'Vikings' Creator Developing Plague Miniseries for History

Michael Hirst
Vincent Sandoval/Getty Images

Vikings creator Michael Hirst is reteaming with History Channel for a miniseries about the bubonic plague in 17th century London.

The project is one of two short-run shows in development at the cable network; the second is The Donner Party, from Ric Burns (New York: A Documentary Film). History is leaning into its roots in the scripted miniseries field as it moves away from ongoing scripted shows. The second half of Vikings' sixth and final season is the only scripted series on the network's docket at the moment, following the cancellations of Project Blue Book and Knightfall in May.

"History's scripted programming in development embraces our roots with premium historical miniseries that resonate with our audience and complement our event megadoc content centered on big moments throughout our history," said Eli Lehrer, executive vp and general manager for History. "We look forward to partnering again with the brilliant Michael Hirst and teaming with Ric Burns and our very own A+E Studios to deliver content that will entertain, enlighten, and engage our viewers’ curiosity about the past. We've been evolving our scripted business model for the brand, with a shift in focus to our legacy in big event limited-series, including both fully commissioned and co-produced projects."

Hirst's The Plague Year, from A+E Studios, is set in London in 1665, during one of the all-time worst outbreaks of the bubonic plague. It will profile a society in turmoil that finds Londoners leaving the city in droves, while those who remain (whether by choice or not) have their resolve tested and try to keep going as things fall to pieces. Hirst is executive producing, with Coleman Herbert (Rectify, Brave New World) writing.

Hirst, who has an overall deal at MGM Television, is also prepping a Vikings sequel series, subtitled Valhalla, for Netflix.

The Donner Party will tell the story of the doomed wagon train that was trapped in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the winter of 1846-47, along with the unimaginable hardships that brought out the best and worst in its members. Burns is writing the script and will serve as showrunner, executive producing with Nancy Buirski. The project comes from Cineflix Media in association with Burns' Steeplechase Films and Augusta Films.