The Stephen King Sci-Fi Mystery Streaming Series Doesn’t Deserve All The Hate

By Robert Scucci | Published

under the dome

Of all the Stephen King TV adaptations we have seen over the decades, Under the Dome may very well be the most ambitious. But as the series progressed through its third and final season, both critical reception and viewership numbers saw a significant drop, causing the series to be mostly forgotten. For a brief moment, however, it wasn’t insane to think that Under the Dome would be celebrated like The Stand, or even the It miniseries that aired on ABC back in 1990. 

Under The Dome

under the dome

Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, Under the Dome is set in the fictional small town of Chester’s Mill, Maine. When an invisible dome of unknown origin seals and isolates the town from the rest of the world, the citizens only have a matter of time before they turn on each other. Focusing primarily on corrupt local politicians and the same kind of small-town spirit that’s typical of a Stephen King novel, the series leans heavily into the source material, but not without taking creative liberties to make it a suitable adaptation for network television. 

Changes From The Novel

under the dome

Given the dense and unwieldy source material that Stephen King presented in his 1074-page novel about a small town in distress, some aspects of Under the Dome were glossed over, and composite characters were created to make the narrative easier to follow and digest. Like any other Stephen King adaptation, this shouldn’t be seen as a disservice to the source material, but rather as a means to tell a comprehensive story while considering run-time and casting. 

One of the most glaring differences that the Under the Dome series presents is its portrayal of James “Big Jim” Rennie (Dean Norris), a shady used-car dealer who eventually becomes a corrupt town councilman when the inescapable dome causes the town to panic due to their limited resources. While his character arc remains mostly intact, Big Jim is a much more menacing and complex figure in the novel, which could have provided a more stark criticism of corrupt and power hungry politicians who put their own desires in front of those they’re supposedly appointed to serve and protect. 

Changes To The Dome Itself

The dome itself also follows different rules in the Under the Dome series. In Stephen King’s novel, the dome is portrayed as a glass-like barrier that water, air, and even sound could pass through. In contrast to the novel, where the dome does not cut off radio and television broadcasts, the series portrays the town as completely isolated. 

In the context of a network television series, these creative liberties made for better storytelling, which also allowed Under the Dome to reach a wider audience upon its premiere. If the series were 100 percent faithful to its source material, there would have been too many characters to consider, and the themes explored would have suffered because we’d get bogged down with way too much exposition to make the storytelling palatable. 

Dome Started Off Well

Under the Dome’s series premiere saw record-breaking viewership with 13 million views, which made it the most-watched summer drama on any network since 1992. Season 1 was a critical success as well, garnering an 83 percent critical score on Rotten Tomatoes

The Series Strayed Too Far

As Under the Dome progressed, the scope of storytelling deviated significantly from King’s novel and played into the concept of alternate realities that were entirely new to the narrative. By season 3, the series was met with a 60 percent critical score against an audience score of 31 percent, and the massive decline in viewership ultimately led to the show’s cancellation. Fans overwhelmingly agree that the series would have been better off ending with its second season and staying more true to form instead of exploring new territory.

Worth A Watch For King Fans

under the dome

If you’re a fan of Stephen King, Under the Dome is an interesting interpretation of the novel that will keep you engaged from start to finish. If you’ve never read the book, the series is an excellent primer for the many themes explored in King’s original work. You can watch Under the Dome on Paramount+ if you’re interested in how the adaptation differs from its source material.