The absolute runaway success of Game of Thrones has proven that there is a modern audience for high fantasy. While the cinematic Lord of the Rings was likely a safe bet, building a “franchise” on
television, based not on a trilogy but an as yet unfinished epic series must have had a few network guys biting their fingernails.
But six years later it’s the biggest show on the planet. So, of course, ‘they’ have all begun searching for the next readily marketable epic high fantasy series to mine for ratings.
In fairness, none of this is new. In 2009 Sam Raimi headed a tv adaptation of Terry Goodkinds Sword of Truth series. This was greenlit mostly on the basis of Raimi’s fantasy success in the 90’s with Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and Xena: Warrior Princess. The thing that sets apart the current attitude is a complete sense of verisimilitude with regards to the ‘world’ the characters inhabit. This seems to take the shape of a stone-faced seriousness to the material and an almost slavishly faithful-
Wait, what’s this?
That, dear readers, was Winter Dragon, and while it is a full half hour of two men talking (or two men repeating a couple of names over and over), it actually aired in 2015 as the pilot for a series based on Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. Now, readers of high fantasy tend to read all the high fantasy, but it’s not exaggeration to say that Wheel of Time rates just under LOTR in terms of popularity. A staggering 14 book saga that was completed after Jordan’s death (Brandon Sanderson was recruited to complete the final 3 books), WOT sets a new standard in world building, magic systems, character density and Age-of-Empire politics.
This is perfect for the HBO treatment, even with a significant lack of explicit sex scenes. Still plenty of nudity though.
So why hasn’t this series materialised? This may surprise you, but this ‘pilot’ was not a serious attempt at the shoe.
“Red Eagle Entertainment” are the outfit who produced this ‘prologue’, and apparent holders of the current tv rights to the property. However, last year those rights were due to expire and revert to the Bandersnatch Group, headed by Jordan’s widow. The ‘Winter Dragon’ was made in order to hold onto those rights.
However, it seems they skipped a couple of key memos. As they did not consult with Bandersnatch, and they did not get the thumbs up to broadcast, they are in violation of the property license.
Probably more concerning, however, is that Harriet Jordan has no idea who “Red Eagle Entertainment” are. As far as she was aware, the rights were owned by Universal Studios.
Unfortunately this means the likelihood of a series of legal goings on to resolve the rights situation, which would delay any actual production from commencing. In the meantime if you’re a fan who is desperate for literally anything from the world of WOT, you should probably drink heavily before watching “Winter Dragon”.
One thing that they got right? Two words:
Billy. Freakin’. Zane.