Before the Spice could flow and Paul Atreides was born, the sisterhood of the Bene Gesserit existed in the world of Dune.
In the lore of this dark and dangerous sci-fi galaxy, set to be introduced on screen by Denis Villeneuve’s studio blockbuster later this year, it’s difficult to overstate the power wielded by the order of the Bene Gesserit. But for those unfamiliar with Frank Herbert’s Dune novels, the importance of the Bene Gesserit can be confusing to explain.
To counter this, HBO Max will soon be streaming a prequel series, Dune: The Sisterhood, which will lift the veil of secrecy around the Bene Gesserit. Here’s everything to know about this upcoming TV series: the showrunner, the cast, the trailer, the release date, and, of course, how it all connects to the Dune films.
And be sure to bookmark this page, as we will keep it updated with all the news and details on Dune: The Sisterhood as they emerge. Mild spoilers for the Dune novels ahead.
What is Dune: The Sisterhood?
Dune: The Sisterhood is a direct-to-streaming TV series in development at HBO Max. The series is set to tell the story of the Bene Gesserit, a religious and quasi-magical order of female “witches” within the Dune canon. That ominous catchphrase you may have heard — “fear is the mind-killer” — comes from the Bene Gesserit. They’re like Jedi, but all women and super-secretive.
Who is the showrunner for Dune: The Sisterhood?
First greenlit in 2019, the series initially had screenwriter Jon Spaihts on board as showrunner. But on July 22, 2021, Variety revealed that Diane Ademu-John was replacing Spaihts as the showrunner of The Sisterhood. Ademu-John previously worked as a producer on Netflix’s The Haunting of Bly Manor, The CW’s The Vampire Diaries, and Fox’s Empire.
It had previously been reported that Dune director Denis Villeneuve will direct the pilot episode of The Sisterhood, but no recent updates have emerged on that front.
Who is in the cast of Dune: The Sisterhood?
Nobody knows. As the series is a prequel to the new Dune films, it’s possible some actors from that movie could cross over and take on major roles in The Sisterhood. In the movies, Rebecca Ferguson will play Lady Jessica, part of the Bene Gesserit. Meanwhile, Charlotte Rampling is playing the Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam. Depending on when it takes place, The Sisterhood could focus on a younger version of the Reverend Mother, and maybe Lady Jessica as a much younger woman.
Is there a trailer for Dune: The Sisterhood?
Not yet. The series is very much in preproduction at this time. That said, there’s a pseudo-canonical prequel book available, called The Sisterhood of Dune, by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.
What is the release date for Dune: The Sisterhood?
IMDb still lists the release date for Dune: The Sisterhood as “2020,” which did not come to pass. Right now, our best guess is late 2022 or 2023.
Dune: The Sisterhood timeline, explained
According to Variety, the new series “will serve as a prequel to the films.”
That means the show will take place before Dune: Part One, but we don’t know exactly when. We’re dealing with several hundreds of thousand years within Dune’s timeline. In fact, it's possible that The Sisterhood could retcon various assumptions about the inception of the Bene Gesserit. In the books, it’s generally agreed that the Bene Gesserit rose to prominence following the Butlerian Jihad.
For context: the Butlerian Jihad is a moment in Dune pre-history in which humans revolted against an all-controlling AI. In the quasi-present of Dune, as a result of this historical event, robots and AI no longer exist. It’s possible that The Sisterhood could explore all the ways the Bene Gesserit played a role in those events.
Just to be clear, that would put the events of the series in the ballpark of the year 200 BG (Before Guild), 10,000 years before the events of Dune.
Of course, the show could take place much closer to the events of Dune. Arguably, the most pivotal member of the Bene Gesserit in the series is Paul’s mother, Lady Jessica. In the book, she defies the orders of the Sisterhood and gives birth to a son, meaning Paul by default becomes a male Bene Gesserit, in defiance of their tradition and rules. (If you watched Star Trek: Picard, Paul’s status in the Bene Gesserit is akin to Elnor living among the Qowat Milat; he’s the only male warrior in a matriarchal warrior nun society.)
Could Dune: The Sisterhood take place on Earth?
In all likelihood, The Sisterhood will take place on one of the established Dune planets, possibly the planet Corrin, since that’s where a lot of the action unfolds during the first Dune novel. Corrin is also a good candidate for the setting of the series because the Battle of Corrin is a pivotal part of the ending of the Butlerian Jihad. If the series focuses on those events, having some of the Sisterhood operate on Corrin makes sense.
Some sources, however, suggest that the true origins of the Bene Gesserit go all the way back to the planet Terra, better known to us as Earth. In the Dune galaxy, Earth isn’t involved in the action of the story, because so much time has passed since humanity left there. In the pseudo-canon reference book The Dune Encylopedia, the entry on Bene Gesserit history begins with the assertion that “a possible Bene Gesserit history...stretches back into Terran prehistory.”
The entry continues with this nugget:
“Apparently, the order which became known as the Bene Gesserit originated in the rituals of a Terran group which migrated from the central plans of a major landmass, east and south around sea areas, remembered by the Voices as Harappa and Mesopotamia, carrying with it the genetic capacity for group consciousness within the family type.”
If we take this small detail at face value, one could argue that Dune: The Sisterhood could depict the origin of the Bene Gesserit as originating from somewhere in the Middle East — on Earth! That’s not confirmed at all, but it could be cool!
Dune: Part 1 (2021) hits HBO Max and theaters in the US on October 22, 2021.