In its latest major period undertaking, ITV has ordered 13-part epic drama Beowulf. Described as a re-imagining of one of literature’s greatest and most enduring heroes — and as a Western set in the Dark Ages — this incarnation of Beowulf is created by Strike Back‘s James Dormer and ITV Studios’ execs Tim Haines (Primeval) and Katie Newman (Primeval: New World).
The action series is set in the mythical Shieldlands, a place of spectacle and danger populated by both humans and fantastical creatures (which turns up in Dungeons & Dragons as Shield Lands). The set-up sees the titular Scandinavian warrior return to Heorot to pay his respects to the recently deceased Hrothgar — the man who raised him. But when the palace is attacked by the terrifying monster Grendel, Beowulf must hunt it down, winning favor with Heorot’s new female Thane, and the wider community, in the process. The series will follow Beowulf as he slowly reconnects with the idea of family and home. The creators promise an exploration of the notion of good and evil, and heroes and villians, along with battles, chases, raids and celebrations.
This is the most recent in a string of ambitious period dramas that ITV has commissioned. In November, the broadcaster ordered six-part 1827-set crime drama The Frankenstein Chronicles starring Sean Bean, as well as the 10-part 1930s-set action adventure Jekyll & Hyde. Shooting begins on location on both of those in January with Beowulf scheduled for April. Cast is yet to be firmed.
Dormer, who will write and executive produce says, “Hundreds of years ago our ancestors listened to the story of Beowulf because it was a great adventure story — it scared them, thrilled them, made them laugh and cry. But they also listened because they recognized themselves and their fears in it. By holding a mirror up to them, this story helped define them and thus — us. So it’s incredibly exciting to have the opportunity to make it relevant again for a wide audience — to let them own it again. To let them see themselves in it.”
ITV Studios’ Creative Director of Drama Haines will executive produce with ITV Studios’ Executive Producer of Drama Newman. Stephen Smallwood (Ripper Street) will produce with shooting to take place in County Durham and Northumberland.