BBC to adapt His Dark Materials trilogy for TV

Amy Gildert shares her hopes for a new adaptation of an old literary love.

Amy Gildert
5th March 2018
Image Credit: YouTube

After a string of unsuccessful adaptations, Phillip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials, is set to become a television series on the BBC. Comprised of Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass, the series follows two children, Lyra and Will, as they move through the gaps between worlds.

I first read The Northern Lights in 2004, at the ripe age of nine years old. From that moment, I was utterly obsessed. I read my copy over and over again until the spine threatened to collapse. I daydreamed about my own daemon. I even owned my own version of Lyra’s truth telling device, the alethiometer, which I, (somewhat embarrassingly) still own to this day.

"I can’t help but worry that the BBC will turn this complex, thought provoking series into a campy, family friendly show"

After fourteen years of deep admiration for the His Dark Materials trilogy, I’m almost afraid to get my hopes up again after the disappointment that was The Golden Compass, the 2007 film adaptation that failed to quite capture the essence of the books. I can’t help but worry that the BBC will turn this complex, thought provoking series into a campy, family friendly show running on prime time. For while His Dark Materials may at first seem like a children’s series, it masks a variety of serious themes and topics, such as its approach to religion, which has caused a great deal of controversy from the Catholic church in the past.

La Belle Sauvage - the first instalment of The Book of Dust, a companion trilogy to His Dark Materials - was published in October 2017. The second is expected later this year.

However, television provides opportunities for works of adaptations that other media do not. While the film rushed through the world and the plot, the TV series has the opportunity to slowly explore the story that is being told, and gradually develop the characters as opposed to cramming a novels’ worth of growth into a hundred and eighty minutes. The world that Pullman created is so detailed that I firmly believe TV is the only form that can accurately represent what readers have been imagining for over 22 years.

"Writer Jack Thorne (Skins, This is England, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) is set to adapt the trilogy for TV"

The series has been in the works since 2016, so for the time being we can at least be assured that the producers are not rushing this new adaptation. Writer Jack Thorne, known for his work on Skins, This is England and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, is set to adapt the trilogy for television. Thorne has Pullman’s approval at least, which should hopefully speak for the quality of the series he plans to deliver.

Casting is already underway, and although there is no release date yet, I remain cautiously optimistic for the newest revival of an old literary love.

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