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Avalon... the land of eternal youth.

The Gates of Avalon is the seventh episode in the first series of Merlin, which was first broadcast on 1 November 2008. It marked the first appearance of the Sidhe and the land of Avalon.


Morgana has a dream that Arthur is murdered by a beautiful girl. She warns him of it, but Arthur's chivalry lands him in trouble when he jumps to the rescue of a damsel in distress, Sophia and her elderly father Aulfric.

Back in Camelot, Sophia uses more than just her feminine charms to take control of Arthur's heart. This strange behaviour doesn't go unnoticed by Merlin, but can he work out who the mysterious pair are and what they want with Arthur? But more importantly, can he save Arthur in time?


Morgana tells Gaius about her dream

Morgana has a nightmare in which Prince Arthur is drowned by a beautiful young woman. While out hunting with Merlin, Arthur comes across this woman and her elderly father being attacked by Terence and his robbers. He fights the robbers away with the (unknowing) aid of Merlin's magic. They kill the robbers, but Terence himself runs away. Thereafter the old man is brought before King Uther. He introduces himself as Aulfric and the girl as his daughter, Sophia. Aulfric is the heir to another kingdom ("Tír-Mòr," Gaelic for "Mainland") which was ransacked by raiders, and is travelling west with Sophia to join other family. Uther invites them to stay in Camelot for a while.

Sophia and Arthur spend some time together

Morgana is horrified to see Sophia moving into the room next to Arthur's. She tells Gaius about her vision of Sophia and the fact that Sophia is now staying at the castle. Gaius tries to reassure her and gives her a sleeping draught, advising her not to worry Uther. Morgana is not convinced. Aulfric is seen returning to the forest and using magic to kill the Terence who survived. He had paid them to pretend to attack him and Sophia. However, Terence began to demand more. Morgana has another dream about Sophia drowning Arthur. The next morning Arthur goes riding with Sophia after making Merlin promise to cover for him, as he was supposed to be on patrol. Guinevere encourages Morgana to tell the king about her dream but Morgana fears Uther would punish her for using sorcery. She resolves to stop Sophia herself. Meanwhile, Uther discovers that Arthur is missing. Merlin takes the blame for not giving Arthur the order to go on patrol, so Uther has him thrown into the stocks.

Arthur, enchanted by Sophia

In the forest Sophia nearly uses witchcraft on Arthur, but they are interrupted by the royal knights. He decides to go back to Camelot rather than taking her to the river. When Merlin returns home and explains why he has been in the stocks, Gaius is reminded of Morgana's dream. He examines Aulfric's possessions and finds his staff. The staff is carved with Ogham runes, which add to the mystery of just who Aulfric and Sophia are. He is then caught snooping by Aulfric, but manages to come up with an excuse and escape, but not before seeing Aulfric's eyes flash red with anger. Sophia is also angrily confronted by Morgana, who swears to hunt her down if she harms Arthur. Aulfric wants to know why Sophia has not completed her mission. Their aim is to re-open and enter "the gates of Avalon." Aulfric warns her to hurry and they agree that their enchantment must be completed the following day. Morgana tries to warn Arthur about her dreams, but he does not believe her.

The next day Arthur prepares to go riding with Sophia again rather than attend the appointment of a new royal knight. Merlin promises to get him out of it but is again thrown into the stocks. In the forest Sophia casts a spell which brings Arthur under her control. Merlin returns and Gaius tells him that Morgana is a Seer, born with the power to view the future in her dreams. He has known for a while about her ability but kept this quiet in order to protect her from Uther. He suspects that Arthur is indeed in danger as Morgana fears, because of what he saw whilst investigating the room of Aulfric and Sophia. That evening Merlin overhears Sophia telling Aulfric that her magic has worked, and tomorrow they will be able to use Arthur for their own purposes. Aulfric says he will go to speak to "the elders." Merlin follows Aulfric to a lake, where he summons the Sidhe elders, who resemble fairies. It emerges that he and Sophia were exiled from Avalon, the land of immortal life, because he killed another Sidhe. Aulfric must remain in a mortal body forever, but Sophia may return to Avalon again if they sacrifice a mortal prince to the Sidhe elders. Merlin tells Gaius everything.

Sophia about to use Arthur as a tribute to return to Avalon

Arthur requests an audience with the king and asks for permission to marry Sophia, which is denied. Uther believes that his son is too young to marry, and threatens to have Aulfric and Sophia arrested if Arthur defies him. Morgana very nearly tells Uther about her dreams but cannot bring herself to. Merlin attempts to warn Arthur that Sophia has bewitched him, but is caught by Aulfric and Sophia. Arthur's eyes magically glow red and Aulfric knocks out Merlin using magic. Morgana sees Arthur leave with Sophia and Aulfric, and runs to Gaius.

Gaius tells a dazed Merlin that Sophia and Aulfric have taken Arthur away. Merlin rushes into the forest in time to see them beginning the ceremony to return Sophia to Avalon. She is told that Aulfric cannot come with her but she must go through with the ceremony: if the elders do not get Arthur's soul they will take hers instead. Merlin arrives as Sophia has magically suspended Arthur under the river. He magically grabs the staff she carries, which was lying on the bank, and uses a spell with the staff that kills both her and Aulfric. He wades into the river and saves Arthur before Arthur drowns.

Merlin saves Arthur

Arthur awakens with no memory of what Sophia did to him. Merlin and Gaius tell him that he eloped with Sophia and Merlin knocked him out and brought him back to Camelot. Arthur is horrified that Merlin could overpower him and that he ever wanted to marry Sophia. They agree not to tell Uther and so Merlin is placed in the stocks yet again. Gaius later gives Morgana another Sleeping Draught and makes Merlin swear never to let her know about her powers, or the possibility that she is a sorceress. She suffers another nightmare that night.


Main Cast[]

Recurring Cast[]

Guest Cast[]


To view the The Gates of Avalon gallery, click here.


View the transcript here.

Release & Reception[]

  • The Gates of Avalon premiered on Syfy UK at 7pm on September 9th 2017, immediately followed by The Beginning of the End.
  • 6.45 million viewers.


  • The episode marks the first appearance of the Lake of Avalon.
  • The episode also marks Merlin receiving the Sophia's staff.
  • The episode also marks the first time Merlin learns of the Seer Morgana's magic.
  • The staff which Merlin takes from Sophia reappears in To Kill the King and The Changeling.
  • Holliday Grainger starred in the series Demons, which was also produced by Shine. Richard Wilson was a guest star in two episodes of that series.
  • The staff which Merlin takes from Sophia was suspected to become his magical staff from the old legends. It was proved wrong for series later when, in The Diamond of the Day: part 1, Merlin emerges from the Crystal Cave, with another staff.


  • After returning to the stocks Merlin states that the people were throwing potatoes at him. However, the potato was not introduced to Europe until 1536. Rotten tomatoes were also referred to as a popular missile, but they weren't introduced to England until the 1590s.

See also[]

Series 1
The Dragon's Call  • Valiant  • The Mark of Nimueh  • The Poisoned Chalice  • Lancelot  • A Remedy to Cure All Ills  • The Gates of Avalon  • The Beginning of the End  • Excalibur  • The Moment of Truth  • The Labyrinth of Gedref  • To Kill the King  • Le Morte d'Arthur

Mini-episode: Merlin in Need

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