Warhammer 40K: Is the Eisenhorn TV Series Doomed to Failure?
Gregor Eisenhorn – On the summoning of the Daemon, Cherubael.
“I fought to retain my grip and to enunciate precisely the words of command and the specific instructions. Like a small sun dawning, the enslaved daemon poured out of the head of the runestaff. Its radiance lit up the dismal shore and cast a long shadow out behind the Titan.” ‘Cherubael?’ I whispered.
Words can’t quite describe the mix of excitement and concern that shot through my body when the announcement came through that Eisenhorn was getting a live-action television adaptation. Like many other fans of the Warhammer 40,000 universe, I’m a massive fan of the Inquisitor who was once celebrated by his comrades before he turned into a cautionary tale for the fresh recruits into His most holy Ordos.
I’m speaking, of course, about the one and only Gregor Eisenhorn.
Gregor has endured one hell of a career. He fulfilled his duty to the Throne on Terra and has gone through very distinct periods in his life, each of which connected to the other and documented in the books Xenos, Malleus, Hereticus, and The Magos. His tales have been supplemented by the audiobooks Thorn and Talon and The Keeler Image. Three additional stories served to further expand the history of his life in Missing in Action, Backcloth For A Crown Additional, and Born Unto Us.
The first thing we need to find out before we can really get worried is at which point in Eisenhorn’s life this series takes place. In his younger years when he was entirely respectable? His mid-life questionable years? His later years when he’s a Rogue Agent working for the Imperium but with very questionable methods?
While fans of The Witcher are getting bothered by the upcoming Netflix series (and rightly so in certain places) fans of 40K are feeling the creeping concern of a potentially botched adaptation. There is, by any reasonable measurement, far more required to pull off a successful Warhammer 40,000 adaptation than a regular fantasy adaptation. So much so that an upcoming official Games Workshop production looks objectively inferior to fan-made labors of love.
Simple clothes are often intricately wrapped with fine details that can serve to enhance the general gothic aesthetic or convey character. From the sprawling hive cities, to the sky rending spires of the Imperial Palace, the locations in the 40K universe have more detail in them per meter than just about any other fictional setting out there. The characters at play are large in personality and even more so in their actions.
Casting for the series will be an extremely difficult task, because these characters are very well established in their appearance. How well established? Well, recently the Black Library has decided to re-release the Ravenor series of books. On the cover of the omnibus, they’ve got some truly awful representations of two characters, Patience Kys and Harlon Nayl, and fans aren’t too happy. Even character-relevant details are wrong.
Patience Kys, for example, is Psychic. She fights with (among other things) a pair of blades that she uses to keep her hair up, and she has been known to kill with these blades when other weapons are taken off her. The blades themselves have the outward appearance of nothing more than fashionable accessories. But on the cover, the blades are out and her hair is still up. Small things like this betray the artist as someone without a great deal of knowledge of the characters.
Let’s not even talk about Harlon… Both characters just look so wrong. Why they didn’t just use the original cover, who knows.
But I digress.
Eisenhorn in his later years.
So when we see lazy official content like that, how are we supposed to believe that the Eisenhorn is in good hands? Well, it’s a faith based equation. If you’ve seen Man in the High Castle, you’ll probably agree that it’s a pretty good series with good production quality. It was brought to life by Big Light Productions and that’s who’s going to be handling the Eisenhorn adaptation. So while they are a competent group, we are going on blind faith that they’ll bring Eisenhorn to the screen in a way that is even vaguely accurate.
We’re talking about a man that has gone from being young, vital, and (by most accounts) extremely attractive, to a crippled wreck of a man who can only walk with the assistance of a mechanical exoskeleton that is hardwired to his body. He has suffered great losses and continues to battle for the Imperium while being hunted by those he protects.
A multi-racial cast is a must given how varied his crew is, from the Amazonian Arianhrod Esw Sweydyr, to the prostitute-turned-untouchable Alizebeth Bequin, Eisenhorn’s crew is a mismatched group of misfits and experts that he has gathered on his journey, and at one point he has hundreds in his employ by way of the Bequin-led Distaff.
Things like this are what bring concerns to many fans, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. The memes have already begun to flow.
Now, I’m not going to come out and say that this series is going to be bad, but I am going to come out and say that the creators are going to have an uphill struggle ahead of them. This will either be a big budget production given the care and attention it requires, or it’s going to be a flop. When it comes to 40K, you can’t really afford to half-ass it.
Oh, by the way. There’s an Eisenhorn video game with Gregor being voiced by the magnificent Mark Strong. Don’t play it. Just don’t. It’s a mobile game that came to PC and it’s boring, repetitive and generally just disappointing. It’s just another reason to be wary of the upcoming series really.
If you’re a fan of Gregor and his adventures, share your thoughts on the matter down in the comments and let’s try and get a feel for how everyone feels.