The long-gestating TV show based on Robert Jordan's epic The Wheel of Time novels is officially a go at Amazon.
The streamer confirmed on Tuesday that it had ordered the one-hour action fantasy to series, with Sony Pictures TV co-producing and Rafe Judkins (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), who adapted the books for TV, serving as showrunner.
Spanning 14 volumes, The Wheel of Time has sold more than 90 million copies internationally, making it the biggest-selling fantasy series since The Lord of the Rings (which, coincidentally, Amazon is also adapting for TV).
Backstory in Brief
The story of getting the book series adapted for the screen has been long and tumultuous. A full history of the franchise's adaptation journey is beyond the scope of this article, but the short version is that the rights to the series were originally optioned by NBC in 2000, then held briefly by an independent group called Forsaken Films. In 2004 the option passed from Forsaken to Red Eagle Entertainment, who held the rights until they worked out a deal with Radar Pictures and Sony Pictures, who eventually made the deal with Amazon. During the Red Eagle years, multiple valiant efforts were made to adapt first book in the series, The Eye of the World, into a stand-along film, but those projects never took off. In order to prevent their option from expiring, Red Eagle infamously created the heavily-panned "Winter Dragon" short "pilot" that ultimately led to a lawsuit and counter lawsuit between themselves and Robert Jordan's estate. The lawsuits were settled out of court.
Rafe Judkins and current situation
In 2017, Rafe Judkins (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D) was hired to be the lead writer and showrunner for the WoT TV show. He's since led a team of writers to begin developing scripts. Last month Rafe hosted a Twitter Q&A where he talked, amongst other things, about the tone and focus that fans can expect to see.
The Amazon deal is exciting because it comes in the wake of news that another big fantasy project, Conan the Barbarian, had been put on hold. This tells us that the studio has a lot of confidence in the WoT project, which seems to be ahead of schedule compared to the heavily-discussed Lord of the Rings prequel series that Amazon reportedly paid $250 million to acquire the rights to.
With today's announcement, Amazon has approved the creation of a single season. We don't know how many episodes that will include, but given today's trends, it's likely to be anywhere from 8-13 episodes.
Rafe Judkins has indicated that this first season will focus primarily on the events found in The Eye of the World, but viewers should be prepared for anything. And while the specifics of the plot won't be revealed until the show airs, the clues we've had so far hint at larger roles for the primary female characters (Egwene, Nynaeve, and Moiraine) along with an emphasis on the positive feminist aspects found in the books. The WoT book series was first published in 1990, and at the time, Jordan received heavy praise for his forward-thinking portrayal of heroic women. Time and evolved thinking has softened those views somewhat, but it's clearly Rafe's plan to once more put Wheel of Time at the forefront of the discussion. Multiple news outlets emphasize this point.
Headline: Amazon Orders Female-Driven Fantasy Series ‘The Wheel of Time’
Set in an epic world where magic exists but only women can use it, “The Wheel of Time” follows Moiraine, a member of the shadowy and influential all-female organization called the “Aes Sedai,” as she embarks on a dangerous journey with five young men and women across the world. Moiraine is interested in these five “because she believes one of them might be the reincarnation of an incredibly powerful individual, who prophecies say will either save humanity or destroy it,” Amazon said in a statement.
It's unlikely that Moiraine will be the primary main character in the TV show. Some fans have speculated that the show will be an adaptation of the WoT prequel novel, New Spring, but we know that's not the case. If anything, it's more likely we'll see glimpses of the events from that book interwoven to help expand Moiraine's character. The focus of the series, both in the books and the TV show, will be centered on the Two Rivers characters.
As always, as we learn more about the series, we'll lost more here.
Edited by Jason