The Wheel of Time TV series just took a huge step forward
In news that should delight, terrify, and then lead to a cautious optimism for fans of Robert Jordan’s books, the long-gestating Wheel of Time TV series just took a huge step forward. Variety is reporting that Sony Pictures Television is now producing the TV adaptation, meaning it actually has a chance of making it to the small screen.
Sony being on board doesn’t necessarily guarantee we’ll see a live-action version of Jordan’s epic, but it is a huge step in the right direction, especially given the property’s tangled history when it comes to adaptations.
After spending years bouncing around Hollywood studios looking for the next Lord of the Rings movie series, the rights landed with a small TV production company. In 2015, Red Eagle Entertainment secretly filmed a TV “pilot,” which it then aired in the middle of the night during a time usually reserved for infomercials. The pilot was meant to fulfill a legal obligation that would allow it to keep the rights to the books rather than actually launch a TV show, but it was all done without the knowledge of Jordan’s widow, Harriet McDougal, who controls the author’s estate. Legal shenanigans ensued.
Fast forward to almost exactly one year ago, and McDougal proclaimed online that the legal issues had been resolved, and more than that, a “cutting-edge” TV series was on the way from a “major studio.” That’s all she said, and that’s been the last we’ve heard of the proposed show until now.
The Wheel of Time series is a massive property and one that will be a beast to adapt. Unlike some recent TV adaptations of lengthy fantasy series like MTV’s The Shannara Chronicles (which adapts a small portion of Terry Brooks’ Shannara series), the 14-book Wheel of Time is a single, linear story with a beginning, end, and a really, really long middle. As most fans of the books can probably tell you (myself very much included), while the length helped to create a vibrant world filled with interesting characters, it also could have been significantly shortened without losing much. That also would have helped with the ending.
Sadly, Jordan died before finishing the series following a lengthy battle with heart disease. Before he passed in 2007, the author had time to outline – in great detail – the finale of his story. With 11 books in the series to his name before his death, the remaining three novels were completed by author Brandon Sanderson, under the watchful eye of Douglas, who is also credited as her husband’s editor (and to a degree, his collaborator).
The series features a sprawling cast of characters, all of whom are caught up a looming war against a dark and destructive force that influences the world subtlety through agents, both human and inhuman. When an unassuming and innocent farm boy named Rand al’Thor is revealed to be the reincarnation of a messianic figure capable of exerting incredible power – and great destruction – it sets in motion the final battle for all of creation.
The series blends medieval-era war and magic and borrows liberally from the best fantasy tropes that came before it, including orc-like creatures that serve the dark power, an unstoppable army from the desert, and the concept of a chosen one, but it also adds a new spin to all of those elements. As the series progressed, it introduced multiple countries, factions, armies, and countless supporting players, including an invading nation from a distant continent. But at the heart of it all was the story of agents of light fighting agents of dark. It will be a difficult adaptation, enough so that fans should be at least a little nervous, but it could also be incredible if done properly.
Sony will produce alongside Red Eagle Entertainment and Radar Pictures. Rafe Judkins, a producer on Agents of SHIELD and Netflix’s Hemlock Grove, is attached to write and act as executive producer, alongside Red Eagle’s Rick Selvage and the fittingly named Larry Mondragon. Radar’s Ted Field and Mike Weber are also attached, as are Darren Lemke and McDougal, who will act as a consulting producer.
The show will almost certainly have no connection to Red Eagle’s pilot. No word on a time frame or possible network was mentioned, but given how popular HBO’s Game of Thrones remains – a show based on a book series many considered (unfairly) to be a rival to Wheel of Time – and given that HBO’s fantasy series is winding down, it would make sense to get something to air sooner rather than later in the hopes of riding some of that publicity and popularity.