Sony has the rights and an executive producer for ‘Wheel of Time.’
It’s happening; it’s finally happening! Sony Pictures Television announced that it is adapting the Wheel of Time book series. Sony, Red Eagle Entertainment, and Radar Pictures will co-produce the series. Rafe Judkins will write and executive produce. Judkins’ credits include ABC’s Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D., Netflix’s Hemlock Grove, and NBC’s Chuck. Red Eagle’s Rick Selvage and Larry Mondragon will also serve as executive producers as well as Radar’s Ted Field and Mike Weber. Harriet McDougal, books series writer Robert Jordan’s widow, will serve as consulting producer.
Game of Thrones, there I said it. The first thing that springs to everyone’s mind when mentioning this project is Game of Thrones. Since Game of Thrones premiered on April 2017, I’m pretty sure almost every television pitch meeting has started with the phrase, “It’s like Game of Thrones meets [Insert show title].” Wheel of Time is different because it is both a cause and effect of Game of Thrones.
The two are tied together not just by genre, but through their authors. Wheel of Time is a 14 book series written by James O. Rigney Jr. under the nom de plume of Robert Jordan. Martin’s given Jordan shoutouts throughout his series. A Storm of Swords features a reference to a “Lord Trebor Jordayne of the Tor,” and in A Feast for Crows, a character states that “Archmaester Rigney once wrote that history is a wheel, for the nature of man is fundamentally unchanging. What has happened before will perforce happen again, he said.” The latter reference speaks to the cyclical character of the central conflict in Jordan’s novels. Following Rigney’s death in 2007, Martin wrote a blog post honoring Jordan stating: “his huge, ambitious WHEEL OF TIME series helped to redefine the genre, and opened many doors for the writers who followed.” Martin’s statements are touching and genuine.
Wheel of Time tells the story of Rand al’Thor, a farmer’s son whose life changes when two travelers arrive in his small village. Soon Rand discovers that he can wield magical power and this causes a tectonic shift in both his life and the lives of those around him. Oh, and you guessed it, he is destined to battle an evil entity known as the Dark One. Further, this battle between Rand and the Dark One is just one in an age-old cycle. The Dark One rises, and a hero known as the Dragon has to defeat him. Rinse and repeat. The story sounds simple, but in its execution, it’s not. Jordan, like Tolkien and Martin, gives his characters a rich world to play in and well-rounded personalities. Wheel of Time’s world is a place to get lost in filled with people to love and hate along the way while being peppered with exciting action scenes.
For such a beautiful and engrossing piece of work, the Wheel of Time series has had a bizarre development adventure. An adaptation of the books has been in development in some way or another since 2000. For instance, a television pilot starring Max Ryan and Billy Zane aired at 1:30 a.m. on FXX in February 2015. The pilot was titled ‘Winter Dragon.” Following the release of the pilot, McDougal issued a statement that she had no knowledge or involvement with the pilot. She was just as surprised as fans were that morning.
Wheel of Time deserves better than a 1 a.m. pilot drop because it is so important to the fantasy genre. Like The Expanse and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, it is going to feel familiar but not because it is derivative of what we know. Rather, Wheel of Time is going to feel familiar because what we know is directly influenced by it. As Jordan wrote:
“As the Wheel of Time turns, places wear many names. Men wear many names, many faces. Different faces, but always the same man. Yet no one knows the Great Pattern the Wheel weaves, or even the Pattern of an Age. We can only watch, and study, and hope.”
Let’s watch, study, and hope for an adaptation that lives up to its source material.