'Game of Thrones' Spinoff Writer Confirms Project Has Been 'Shelved'

The prequel series 'Ten Thousand Ships' was not picked up, and is no longer in active development.

Writer Brian Helgeland confirmed that HBO is no longer developing his Game of Thrones spinoff Ten Thousand Ships, but he left hope alive for the project to be revived. Helgeland worked with author George R.R. Martin to plan out this prequel, which was first announced back in 2021 – though Helgeland was reportedly working on the project as far back as 2017. On Monday, he told an interviewer from Inverse that the show is on hold, but it could set sail again at any time.

Ten Thousand Ships – or, 10,000 Ships in some reports – would have been a prequel set about 1,000 years before the events of Game of Thrones, drawing on historical events so old that they are nearly legends in the world of Westeros. It would have been about Princess Nymeria, ruler of the Rhoynish, a civilization that was under attack by Valyrian dragon riders at the time. When it was clear that they couldn't stand up to the dragon lords, Nymeria led the last of her people on a grand exodus searching for a new home in the world. They would ultimately settle in Dorne, the southernmost of the Seven Kingdoms.

The show was exciting for fans of Martin's books and the obscure lore there – including Helgeland, apparently. He told Inverse: "It came out great, but I think they felt the period of my show was too far removed from the pillars of the original. That's why it hasn't been picked up yet, but nothing is ever dead. My script was based on Queen Nymeria and this blurb about her that was in a Westeros encyclopedia."

The story of Nymeria's ten thousand ships is laid out most clearly in The World of Ice and Fire, Martin's encyclopedia-style book about the history and culture of Westeros and the rest of his fantasy world. However, Nymeria is an important historical figure referenced often in the main series novels and even in the TV show. Arya Stark (Maisie Williams) named her direwolf Nymeria after this legendary queen, hoping that she would grow up to be a warrior and a leader as well.

Unsurprisingly, Helgeland compared Nymeria's exodus to the biblical story of Moses. He said: "Essentially, it was the story of Moses but swapping him out for Nymeria. Her country gets ruined and her people are forced to live on the water, which is why the show was called 'Ten Thousand Ships.' They end up having to leave and find a new home like the Israelites leaving Egypt. She's leading all these people, trying to hold everyone together but things are always in danger of falling apart as they travel around a fictionalized version of the Mediterranean, looking for a new home to settle in."

"I met with George R.R. Martin to pitch him the idea, which he signed off on. Sadly, I didn't work with him closer, but I would have done if the show was picked up," Helgeland went on. He later added: "My work is still there if HBO wants to pick it up. I enjoyed my time developing it, and you just never know."

Martin maintains a lot of mystery in his fictional world because even books like The World of Ice and Fire and his history book, Fire and Blood, are written from the perspective of in-world scholars and historians who have incomplete sources and their own biases. That means there are a lot of questions TV spinoffs can answer. Already, we've seen House of the Dragon shed new light on House Targaryen's culture and their perspective on prophecy. There were even more interesting questions that Ten Thousand Ships could have tackled, especially as Nymeria and her people traveled around so many far-flung parts of the world.

While this show is on hold indefinitely, fans still have plenty to look forward to in Westeros. Martin has reported great progress on his next book, The Winds of Winter, which may be on the way soon. House of the Dragon Season 2 premieres on June 16 on HBO, and another spinoff, A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms: The Hedge Knight is now in production. Previous seasons of Game of Thrones and House of the Dragon are streaming now on Max, and Martin's books are available now in print, digital and audiobook formats.