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Game of Thrones’ Benioff and Weiss to adapt sci-fi epic The Three-Body Problem at Netflix

The duo take on Liu Cixin’s novel with The Terror: Infamy writer Alexander Woo

The Three-Body Problem book cover Image: Tor Books
Matt Patches is an executive editor at Polygon. He has over 15 years of experience reporting on movies and TV, and reviewing pop culture.

The guiding forces behind HBO’s hit series Game of Thrones have found their next project, and it’s headed to Netflix.

After striking up a development deal with the streamer last August, reportedly to the tune of $200 million, David Benioff and D.B. Weiss departed HBO and ditched an assignment to write their own Star Wars trilogy. On Tuesday, Netflix VP of Original Series, Peter Friedlander unveiled the first fruits of the deal: a new live-action series inspired by Chinese author Liu Cixin’s acclaimed science fiction novel The Three-Body Problem.

“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 news release for the announcement. “We look forward to spending the next years of our lives bringing this to life for audiences around the world.”

Alexander Woo (The Terror: Infamy, True Blood) will join Benioff and Weiss in adapting the book and its two sequels, The Dark Forest and Death’s End.

“It’s a privilege to be adapting one of the great masterpieces of Chinese science-fiction,” Woo said in a statement. “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.”

“Since my earliest days at Netflix working on series like Black Mirror and Sense8, I’ve sought out stories and POVs that are singular,” Friedlander wrote in a blog post. “This story felt singular, special — and eminently relatable.”

Set against China’s Cultural Revolution, the sci-fi saga begins when a SETI-like military project actually connects with an alien civilization, who they discover is on the brink of destruction. First contact eventually becomes a declaration of invasion on mankind. The news prompts some citizens to prepare for battle, and others to concoct ways to aid the aliens in overthrowing the current regimes. The books are filled with characters and subplots, dabble in technology and scientific wonder, and tell an enormous story that should take at least three seasons to tell.

“Although it may seem like a familiar premise — the story of humanity’s first contact with an alien civilization — Chinese author Liu Cixin’s ability to interweave science with fiction made his vision of the future and extra-terrestrial contact feel more realistic than any other science fiction I’ve read. At the same time, I 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,” Friedlander said.

Last year, news leaked that Chinese entertainment and video game developer YooZoo Group, which holds the rights for the books, was in the works on an animated version of the series, though delays with the project suggest those plans may be on hold with the Netflix deal. “The Three-Body Universe and Yoozoo Group strive to collaborate with The Three-Body Problem-loving creatives and artists across the globe to create diverse forms of art,” YooZoo Group chairman and Three-Body Problem executive producer Lin Qi said in a statement. “‘To extol civilizations with technology’ is a mission Yoozoo commits itself to, and the saga from Da Liu [Liu Cixin] is exactly a part of that beautiful civilization.”

Director Rian Johnson (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Knives Out) and his producing partner, Ram Bergman, will serve as executive producers on the series. Similar to George R.R. Martin’s role on Thrones, Cixin will work with Benioff and Weiss as a consulting producer alongside Ken Liu, who wrote the English translation for The Three-Body Problem. Plan B Entertainment, the company founded by Brad Pitt, Jeremy Kleiner and Dede Gardner —which previously produced films like Ad Astra, The Lost City of Z, Okja and Moonlight — will oversee the production.

“I have the greatest respect for and faith in the creative team adapting The Three-Body Problem for television audiences,” said author Liu Cixin in a statement. “I set out to tell a story that transcends time and the confines of nations, cultures and races; one that compels us to consider the fate of humankind as a whole. It is a great honor as an author to see this unique sci-fi concept travel and gain fandom across the globe and I am excited for new and existing fans all over the world to discover the story on Netflix.”

Notably, though Netflix is available in 190 countries, China is not one of them.

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