Tolkien scholar Tom Shippey has revealed that the proposed first season of “The Lord of the Rings” TV series in development at Amazon is targeting a twenty-episode first season.
The reveal comes shortly after key members of the creative team for the small-screen adaptation of the classic fantasy novel series were assembled. Juan Antonio Bayona (“Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom,” “The Impossible”) will direct the first two episodes and also executive produce alongside producing partner Belen Atienza. JD Payne and Patrick McKay are writing the series with Emmy-winner Bryan Cogman consulting.
The series will be set during Middle Earth’s Second Age and at a time approximately three millennia before the events of “The Lord of the Rings”. Speaking with Deutsche Tolkien (via Cinema Blend), Shippey spoke about filming locations:
“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.”
He also says the Tolkien Estate has veto power over everything that concerns Tolkien’s work and are quite strict about the series sticking to the Second Age with nothing shown from the Third Age (the “Lord of the Rings” era). However he also says Amazon has a relatively free hand in terms of additions as very few details are known about that time span:
“The Tolkien Estate will insist that the main shape of the Second Age is not altered. Sauron invades Eriador, is forced back by a Numenorean expedition, returns to Numenor. There he corrupts the Numenoreans and seduces them to break the ban of the Valar. All this, the course of history, must remain the same.
What has Sauron done in the meantime? Where was he after Morgoth was defeated? Theoretically, Amazon can answer these questions by inventing the answers, since Tolkien did not describe it. But it must not contradict anything which Tolkien did say. That’s what Amazon has to watch out for. It must be canonical, it is impossible to change the boundaries which Tolkien has created, it is necessary to remain ‘tolkienian.’
A twenty episode count is far higher than a usual season of an Amazon series. Production on the show is expected to begin in 2020 for a 2021 premiere.