Merlin was an Ancient who had lived in Atlantis millennia ago. In the Ancient language his name had been Myrddin, and archival records from Atlantis suggest that he may have also served as the last High Councilor of Atlantis under the name Moros. Thousands of years ago, Atlantis was besieged by the Wraith, and the Ancients made the decision to abandon their world in the Pegasus Galaxy. Both Merlin and Morgan Le Fay were among the Lantian citizens who fled the Wraith and returned to Earth. In that primitive time, Earth was a harsh place and the Ancients had no hope of living among the people as Lantians or of rebuilding their society. Instead they spread out to many lands, some planting a few small seeds of civilization among the first tribes of man, others making their way to the stargate in Antarctica, others choosing to live the remainder of their lives in seclusion and meditation. Both Merlin and Morgan chose the path of seclusion and meditation, and both eventually achieved ascension.
Thousands of years later, Merlin recognized the threat that the Ori could one day become to this galaxy and to the Ancients themselves, who refused to take any action to protect themselves against them, and he chose to retake human form in order to create a weapon to be used against them. He retained all of the knowledge and many of the powers he had gained when he was ascended, and he used these abilities to create a weapon capable of wiping ascended beings from existence. In the view of the Ancients, he had broken their highest laws, and he created a phase-shift device for the sole purpose of shifting his research into another dimension to conceal his work from the Others. The Ancients feared his intentions, and Morgan Le Fay was sent to observe, and if necessary to stop him. However, Merlin succeeded in completing his weapon, and he created a small enclave of noblemen with whom he entrusted his secret. For the brief time in Earth's history during the age of Camelot and King Arthur, Merlin was the most powerful being on Earth.
The legends of King Arthur and his knights are replete with stories of Merlin's powers. It was said that he could see the future because he actually aged backwards in time, which might have been a reference to time travel technology that granted his prophetic abilities. According to legend, King Arthur journeyed in search of 13 sacred objects, one of which was a cloak known as the Mantle of Arthur that was said to render the wearer invisible and was kept at Bardsey Island by Merlin, a reference perhaps to the phase-shift device he had created. Merlin was also said to have carried the wounded Arthur off in a barge after his last battle, heading for the Vale of Avalon, a magical place where the dead would meet and associated today with Glastonbury, however some say that Arthur never died and would one day return, suggesting that Avalon was a place where Merlin helped Arthur, a mortal, ascend.
SG-1 first learned of Merlin when Vala recovered an Ancient stone table, written by Myrddin and describing a treasure buried on Earth. The treasure was discovered in a cavern deep beneath Glastonbury Tor, and among the riches were Ancient texts and technology, including a communication terminal that led SG-1 to make first contact with the Ori galaxy, and Merlin's phase-shift device which contained a log pointing to PX1-767 as the location of Merlin's weapon. On that world, SG-1 visited Camelot, where Merlin's name was rarely spoken. He was feared as a wizard of darkness who may have tried to do good, but always held the potential for great mischief in his heart. The villagers were grateful that he had neither been seen nor heard of since King Arthur's departure on his quest long ago, and the library where he practiced his strange arts remained sealed, protected by the powerful curse of the Black Knight. SG-1 gained access to the library, however, and learned that the Sangreal, the Holy Grail that was the key to Merlin's weapon, was no longer there.
According to legend, Morgan Le Fay had trapped Merlin in a cave and left him frozen there for all eternity. In reality, however, she was probably trying to protect him. She had been Merlin's rival, sent by the Ancients to stop him, but she came to accept and support his work. Knowing that if she failed her mission the Ancients would have sent another, she likely destroyed Merlin's weapon but then preserved the one man capable of building it again. She had placed Merlin in an Ancient stasis chamber in a cave that he had used as his laboratory, then to keep it hidden she set up a gate dialing system that would automatically transport the contents of Merlin's cave through a circuit of planets cut off from the rest of the gate system. There Merlin slept in stasis for thousands of years until SG-1 successfully performed the challenges that Morgan had put into place in order to ensure that Merlin's weapon could only be acquired by those possessing truth of spirit.
When SG-1 was transported to Merlin's cave, they discovered the Ancient plaque that read, "Here lies Myrddin, Archmage of the Round," and they released him from the chamber. Though weakened from his long time in stasis, Merlin still retained many of his powers, and with a wave of his hand he struck Ba'al mute. Merlin also strongly believed that the creation of his weapon was justified. The Ori gain their power from the lower planes, so much so that one day they would be strong enough to wipe out the Ancients, and in such circumstances the Ancients' strict policy of non-interference is absurd. He acknowledged, too, the actions of Oma Desala, who also did not see eye to eye with the Others, however he considered that despite her good intentions, she concerned herself with the individual and not the bigger picture. Merlin agreed to rebuild his weapon, using an Ancient repository to design and configure the components virtually before they merged and took solid form. However, he recognized that his body had deteriorated too much during the long period of stasis and he was too weakened to complete the device. Merlin had lived many lifetimes, first in Atlantis, then on Earth before the dawn of our civilization, then among the ascended, then as a mortal returned to Earth to live out his remaining days among the noblemen of Arthur's court, and finally suspended in stasis for centuries. As his body began to betray him, Merlin returned to the Ancient repository and uploaded some of this memories and knowledge, then in a flash of light, he collapsed. Merlin was dead.
Merlin had left his legacy in the repository, and when Daniel interfaced with the device, he acquired Merlin's memories of Atlantis, of Earth, of the medieval societies he had set up throughout the galaxy, and of the work he had done in his laboratory. Daniel had gained Merlin's consciousness and abilities, and he had the knowledge to complete Merlin's work. However, Merlin knew that Daniel could only survive for a limited time with the knowledge and consciousness of two distinct people in one mind, and so he had allowed for a time limit and had genetically programmed Daniel's body and mind to revert back to their original state when at last Merlin's consciousness was gone. Through Merlin, Daniel and SG-1 completed the construction of his weapon, and they activated the device and sent it through the supergate to the Ori galaxy. As the task was complete, Merlin's consciousness began to fade from Daniel's mind. Daniel returned to his former state, and Merlin was gone, having sacrificed himself to defend the galaxy from the Ori.
Portrayed by: Matthew Walker
Cross Reference: Ancients, Ancient Repository, Ancient Stasis Chamber, Ascension, Atlantis, Avalon, Camelot, Glastonbury, Daniel Jackson, Merlin's Cave, Merlin's Library, Merlin's Phase-Shift Device, Merlin's Tablet, Merlin's Treasure, Merlin's Weapon, Morgan Le Fay, Ori, Sangreal, Stasis
Episode Reference: Avalon, Camelot, The Pegasus Project, The Quest, The Shroud