And so, as we’re starting in the middle of the whole Shannara milieu, for some reason, the plot goes like this. There is a tree called the Ellcrys, (pronounced el-creeez by John Rhys-Davies, who plays Eventine Elessedil, king of the elves.) this sapient tree is magical, and forms a boundary called the forbidding, which keeps the demons in their own world. Each year the tree chooses its own carers. This year it chooses a female carer for the first time, one Amberle Elessedil, granddaughter of the king.
Meanwhile a half-elf called Wil Ohmsford is told by the druid Allanon that he’s actually Wil Ohmsford, the last living Ohmsford and keeper of the previously mentioned elfstones and rightful owner of the sword of Shannara, (which is, literally, another story.) The stones are powerfully magical, but can only be used by those of the right bloodline. (And at key moments in the script of course.)
Back at the big tree thing Amberle is told by the Ellcrys it’s dying, and she needs to take a seed from within it to a place called Safehold, to quicken a new Ellcrys. As the tree begins to shed leaves, the Dagda Mor, referred to sometimes as simply Dagda Mor, king of the demons, escapes the forbidding and starts bringing through his army, as well as causing all sorts of trouble for the elves.
Yes, that’s some plot, and not even all of it. There is also a Rover girl called Eretria, (pronounced eritrea by most of the cast) who joins them on their quest, some political rivalry and inter-race shenanigans between gnomes, elves, humans, and trolls.
So is it any good? I hear you ask.
First, the stuff I liked
The plot and characters will be familiar to Terry Brooks’ fans, but it isn’t like the novel, which is a bonus. Someone’s obviously spent some time and effort on this, with good costumes, nice sets and all that jazz. The casting is pretty good, the girls are pretty and the boys too. Allanon, as played by Manu Bennett, is perfectly cast, a warrior of indeterminate age. John Rhys-Davies is always reliable, and Jed Brophy, once again buried under prosthetics, is an excellent (the) Dagda Mor. It has been serialised quite well, with cliffhangers in the right places, and the pacing is, mostly, good.
The stuff I didn’t like
Despite the fact the Ellcrys is dying and they’ll soon be knee deep in their own intestines if the demons escape, the elves spend a lot of time bickering among themselves. It takes them three or four episodes just to get over the fact a woman has been chosen, never mind get on with the quest.
Oh no! He’s lost the elfstones! Phew, he’s got them back. Oh no! He’s lost the elfstones! Phew, he’s got them back. Oh no! Yes, he’s lost the bloody elfstones, again. Will he get them back do you think? And if so will he put them where the sun doesn’t shine to stop them being stolen again?
Wow, she can fight, yeah! Oh no, she can’t fight, so sad. Wow, she can fight, go girl. This happens to both Amberle and Eretria, who switch between needing to be rescued and fighting with some skill, according to the whims of the script. All the fight scenes suffer from a similar effect, to a lesser degree.
The world of Shannara is our own, thousands of years in the future, but we still see things like old cars and buildings, things that would have rusted away to dust in that time.
Some of the acting, mentioning no names but he keeps losing things, isn’t top notch, and the script is clumsy in places. Some of the special effects aren’t that special, and the sets are tiny.
Overall then, the cast and crew need to up their game to compete with the big boys over at GoT et al. We need tighter scripts, more consistency, better sets and effects, better acting, and something to put the elfstones in so he doesn’t lose them all the time. There’s a massive amount of material in the whole Shannara world, so maybe this was a bit of a trial run. If they’re going to make more, they should do it properly, not mess about on a tiny budget in a little backlot somewhere.
Televised adaptations of high fantasy novels are rare and precious things, and must be nurtured and supported. So with season two currently on our screens I’ll be giving it another go, and I’ll be sure to let you know what I thought of it!