The original Game of Thrones had a different cast of famous faces and terrible plot holes.


There is just no nice way to put this… The original and unaired Game of Thrones pilot episode was a complete and utter disaster.

The full video of the pilot episode has never been released to the public (I’ve heard whispers it has the power to burn your eyes right out of your sockets so maybe that’s a good thing), but Game of Thrones showrunners Dan Weiss and David Benioff have shared details of it over the years.

The pilot episode for the show, which was based on George R.R. Martin’s best selling A Song of Ice and Fire books, was so terribly received that it required extensive re-shoots, re-castings, and essentially forced the production team to construct an entirely new episode out of the ashes of this disastrous first attempt.

Some of the casting choices were perfected on the first go, with actors Sean Bean and Peter Dinklage being the first and only choices for the roles of Ned Stark and Tyrion Lannister. They were so perfect for the roles they didn’t even have to audition.

Other cast choices did not turn out so well.

Speaking to Vanity Fair, Game of Thrones casting director Nina Gold said that two of the show’s original leading ladies were let go from the series following test screenings of the pilot.

The actresses were Jennifer Ehle, who is best known for her iconic role as Elizabeth Bennet in the 1995 BBC miniseries Pride and Prejudice, and for Oscar-winning movies such as The King’s Speech and Zero Dark Thirty. 

Jennifer was originally cast in the role of House Stark matriarch Catelyn Stark, but was later replaced in the role by Michelle Fairley. Her scenes never made it to air as Michelle’s scenes were looped in over her original appearances.

Jennifer Ehle (left) was replaced as Catelyn Stark in Game of Thrones by Michelle Fairley (right). Source: BBC/HBO.

The other iconic Game of Thrones role that was replaced after the disastrous pilot was the Mother of Dragons herself, Daenerys Targaryen.

After eight successful seasons of the show, it would be hard for fans to picture anyone else in this role other than Emilia Clarke, but it was originally played by actress Tamzin Merchant.


Tamzin, who was is best known for her roles in TV shows The Tudors and Salem, was also dropped from the series after test screenings of the pilot. Although a full explanation was never given, it's widely believed the show creators think she failed to bring the character to life on screen.

It was these two recasting decisions that pained Nina Gold, who worked on Game of Thrones for the entirety of its eight-year run, most.

“It’s terrible to disappoint, it’s difficult to let down, that’s hard," she told Vanity Fair about the decision. "It’s tough, but you've got to get it right, ultimately. Jennifer Ehle is really brilliant, but I guess things changed about the way everybody saw it.”

The recasting of lead characters was not the only misstep for the initial voyage of Game of Thrones, with a muddled plot and a bad script also leaving a sour taste in the mouths of test audiences.

Tamzin Merchant (left) was replaced as Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones by Emilia Clarke, (right). Source: BBC/HBO.

Speaking on the podcast Scriptnotes, Game of Thrones showrunners Weiss and Benioff told hosts John August and Craig Mazin that they were forced to re-shot about 90 percent of the pilot episode, all because their original finished product was so terrible.

“Watching them watch that original pilot was one of the most painful experiences of my life,” Weiss said on the podcast.

“I was taking notes,” Benioff added about the test screening.  "I had this yellow legal pad, and I just remembered writing in all caps, ‘MASSIVE PROBLEM,’ and it’s all I could think about the rest of the night."

Scriptnotes host Craig Mazin, who is also a scriptwriter known for penning The Hangover sequels and Identity Thief, was at that initial test screening and remembers telling the Game of Thrones team at the end of the screening "You guys have a massive problem."

So, what exactly was so wrong with the initial episode?

Well, according to the showrunners, there were a lot of scenes and pieces of dialogue that were either poorly shot or muddled the plot and characters so badly that the entire premise of the show could not be understood.


There were out of place flashbacks to Ned’s brother dying, overwrought scenes demonstrating the eventual death of Jon Arryn and perhaps the biggest misstep of all,that the relationship between Cersei and Jaime Lannister was never clearly defined, meaning their entire incestuous love story was never picked up or understood by viewers.

"None of our friends realised that Jaime and Cersei were brother and sister," confirmed Benioff. "Which is a major, major plot point that we had somehow failed to establish.”

Yes, that would have been a big misstep. Imagine being a current Game of Thrones viewer and shaking your head at the screen, wondering why those two crazy blonde kids were just not allowed to make it work.

Everyone knows that you have to make one bad pancake first in order to get a good batch, so we'll forgive Game of Thrones for stumbling over their first hurdle.

Perhaps that disastrous first Game of Thrones pilot will one day be leaked into the world so we can all bask in its awfulness.

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