Reading back on the development and production of The Walking Dead, it’s interesting to note how relatively uninvolved Robert Kirkman was in the series initially, especially given just how much creative control he has over the show now. Back in 2006-07, Kirkman was interested in bringing The Walking Dead to television, but he had no idea how to pull it off. Frank Darabont, who wrote the original pilot, really is the guy who fought through “four years of frustration” to bring it to television, including his attempt to bring it to NBC, which rejected the series because, as one NBC executive noted, “This is awesome. I really love this. Does it have to have zombies in it?”
The original script, which did have the blessing of Kirkman, ended up sticking fairly close to the source material, but there was once concept in the original script that didn’t end up in the pilot. Reddit user InsideMan513 noticed this exchange when he was reading the original “Days Gone By” pilot script:
[He (Rick) looks out at the female lying eaten in the street, throws a questioning look to Morgan.MORGAN: “If they don’t find fresh, they’ll eat one of their own. Take one of the weaker ones.”]
That may have seemed like a small point at the time, but consider how much that one change might have spiraled throughout the rest of the series: It wouldn’t have just been survivors versus walkers, it would’ve been walkers versus walkers. It might have presented a few more outs for the survivors — for instance, diverting the attention of stronger walkers by throwing weaker walkers at them — but ultimately, I think the concept would’ve fallen in on itself. The survivors could’ve just stood back, and the walkers eventually would’ve taken care of themselves, feeding off of each other until only the strongest few walkers would’ve survived.
Of course, devouring weaker zombies might have also made the surviving walkers stronger, and thus more threatening to the survivors. Ultimately, there might have been a hierarchy of walkers, zombie gang leaders, and walker factions.
It wouldn’t have worked. It certainly would’ve injected more possibilities into the equation, but it might have also taken away from the brilliance of the simple premise. The Walking Dead, after all, is not a show about zombies. It’s a show about people trying to get by in a world overrun by zombies. Walker-on-walker deaths potentially could’ve changed the entire conception.
Although that does present an interesting out at the end of the series. If walkers eventually develop a taste for each other, they can wipe each other out of existence, leaving the few remaining survivors free of walkers (although it would not cure the infection that we already know is within everyone).