Robert Jordan’s sprawling epic fantasy series The Wheel of Time is headed to television via Amazon Studios. The studio has greenlit an adaptation of the series, which is likely to be yet another attempt to follow HBO’s sprawling epic fantasy series Game of Thrones.
Rafe Judkins, who produced ABC’s Agents of SHIELD and Netflix’s Hemlock Grove, is set to write and act as showrunner for the series. There’s no indication of how many episodes or when the show might be released, but Judkins has been showing off his work online, providing fans with updates via Twitter. Along with the news, TheWrap reports that the studio has signed fantasy author Neil Gaiman for an overall TV deal, coming after his work on Amazon’s forthcoming adaptation of Good Omens and his work on Starz’s American Gods.
Robert Jordan’s series kicked off in 1990 with The Eye of the World and it spans 14 novels, telling a story of light vs. dark. A prophecy heralds the arrival of a champion who will fight against the “Dark One,” an entity that wants to remake the world in its own image. From Amazon’s description, it looks as though the series will start with the 2004 series prequel New Spring. The story will follow Moiraine, a mage who might be one of the prophesied saviors. Jordan died in 2007 before he was able to complete the series, which fantasy author Brandon Sanderson wrapped up in 2013 with A Memory of Light.
There have been numerous attempts to bring the series to television: Jordan mentioned that NBC planned an adaptation in 2000, while Universal optioned the series for a film franchise in 2008. Back in 2015, Red Eagle Entertainment, which had the rights from that 2008 option, stealth-released a low-budget pilot that aired on FXX at 1:30AM ET. That appears to have been a ploy to hold onto the rights to the franchise, which were about to expire, and which took Jordan’s estate by surprise. Those legal issues appear to have been ironed out: word broke last year that Sony Pictures (along with Red Eagle Entertainment), was moving forward with the show, and back in June, Amazon Studio head Jennifer Salke noted in an interview that Wheel of Time was part of the company’s development slate.
Wheel of Time could be the big show Amazon needs to fill the hole left when Game of Thrones ends
Amazon’s interest in Jordan’s fantasy epic is no surprise. A year ago, Variety reported that CEO Jeff Bezos had issued the studio a new mandate: to produce more “high-end drama series with a global appeal.” That was followed up with word that the company was developing three big science fiction shows: adaptations of Larry Niven’s Ringworld, Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, and Greg Rucka’s Lazarus. In the months since, the studio has greenlit or otherwise developed ambitious adaptations of a slew of well-known science fiction and fantasy novels: J.R.R. Tolkien’s world of Middle-earth (which may align with the version adapted by Peter Jackson), Iain M. Banks’ space opera Culture series, William Gibson’s The Peripheral, and the conspiracy thriller Utopia. Earlier this year, Amazon also rescued The Expanse from cancellation by picking up the show for a fourth season.
At the time, Amazon’s mandate was essentially to find its own version of Game of Thrones — a sprawling, bingeable, marketable fantasy series that would drag in viewers. Amazon’s announcement is especially timely, given that HBO’s show is closing out its story next year, and while the network is lining up its own spinoffs and replacements, it’s offered scant details about what they might be about, or when they will actually air. Clearly, Amazon is hoping that with its epic world and characters, it’ll have a show that will draw viewers to its Prime subscription service, especially as other streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Apple, and Disney are pouring money into their own original content efforts.