Amazon a few days ago released the first teaser trailer for its TV series adaptation based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings universe. The teaser that many fans have been waiting for doesn’t deliver what you expect, though. Instead of seeing Middle-Earth adventures and new heroes, we’re treated to the amazing crew behind the camera that will bring those adventures to Amazon’s streaming service. That’s all Amazon has for now, as casting for the show hasn’t even been completed yet. But it turns out that one of the key crew members from the teaser is ready to share more details about Amazon’s LOTR plans.

Tolkien expert Tom Shippey sat down with German-language site TolkienGesellschaft to talk about the upcoming Prime Video show. Unsurprisingly Shippey wasn’t able to provide information about the cast or the events that await us in this LOTR adventure, but he did reveal some new details about the project.

Shippey said that Amazon plans to have 20 episodes in the first season of the series, with release timing slated for sometime in 2021 at the earliest. That’s because production hasn’t even started, so it’ll be a while until we get there.

I know very, very little about the project anyway. As far as I know, they mean to start showing it on TV in 2021, so I don’t think production can start this year, though I don’t know what their timetable is. There is still a lot to do, just think of the costumes, weapons, locations, etc.! […]

The exact locations are of course uncertain and it could well be several. The shooting itself does not take place chronologically, but is oriented towards the locations. Logically, you try to bundle all the scenes that take place in one location and film them so that you have it done and don’t have to return to that place several times. But this also implies that everything has to be clear at the start of filming, you have to know the end. There’s supposed to be 20 episodes for the first season. So until they’ve decided what the end is going to be, they can’t start filming.

The expert also reveals that the map shown in the teaser clip is based on the Second Age of Tolkien’s massive universe. But that Second Age isn’t exactly presented in great detail in Tolkien’s writings, which gives Amazon a lot of freedom when it comes to crafting new characters and stories. That is, as long as Amazon respects the chronology of events and keeps it all canonical, of course.

Amazon has a relatively free hand when it comes to adding something, since, as I said, very few details are known about this time span. The Tolkien Estate will insist that the main shape of the Second Age is not altered. Sauron invades Eriador, is forced back by a Númenorean expedition, is returns to Númenor. There he corrupts the Númenoreans and seduces them to break the ban of the Valar. All this, the course of history, must remain the same. But you can add new characters and ask a lot of questions, like: What has Sauron done in the meantime? Where was he after Morgoth was defeated? Theoretically, Amazon can answer these questions by inventing the answers, since Tolkien did not describe it. But it must not contradict anything which Tolkien did say. That’s what Amazon has to watch out for. It must be canonical, it is impossible to change the boundaries which Tolkien has created, it is necessary to remain ‘Tolkienian.’

Shippey also said that the Tolkien Estate does have veto power for the show, but the First and Third Ages are off-limits. The Estate still holds the rights to the First Age, while the trilogy based on Tolkien’s works, including The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings take place in the Third Age.

The full interview with Shippey is available at this link.