Scott D. Pierce: Is ‘House of the Dragon’ better than ‘Game of Thrones’?

The first season of the prequel has been outstanding, our TV critic says.

(HBO) The Season 1 finale of "House of the Dragon" airs Sunday at 7 p.m. on HBO and starts streaming Sunday on HBO Max.

With “House of the Dragon” about to wrap up its first season, I’m tempted to declare that — based on what we’ve seen so far — this prequel is better than “Game of Thrones.”

No one can confidently draw that conclusion until we get to the end of “House of the Dragon” and can compare the two shows in their entireties. But Season 1 of “HOTD” has been outstanding.

And I can say with complete confidence that it is, in many ways, it has been better than the George R.R. Martin book on which it’s based, “Fire & Blood.”

For all their many similarities, “Game of Thrones” and “House of the Dragon” are fundamentally different narratives. “GOT” was chock full of characters (pared down from the books for the TV series), and not only were there two major storylines — the battle for the Iron Throne and the battle against the Night King — but they were interwoven with dozens of subplots.

“HOTD” is much more focused on the battle for the Iron Throne. Pretty much everything we’ve seen in Episodes 1-9 has set up the impending battle between two branches of House Targaryen for control of the Seven Kingdoms.

And there is one significant difference between the book and the TV series. In “Blood & Fire,” the inter-Targaryen war that’s about to engulf Westeros was less about good vs. evil and more about egos run amok on both sides. The TV series has clearly cast Queen Alicent Hightower and her son, Aegon II Targaryen, as the villains, and Rhaenyra Targaryen — her father’s choice to succeed him on the Iron Throne — as the heroine. Even though her first husband didn’t father her children and she’s now married to her violent/power hungry uncle, Daemon.

In the book, both sides had redeeming qualities, and both sides committed horrific acts in the pursuit of power. But TV series are not books and it’s better TV to make it a battle between the “good” Targaryens and the “bad” Targaryens (and the Hightowers), albeit one with some shifting alliances.

And additions/changes made from the book — including the surprising fate of Rhaenyra’s first husband, Laenor; why Alicent believes her husband changed his mind about who should succeed him; and Princess Rhaenys’ sudden appearance on her dragon, at the coronation of Aegon II — have all been improvements on the book.

( Ollie Upton | HBO ) Olivia Cooke as Queen Alicent Hightower and Emma D'Arcy as Princess Rhaenyra Targaryen in "House of the Dragon."

And before anyone dares to suggest that the changes somehow violate Martin’s intentions, remember that he is an executive producer of “HOTD” and approved what we’re seeing on HBO.

I’m not sure how long the current series is going to last. Martin wrote on his blog, “It is going to take four full seasons of 10 episodes each to do justice to the Dance of the Dragons, from start to finish.” (Dance of the Dragons is the name of the Targaryen vs. Targaryen civil war. And, by the way, that would’ve been a better title for this series than “House of the Dragon.”)

What Martin wrote on his blog is not an official announcement from HBO, which has, so far, ordered just a second season of “HOTD.” But the show has proven so popular I wouldn’t be surprised if it does run four seasons.

I hope it does. I haven’t been this excited about a show set in a fictional medieval world with dragons since “Game of Thrones” …

(Paramount+) The U.S.S. Enterprise NCC-1701-F in a Season 3 episode of "Star Trek: Picard"

Whoo-hoo! New starships!

Yes, I am a “Star Trek” geek. I have been since my age was still in single digits.

And I’m particularly prone to geeking out over starships. I just did a quick count, and I have more than 40 starship toys of various sizes — most of them Starfleet vessels, with a few Klingon and Romulan ships and a Jem’hadar fighter.

I’ve got a lot of Enterprises — the NX-01 from “Enterprise”; the NCC-1701 from the original series and the refit from the first three movies; the 1701-A from the fourth, fifth and sixth movies; the 1701-B from the seventh movie; the 1701-C from the “Next Generation” episode “Yesterday’s Enterprise”; the 1701-D from “Next Gen” and the seventh movie; the 1701-E from movies 8-10; and the alternate timeline 1701 from movies 11-13. Along with some variations, including the Enterprise-D with three nacelles from the alternate timeline in the “Next Gen” series finale.

So imagine my delight when I saw a new Enterprise — the NCC-1701-F — in a trailer for the third and final season of “Star Trek: Picard.” Sure, I was happy to see the return of Will Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), Worf (Michael Dorn), Geordi LaForge (Levar Burton) and Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden), but a new Enterprise? Cool!

For my fellow geeks, The Enterprise-F is an Odyssey class starship that first appeared in the video game “Star Trek Online.” But nothing about “Trek” is canon unless it appears onscreen in either a TV series or a movie, so the Enterprise-F won’t be canon until “Picard” streams on Paramount+ beginning on Feb. 16.)

(Paramount+) The U.S.S. Titan NCC-80102-A in a Season 3 episode of "Star Trek: Picard."

That won’t be the only new ship on “Picard,” however. The main characters are going to spend time on the U.S.S. Titan NCC-80102-A — a neo-Constitution class starship. The 1701 and 1701-A were Constitution class; the new Titan looks like a much-modernized version of those ships.

Trekkers will recall that Riker left the Enterprise-E to captain the Titan. The Titan-A — commanded by Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) is a new starship bearing the Titan’s name.

I really hope the final adventure of Jean-Luc Picard & Co. is good. But, regardless, there are new starships!

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