama, Doctor Who. As the finale of Doctor Who Series 6, The Wedding of River Song, is to be broadcast right before the first episode of Series 4.
- A new opening sequence is introduced for Series 4, the one used for the first three series only used clips from Series 1, while this one uses clips from all four series. Kilgharrah's opening narration also changes slightly, he now describes Merlin as "a young man" rather than "a young boy".
- As episodes of Merlin are repeated on the CBBC Channel on weekends, reruns of To Kill the King and Le Morte d'Arthur aired on the same day as Parts One and Two respectively.
- This is the first time Kilgharrah speaks to someone apart from Merlin (and Gaius), as Lancelot meets him in Part Two.
- Both the Wilddeoren (Lancelot and Guinevere) and the Wyvern (The Eye of the Phoenix) return in Part Two.
Behind the scenes
|The Darkest Hour • The Wicked Day • Aithusa • His Father's Son • A Servant of Two Masters • The Secret Sharer • Lamia • Lancelot du Lac • A Herald of the New Age • The Hunter's Heart • The Sword in the Stone|