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Looking Back at 10 Differences Between the 'Game of Thrones' Pilot and the Unaired Version

By Dustin Rowles | Lists | September 15, 2016 |

By Dustin Rowles | Lists | September 15, 2016 |

As most of you probably know, Game of Thrones filmed a different pilot that never aired. It was basically a $10 million disaster that was so bad that certain basic information necessary to understand the series never came across. One of the other many problems with the pilot was that all the costumes looked shiny and new, which didn’t fit the era.

Ahead of tonight’s fourth season finale, I thought we’d take a quick peek back at 10 key differences between that pilot and the one that aired.

1. The original title sequence was completely different. From I09:

… there’s a sequence where an old man, whose face we don’t see, writes a message on a parchment scroll, which he ties to the leg of a raven. The raven flies away from Castle Black and the Wall and across the landscape of Westeros, which becomes a map. The major destinations are labeled, including Winterfell, the Kingsroad, Moat Cailin, the Riverlands and the Vale of Arryn. A few times, the bird dips down enough that the map “resolves into reality” to show us the towers of Winterfell or the Eyrie atop the Vale. At last, the bird reaches King’s Landing and flies through the open gates of the Red Keep, landing on the Iron Throne itself.

2. Oscar-winning composer Stephen Warbeck was originally set to compose the main title theme, but left the project and composer Ramin Djawadi was hired.

3. The original pilot was directed by Thomas McCarthy (Station Agents). He was replaced by director Tim Van Patten (Boardwalk Empire), although some of McCarthy’s scenes still remain.

McCarthy never felt particularly connected to the project, as he told The AV Club:

It came at a time when I was between things, and I like Dave [Benioff] and Dan [Weiss], the creators, and I never had done anything like it, and I think that challenge was interesting. But I think if you’re going to do series television on any level, and if you want to enjoy it, you really have to understand the parameters of what you’re doing, and have your team in place, and have your support network. I think the great shows, The Wire, Sopranos, Six Feet Under—I think there was a very clear understanding of whose show it was, and I think those guys who made those shows, there was a singular vision there. I think that show can get there, I just think it was hard for me, not being so involved. I finished it and walked away, and I’ve never done that with anything. I’m a perfectionist and I like to be involved.

Among the scenes that remain from the original unaired pilot: Scene in the crypts where Robert asks Ned to be his hand; most of the feast; everyone leaving for hunt after the feast, before Bran falls. You can also identify footage from the original pilot because the Stark men had no facial hair

4. The original pilot was filmed in Scotland (Doune Castle stood in for Winterfell; Doune Castle is where Monthy Python and the Holy Grail was filmed) instead of Northern Ireland, Malta and Croatia.

5. There is no Jamie/Cersei sex scene in the pilot (which led to a lot of confusion among executives who first watched the pilot and didn’t understand that they had an incestual relationship).


6. Ian McNiece originally played Magister Illyrio Mopatis, but had to be recast with Roger Allam for scheduling reasons. This is from the original unaired pilot.


7. In the unaired pilot, Sean Bean’s character, Ned Stark, always looked as though he’d just stepped out of the shower.



8. Theon Greyjoy was blonde.

Blonde_Theon_Greyjoy_pilot (1).jpg

9. As most people also know, Tamzin Merchant was replaced as Daenerys Targaryen by Emilia Clarke, and Jennifer Ehle was replaced as Catelyn Stark by Michelle Fairley.



10. In the unaired pilot. George R.R. Martin has a brief cameo as a Pentoshi nobleman in the background who wore a gigantic hat.