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Netflix is adapting ‘The Three-Body Problem’ as a TV show

David Benioff, D.B. Weiss, and Alexander Woo will serve as showrunners.

Sep 1, 2020, 11:25 am

Internet Culture

Michelle Jaworski 

Michelle Jaworski

After taking on Game of Thrones, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are adapting the bestselling The Three-Body Problem trilogy (also known as Remembrance of Earth’s Past) as a multi-season Netflix original series, Netflix announced Tuesday.

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The books, which are written by Chinese author Liu Cixin, take place in an alternate universe where humans have made contact with aliens and how an incoming alien invasion of Earth divides people, who are mixed between welcoming the aliens and wanting to fight the invasion. The first book, titled The Three-Body Problem, won the Hugo Award for best novel after the English translation by Ken Liu (who also translated Death’s End, the third book in the trilogy) was published in 2014.

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As Peter Friedlander, Netflix’s vice president of original series, explained in a lengthy blog post introducing the creative team, the Three-Body Problem felt “more realistic than any other science fiction I’ve read” and he was “also drawn in by the story of all of humanity vulnerable to the same external threat and how this both unifies and divides humans.”

So far, Netflix has only revealed the creative team for the series. Alexander Woo (The Terror: Infamy), who also has a Netflix deal, is joining Benioff and Weiss as a showrunner. The show’s other producers are a who’s who of talent. Bernadette Caulfield, who worked with Benioff and Weiss on Game of Thrones and now heads their production company, will produce, as well as YooZoo Group chairman Lin Qi and The Three-Body Universe vice president Zhao Jilong. Also on board for the series are the production companies helmed by Rian Johnson and Ram Bergman (T-Street); Brad Pitt, Jeremy Kleiner, and Dede Gardner (Plan B Entertainment), and Rosamund Pike and Robie Uniacke (Primitive Streak). Both Liu Cixin, who’s credited as a consulting producer, and Ken Liu will be involved with the series.

“Liu Cixin’s trilogy is the most ambitious science-fiction series we’ve read, taking readers on a journey from the 1960s until the end of time, from life on our pale blue dot to the distant fringes of the universe,” Benioff and Weiss said in a joint statement. “We look forward to spending the next years of our lives bringing this to life for audiences around the world.”

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“It’s a privilege to be adapting one of the great masterpieces of Chinese science-fiction,” Woo added. “The Three-Body Problem trilogy combines so many things I love: rich, multi-layered characters and true existential stakes—all told as an elegant and deeply human allegory. I’m thrilled to kick off my partnership with Netflix with this accomplished creative team.”

The push to adapt The Three-Body Problem trilogy into a series has been in the works for some time. Just a couple of years ago, reports emerged that Amazon Studios had been pursuing the rights to Liu Cixin’s trilogy.

Adapting The Three-Body Problem trilogy as a TV series will be tricky, to say the least. The trilogy is incredibly dense and complex. Ken Liu’s translation includes footnotes explaining aspects of Chinese culture to western audiences. Fears of whitewashing the mostly entirely Chinese cast of characters, simplifying the trilogy’s complex themes, or making an offensive show are already starting to form among some fans of the book, fears that Benioff and Weiss’ involvement doesn’t quell. And while Benioff and Weiss thrived adapting the first few books in A Song of Ice and Fire, some fans’ disdain for the last few seasons of Game of Thrones likely doesn’t help matters.

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The Three-Body Problem trilogy does not have a release date at Netflix. 


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*First Published: Sep 1, 2020, 11:25 am