Everything we know about BBC One’s ‘His Dark Materials’ adaptation

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BBC One is making a new drama series based on Philip Pullman’s epic fantasy trilogy of novels, His Dark Materials.

His Dark Materials has been published in more than 40 languages and has sold worldwide close to 17.5 million copies.

Previous adaptations include Nicholas Hytner’s two-part stage production of His Dark Materials at the National Theatre in 2003-4, and New Line’s 2006 movie of The Golden Compass starring Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig and Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra.

> Buy the His Dark Materials trilogy on Amazon.

Here’s everything we know so far about BBC One’s new adaptation…


Who is it being made by?

Commissioned by Charlotte Moore, Controller BBC One and Polly Hill, Controller BBC Drama Commissioning, His Dark Materials will be produced by Bad Wolf and New Line Cinema.

Polly Hill, Controller BBC Drama Commissioning, says: “It is an honour to be bringing Philip Pullman’s extraordinary novels to BBC One. His Dark Materials is a stunning trilogy, and a drama event for young and old – a real family treat that shows our commitment to original and ambitious storytelling.”

Jane Tranter, Executive Producer for Bad Wolf added: “It is an honour and a joy to be part of the team responsible for bringing Philip Pullman’s trilogy of novels 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.

“To say that I am grateful to Philip Pullman and to Toby and Carolyn at New Line Cinema for entrusting this to Bad Wolf is an understatement and we will give everything that we have to rise to the challenge of doing justice to these great works and to the responsibility that Philip and the incomparable BBC have bestowed on us.”


Who is writing the series?

Jack Thorne was announced as the adaptation’s writer on 5 April 2016.

The screenwriter began his career on Shameless and Skins, before writing episodes of BBC Three’s The Fades and Channel 4’s This Is England series. He also created E4’s teen murder thriller Glue and Sky Atlantic’s pan-European crime thriller The Last Panthers.

Thorne commented: “It is such an honour and a privilege to be given this opportunity to delve into Philip Pullman’s world. What I always loved about Bad Wolf’s intentions with this project was the notion of sounding every note. The His Dark Materials trilogy are vast and glorious books full of beautiful characters and I’m going to work as hard as I can to try and do justice to them.”

Philip Pullman added: “I’m delighted to welcome Jack Thorne as writer on the TV dramatisation of His Dark Materials. Jack is a writer of formidable energy and range, and I’ve greatly enjoyed talking to him and learning about his plans for bringing His Dark Materials to the screen. I’m certain he’ll do a superb job, and I look forward to seeing the whole project develop as he shapes the story.”


Is Philip Pullman involved?

Very much so. He’ll be an executive producer alongside Jane Tranter and former Doctor Who exec Julie Gardner.

Philip Pullman says: “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.

“…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.”


Where it it being filmed?

Production will be based in Wales.


How many episodes will it be?

The exact length of the adaptation and the number of episodes/seasons hasn’t been announced, but the plan seems to be for a returning series rather than adapting all three books in one go.

Philip Pullman commented: “In recent years we’ve seen the way that 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.”


What’s the story?

His Dark Materials is one of the supreme works of imaginative fiction for both children and adults published in the 20th century. Northern Lights introduces Lyra, an orphan, who lives in a parallel universe in which science, theology and magic are entwined. Lyra’s search for a kidnapped friend uncovers a sinister plot involving stolen children, and turns into a quest to understand a mysterious phenomenon called Dust.

In The Subtle Knife she is joined on her journey by Will, a boy who possesses a knife that can cut windows between worlds.

As Lyra learns the truth about her parents and her prophesied destiny, the two young people are caught up in a war against celestial powers that ranges across many worlds and leads to a thrilling conclusion in The Amber Spyglass.


> Buy the His Dark Materials trilogy on Amazon.

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