The CBS Stephen King adaptation Under the Dome had a strong ratings debut this week. But judging by the comments on our recap, there are quite a few fans of the original novel disappointed by the sweeping plot and character changes made from book to screen. King himself has sent a personal letter to his fans addressing the adaptation. “If you loved the book when you first read it, it’s still there for your perusal,” King notes. “But that doesn’t mean the TV series is bad, because it’s not. In fact, it’s very good…Many of the changes wrought by Brian K. Vaughan and his team of writers have been of necessity, and I approved of them wholeheartedly.”
It’s understandable that King fans might be skeptical of any adaptations. Over the years, adaptations of the author’s books and short stories have been often gone far afield of their source material. (King famously sued the makers of The Lawnmower Man, whose film had nothing in common with the original King short story besides the presence of a lawnmower. By comparison, imagine if someone made a Grapes of Wrath movie where a computer hacker fights alien crocodiles and occasionally eats grapes.) But it’s clear that the makers of Under the Dome are seeking to honor the source material. Last month, producer Brian K. Vaughan told EW that the book was “everything I love about Stephen King,” and noted that King “encouraged us to feel free to use the book as launching pad, take the themes, the ideas, the characters, and then take them to totally new places.”
But how about those “new places”? His letter doesn’t specifically spoil anything, but it does offer some intriguing roadmaps for the season ahead. (Potential semi-abstract spoilers from here.)
…if you look closely, you’ll see that most of my characters are still there, although some have been combined and others have changed jobs. That’s also true of the big stuff, like the supermarket riot, the reason for all that propane storage, and the book’s thematic concerns with diminishing resources.
It’s clear that this season will recreate some of the key scenes from the book, although King implies that they might appear in different contexts.
Some [changes] have been occasioned by their plan to keep the Dome in place over Chester’s Mill for months instead of little more than a week, as is the case in the book.
We already knew that the TV show would have an extended timeline. If Under the Dome remains a success throughout the summer, could Chester’s Mill spend years cut off from the outside world? And given the extended timeline, it seems likely that the whole “diminishing resources” theme might become even more front and center than it did in the movie. Put it this way: The farmers in town are going to become very, very important.
Other story modifications are slotting into place because the writers have completely re-imagined the source of the Dome.
Basically, everything is on the table. The government? Aliens? The devil? Pennywise the clown?
If the solution to the mystery were the same on TV as in the book, everyone would know it in short order, which would spoil a lot of the fun (besides, plenty of readers didn’t like my solution, anyway).
Or, put another way: “Isn’t it more fun when you don’t know major plot points years in advance, coughcoughRedWeddingcoughcough?”
Some who die in the book — Angie, for instance — live in the TV version of Chester’s Mill…at least for a while. And some who live in the book may not be as lucky during the run of the show.
We could be looking at the death of a central book character this season — similar to how The Walking Dead TV show has killed off some long-running comic book characters.
If you’re a King fan, it’s definitely worth reading the whole letter, which also features a story about James M. Cain and a straightforward guide to King’s writing style.
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