The third season of Merlin, half of which has aired so far on BBC 1, continues to garner strong ratings against stiff competition, and pleased BBC brass have gone ahead and ordered a fourth season.
Bradley James as Prince Arthur in season 3 of Merlin.
Ben Stephenson, BBC's controller of drama commissioning, explained in a statement: "Merlin continues to perform outstandingly well against The X Factor and offers audiences an alternative treat on Saturday nights." Viewership has actually been up a bit this year, ranging toward 6.5 million viewers per episode.
The flip side: the order is for only ten episodes so far, not the 13 of all the seasons to date, and the double scheduling of Doctor Who in both the spring and fall of 2011 might push season 4 of Merlin to 2012. The new season will start filming in March.
The show's guiding lights, Johnny Capps and Julian Murphy, gave some hints about what season 4 might hold in store: "We are both delighted with the continuing success of Merlin, and relish the chance to take the series to the next level with the long-awaited arrival of the Knights of the Round Table." Potential players of the Round Table, including the stalwart Lancelot and the irreverent Gwaine, have already been introduced, the latter just recently in season 3.
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