Whilst we’re all excited to have Game of Thrones back on our screens again, this enthusiasm is tempered with sadness, as this means we are edging ever closer to the fantasy TV series’ 2018 end date.
Among its many achievements, the show can take credit for making converts out of fantasy non-believers. As such, when the last episode of Game of Thrones airs next year, it will leave massive void in the television landscape – where will we all get our fix of sword-and-sorcery-related drama?
If the prospect of a fantasy-free small screen slate leaves you feeling anxious, never fear – in this list, we’ll look at five fantasy TV shows that could (and should) happen soon!
Frank Herbert’s Dune novels admittedly lean closer to sci-fi than they do fantasy, but even so, this futuristic franchise still owes plenty to myth and legend.
The premise of Dune is an arresting one: in the far flung future, humanity has evolved to the point where we have incredible mental powers, which have effectively replaced computers. The various planets throughout the galaxy form part of a galactic empire, with each world controlled by a Great House. Oh, and there are giant worms (which is awesome).
With its prophesied messiah figure – in the form of lead character Paul Atreides – and feudal, house-based intrigue, there’s a lot here that will be familiar to Game of Thrones fans. Toss in the occasional technological throwback – as in Star Wars, this is a world where spaceships and swordsmen co-exist – and it’s not a huge leap to view Dune through a fantasy lens.
There have already been several adaptations of Herbert’s books already, which have met with varying levels of success. David Lynch’s 1984 theatrical version met with a lukewarm critical and commercial response, while a miniseries on the SyFy channel largely went ignored.
The latest rumblings are that Arrival director Denis Villeneuve will be spearheading another big screen take on the material. Whilst this is certainly promising news, should these plans fall apart, rights holder Legendary Entertainment should seriously consider giving Dune the elbow room it really needs to breathe via an ongoing TV series.
4. The Wheel of Time
If Dune is only just barely a fantasy outing, Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series more than fits the bill. Set in a world where men and women can cast (or “channel”) powerful magic, and featuring fantastical creatures and themes like reincarnation, the books couldn’t be more fantasy-based if they tried!
The Wheel of Time introduces us to Rand Al’Thor, who – in true “coming of age tale” fashion – is a young farm boy unaware of his true power and destined for greater things. Our guy soon discovers that he is actually “The Dragon Reborn”: the latest avatar for the most powerful channeler in the world, who must eventually face the Dark One in a final, apocalyptic showdown.
The only problem? There’s a taint on the power Rand (and all other male channelers) wields, which means that drawing upon it will ultimately drive him mad, making him a huge threat to the people he’s sworn to protect (bummer). This makes him the target of female channelers the Aes Sedai, who along with the Dark One’s forces, relentless pursue him…
This brief description barely does this sprawling story – or its extensive cast of compelling, flawed male and (refreshingly for genre) female characters – justice. Needless to say, newcomers to the The Wheel of Time TV show – which is currently in development by Sony Entertainment! – should find themselves eagerly awaiting the next episode from the moment the first ends.
The books also contain some of the politicking that made Game of Thrones so popular, although unlike in George R.R. Martin’s epic, this is arguably the least interesting aspect of the series.
On a more positive note, however, whilst The Wheel of Time plays out as a more conventional fantasy saga than Game of Thrones, both share a similar emphasis on sex and violence that should make fans of grown-up sword-and-sorcery stories happy!
But what about those fantasy fans looking for something with less guts and getting it on? For them – and those looking to share their love of fantasy with a younger audience – a TV adaptation of Jeff Smith’s beloved comic book series Bone would be a dream come true.
Yet another property stuck in film development hell, Bone follows the adventures of the three Bone cousins: Fone, Phoney and Smiley. These three cartoonish leads find themselves stumbling into the Valley, an exotic fantasy world under threat from the evil Lord of Locusts and his army of rat creatures.
The Bone boys quickly find themselves at the centre of this conflict between good and evil, kicking off a story just as exciting and moving as any supposedly more serious fantasy tale – and considerably funnier, too!
2. The Once and Future King
The Once and Future King can lay a very strong claim to being the finest retelling of the Arthurian Legend ever. Certainly, author T.H. White provides easily one of the most nuanced – and subversive – takes on the material.
His books not only present unique portraits of the central characters – including a well-meaning yet flawed King Arthur, and an ugly and self-loathing Sir Lancelot – but also explores weighty themes such as whether might can ever make right, and ends on a bittersweet yet hopeful note.
Much like Peter Jackson’s big screen version of The Hobbit, adapting The Once and Future King into a live-action series for a mature audience will involve clearing a tonal hurdle. As with Tolkien’s saga, White’s books started out written for kids – there’s a reason Disney adapted the first volume, The Sword in the Stone, into an animated classic – before evolving into something considerably more adult.
Still, so long as the creative team involved with a Once and Future King series are able to address this one major stumbling block, they should be able to craft a sophisticated TV show capable of appealing to Game of Thrones fans.
The pitch for this one is simple: it’s the Napoleonic Wars – with dragons!
In case that’s not enough to get you excited (and really, it should be), the Temeraire novels by Naomi Novik centre around the relationship between the eponymous dragon and his handler, former Royal Navy Captain Will Laurence.
It features a detailed alternate history, rousing battle scenes and razor-sharp social commentary relating to the values of its 19th Century setting. Most importantly, at its heart, Temeraire has a strong cast of characters, and the interplay between our flesh-and-blood and scaly leads is particularly endearing.
Peter Jackson certainly thought so, considering he was briefly attached to develop a film (and later miniseries) based on Novik’s books, and if there’s one thing Game of Thrones fans will need more of in their lives post-series finale, it’s dragons!