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Werthead

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  1. Tar Valon's island has a distinct "bulge" that extends eastwards with the Ogier grove located on it. Both the grove and the bulge can easily be seen in the first image "above" the tower and to the left of it, so we are either looking south, or the island has been flipped 180 degrees from the book. The different roofs of the wing then lead to the conclusion that Dragonmount is to the east, unless as said they've flipped the island, in which case it is due west. In the books the mountain is more or less due south-west of the city.
  2. Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years, and was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2020. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. The first Wheel of Time trailer has gotten a lot of people excited for our first look at the characters, the One Power and our first hints of how the sprawling, massive story will be adapted (and compressed) for live-action television. It’s also our first chance to see the world where the action takes place. Robert Jordan’s worldbuilding has been acclaimed as among the best in the genre, maybe not quite on J.R.R. Tolkien’s level (and Tolkien might have taken especial exception to Jordan’s lack of different languages) but certainly still remarkable in its detail, depth and breadth. A closer look at TV-Tar Valon. From the location of the Ogier grove, which is on the south-eastern side of the city in the books, we can be reasonably sure that this visual is looking south along the River Erinin. Aside from its physical size, the city and island adhere fairly close to the maps in the books. Striking in its absence here is Dragonmount, which is located south-west of the city in the books. At the centre of Jordan’s world – figuratively and thematically, if not quite geographically – is Tar Valon, the great city which serves as the stronghold of the Aes Sedai sisterhood. The city is located on an island in the midst of the River Erinin, roughly sixteen hundred miles north of where it flows into the Sea of Storms in the vast delta known as the Fingers of the Dragon, and acts as a meeting point between the four kingdoms of the Borderlands to the north and the great southern nations of Cairhien, Andor and Tear. The city has famously withstood siege numerous times (on four occasions in the Trolloc Wars alone) and never fallen in battle, although fighting has raged on the streets of the city during both the Trolloc Wars and the War of the Second Dragon against Guaire Amalasan, when Artur Hawkwing saved the city from the false Dragon’s followers to the humiliation of Bonwhin, the Amyrlin Seat. By comparing the two images, we can be sure that in this image we are looking more or less due east, with Dragonmount now visible in a different direction to in the books. Assuming the island has not been flipped 180 degrees, which would make this looking west instead. Tar Valon serves as some of a hub for events in the novels, with news and events flowing into the office of the Amyrlin Seat, first Siuan Sanche and later Elaida do Avriny a’Roihan, and various characters base themselves in the city at different times. For the TV show, Tar Valon’s importance seems to have been bolstered even further; all of the shots of contemporary cities in the trailer are exclusively of Tar Valon, with the other major cities from The Eye of the World – Fal Dara and Caemlyn – completely missing. Only ruined Shadar Logoth gets comparable screen time. Whether this means that Tar Valon is replacing Caemlyn as the geographic hub of the early story remains to be seen. A recreation of the book map of Tar Valon. What we can do is compare and contrast the book and TV versions of Tar Valon, and immediately we can see some major differences. Tar Valon in the books is substantial in size: the island is eight miles long and over two miles wide at its widest point, making it almost a ringer for Manhattan Island. The White Tower is located almost at the geographic centre of the island, in a position almost comparable to the Empire State Building in Manhattan. The White Tower is 600 feet tall, just under half the height of the Empire State, but given it was constructed by human and Ogier hands (with some help from the Aes Sedai) without 20th Century cranes or construction materials or techniques, that’s still very impressive. The White Tower was designed to house around 3,000 Aes Sedai with room for expansion, via the cavernous Ajah quarters making up almost the entire northern half of the Tower and the huge number of training and teaching rooms in the southern half, not to mention the extensive store rooms below ground and the two wings radiating out from the Tower itself, designed to hold many hundreds of Accepted and novices. However, with the Aes Sedai reduced to around 1,200 in number, with maybe a third of that in the Tower at any one time, the building feels largely empty when the series begins. An approximate floorplan of the White Tower, based on the descriptions provided in the novels and the Big White Book. The White Tower is surprisingly “stubby”; Robert Jordan described the Tower as 100 spans (600 feet, or 183 metres) tall and 300 feet wide at the base, narrowing to 200 feet wide at the top. The width of the Tower at the base is thus around half the total height of the Tower. Despite these descriptions, both fan and professional art from the series often depicts a much slenderer, more ornate tower. The TV version seems to get the relative dimensions of the Tower pleasingly correct. The White Tower as it appears in The World of Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time. Although the art in the Big White Book is not great, this image seems to reflect Robert Jordan's vision of the Tower relatively well, despite the absence of the wings on either side holding the novice and Accepted quarters and more ornate windows than are described in the books. However, the TV version does seem to vary from Jordan’s description in several other respects. In the books the White Tower is described as smooth and polished, with no seams visible in the stonework thanks to the One Power being used to fuse the stone into a single structure. Clearly the TV version has visible steams and seems to have been made using more traditional techniques. The Tower in the TV show also has a much more extensive superstructure, with pipes laid over the exterior structure and various sections of the tower extending outwards with viewing areas visible. One promo image has Moiraine standing on one of these areas, looking out across the city. In the book, whilst the Tower has windows it doesn’t have a described viewing area apart from the rooftop viewing platform. Moiraine gazing out across Tar Valon from the White Tower, in a publicity image released by Amazon. The TV version of the Tower pleasingly still has the two wings extending out from the side, the home of the Accepted and novice quarters respectively. Several other buildings are shown tightly clustering around the base of the Tower, presumably including the stables, the Warder garrison and the White Tower Library. The complex is walled away from the rest of the city, as in the books. There are several very big differences here, though. In the books, Tar Valon is flat whilst in the TV show it is hilly, with the White Tower sitting on a massive hill in the middle of the island which simply doesn’t exist in the books. The White Tower grounds in the novels are much bigger, with more space around the buildings, which are spaced further apart, and a large plaza extends out from the walls on all sides, which is clearly not the case here. The immediate environs around Tar Valon. There are also some interesting changes to Tar Valon itself. The biggest one, immediately obvious, is that the TV version of Tar Valon appears to be significantly smaller than its book counterpart. A building half the size of the Empire State Building sitting on an island the size of Manhattan would still be big and clearly visible from across the city, but it would not dominate the entire skyline the same way the White Tower does here. The White Tower does appear to be around its size in the books (by counting the number of windows, around forty levels can be discerned, the same as in the novels), so its much greater dominance of the landscape can only be explained by the island and city being significantly smaller. It’s an interesting choice, and at first glance mildly disappointing: Tar Valon is a huge medieval metropolis of around half a million people, the economic heart of the northern half of the continent and the seat of Aes Sedai power. It should be huge, grand and imposing. Obviously from a budgetary point of view, the bigger the city is, the more expensive it is in terms of CGI design and render time, and in making sets that integrate with the CG backdrops well. More to the point, I expect if they did a test render based on the book scale, they decided that the White Tower looked too small and unimpressive compared to the rest of the island and that using the polished white stone look in the novels did not look appropriately awe-inspiring (the occasional complaint raised by artists doing a faithful take on the White Tower is that it can turn into a lighthouse rather easily). Rather than make the White Tower preposterously huge – if the city dimensions were kept the same and the Tower expanded, it’d be over a mile tall in the TV show! - they seem to have elected to shrink the city and make the Tower more impressive in contrast. Another interesting change is that the location of Dragonmount seems to have shifted. Dragonmount was located between twenty and thirty miles south-west of the city in the novels, but here it appears to have moved directly east instead (in the promo image the mountain lines up with the wings, rather than 45 degrees to them as would be the case in the novels). A minor change, but a curious one. Looking in detail at Tar Valon, many different kinds of buildings can be seen, including European-style towers and bastions, Arab-like minarets and ornate domes. There’s no immediate sign of skybridges, but we only see small chunks of the city in these shots. The city’s parks do seem present, including one that might be the huge Ogier grove, and the general shape of the island seems to have been retained (indicating we are looking due south in the first image). Southharbor also seems present and correct, and several of the bridges over the Erinin can be seen, with clusters of buildings on the other end which correspond to the bridge towns. Tar Valon and the White Tower may stand in miniature for the TV show’s relationship with the books as a whole: similar, familiar and impressive but differing in many small details. It’ll be interesting to see what other changes have been made. A second, apparently longer trailer will apparently hit screens before The Wheel of Time itself does on 19 November 2021, on Amazon Prime Television. As usual, follow our casting and news pages, and let us know what you think of the latest developments.
  3. Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years, and was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2020. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. As the release date for The Wheel of Time moves closer, Amazon have started ramping up their marketing by releasing several images from the series. We’re going to discuss what the images may signify, and how that relates to the books. Note that spoilers for the books and The Eye of the World especially will be present here. The first image is a “hero shot” featuring the seven regular actors from the first series walking towards the camera. This is a publicity still taken to market the show, not an actual shot from the series (though if there was a cool explosion behind them, it’d probably work fine). From left to right, Zoë Robins as Nynaeve al’Meara, Barney Harris as Mat Cauthon, Daniel Henney as al’Lan Mandragoran, Rosamund Pike as Moiraine Damodred, Madeleine Madden as Egwene al’Vere, Marcus Rutherford as Perrin Aybara and Josha Stradowski as Rand al’Thor. Other actors will recur in the first season (such as Hammed Animashaun as Loial, Alexandre Willaume as Thom Merrilin and Kae Alexander as Min Farshaw) but these seven will presumably be in every episode, or almost. Weekly Wheel News, doing the Creator’s work, unearthed the metadata for the shot, confirming it comes from the sixth episode (of eight in total in the first season) and depicts the gang journeying to the Waygate, where they meet Loial (either out-of-shot in this picture, or lacking the CGI needed to insert him in the frame). The metadata asks the question “who is the Dragon?”, confirming that one goal for the TV show is to make the identity of the Dragon Reborn far less obvious than it is in the books, where it’s fairly obvious from the first page. The second shot takes us to the ruined city of Shadar Logoth, once known as Aridhol, and depicts Lan and Moiraine taking refuge in an ill-advised location. This shot also features Mandarb, Lan’s horse (fear not! Bela is cast and will also be in the series!). The metadata tells us this is indeed Shadar Logoth, featuring Lan escaping “a temple” with a wounded or exhausted Moiraine in his arms. Interestingly, it appears from the data that a dummy is used in this scene for Moiraine, although whether that’s a dummy or the real Rosamund Pike in the actual picture is unclear (good dummy work, if so). The third shot features Egwene and Rand enjoying a quiet moment on their journey. It looks like this is part of a sequence for the early episodes filmed in Slovenia, depicting the countryside in the Two Rivers and western Andor. The metadata for this shot states that it is from the very first episode and features the keywords “couple,” “mountains,”, “Soca River,” “Slovenia,” and “jump,” as well as saying that Egwene is going to do something and Rand knows what it is (jump?). It is possible this scene is from later in the episode when the gang are on their way to Taren Ferry. The word “couple” is interesting, as in the book Rand and Egwene seem to consider themselves, if not betrothed, then at least likely to become betrothed by their families, but they’re not actually together romantically. This may factor into the subplot in the books, as Rand and Egwene become aware they’re not actually going to hook up, or might indicate a change that Rand and Egwene are already together when the story opens and perhaps break up later on (since Rafe Judkins has confirmed that Rand will have his relationships with Elayne, Min and Aviendha in the show as in the books). This would be a subtle shift in the book dynamic, but might also avoid early viewers “shipping” Rand and Egwene and getting disappointed when that never comes to pass. Having them already together and then break up gets that idea out of the way. It sounds minor, but the popularity of “ships” on a show can substantially drive discussion about a show (not always for the better, but still). The final shot is from the biggest change from the books to the TV series, a new storyline that follows the misadventures of Logain Ablar, a false Dragon. This story is referred to in the books and takes place off-page, but will be front-and-centre in the TV series. In this shot, Logain (Álvaro Morte) is held prisoner by sisters of the Aes Sedai, most notably Alanna Mosvani (Priyanka Bose) on the left and Kerene Nagashi (Clare Perkins) on the right, both sisters of the Green Ajah. In the background are two sisters of the Red Ajah. Eagle-eyed book fans will note that Kerene only appears in the prequel novel New Spring and dies long before the events of the series proper; it’ll be interesting to theorise and then see what purpose is saved by moving Kerene’s story into the main saga. The metadata for this shot, amusingly, is incorrect and points to a shot from the third episode with Egwene and Perrin on Caralain Grass. We don’t know when the Logain shot is from, but based on other information it might be from the fourth episode. We’re now three months or less from The Wheel of Time hitting the air, and we’ll be likely to see a trailer in the near(ish) future. As usual, follow our casting and news pages, and let us know what you think of the latest developments.
  4. Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years, and was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2020. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. It’s now been confirmed that Amazon’s Wheel of Time TV series is coming in 2021, which means the show should launch in well under six months from now. Excitement is building among the books’ immense global fanbase, but, as discussed previously, Amazon are going to need to get new viewers to watch the show as well. So far all of the teasers, logo reveals and casting information has been aimed at book fans and those already invested rather than complete newcomers to the franchise. A big moment will come when the show unveils its first, proper trailer for the series. Some are hoping that will come at this year’s virtual Comic-Con event where Wheel of Time showrunner (or “shadowrunner”) Rafe Judkins will be appearing on a panel with several other writers and creatives. This is the only Wheel of Time-related event at Comic-Con currently scheduled. The panel takes place at 11am PT on 23 July. However, it appears doubtful that this will actually be the case. The panel is a sequential series of relatively brief discussions, first with Judkins and then Evengelion 3.0 showrunner Hideaki Anno, followed by segments on Leverage: Redemption, S.O.Z. Soldiers or Zombies and the I Know What You Did Last Summer reboot. The event is relatively low-key. I think if Amazon were planning a launch for the TV show as soon as September or maybe early October, they’d go all-in with a full (virtual) Comic-Con panel with as much of the cast as possible, a trailer launch and so forth. The fact they are not doing that, in a year when the absence of big-hitters DC and Marvel means they’d get more publicity than normal, is telling. There’s also been a change at Amazon in how they approach marketing, in contrast to competitors Netflix and HBO. Amazon used to tease shows very early in development, sometimes whilst filming was underway or even before it had begun. The earliest marketing teasers for Good Omens and The Boys aired almost a year before the shows aired, and The Man in the High Castle and The Marvellous Mrs. Maisel both benefited from having their first episodes shot and released separately as pilots before the rest of the season was filmed. However, from Carnival Row onwards, Amazon originals have switched to a much more focused campaigns, described by some in the business as “global saturation marketing campaigns,” or for those familiar with movie Aliens, “nuke the site from orbit, it’s the only way to be sure.” The idea is to not get people to watch at trailer six or twelve months from release and then they forget about it until the week before the show airs, which they might miss (a common Netflix mistake), but instead to bombard audiences and viewers with trailers, teasers and information in a much more concentrated time period, lasting from six to twelve weeks before the release date. Even with shows where they did show early teasers, Amazon adopted this policy in the lead-up to release with great success (especially for The Boys). Whether Amazon break from this for their vastly more expensive Lord of the Rings show (which appears to have between two and three times Wheel of Time’s already-generous budget, maybe even more), rumoured to launch in the first few months of 2022, is a bigger question. What that means for The Wheel of Time is that a trailer during Comic-Con is highly unlikely unless they plan to release the show relatively quickly afterwards. We know the show is airing in 2021, so it will start in December at the latest (which Amazon might be trying to avoid, as it will end up going head-to-head with Season 2 of The Witcher), and the recent movements of the publishing dates for the tie-in novels suggest it might start in October or (as long has been rumoured) November. To me that makes a marketing blitz starting in late August or even September is more likely than July. Hopefully we will get some more information from Rafe’s panel and it’d be great if he could confirm a release date there, but the feeling of myself and the rest of the Dragonmount team is that those hoping for a full-length trailer will likely be disappointed, unless Amazon decide to shift the marketing strategy they have been using for the last three years. As usual, let us know your thoughts and keep checking our TV news and casting pages for updates.
  5. Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years, and was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2020. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. It’s a sign that Wheel of Time news has been a bit thin on the ground recently when fans get incredibly excited about the reveal of the TV show’s official logo. Up until now, Amazon has been using a derivation of the logo from the novels. However, it was clear that they’d want to create their own logo to easily differentiate the TV series from the books, the tabletop RPG and other takes on the same franchise, and they could put on their own merchandise. Intriguingly, they’ve decided not to include a literal Wheel in the image. Although they might be an obvious choice, it might also feel a little too on-the-nose. Instead, the primary image in the logo is a variation on the ouroboros symbol, of a snake eating its own tail. In mythology, the ouroboros is a serpent eating its own tail, a symbol for eternity. It is also used to depict alchemy and the cycle of life, death and rebirth. The symbol is Egyptian in origin (one adorns the tomb of Tutankhamun, dating from c. 1323 BC) before being picked up on by the ancient Greeks, who massively popularised its use. It also later appears in Norse mythology as the World Serpent, Jörmungandr, and in the Bible as the Leviathan. Variations on the image also appear in Hinduism. All of these sources were used by Robert Jordan during research for the Wheel of Time novels. In The Wheel of Time novels, the ouroboros is depicted as the Great Serpent, a symbol of eternity even older than the Wheel itself. Aes Sedai wear a Great Serpent ring to depict their rank and status, and the Great Serpent is sometimes used as a metaphor for time in lieu of the more familiar Wheel. More careful examination of the logo and its animated opening shows the scales initially being contrasted between light and shadow, forming a representation of the Aes Sedai symbol. The Aes Sedai symbol is, of course, the yin and yang symbol of Chinese philosophy. The yin and yang represent dualism, the idea of how opposite and contrary forces may actually be complementary and even interdependent. This is a key theme of the series where the dualism of male and female, order and chaos, and good and evil are core ideas. At the start of the books the two are separated out, with the white symbol being presented as the Flame of Tar Valon, standing for order, female power and good, and the black symbol being presented as the Dragon’s Fang, standing for chaos, male unpredictability and evil (a result of the male half of the One Power being cursed, dooming male channellers to insanity and death even as the fate of the world hinges on the success of one of them, the Dragon Reborn). This is actually the inversion of the traditional Chinese use of the symbol, where yang is white and yin is black. The traditional Chinese version of the symbol also has a tiny dot of white in the black half and vice versa, to show that nothing is entirely one way or the other; Jordan omitted this possibly to make the symbol less immediately obviously the same thing as the yin and yang. The ring itself is also interesting, as it is made up of a serpent that coils downwards to infinity. This hints at the other worlds/dimensions that come to play a major role in the story. The surface of the ring is also rippled and coils back in on itself in unusual ways, like a Möbius strip. Such a strip is unusual in having only one side and one boundary, meaning that though it appears to have two sides, it only has one, the result of an elaborate optical illusion. The Möbius strip is sometimes used in science fiction and fantasy to represent matters related to non-linear time; Avengers: Endgame visualises its time travel technology with a 3D holographic version of a strip (which gives Tony Stark the clue he needs to make time travel possible). Eagle-eyed fans also caught that the logo has messages in the Old Tongue – the language of the Age of Legends – hidden in the corners. “Kodome calichniye ga ni athan’an aman hei” means “here is always a welcome for the People of the Dragon.” Amazon also revealed variations of the logo in Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, German, French and Japanese, as well as a scaled-down version of the logo using the major initials “WT” (rather than the more common fan-abbreviation “WoT”). The unveiling of the logo is possibly the start of a more concerted marketing push for the series, which as we speculated last time may launch in November (and the logo reveal does confirm a 2021 release date). In an intriguing development, the release of the TV tie-in editions for the Wheel of Time novels has moved up to 16 September in the UK, 28 September in the USA for the mass-market edition and 5 October for the trade paperback edition. Although these dates seem to be in flux and should be treated with caution, it may hint that Amazon is now considering an earlier launch for the show, in October or early November, rather than the previously-hinted late November/December launch date. Hopefully in the next few weeks we’ll see a full trailer and start seeing things spooling up for the show’s long, long-delayed launch. As usual, let us know your thoughts and keep checking our TV news and casting pages for updates.
  6. Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years, and was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2020. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. News from the Pattern A flurry of news and rumours have swept Wheel of Time TV-land in the last few weeks, and it’s probably a good idea to take a look at the situation and see what’s what. Season 1 is a wrap! (probably) WoTSeries, who’ve been keeping their finger on the pulse of the latest developments, reported last week that behind-the-scenes crew were celebrating wrapping on the first season. They later clarified that a few more pick-ups needed to be done, but for all intents and purposes work on the first season has been completed. Rafe Judkins, Wheel of Time showrunner and unstoppable Narg-teaser, also confirmed this news in an Instagram Q&A yesterday. No time for a rest though, as per our report work on Season 2 is due to begin almost immediately, with production rolling into the second year after a break for a couple of weeks for set building and table-reads. November might be the month! Orbit Books, who publish the Wheel of Time novels in the UK and Commonwealth, have listed a new, TV tie-in edition of The Eye of the World for publication on 4 November. Tie-in editions of novels are typically published between a week and a month before the show or movie debuts. WoTSeries, doing a lot of hard work, have reported 26 November – Black Ajah Friday? – as one of the dates currently being batted around at Amazon. Assuming Amazon replicates their recent release schedule from shows like The Boys, that would put maybe three episodes out on 26 November and then one a week for five weeks afterwards, ending on New Year’s Eve. I wouldn’t mark that on calendars as confirmed just yet, but it’s a good sign that Amazon are at least envisaging a launch date this side of Christmas. Tor Books, who publish the novels in the United States, have not yet confirmed their own plans for a TV tie-in edition. Give us the Daughter-Heir! An unconfirmed report (from a NSFW site we won’t be linking here) has Amazon casting for a “young actress to play a princess and future queen,” with reportedly the maximum number of legally-allowed years being asked for (six). That suggests that Amazon are looking for their Elayne Trakand (whose casting for Season 1 has not been confirmed) and that they also envisage the show lasting for (at least) seven seasons in total. Both of these facts are only conjectural; if Amazon wanted to be smart and had sneakily cast Elayne for Season 1 without announcing it, they might be casting for a different role. If you really stretch the definition, this could also be casting for Faile if they want to introduce her early, or Berelain, or even Tuon if they envisage major changes to the Seanchan storyline. Asking for six years might also simply be Amazon covering their bases for future renewals; if the show comes out and bombs, then we won’t be getting a third season, let alone a seventh. Into the desert Ondrej Nekvasil, the production designer for The Wheel of Time, was interviewed by a Czech periodical (translation courtesy of WoTSeries) and confirmed that the show will reflect the 16th/17th Century cultural setting of novels, rather just a generic medieval fantasy design. More intriguingly, he indicated Season 2 will shoot in Morocco, where productions such as Kingdom of Heaven and Game of Thrones have filmed in the past. The dry, dusty locations that Morocco provides relatively cheaply and within easy travel of Europe makes the Aiel Waste a likely candidate for the location, but I would not expect them to reach The Shadow Rising so early in the series. It’s possible we will instead be seeing flashbacks of some kind to the Waste, or perhaps from Seanchan characters to a dry and dusty part of their home continent. It may also be that part of the main continent has been re-envisaged as a more desert-like biome, or that it might be standing in for the Great Blight, or one the worlds reached by Portal Stone. Time will tell on this one. A new title! We have our first episode title for Season 2. The first episode will be called A Taste of Solitude and will be written by Amanda Kate Shuman. The title comes from a chapter in Lord of Chaos, indicating that Amazon will be drawing on the entire book series for ideas for episode titles, and the episode titles will not automatically correspond with the events of the chapter of the same name (unless Season 1 is way more compressed than we first thought). Interestingly, we still don’t have confirmation of the titles for the final two episodes of Season 1 yet, something we’re endeavouring to find out as soon as possible. Q&A with the Showrunner Wheel of Time showrunner Rafe Judkins hit up Instagram on Thursday 20 May for an impromptu Q&A. It’s worth reading the full session in his Instagram stories, but the pertinent highlights follow: In the edit, episodes of the series have been clocking in between 50 and 65 minutes in length. The “EF5” (Emond’s Field Five, namely Rand, Mat, Perrin, Nynaeve and Egwene) have been doing most of their own stunts. Rafe is very excited by a character who appears in Book 1 but not Season 1, but who will appear in Season 2. To help us narrow it down he has given us the first two letters of their name: “EL.” So Elayne or Elaida. Or maybe Elyas. Or the oft-missed merchant, El’Steve of Elmora? I guess we’ll find out. The writing team assembled between Seasons 1 and 2 and developed an outline for how to break the entire fourteen-book series into a reasonable number of TV seasons (i.e. less than fourteen). Whether we “see” someone channelling in a scene will depend on which characters are in the scene and which ones the scene has been focusing on. A shift from the books is that Season 1 is an ensemble piece, whilst the first novel is more tightly focused on just a couple of characters (Rand, predominantly). The season will try to give more equal weight and screen-time to different characters, presumably as part of their plan to obfuscate the identity of the Dragon Reborn a bit more than in the books. Narg has been confirmed as appearing. Rafe also confirmed they have unofficial names for other Trollocs. One is referred to as “Betty.” At least two of the actors were in a race to finish all of the books and one of them has won, but he didn’t reveal who that was. The show will have to condense and merge storylines and characters from different books, otherwise the youngest castmembers will be 45 by the time they finish. Perrin has been the most challenging main character to write for because so much of his characterisation is internal in the novels (where Perrin appearing “slow” when he’s actually just thinking hard is a regular plot point), but they have been helped by Marcus Rutherford’s performance. Lan’s colour-changing cloak has been reluctantly cut from the show, with the vfx requirements and costs being high for something which is a relatively minor part of the series. Warders teasing their Aes Sedai It’s not dumping a duck pond on their Aes Sedai’s head, but one Wheel of Time Warder was spotted high-tailing it off the set with a strange and powerful angreal known as a “Golden Globe,” with Moiraine Damodred in hot pursuit. Further developments as they come in. As usual, please continue to follow developments on our casting and news pages and stay tuned for more info as we get it.
  7. It appears that we’re going to be getting a lot more Wheel of Time in the future. According to industry bible Deadline, Amazon has renewed the TV series for a second season and production will commence as soon as the last scenes for Season 1 are completed in the coming weeks. Like the first season, the second is expected to consist of eight episodes. We heard a while back that the writers had started work on scripts for the second season, and Amazon traditionally greenlights two seasons before airing the first, often starting shooting the second year before airing a single episode (they did this with The Boys and The Expanse and it sounds like their Lord of the Rings prequel show is going the same way). This way they can air the seasons with just a year’s gap between them, unlike competitors Netflix and HBO who frequently have 18-24 month gaps between seasons. However, with Wheel of Time they never formally announced a Season 2 greenlight, leading some to believe they were taking a different approach with this show. Whatever the original plan was, it was derailed – as with so much else – by the COVID19 pandemic. Season 1’s original eight-month shooting schedule has been dramatically extended to at least twenty-one months due to two shutdowns caused by the coronavirus. Six episodes were completed in the first batch of filming and most of the last two were completed in the second, but several scenes were left unfinished. Fortunately, the cast and crew recently regrouped in the Czech Republic and shooting is now reportedly underway on the last few scenes. Taking Deadline’s statement literally, they could potentially roll into shooting Season 2 as soon as this month or next. This means that, hopefully, in the coming weeks we should start hearing about cast and crew hirings for the second year. Of course, it would help if we knew what was going to happen in the second season. Season 1 is predominantly based on The Eye of the World, the first book in The Wheel of Time, though it will also incorporate some original storylines and characters from the prequel novel New Spring (widespread reports that Season 1 will adapt the first two books in the season have proven erroneous, based on the known filming locations and casting for the first season). Season 2, logically, should be mainly based on The Great Hunt. However, The Wheel of Time consists of fourteen novels and the TV show is very clearly not going to last for fourteen seasons, so a degree of compression for future seasons is to be expected. Season 2 could well incorporate more material from the third book in the series, The Dragon Reborn, or take a different tack. We know from showrunner Rafe Judkins that the show will feature the Seanchan (allaying some fears they’d be cut altogether), so it’s possible in the second season we’ll meet characters like the High Lord Turak, Lady Suroth and ship captain Egeanin. If Book 1 characters did not appear in Season 1, it’s possible they’ll appear instead in Season 2, and characters in this bracket could include Elayne, Galad, Gawyn, Bayle Domon and Elaida. Other characters fans might be keeping their eyes open for include Lord Ingtar, Hurin the sniffer, King Galldrian, Lord Barthanes, the redoubtable Child of the Light Jaichim Carridin, and Selene, the noble lady who is more than she appears. There’s also the fan-favourites, the Fal Dara squad of soldiers including Ragan and Uno (and the less-popular Masema). Fans may also be keen to get their first glimpses of the Seanchan exotic creatures (like grolm and raken), which could be a fresh challenge for the CGI team. Let us know what Season 2 elements you’re looking forwards to, and we’ll have to see what news breaks in the next few weeks. In the meantime, keep an eye on Dragonmount’s news page and casting page for the latest developments.
  8. Some of the numbers being quoted for LotR are wrong (Reuters have the correct figures, which is that the $460 million is for the first two seasons combined, not just the first). With the correct figures, LotR's budget is roughly twice what it is for WoT, maybe a bit more. That's still very impressive, but not quite as insane as some people were speculating. WoT's budget is also still enormous: almost twice that of The Witcher, more than twice that of GoT's first three seasons, and six times the budget of a typical network procedural. It matches The Crown and is not far behind GoT's last two seasons. It's a very healthy budget. It's also not a zero sum game. Amazon putting more money into LotR doesn't meant that WoT is not another priority for them. The two shows have different creative teams and different marketing people involved. Amazon's priority will be making both shows a huge success.
  9. For those of us waiting for the Wheel of Time television series to arrive, the wait is starting to feel a bit interminable. Production on the first season began almost two years ago and we still don’t have a final air date or even a full-length trailer, although Amazon have started recently posting very short clips to kick off the marketing excitement for the show. At this point a recap of the status of the show might be in order. A Wheel of Time adaptation, based on the fourteen-volume book series by Robert Jordan (published between 1990 and 2013), has been in the works for over twenty years. NBC, Universal and a Japanese animation company all took various tilts at the idea before finally Sony Television brought the project to life in conjunction with Amazon. Showrunner Rafe Judkins, a veteran of shows such as Agents of SHIELD and Chuck and a lifelong Wheel of Time fan, has adapted the show with a team of scriptwriters from the fields of television, film and stage plays. Robert Jordan’s widow and editor, Harriet McDougal, and author Brandon Sanderson, who completed the novels after Robert Jordan’s sad passing in 2007, are advising on the project, as is Wheel of Time superfan Sarah Nakamura and Maria Simons, one of Robert Jordan’s researchers and assistants. Production of the show is based in the Czech Republic, with filming studios in Prague serving as the primary base for shooting. Location filming has taken place across the Czech Republic and also in Slovenia and Spain. The first season consists of eight episodes and will adapt the first novel in The Wheel of Time series, The Eye of the World, although some story elements from other novels may be introduced earlier than anticipated, and some storylines, locations and characters from The Eye of the World have been dropped for time or cost reasons, or delayed until later seasons and storylines when they have more to do. With the show unlikely to last fourteen seasons, it is likely that the show will take a somewhat looser approach to adaptation than, say, the Lord of the Rings movies or the early seasons of Game of Thrones. The show’s production has been, regrettably, extended by the COVID-19 global pandemic. Six of the eight episodes had been shot to completion when the Czech Republic imposed a lockdown on filming in March 2020. Shooting was able to resume in early September, but shut down again in November when a second wave – and, for the Czech Republic, a much worse one – of the pandemic hit the country. Some additional filming did take place in December in Spain. The current status of the show is that the overwhelming majority of footage needed for the first season has been shot and is in the bag, and the vfx and post-production teams are hard at work on inserting music, sound effects, CGI and graphics for the final product. However, several scenes from the last two episodes remain to be shot and it sounds like they need to be finished off before the season can be said to have fully wrapped and a release date set. There are some rumours that the production team may be able to shoot the last footage they need in the next couple of months, opening the way for the show to air in late 2021 through to early 2022, but that has not yet been confirmed. Of course, The Wheel of Time is not the only fantasy show to be adversely affected by the pandemic. The second season of Netflix’s The Witcher had a similarly protracted filming period, with repeated shutdowns due to COVID outbreaks in the UK and even among the cast and crew (a problem that Wheel of Time at least seems to have dodged). Fortunately, that show was able to conclude its filming last week and now seems firmly on track to air later in the year. The Wheel of Time does have a slight issue in terms of internal competition. Amazon Television is also producing a Lord of the Rings TV series based on the forging of the Rings of Power, set in the Second Age of Middle-earth (roughly five thousand years before the events of The Lord of the Rings itself). Filming in mostly COVID-free New Zealand, the show has largely escaped the delays and problems that have beset Europe-based productions. Filming is expected to continue for some months, but some reports and rumours suggest that the show is filming its first two seasons back-to-back, and filming of the first season material may have already concluded and be in post, with a view to airing in very late 2021 or early 2022. That could lead to a time issue where Amazon are perhaps reluctant to air two superficially-similar epic fantasy TV shows in the same window (and with both shows likely to air weekly, maybe simultaneously), resulting in further delays to one of the projects. That’s only a theoretical issue for now, but one to keep an eye on if the delays continue. The wait is of course frustrating, but we can hope that the end product will be worth it. In the meantime, keep an eye on Dragonmount’s news page and casting page for the latest developments.
  10. Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years, and was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2020. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. At some point in the hopefully-not-too-distant future, Amazon Prime’s Wheel of Time TV series is going to hit the airwaves, and the question arises on how are they going to get the show before as many eyeballs as possible? The current television market is glutted with more network, streaming and cable shows than ever before. More than five hundred scripted series – that’s not episodes, that’s series – will air in the United States alone in 2021, and that’s not counting English-language shows from Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and elsewhere. Getting eyeballs on the show is going to be essential to ensure it survives, but that’s harder than it ever has been before. Fortunately, The Wheel of Time has some help. Almost 100 million copies of the books have been sold worldwide since 1990. The Wheel of Time is one of the highest-profile and best-known fantasy series in the world, with a vast, international fanbase. Fans have already been talking excitedly about the series for around eighteen months, ever since the first casting and production information began to trickle out, and various Wheel of Time-related phrases and hashtags have been trending on social media. Multiple, high-profile booktubers have been discussing the adaptation for over a year, and high-profile geek websites like Tor.com and io9 have been spreading news as it breaks. Like Game of Thrones before it, Wheel of Time benefits from a passionate fanbase keen to spread the word of the TV show before it even airs, with the bonus that Wheel of Time has a much larger reader base than the Song of Ice and Fire novels had in 2011. But for the show to be a hit, it has to reach out beyond the core fanbase. Some of the high-profile casting will help. Rosamund Pike (Moiraine) has had a long career in hit films from Die Another Day through Pride & Prejudice, Jack Reacher and The World’s End, through to her massive hit role in Gone Girl (which garnered her an Oscar nomination), and she has plenty of fans willing to check out any project she’s involved in. Rosamund's profile has risen even higher thanks to her Best Actress (Musical/Comedy) win at the Golden Globes last weekend for I Care a Lot. Daniel Henney (Lan) likewise has a keen international fanbase of his work in both American and South Korean cinema and television, particularly his popular stint on Criminal Minds, whilst Maria Doyle Kennedy (Ila) has a strong fanbase from her work in The Commitments, The Tudors, Outlander and Orphan Black, as well as her singing career (among many other projects). The high-profile end of the casting will certainly draw eyes onto the project. Álvaro Morte (Logain) also has a strong following from his work, and recently spoke about his role. Amazon’s relatively small slate of original programming, at least compared to competitor Netflix, will also help with this: Amazon can afford to put more resources into marketing the show and making people aware it’s on its way, rather than risk the show getting lost in a morass of other shows coming out at the same time. For a long time, it looked like Amazon was lagging a little in the streaming race with Netflix, but recent breakout hits like The Boys and the hugely increased viewership and awareness of The Expanse after it moved over to Amazon have shown it can now produce great shows with large audiences. One question we’ve touched on before is whether the show will launch weekly or all at once. Given Amazon’s move to a weekly release schedule for many of their original shows, I think it’s probably more likely than not that Wheel of Time will hit the airwaves one episode at a time, possibly after the first two or three episodes are released at once. That will give The Wheel of Time more than a month of having people talking about a new episode every week, that will hopefully get people excited and willing to watch more. Amazon has already, of course, started drip-feeding us some marketing already, with a short look at the Winespring Inn, a look at the show’s swords, a tease of an infamous dagger and a brief glimpse at Thom’s new musical instrument, as well as unveiling some impressive concept art. At the moment these sneak peeks are aimed more at book-readers than a general audience, but that will change. I suspect a short teaser of some kind will be aired first, maybe 3-6 months out from airing, with a longer and more substantive trailer a few weeks out from transmission. These trailers will have to nail what makes The Wheel of Time different from other fantasy projects like Game of Thrones or The Witcher, or Amazon’s own upcoming Lord of the Rings show, so I’d suspect some display of the One Power in full force and a focus on Rosamund Pike’s star power as Moiraine (especially since early blurbs suggest the show will re-focus on Moiraine as a protagonist to keep the identity of the Dragon Reborn more in question than it is in the books). What will be interesting is if some kind of supporting website is launched as well. The world of The Wheel of Time is complex, with fourteen distinct nations in the Westlands alone, numerous competing factions and a detailed backstory unfolding over almost 3,500 years. Existing references are heavy on spoilers for the books, so a TV-specific website with maps, histories and descriptions of factions like the Aes Sedai, Tuatha’an, Aiel and Children of the Light could be a great reference, especially if it’s only updated to the latest episode to avoid spoilers. It’s also likely we’ll get some kind of aftershow to discuss the latest episode in detail with guest stars and comparisons to the books. There’s certainly plenty of Wheel of Time talent out there knowledgeable enough to make such a show engaging. There may also be featurettes and documentaries expanding on what happened behind the scenes on the making of the show. There’s also merchandising to consider. We’ll likely see The Eye of the World at least – if not the entire series – reissued with a TV tie-in cover, and we already know that Valyrian Steel are working on replica swords based on the TV designs. We’ll also probably see the soundtrack released commercially. More detailed merchandising – statues, action figures, a pop-up guide book to Tar Valon, and, of course, the inevitable Narg’s Cooking Masterclass cookbook – may wait on people seeing how successful the first season has been. One thing that is for sure is that when Amazon decide on a release date for the show, they’ll make sure as many people as possible know about it. As usual, hit us up in the comments with your thoughts and keep an eye on the Wheel of Time TV News page here on Dragonmount.
  11. Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years, and was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2020. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. Welcome to 2021, the year that, all things being equal, we should see the Wheel of Time TV series finally hit our screens. It’s been a long road, both in terms of the thirty-one years the series has been in print and the sixteen months that have passed since shooting of the first season began on location in the Czech Republic and Slovenia. As transmission draws nearer, Rafe Judkins and the Wheel of Time publicity team have started teasing images and videos from the series, such as the show’s version of a heron-marked blade and Thom Merrilin’s musical instruments. These have been useful for showing the series’ production values and also hinting at creative decisions that are being taken which will mean things are different to the books. Differences between books and their screen adaptations are of course nothing new, often driven by a combination of budgetary restraints, time pressure and maybe the TV scriptwriters spotting good story changes that the original novel writer may have done themselves if they’d had the luxury of writing the entire story before publishing it (as George R.R. Martin has recently said, “Five Kingdoms” sounds as good as seven, and would be a lot less work). In some cases, some of the biggest changes from book to screen have been carried out or approved by the original novel author themselves: J.K. Rowling signed off on all the Harry Potter movie scripts and Frank Herbert approved of the idea of the “weirding module” sound weapons for David Lynch’s version of Dune, when Lynch rejected the original novel’s hyper-fast kung fu as being too difficult to realise with 1984 technology. Such changes can take place even in very faithful adaptations: Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is, by normal movie standards, very close to Tolkien’s novel, but fans to this day debate the merits of changes such as removing Tom Bombadil and the Scouring of the Shire, having Legolas shield-surf into combat, over-using the Army of the Dead or having Aragorn randomly knocked off a cliff by a warg. Game of Thrones started off extremely faithfully to George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire novels, but even in those early days fans still questioned the lack of violet eyes for the Targaryens, not showing a major battle sequence or casting a short actor as the supposedly-towering King Robert Baratheon. The Wheel of Time finds itself in a difficult position in that it is entirely possible that the series will have less time than Game of Thrones to tell a story almost twice as long (so far). The Wheel of Time tops out at fourteen volumes (not counting the prequel) totalling almost four and a half million words, compared to A Song of Ice and Fire’s projected seven volumes and around two and a half million words. The Wheel of Time’s first two seasons are expected to come in at eight episodes apiece (as compared to Game of Thrones’ first six seasons of ten episodes apiece). With the show unlikely to last more than Game of Thrones’ eight seasons, that means Wheel of Time will almost certainly come in with a fair few less hours to tell a much longer story. And yes, The Wheel of Time has a lot of descriptive passages which can be skipped over with simple visuals, but that’s not going to be enough to make up such a huge difference. That means changes, and compression and a substantial number of changes are coming to the story we all know and love. Some of these changes will likely be widely well-received – it’s a rare Wheel of Time fan who won’t admit to some subplot or tertiary character that doesn’t feel totally necessary to the story’s narrative, or eagerly asking for more scenes of Faile as a captive of the Shaido – and others will be more controversial. In a recent Q&A, Rafe Judkins addressed the issue of changes. He notes there are no 100% original-to-the-show characters, but some book characters and character names may have been repurposed, and some characters combined so one character is now doing the role of three or four smaller roles. He also noted that in some cases, extras or background roles may not speak or be identified in dialogue, but will nevertheless be based on character descriptions from the novels. Rafe also notes the perennial weakness of book-to-screen adaptations. In novels we can spend time inside characters’ heads and hear their thoughts and learn their motivations. On screen we can’t. The few times that shows or movies have tried doing this, it hasn’t really worked: the awkward voiceovers to describe character thoughts in David Lynch’s Dune comes to mind. As a result character motivations now have to emerge naturalistically through action and dialogue, and that can often be difficult and more time-achieving to show. Changes in the show also have a vetting committee of sorts, starting with Rafe himself and creative consultant/superfan Sarah Nakamura and then going to Brandon Sanderson (who completed the Wheel of Time books after Robert Jordan’s sad passing), Harriet McDougal (Jordan’s widow and editor) and Maria Simons (one of Jordan and Sanderson’s assistants and researchers). This won’t stop major changes being made where necessary, but will ensure that each change has at least been stress-tested by a number of book experts to see if they are at least in the spirit of Robert Jordan’s writing. There are several key changes likely for the first season. The first is that major characters who make their first appearance in The Eye of the World but then do not return for a long time, will not appear in the first season for simple practical reasons. The season already has an enormous cast with the characters who play a major role and adding in other characters who only appear for one scene and then don’t show up again for two or three seasons would risk being confusing as well as dangerous, since the actors might get other gigs in the meantime and not be available when they need to come back (this problem blighted Game of Thrones repeatedly, resulting in two actors playing Lord Beric and three playing the Mountain). Fans seem already resigned to key characters like Queen Morgase, Gawyn and Galad, and possibly Elayne, not appearing in Season 1 (although it is still possible some more roles will be announced), and other characters such as Elaida, Elyas and Mordeth have not been confirmed yet either. Another problem that epic fantasy often has is the travelogue aspect. Fantasy novels often have characters travelling from place to place to have adventures, rather than staying put in one location. This is great for a novel but bad for television, which likes to have a relatively small number of regular standing sets the characters can be based around. Game of Thrones was lucky with the source material which often established bases of operations for characters, such as the Red Keep in King’s Landing, the northern court at Winterfell, the Night’s Watch stronghold of Castle Black and the various cities Daenerys conquers in the distant east. Wheel of Time does not do this for a long, long time. Eventually the story settles down and the royal palaces in Caemlyn and Cairhien, the White Tower in Tar Valon, the Stone of Tear and various inns in Ebou Dar become such bases, but not for a long time. Filming a travelogue is very expensive and challenging even for big-budget films. The Eye of the World is a constantly-moving travelogue which moves from the Two Rivers to Taren Ferry, Baerlon, Shadar Logoth, Whitebridge, Caralain Grass, Arien, Four Kings, Breen’s Spring, Market Sheeran, Carysford, Caemlyn, Fal Dara, the ruins of the Seven Towers, the Eye of the World and Tarwin’s Gap. The TV show sounds like it will be adding scenes set in Tar Valon as well. Rafe has indicated that not all these locations will appear on screen, necessitating some changes to the story. The cost of building an elaborate, expensive outdoor set which is going to be used for a single ten-minute on-screen sequence may not be worth it when you can set those scenes elsewhere at a cheaper cost. Rafe’s answer to this does seem to add fuel to the widespread rumours that Baerlon will not appear in the first season, and that we will be meeting Min and the Whitecloaks (who have been cast) elsewhere, as an example of a practical change that may be unavoidable but will no doubt have some fans declaring the story to be “ruined forever” before seeing a single second of footage. Other changes will come from casting. In Lord of the Rings, Frodo Baggins is 50 years old and a mature Hobbit by the time the adventure starts, but Elijah Wood was only 18 when he was cast in the role. Hardcore fans complained about the casting, but Wood’s performance was later widely praised and is now considered iconic by many people. In Game of Thrones, the writers and casting producers realised that casting thirty-somethings for the roles of fathers and family men didn’t look quite right by our modern sensibilities and thus aged up characters like Robert Baratheon, Catelyn Stark and Eddard Stark to their late forties or early fifties, and this was widely accepted. For The Wheel of Time, the producers decided that Alexandre Willaume was the best actor they’d seen for the role of Thom Merrilin, even if he was around twenty years younger than Thom in the books. Casting an actual sixty or seventy-something for the role of Thom was unlikely to happen given the vigours of long-term, location filming. It also seems to have influenced the decision to change Thom’s instrument of choice. A harp is a large and unwieldy instrument to be lugging around a continent, and reducing the instrument to a half-sized harp or even a lyre may have felt a bit demeaning given Thom’s exacting standards. Switching to a guitar had several advantages, since it was more portable, better hinted at the setting’s more modern aesthetics (The Wheel of Time looks like a medieval fantasy, but more accurately is a 17th Century-style setting, lacking gunpowder) and it allowed Alexandre Willaume, who is a professional guitarist (even booking his guitar its own seat on the plane to the start of filming), to play the instrument live on set. These advantages were weighed as being more worthwhile than sticking to book accuracy. There is of course a sliding slope when it comes to such decisions. Terry Pratchett fans are very unhappy with The Watch, a TV adaptation of the Discworld novels that has abandoned event the vaguest pretence of adapting the novels faithfully in favour of creating an original story with almost no influences, characters or settings from the book even present. Many adaptations have suffered death from a thousand cuts, where small changes for good-intentioned reasoning has led to massive shifts over time that made people wonder why the writers even bothered adapting the story in the first place. These are valid concerns but, so far, it appears that Rafe Judkins and his team have made changes and choices for the best. We can – hopefully – judge how successful they’ve been later this year. As usual, let us know what you think and stay up to date with the latest news right here at Dragonmount.
  12. Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years, and was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2020. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. It’s been two years since Amazon ordered The Wheel of Time to series, ending a long wait for fans who'd been wanting to see their favourite series picked up for the screen. That wait began on 15 January 1990 when the very first readers to finish The Eye of the World put the book down and said, “This would make a good movie, wouldn’t it?” Such a long wait for such a hugely popular property to be adapted is unusual. The first Harry Potter film hit screens barely four and a half years after the first novel was published, and The Lord of the Rings got a BBC radio adaptation just two years after the book came out (and “only” twenty-three years for the first animated film version). Game of Thrones was optioned by HBO only ten years after the first book was published, although actually getting it on screen turned out to be an arduous task taking another five years after that point. Fans may be forgiven for asking why it took so long - thirty-one years by the time it airs - for someone to adapt what was, for most of its lifespan, the biggest-selling epic fantasy series since Tolkien. The answer is that there’s actually been several attempts to bring the books to the screen before, some of them getting quite far and having quite a lot of money spent on them before the plug was pulled. Here’s the lowdown on a few of those attempts: NBC The American network NBC optioned The Wheel of Time for adaptation in 1999. Several network executives were fans of the books and – more to the point – of their massive runaway sales success which had already seen it score a New York Times #1 bestseller position (the first of six) and over 40 million sales by that point. The executives were enthusiastic and – for the time – highly ambitious, envisaging adapting each novel or perhaps several novels as mini-series in their own right, adapting the entire saga across several years. The initial plan was for a six-hour adaptation of The Eye of the World. Their model was the 1998 mini-series Merlin starring Sam Neill (no relation to the 2008-12 BBC TV series), which adapted the Arthurian legend across three hour-long episodes costing more than $10 million each. The mini-series had concept art from legendary Tolkien artist Alan Lee (who would decamp to New Zealand the following year to help Peter Jackson shoot The Lord of the Rings) and a surprising degree of historical fidelity to the likely post-Roman, pre-Saxon setting of the stories. The casting director even tipped his hat to other Arthurian adaptations, by reusing castmembers from John Boorman’s 1981 film Excalibur. The mini-series also had an exemplary cast, including Miranda Richardson, Isabella Rossellini, Helena Bonham Carter, Rutger Hauer, James Earl Jones and Sir John Gielgud. NBC even tapped some of the writers of Merlin to possibly work on Wheel of Time. Here's an audio clip of Robert Jordan talking about this adaptation effort, saying, “If what I get is what they did in Merlin, I’ll be perfectly satisfied.” In a similar vein to the Merlin project was Dune, a mini-series which aired on the Sci-Fi Channel (about to return to NBC’s ownership at the time) to great success in 2000. Alas, the Wheel of Time project at NBC was not to be. It foundered for several reasons (one imagines the sheer cost, the huge scale of the project and the fact that the books were not complete were all contributory factors), but the main one was that the executives backing it moved on from NBC by the end of 2000 and interest at the network dried up. They allowed the rights to revert to Robert Jordan. Anime Around the same time, a Japanese animation company – the identity of which has never been disclosed – contacted Robert Jordan to discuss the rights. Although Jordan had always envisaged a live-action adaptation, he was certainly not opposed to the idea and entered into discussions. Japanese animation studios are not unused to long-running adaptations and the use of animation would allow them to overcome the budgetary problems with effects and prosthetics that were daunting those interested in a live-action project. Japanese animation studios are also well-used to the problem of adapting incomplete works. Bones Inc. produced a 51-episode adaptation of Hiromu Arakawa’s manga Fullmetal Alchemist in 2003-04, but the manga was not yet complete, so they made up their own ending. Five years later, after the manga was finished, Bones made a completely new adaptation from scratch called Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood which adapted the entire manga very faithfully. Unfortunately, the Japanese animation studio involved did not propose anything so ambitious. In fact, their proposal was that they would adapt only the first three books – The Eye of the World, The Great Hunt and The Dragon Reborn – and then adapt the ending of the third book into an ending for the entire story (so presumably the battle at the Stone of Tear would become the Last Battle, with Rand’s defeat of Ba’alzamon becoming the final defeat of the Dark One). They also seemed to be envisaging a single feature film to tell this story rather than a full TV series. Robert Jordan was rather bemused by this notion and turned the project down. Red Eagle & Warner Brothers In 2003 Robert Jordan sold an option for the books to Forsaken Films, who wanted to get the books on screen at either HBO or the Sci-Fi Channel. This was moving to capitalise on Sci-Fi’s success with the Children of Dune and Battlestar Galactica mini-series that aired that year (the latter leading to a long-running regular series). However, after a risible response to Sci-Fi’s (absolutely awful) Earthsea mini-series the following year, Sci-Fi’s interest in adapting original SF or fantasy novels dried up. Forsaken Films was founded by Wheel of Time fan and budding film producer and director Eben McGarr specifically to adapt the Wheel of Time property. They partnered with DZYNZ Inc., a visual effects company who were working on Team America: World Police, to produce possible ideas for a mini-series project (presumably not using puppets!). DZYNZ’s owner, John Naulin (an industry veteran who’d worked on the Star Wars franchise, as well as Honey, I Shrunk the Kids) brought on board Larry Mondragon and Rick Selvage to advise on the project. After some months developing the property there was a re-organisation, with Naulin, Mondragon and Selvage founding Manetheren LLC to develop the film and then a parent company, Red Eagle Entertainment, to oversee a wider rights-handling project. In March 2004, Red Eagle struck a larger deal with Jordan that superseded the deal with Forsaken (who promptly left the picture altogether). This was for rights-handling rights, including comic books and video games, for The Eye of the World alone. The price paid was $35,000 which, given the popularity of the series, was an incredible deal. This deal was extended several times until early 2008, by which time Red Eagle had paid an additional $130,000 to secure an option on the entire series. Then in May 2008 Red Eagle exercised the option, purchasing the film rights to the entire series for $465,000 on a deal that required them to have a project released by 11 February 2015. Almost immediately Red Eagle ran into problems by pairing with redoubtable comic book company Dabel Brothers in producing first a limited series based on New Spring and then a longer comic series based on The Eye of the World. Both projects were beset by unexpected delays, controversies and unrealistic timescales (Dabel Brothers had form for this on several earlier projects, it has to be said). The comic book furore was so notable that Robert Jordan took time out of his medical treatment to make his displeasure with the situation clear. Unfortunately, just a month later, Robert Jordan passed away. As early as 2004 Warner Brothers showed an interest in a film project based on the books, possibly to bolster their fantasy film portfolio which also included the Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings franchises. However, after some speculative development work was done, Warners passed on the project. It was around this time that they began spinning up the work that later led to the Hobbit movie trilogy, and may have chosen not pursue that and not muddy the waters with a superficially similar fantasy project. This Wheel of Time project was dead by 2006. Universal Studios Red Eagle continued to develop the property and in August 2008 it was announced that Universal Studios had bought an option with a plan to develop the first book in the series, The Eye of the World, as a high-budget feature film. Film producer Jeff Kirschenbaum was put in charge of the project and spent time developing it with writer Chris Morgan (the Fast and the Furious franchise, as well as 47 Ronin, Wanted and the long-gestating Legend of Conan movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger), but they were sidetracked when the Fast and the Furious movies started blowing up in a big way and refocused on those. Other writers came on board, but no-one could get a script in place that they liked. (Disclosure: Dragonmount founder Jason Denzel also contributed to the project at the time). Kirschenbaum left Universal and Universal’s interest in the project dried up. Red Eagle noted the pivoting of the industry towards television and re-pitched the project as a TV series, which ironically brought the property back to the attention of NBC and the Sci-Fi Channel – now called SyFy – as they were owned by Universal. After a brief perusal of the idea, the two networks passed. Normally you’d expect the biggest post-Tolkien, non-Rowling fantasy series in the world to attract more interest (especially since the prices involved seemed to be pretty low), but this process was coinciding with the biggest economic downturn the world had seen in seventy years and the project fell foul of Universal’s sudden reticence to commit to anything other than proven franchises. Although there were flickers of renewed interest at the studio after Game of Thrones (which began airing in 2011) hit the big time, Universal’s film option had finally expired by February 2014. In the meantime, Red Eagle continued to develop the video game project. In February 2010 they announced they were partnering with Obsidian Entertainment, the developers of Fallout: New Vegas, Neverwinter Nights 2 and Knights of the Old Republic II to partner with them in making a roleplaying game based on The Wheel of Time. The game never materialised. Rather oddly, Red Eagle signed a distribution deal with publisher Electronic Arts, but did not want to sign over creative control of the game to them, as is standard in the industry. This meant that EA would not fund the video game, only distribute it. Red Eagle would have to find the budget for the game themselves. But with the budget for a video game of this nature being comfortably in the tens of millions of dollars (Skyrim, which was in development at this time, cost over $80 million to produce, not including marketing) and Red Eagle not having access to anything remotely approaching that figure, it was unclear where the money was going to come from, if not a publishing deal. In April 2014, Obsidian confirmed that the deal had fallen through because of a lack of funding and they’d moved on to other projects. In the meantime, in 2012, Red Eagle set up a Kickstarter with Jet Set Games for a Wheel of Time mobile game called Banner of the Rising Sun. They asked for $450,000 to develop two games in the setting, and then failed to publicise the project. The Kickstarter was abandoned with under $3,000 raised. They would probably have had better luck with a Kickstarter for the proper CRPG, but had decided to focus on a mobile game as a smaller project to start with. Sony & Amazon After such a series of high-profile failures, it’s unsurprising that Wheel of Time fans had lost faith in Red Eagle to achieve anything with their option. However, in early 2014, (almost the second the Universal deal expired) Red Eagle entered into discussions with Radar Pictures and Sony Television about a TV adaptation of The Wheel of Time, following the huge success of Game of Thrones at HBO. These early talks would eventually lead to Sony and Amazon Television joining forces to take on the project, resulting in the project currently shooting in the Czech Republic, with Red Eagle as consulting producers (but not with any decision-making power). Even that was a strange saga, with Red Eagle self-funding their own pilot called The Winter Dragon starring Billy Zane to hold onto the rights a bit longer so they could claim a share of the Sony deal. Harriet McDougal, Robert Jordan’s widow, took exception to this and expressed her displeasure publicly. A lawsuit followed, and Red Eagle counter-sued for slander, a move which obviously proved unpopular in the fandom. The two parties eventually settled out-of-court. The saga of the previous not-to-be adaptations of The Wheel of Time is fascinating in its own right, and it’ll be interesting to see what the end result of this twenty-year journey is when Amazon finally brings the books to the screen next year. As usual, let us know what you think and stay up to date with the latest news right here at Dragonmount. Also, check out this video from our Wheel of Time Community Show team where they discuss the points I've made in this article.
  13. Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years, and was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2020. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. On 1 February 2013, Netflix changed the conversation about how TV shows are released when they dropped all thirteen episodes of political drama House of Cards on the same day. Since then, every Netflix original scripted show has done exactly the same thing. Rival streamer Amazon Prime adopted the same strategy, whilst Hulu adopted a mixed strategy, releasing some shows on the same time and others weekly. It was a bold and innovative move, and for more than three years was wildly successful. Of Netflix’s first ten original dramas, six were massive hits, driving huge boosts in subscriptions and almost dominating the cultural conversation: House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Daredevil, Narcos, Jessica Jones and Stranger Things. Netflix seemed to be onto a winning strategy. However, some rivals were not convinced. The two biggest shows of the 2010s were HBO’s Game of Thrones and AMC’s The Walking Dead, launched with regular, weekly release patterns and were rewarded with dozens of new articles and hundreds of thousands or even millions of Tweets every single week a new episode was released. It’s arguable if Game of Thrones’ Red Wedding would have had the same nuclear impact it did on TV discussion if it had dropped as part of a one-day release of the entire third season. When Hulu released The Handmaid’s Tale in 2017, conscious they had a show that spoke to the cultural moment and also was awards-fodder, they opted for a weekly release schedule (after dropping the first three episodes at once), reversing the decision to release some of their prior shows all at once. Likewise, they were rewarded with eight weeks’ worth of constant coverage. CBS All Access launched its service almost at the same time, again favouring weekly release schedules for their first two dramas, The Good Fight and, a few months later, Star Trek: Discovery. The Boys is the first Amazon Prime original to switch to a weekly release schedule, with strong results. During this time period Netflix began to flounder. The rate of production of critically-acclaimed, conversation-starting shows dropped off sharply. Their constant drive of content and the need to produce a whole season of television for almost every Friday of the year saw them releasing shows with next to no marketing and then cancelling them: the high-budget second season of Sense8 was a notable casualty when its launch buzz and marketing was instead swamped by adverts for the already-concluded first season of 13 Reasons Why (which Netflix believed was a stronger show to generate new subscriptions). Netflix also appeared to reach its English-language subscription ceiling much earlier than expected, leaving it deeply in debt and unclear where future new customers were going to come from. Both Apple TV+ and Disney+, perhaps seeing Netflix’s struggles, both launched with weekly release schedules for their shows and profited from them, with the Star Wars show The Mandalorian particularly benefitting from weekly discussion over the adventures of Pedro Pascal’s bounty hunter hero and his animatronic, Yoda-like friend. Which brings us to Amazon Prime, and The Wheel of Time. Amazon have been looking to differentiate their TV offerings from Netflix for some years. Although they had some hit shows – The Man in the High Castle was a modest success, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel a somewhat bigger one – they were still batting way behind Netflix, which was frustrating given how widely available Amazon Prime Television was (free for all Amazon Prime subscribers, a fact that surprisingly large numbers of them were unaware of). In 2016 they switched to a weekly release schedule for their hit car programme The Grand Tour, which was successful, and in 2018 extended the idea to drama with The Romanoffs. The latter bombed, but Amazon eventually decided this was more down to the quality of the show than problems with a weekly release schedule. They next decided to roll the dice with a show that already had a successful first season: The Boys. Showrunner Eric Kripke had already been lobbying for a weekly release schedule for the second season and Amazon agreed to give the format a go. The result has been hugely successful. Each week for six weeks (the first three episodes were released on the same day), the show attracted a large amount of online engagement. Weekly reviews, articles and recaps, and regular interviews with the showrunners and cast helped drive the show to the top of internet TV discussions. Over the course of the run Amazon saw a marked increase in subscriptions as people tuned in to catch up on the previous episodes and watch the new ones. The Expanse is switching to a weekly release schedule on Amazon Prime with its forthcoming fifth season. The success of the format saw Amazon make the decision to repeat the experiment for space opera show The Expanse. The Expanse had already aired three seasons released weekly on SyFy, but disappointing viewing figures saw the show cancelled. Amazon bought out the show and transferred it to Amazon Prime for a fourth season in 2019, released on the same day. It did well, but Amazon saw a chance to improve its standings by switching to a weekly release schedule for the fifth season. This was helped by the fact that the fifth season will be the most explosive of the nine they are hoping to make: the fifth book in the series features a Game of Thrones-style, “Red Wedding” level shocking event, and if the TV show delivers on it, it could propel the show to a new level of success and achievement. We will find out if Amazon’s gambit pays off between December and February, when they air the ten episodes of the fifth season. With Amazon switching to a weekly release schedule for two of its biggest shows, it makes it much more likely that The Wheel of Time will follow suit when it launches on Amazon in 2021 (as well as the Second Age-set Lord of the Rings prequel later in the year, or in 2022). The move will be divisive – people have gotten used to sitting down on a Friday and dedicating a day or a weekend to watching a whole season of a show – but I think will be more successful. One of the reasons Netflix’s model seems to be increasingly flawed is because a binge-release is an all-or-nothing proposition. The show has to be a hit out of the gate because, if it isn’t, then three weeks later everyone’s forgotten about it and something else has come along to replace it in the conversation. A weekly release schedule gives five to eight weeks’ worth of coverage and discussion and raises the profile of a show to higher levels, and generates more viewers of the earlier episodes in the season. It gives the show more of a fighting chance to be successful and get a renewal for more seasons. From a more cynical point of view, it is also more profitable: people wanting to stay up to date on a new, zeitgeist-defining show have to subscribe for two or more months rather than a single weekend, but if they prefer the binge experience, they can wait until the whole season is available. That does of course mean dodging spoilers for several weeks in a row, but ultimately it does give them more choice about how to consume a new series. Of course, Amazon may change its mind and decide to release Wheel of Time in one go, but it feels less likely. Anything which helps Wheel of Time get more viewers and more critical discussion can only be a good thing if the show is to survive the long term, but what are your thoughts? What strategy do you think is the best approach? Let us know in the comments and as usual keep at eye on the Dragonmount TV News page for breaking stories.
  14. Adam Whitehead is Dragonmount's TV blogger. Adam has been writing about film and television, The Wheel of Time, and other genre fiction for over fifteen years, and was a finalist for the Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer in 2020. Be sure to check out his websites, The Wertzone and Atlas of Ice and Fire (including The Wheel of Time Atlas!) as well as his Patreon. Today marks a full year since production of The Wheel of Time began in the Czech Republic and Slovenia. Had things proceeded according to plan, shooting would have wrapped in May and the production would have been deep in post-production, ready for an early 2021 debut. Unfortunately, fate had other ideas and instead we’ve had to endure a pandemic which has had far-reaching consequences around the globe. The Wheel of Time had to go on shooting hiatus in March with six of the eight episodes in the can and for a while it looked like completing the season would have to be held off indefinitely. Fortunately, shooting on the final two episodes was able to resume last week and the hope is that the series will be able to debut in 2021, hopefully not too far behind the original airing schedule. For this anniversary post, I thought it would be fun to do a brief catch-up of the news covering production as it unfolded. Back in April 2019, we had firm news that casting was underway. Two months later we had confirmation of our first castmember: Rosamund Pike (Gone Girl, The World’s End) as Moiraine Damodred. Pike also signed on as a producer, part of a long-term interesting in working behind the scenes in film as well; she also recently signed on as a producer on Netflix’s Three-Body Problem, working alongside former Game of Thrones showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. The floodgates opened in August 2019 when the main Two Rivers cast was announced: Madeleine Madden as Egwene al’Vere, Marcus Rutherford as Perrin Aybara, Barney Harris as Mat Cauthon, Zoë Robbins as Nynaeve al’Meara and Josha Stradowski as Rand al’Thor. We also got Brandon Sanderson to weigh in on the casting choices, and he had some wise words on audience expectations of a faithful adaptation versus the practicalities of delivering that with the practical and financial limitations of television production. We then got news of Daniel Henney being cast as al’Lan Mandragoran, and an early preview of the cast in action due to a video of the first table read for the series. More casting news followed: Tam al’Thor; Logain, Loial, Thom Merrilin and Padan Fain; Alanna Mosvani, Maksim and Ihvon; Liandrin, Aram, Leane and Ila; Abell Cauthon, Natti Cauthon, Marin al’Vere, Bran al’Vere, Daise Congar and Cenn Buie; Eamon Valda and Geofram Bornhald; Master and Mistress Grinwell and Dana; Basel Gill; Raen; and Min Farshaw and Siuan Sanche. Meanwhile, in other posts we discussed things to expect from the show, characters who might have expanded roles, the writers working on Season 2 scripts, the directors, the budget, the locations, and that pesky question of how many books will be adapted in the first season. We also had to address fan concerns over characters being cut, initially fears that Thom Merrilin was going to be axed (he wasn’t) and that Min wouldn’t make it into the first season (she has, although the jury is still out on Elaida, Elayne and the rest of the Trakands). We even had a chat about the show at the virtual JodanCon back in April, which was gatecrashed by showrunner Rafe Judkins who kindly answered some of our questions about the project (and got some nice exclusives, like Seasons 1 and 2 being eight episodes long apiece). It’s been a wild ride and it’s not quite over yet. Shooting on the final two episodes of the season is expected to continue well into October, if not November as well, and there’s still some castmembers we expect to see in the first season who should be announced (including Lord Agelmar, hopefully, and maybe a couple of those pesky Forsaken). As usual, Dragonmount will continue bringing you news on the series as it comes in.
  15. As I said, I think we are not going to be seeing a "faithful adaptation" in the sense of a linear blow-by-blow adaptation of the books. There simply isn't enough time and enough episodes. So I think we will see a more general adaptation of the main storyline from the books, but many, many subplots and minor characters are going to be cut, and they'll be blending together elements from across the entire series, combining characters (not the really big hitters, but certainly tertiary and less important ones) and leaving out elements that are not strongly tied into the main story or the main characters. Maybe if, say, AMC had been adapting the project as 16-episode seasons and they could have adapted two books per season, 8 episodes per book, that would be a different situation, but then they'd have the problem of not having anywhere near enough money to do the show justice.
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