Page last updated at 00:10 GMT, Wednesday, 23 July 2008 01:10 UK

BBC One unveils new Merlin drama

Screen grab from Merlin
Merlin's creators are hoping to attract a family audience

A host of stars including John Hurt, Michelle Ryan and Richard Wilson are set to appear in BBC One's latest Saturday night drama, Merlin.

The 13-part series follows the fabled friendship between the young wizard Merlin and Prince Arthur.

Bafta-winner Hurt will provide the voice of Merlin's mentor, the Great Dragon, while Bionic Woman star Ryan will play wicked sorceress Nimueh.

Newcomer Colin Morgan, 22, from Northern Ireland, takes the title role.

His previous television experience is limited to guest roles on Doctor Who and the Catherine Tate Show.

However, he has made a name for himself in the West End with critically acclaimed roles in Vernon God Little and All About My Mother.

'Youthful look'

It is hoped the tale will appeal to young and old audiences alike - much like Doctor Who, which occupies a similar slot in the schedules.

BBC Wales' Head of Drama Julie Gardner, also an executive producer on Doctor Who, said: "In this new version, Merlin and Arthur are young contemporaries for the first time ever, bringing a much loved tale to a whole new generation with a fresh, youthful new look and approach for Saturday nights."

The drama is set in a time before Arthur becomes king, as Merlin comes to terms with his magical powers.

Santiago Cabrera, who played Isaac Mendez in Heroes, will take the role of Lancelot and up-coming actress Angel Coulby stars as Guinevere.

Oscar-winning visual effects team The Mill, who were behind Doctor Who and the Gladiator, are producing the series' computer generated imagery.

The show is currently being filmed in Wales and France.

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