Ever since HBO announced that it was planning an inevitable spin-off from the enormously popular and lucrative cash-cow that is Game of Thrones, we, the fans, have been levitating with excitement.
"We had four scripts in development when I arrived in LA last week, but by the time I left we had five," Thrones creator George RR Martin said in a blog post.
But HBO's President of Programming Casey Bloys then took it upon himself to clarify what was actually happening, announcing that while several shows are in development, HBO only expects to produce one in the end: "The bar set by [showrunners David Benioff and DB Weiss] is so high that my hope is to get one show that lives up to it."
But even a pilot doesn't mean a commission, of course. "We're having conversations about how do we smartly continue the Game of Thrones universe," WarnerMedia chairman and HBO overseer Bob Greenblatt told Deadline. "But we have to be really thoughtful about not killing the golden goose and not putting on shows that aren't up to that quality level, and how many is too many."
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That's presumably why Jane Goldman's 'Age of Heroes' pilot, tentatively named The Long Night, believed to be a White Walker origin story, was not taken to series.
HBO cancelled the project in October 2019 after a pilot was filmed starring Naomi Watts, Miranda Richardson, Josh Whitehouse and Jamie Campbell-Bower.
No reason was given by HBO for canning it, but there were reports of issues during the filming of the pilot in Northern Ireland, according to Deadline.
The post-production was also described as "lengthy... which included re-editing of the initial cut after it was not well-received" – an expensive process, though hardly alien to the Thrones universe – the original show's pilot was almost totally reshot before broadcast.
The five writers attached to the requested pilot scripts were the aforementioned Goldman, Kong: Skull Island's Max Borenstein, LA Confidential's Academy Award-winner Brian Helgeland, Westworld's Carly Wray and Bryan Cogman, one of Game of Thrones' chief writers.
Bryan Cogman revealed in April 2019 that his project was not going ahead, and Goldman's has already been cancelled. Borenstein, Helgeland and Wray's have vanished without trace, presumably rejected at the script stage.
But it's all a different story for House of the Dragon. The series, set 300 years before the events of Game of Thrones, will chart the Targaryen dynasty (Daenerys's fam) as laid out in Martin's book Fire and Blood, and has been commissioned for a full ten-episode series. We have lift off!
Ryan Condal has been tapped as showrunner, and director Miguel Sapochnik will work alongside Condal in a similar capacity, which is good news given that he previously filmed some of the very best Game of Thrones episodes, including 'Battle of the Bastards' and 'Hardhome'.
House of the Dragon's cast: Who's in it?
We already knew for certain that Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke are out of the picture: representatives for Harington denied that the actor has been approached to star in a spin-off, while Clarke insisted that "other spin-offs... might be more intriguing" than a Daenerys series.
We will, however, potentially recognise family members: "There may be [familiar] bloodlines," said Bloys. But before fans of Martin's Dunk & Egg stories – about (maybe) Brienne's ancestor and Daenerys' great-grandfather – get excited, he's ruled them out.
"The Game of Thrones universe is so rich with stories," said Casey Bloys (via Entertainment Weekly). "We look forward to exploring the origins of House Targaryen and the earlier days of Westeros along with Miguel, Ryan and George."
What's it about?
The book, as you'd expect from Martin, is big and teeming with detail. And, naturally, it's unfinished. It's told from the perspective of an unreliable narrator, the historian Archmaester Gyldayn, and begins with the conquest of Westeros by Aegon I – there's enough for a season right there.
Part 1 concludes with the reign of Aegon III, but it doesn't just explore the Targaryens' history: we get the surprising origin stories behind different iconic houses, we find out how King's Landing was built, and so much of it ties into the world of Game of Thrones that it's clear why this was the one HBO put their mighty wallet behind.
When will it be on?
In late July 2017, HBO's Casey Bloys said that the spin-offs wouldn't air until at least a year after the series ended – and while that's still a possiblity, the Covid-19 global production shutdown will inevitably delay things. 2021 remains a possibility...
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