Gandalf once said: ‘All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.’ Well, with Amazon aiming for 20 episodes in their highly-anticipated Lord of the Rings series, I know exactly how I’ll be spending my time.
The show, based on the iconic works of J.R.R. Tolkien, is expected to arrive sometime in 2021, but Amazon are being particularly secretive on this one: little is known about who will appear or what will happen.
They have released a short video, showing the creative minds behind the show:
Folks from Game of Thrones, The Avengers, Westworld and many, many more massive TV shows and movies are helping steer this beast in the right direction. Also on board is Tom Shippey, a retired professor of Middle and Old English literature and a Tolkien scholar.
In a recent interview with Deutsche Tolkien, Shippey gave excited audiences a little insight into what’s going on behind closed doors.
Commenting on the speculation over where the show would be filmed, Shippey said the writers haven’t decided how it’s going to end yet, and because the shooting is orientated towards locations, this means nothing is certain. He also adds that Amazon are planning a whopping 20 episodes for the first season.
As reported by Deutsche Tolkien, Shippey said:
The exact locations are of course uncertain and it could well be several. The shooting itself does not take place chronologically, but is oriented towards the locations. Logically, you try to bundle all the scenes that take place in one location and film them so that you have it done and don’t have to return to that place several times. But this also implies that everything has to be clear at the start of filming, you have to know the end. There’s supposed to be 20 episodes for the first season. So until they’ve decided what the end is going to be, they can’t start filming.
20 episodes is an appetising prospect – there’s plenty of material for the showrunners, JD Payne and Patrick McKay, to dig into. The question is, what material will that be?
Well, a tweet from the show’s Twitter account shows it will take place prior to Peter Jackson’s Oscar-winning trilogy.
One for the Dark Lord on his dark throne. In the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie. pic.twitter.com/hRmGQbOhLj
— The Lord of the Rings on Prime (@LOTRonPrime) March 6, 2019
The tweet features a map which includes Númenor, which was all but destroyed thousands of years before the events of Lord of the Rings. A later tweet from the account said: ‘Welcome to the Second Age.’
Both the First Age and the Third Age – which is where The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings films take place – are ‘off-limits’ according to Shippey.
The First and Third Ages are ‘off-limits’, you can’t have the First Age. Events could be mentioned at the most if they explain the events of the Second Age. But if it is not described or mentioned in the Lord of the Rings or in the appendices, they probably cannot use it.
So the question is to what extent they may hint at events that took place, for example, in the First Age, but still continue to affect the Second Age. There are several maps authorized by Tolkien, not just the ones we’re are familiar with, and some of those maps have places on them which are not in the other maps. But if Tolkien authorized them then that’s okay. So it’s it’s a bit of a minefield.
You have to tread very carefully but at the same time there is quite a lot of scope for interpretation and free invention.
The Tolkien Estate hold the rights to the First Age, whereas the events of the Third Age lie with Middle-earth Enterprises. Though, the Tolkien Estate will be keeping a very careful eye on production. According to Shippey, they retain a veto on anything that concerns Tolkien.
As for packaging the events of the Second Age, Shippey says it’s difficult because it ‘stopped twice’.
Shippey explains further:
It is difficult because the Second Age kind of “stopped” twice. Once with the Fall of Númenor and then, about 150 years later, with the Last Alliance and the defeat of Sauron. The end of the Second Age on a map looks about the same as the beginning of the Third Age in terms of place names, coastline or border lines.
It will be of great importance for the series when exactly the plot takes place, at which point in Middle-earth history something happens. This was one of our difficulties when creating a map for the Second Age, because you have to determine very precisely what date this map should be from.
Back in April, UNILAD reported the show was expected to start filming in Scotland this August. However, Shippey doesn’t believe they’ll begin until next year at this point.
I don’t think production can start this year, though I don’t know what their timetable is. There is still a lot to do, just think of the costumes, weapons, locations, etc.
Scotland lost out on being a hub for the show’s shooting schedule due to Brexit, according to the New Zealand Herald.
However, the board is set, and the pieces are moving. With the creative talent on board and the clear attention to detail, this show could be a masterclass.
I’ll leave you with this sensational clip from Lord of the Rings, because who doesn’t love it?
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After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BCTJ-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He’s now left his Scottish homelands and took up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.