The Dark Tower is Stephen King‘s magnum opus, so you would think that with the resurgence of King adaptations, The Dark Tower would be the crown jewel, especially with franchise-happy studios looking for big, sci-fi properties. Unfortunately, the only adaptation we got was the abysmal 2017 movie starring Matthew McConaughey and Idris Elba. There was new hope on the horizon when Amazon started developing a TV series based on the books with Glen Mazzara (The Walking Dead) on board as showrunner, but back in January, Amazon decided to pass on picking up the pilot.
So what exactly did Mazarra have planned for his adaptation? He recently sat down on the new podcast The Kingcast (click here to subscribe) to talk about why he wanted to adapt the book Wizard and Glass, which is the story of Young Roland.
“When we realized that the franchise was not viable, or not going to continue, we decided we could now lay out the entire epic,” said Mazarra. “Now we had a choice: do we go back and start with The Gunslinger? Do you start and tell the story in a linear way and then interrupt that narrative and have this large cutaway in your season 4 or season 5 to Wizard and Glass? That’s a viable option.” However, they ultimately decided to start with Young Roland so that the audience would be invested in his journey rather than starting with Book 1, The Gunslinger, and then having to go back and explain that origin later.
As for the pilot, here’s what fans of the books could have expected:
“The story of the pilot is basically Roland in the desert. The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed. In this version he’s chasing Marten because Marten was with Gabrielle (Roland’s mother) and he’s vowed his revenge. In the books, (Roland) gets his guns to kill Marten and then Marten sort of disappears from the narrative. So (Roland) chases Marten across the desert and ended up in Hambry. He meets Susan. In the pilot it’s the Feast of the Kissing Moon and she’s being presented to the mayor and she meets Roland on the road. Roland goes into Traveler’s Rest. He has the scene where the Big Coffin Hunters trip Sheemie and Roland gets into a classic western stand-off. The ka-tet catches up and we have Cuthbert use the slingshot and he takes out one of the Big Coffin Hunters. They go into the square and as they’re arguing, Roland explaining he’s there to find and kill Marten, Susan grabs him and they dance. They actually dance to a Flogging Molly tune, which I love. The Big Coffin Hunters come in and are chasing him through the square, but Roland sees Marten, so everything all collides in the end.”
In terms of trying to balance adaptation versus staying faithful to the books, Mazzara felt that it was important not to mess with the key moments from the novels. “I had a rule with the writers that if something was really, really important that we were going to try to make canon work,” explains Mazzara. “There was never going to be a version where Roland did not shoot his mom. There was never going to be a version in which Susan lives. There was never going to a version in which Roland doesn’t drop Jake.”
Unfortunately, this will all remain a great “What if?” which is a shame, since The Dark Tower is clearly a rich and beloved series of books that just needs the right approach for an adaptation. While the failed movie may have soured the well for a bit, I expect we haven’t seen the last of attempts to give The Dark Tower the adaptation it deserves.