Last Monday, the TV adaptation of Stephen King’s Under the Dome premiered on CBS. While the series premiere has its fair share of problems (I want to kill that annoying Joe McAlister kid now!), Under the Dome shows a lot of promise. There’s a central mystery — the Dome — that will surely bring people back to CBS on Monday nights. But while the premiere did really well in the ratings, there is already some fan backlash about how writer Brian K. Vaughn and showrunner Neal Baer handled the book’s translation to the TV screen.
Stephen King, the author of the best-selling novel the TV series is based on, recently wrote a letter to his fans on his personal website, explaining his feelings about what was changed for the TV version. Apparently, some of King’s fans are not happy that the TV show is not exactly like the book. King writes:
Near the end of his life, and long after his greatest novels were written, James M. Cain agreed to be interviewed by a student reporter who covered culture and the arts for his college newspaper. This young man began his time with Cain by bemoaning how Hollywood had changed books such as The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity. Before he could properly get into his rant, the old man interrupted him by pointing to a shelf of books behind his desk. ‘The movies didn’t change them a bit, son,’ he said. ‘They’re all right up there. Every word is the same as when I wrote them.’
I feel the same way about Under the Dome. If you loved the book when you first read it, it’s still there for your perusal. But that doesn’t mean the TV series is bad, because it’s not. In fact, it’s very good. And, 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.
I never really understood the criticism of “it’s not exactly like the book.” A movie or TV show is a completely different format and medium as books. One shouldn’t pretend to be another thing, because it won’t work.
Look at The Walking Dead. The TV series is very different from the comic book, but both deal with the same subject matter, have the same tone, and share the same or similar characters. Why should the TV show and the comic book be exactly the same? Readers of the comic book would know everything that’s going to happen on the TV show, while viewers who were introduced to the show first likely wouldn’t see any reason to read the comics. These things have to be different so they can work in their respective formats.
Stephen King concludes his letter with the one thing that has to remain the same between his novel and the new TV series for both to work, and that’s the dome.
There’s only one element of my novel that absolutely had to be the same in the novel and the show, and that’s the Dome itself. It’s best to think of that novel and what you’re seeing week-to-week on CBS as a case of fraternal twins. Both started in the same creative womb, but you will be able to tell them apart. Or, if you’re of a sci-fi bent, think of them as alternate versions of the same reality.
If you haven’t watched the series premiere of Under the Dome yet, CBS will re-run the pilot episode this Sunday. Also Amazon.com is offering Under the Dome for streaming if you’re an Amazon Prime member. You can read Stephen King’s complete letter to his fans on his personal website.
Under the Dome‘s second episode, “The Fire,” will air on Monday July 1 on CBS.