The revelation that Amazon would be developing a prequel TV series based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy classic The Lord Of The Rings has proved to be something of a hot topic this week across the internet. Online discussion has raged over what era it might cover, which characters it might use and whether it has any hope of topping Peter Jackson’s seminal movie trilogy.
In the wake of this intriguing announcement therefore, it’s perhaps worth checking in on a few other cherished fantasy properties that also have TV series in gestation. Do any of these shows have the ingredients to rival the colossal success of HBO’s own fantasy juggernaut, Game Of Thrones? Here’s a quick run-down of the current state of play for several of the likeliest candidates:
Game of Thrones – The Spin-off
Every studio is clamouring to find “the next Game of Thrones” and understandably with the show coming to an end in just one season’s time, HBO have more than one eye on this dilemma themselves. Thrones fans needn’t worry too much however as it looks like the studio has the matter well in hand.
Earlier this year, George R R Martin himself confirmed via his blog a few salient details, namely that there are now a grand total of five different scripts in development and all of them are a prequel of sorts to the current show. With regards to the scripts’ subject matter, Martin said:
“For what it’s worth, I don’t especially like the term ‘spinoff,’ and I don’t think it really applies to these new projects. What we’re talking about are new stories set in the ‘secondary universe’ (to borrow Tolkien’s term) of Westeros.”
There is absolutely no shortage of A Song of Ice and Fire lore and history to choose from but Martin has also confirmed that neither his “Dunk and Egg” novellas nor the story of “Robert’s Rebellion” will be involved. This still leaves plenty of prominent events that are ripe for the tackling however, such as The Blackfyre Rebellions, Aegon’s Conquest and the Andal Invasion to name just a few.
Fans shouldn’t get too excited just yet though as the official line from HBO appears to be that the spin-off that does eventually get greenlit won’t be seeing the light of day until at least a year after the current series ends in 2019. Who knows, by that point we might even have another book to enjoy too!
His Dark Materials
The BBC confirmed back in 2015 that it was working on an adaptation of Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy in association with New Line Cinema. Since that announcement however, it’s all gone a little bit quiet.
What we do know though is that the screenplay is being handled by award-winning playwright Jack Thorne, who recently received plaudits galore for his work on Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Thorne confirmed in an interview with The Radio Times earlier this year that the show was indeed still going ahead and he reassured fans that they would be staying loyal to the source material. Thorne said:
“I mean, the most important thing is being loyal to the books, and trying to tell those books as well as we possibly can.”
“The advantage of television is we can slow down. In the film and on stage they had so much plot to get through, so much plot to churn through, whereas we’ve got the luxury of having time to get to know [lead character] Lyra, and spend time in her world.”
Thorne has gone to great lengths to stress that they won’t be cutting any corners this time around, and between BBC and New Line the series is clearly getting a lot of backing. The fact that they are taking the time to get the complex and multi-layered story right will be of great comfort to loyal fans of the books who no-doubt still have the 2007 movie debacle seared into their memories.
The stories are epic in scope and translating them to screen will be no mean feat. However, while there’s no clear sign of filming beginning just yet, the ingredients are certainly there for a huge hit given the parties involved and the broad appeal of the source material.
The Dark Tower
The 2017 movie adaptation of Stephen King’s seminal fantasy series proved to be something of a disappointment for many, with the unenviable task of condensing the sprawling saga down into one manageable movie proving a stretch too far. However one would imagine that a TV show might suit the stories better, allowing far greater time and scope for its weighty ideas and concepts to be explored.
It’s always been stated that a TV series was planned to sit alongside the movie, in particular one which would tackle the fourth book in the series, Wizard and Glass, which serves as a backstory of sorts for our heroic gunslinger, Roland Deschain. However everything has become a little vague since the movie’s lacklustre theatrical run.
It has been confirmed by The Hollywood Reporter that Walking Dead Executive Producer, Glen Mazzara is on-board as a showrunner for the planned series and that the film’s producers MRC and Sony Pictures are asking for a 10-13 episode first season.
However, such was the critical backlash facing Nikolaj Arcel’s movie, it’s unclear whether it will have an effect on final plans for the show. King himself told Vulture that he saw the series as being a “complete reboot”, though this could just be In reference to the action shifting back in time and a thus a new cast being used. Elba himself seems unsure of the TV show’s status and his own involvement in the project. He recently told The Radio Times:
“I’d personally prefer to do another Dark Tower film, exploring some more of the gunslinger – as a film.”
“I don’t know much about where they are with the TV show – but I think there’s definitely talks to try and do another [film].”
The show remains “in development”, but otherwise exact details remain rather thin on the ground. The scope is there for The Dark Tower to be a show every bit as epic, gripping and twisting as the likes of Game Of Thrones, but it may suffer slightly from the movie coming out first and doing fairly poorly. Fingers crossed it gets a second chance on the small screen as this is one series that truly deserves a successful adaptation.
A TV adaptation of the literary collaboration between fantasy legends Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman has been in the works for some time now with Gaiman confirming several years ago that he was writing a six-part TV series based on the novel. Luckily for fans, it was finally confirmed this year that Amazon would be producing the miniseries for a Prime Video release in 2019 and that the show would be a co-production with the BBC, where it will then also air at an unconfirmed date.
The big update since then was the news that UK acting heavyweights David Tennant and Michael Sheen were cast in the lead roles. It’s perhaps not as grand in scope as the other fantasy series covered here, but it’s looking likely to be a huge success given the creative talent involved.
And the rest:
Plenty of other fantasy series are lined up for the TV treatment too, though a great number remain simply ‘in development’ with little further information available. Two that we do know a few nuggets about though are Patrick Rothfuss’ The Kingkiller Chronicle and Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time.
The Kingkiller Chronicle is being produced by Lionsgate for Showtime, with Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda signed up as an executive producer. Meanwhile Robert Jordan’s epic Wheel of Time series is under production at Sony Pictures Television with plans for a huge series being watched over by showrunner Rafe Judkins.