The Shannara Chronicles, MTV’s adaptation of Terry Brooks’ Elfstones Of Shannara, looks determined to make up for the lack of fantasy on TV. And there’s certainly no shortage of star power behind the scenes, with Jon Favreau (Iron Man) and Jonathan Liebesman (Battle: Los Angeles) producing alongside Smallville due Al Gough and Miles Millar.
What the duo found inherent in Brooks’ novels was a storytelling structure that lent itself perfectly to the television medium. “What was great about Shannara,” says Al Gough, “is that Terry is a real old-fashioned – in the best sense of the word – storyteller. The story had a real pace to it, and it just had a great world, which you hadn’t seen in fantasy, which is our world in the future. The way Terry tells stories, it felt more Star Wars than Lord Of The Rings to me. If you think back, Star Wars was pitched as a princess, a farm boy, a rogue and knights taking on an evil empire. It was a space fantasy. This one, when we read it, we recognised as a great story, and we could totally see it as a ten-hour first season of a show.”
Elaborates Miles Millar, “We were given the books, read them, and both Al and I loved it in terms of its potential. One, there were really interesting characters, particularly female characters in this book, The Elfstones Of Shannara, and the story really would make a complete season. It had a great start and a great ending. As a writer, it’s always nice to have that foundation.”
“I tell Terry, ‘You wrote this book 30-some years ago, and you have all the key ingredients,’ which are strong female characters and a triangle in the middle of it, which is something you don’t see in fantasy very often between two girls and a boy,” Gough notes. “On top of that, you have this world, which is our world in the future, so it gives it a science fiction kind of bent as well, which is really cool. And then you have a horror element with these demons that are attacking, which gives it an edge. Elfstones Of Shannara has just the right ingredients.”
For his part, Brooks feels that the novel is about responsibility for yourself and others, and how far you’re willing to take responsibility for what you know is right. Muses the author, “You’re the little man, you have no chance, but you somehow find the strength to do what you have to do. That’s all part and parcel of the story. And I wanted some kind of an epic battle, so that became part of it, too.”
Key to developing the series was keeping Brooks continually involved. “As the author,” says Farah, “Terry is an invaluable source of information and perspective.”
“At the same time,” Millar adds, “Terry provided us with flexibility that we could change what we needed to change and make our own in many ways, while we remain respectful to the source story, his characters and all those others things. So it was actually a really good collaboration with him.”
Emotionally, Brooks was able to let go because he felt he had written the book so many years ago. As a result, “I can be excited about the adaptation without being critical. That’s what I was able to do mostly, because there wasn’t anything about it that I found troubling or a violation of the trust that my readers put in me to see that the show is carried out the right way.”
The Shannara Chronicles is airing now on MTV in the US, with a UK air date to follow. For more news about the biggest TV series, pick up the latest issue of SciFiNow.