Yowzer! BBC Announces His Dark Materials TV Series

This story just gets better the more details you read about it. And the headline is exciting enough in itself: the BBC has commissioned an eight-part series based on Philip Pullman’s sublime His Dark Materials trilogy, one of most intelligent, thought-provoking and imaginative children’s fantasy book series ever written.

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The next bit of good news is that the production company behind His Dark Materials is Bad Wolf, the new company set up by two creative forces who were instrumental in making New Doctor Who a success during the Eccleston and Tennant eras, Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner. They are working alongside New Line Cinema, which in 2007 produced the pretty but underwhelming The Golden Compass, a film version of the first book in the series, Northern Lights. Despite the film’s lacklustre box office, New Line have continued to hold the rights to the series, which continued with The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass, and have finally found something useful to do with them.

“His Dark Materials” has sold worldwide close to 17.5 million copies. Northern Lights introduces Lyra, an orphan, who lives in a parallel universe Oxford in which science, theology and magic are entwined and a mysterious substance called Dust is threatening to turn the world inside out. In The Subtle Knife, a boy from out world, Will, finds a knife that can cut window into Lyra’s world… and others. In The Amber Spyglass they have to work together against forces that threaten multiple worlds. And mixed up in amongst all that deep philosophical questions about the nature of religion. It is, simply, a brilliant trilogy.

In a statement, Philip Pullman said: “It’s been a constant source of pleasure to me to see this story adapted to different forms and presented in different media. It’s been a radio play, a stage play, a film, an audiobook, a graphic novel — and now comes this version for television… In recent years we’ve seen how long stories on television, whether adaptations (Game Of Thrones) or original (The Sopranos, The Wire), can reach depths of characterisation and heights of suspense by taking the time for events to make their proper impact and for consequences to unravel. And the sheer talent now working in the world of long-form television is formidable.

“For all those reasons I’m delighted at the prospect of a television version of His Dark Materials. I’m especially pleased at the involvement of Jane Tranter, whose experience, imagination, and drive are second to none. As for the BBC, it has no stronger supporter than me. I couldn’t be more pleased with this news.”

Tranter adds: “It is an honour and a joy to be part of the team responsible for bringing Philip Pullman’s trilogy of novels His Dark Materials to the BBC. Ever since they were first published these books have been a huge influence on so much of my thinking and imagination, and it is enormously inspiring to be now working on them for television adaptation. The broad horizons of television suggests itself as the best of vehicles to capture the expansiveness of the story and worlds of Lyra and Will, and I am looking forward to seeing how Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass will occupy their place in an audience’s imagination across many episodes and seasons.”

That final statement implies that the first eight episodes would be an adaptation of Northern Lights with the next two books adapted in future season. (If current trends are anything to go by, the third book would be split into two seasons.) However, there’s no reason why a TV series couldn’t mix things up even more, and introduce the multiverse (and Will) much earlier in a parallel plot. Whatever route they chose, this is very exciting news indeed.

And sorry for putting yowzer in the headline. But it shows how excited we are.


 

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