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His Dark Materials creators would be “very excited” to adapt The Book of Dust

The team behind the BBC adaptation already have their eyes on Philip Pullman’s sequel trilogy.

The cast of His Dark Materials with Philip Pullman's Book of Dust (BBC, Getty)

The BBC’s His Dark Materials is soon to return for a second season, with the Philip Pullman adaptation tackling second novel The Subtle Knife after bringing The Northern Lights to screen in 2019.

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Next, they’re hoping to finish off the trilogy with an adaptation of third novel The Amber Spyglass – but after that? Well, they’re looking ahead even further, with executive producer Jane Tranter confirming her team already has their eyes on Pullman’s sequel trilogy The Book of Dust, which is set both before and after His Dark Materials.

“We’d be very excited! Very excited,” Tranter said during an online launch for the new series, which begins on BBC One on Sunday 8th November. “What could be better?”

Beginning with La Belle Sauvage in 2017, the Book of Dust trilogy tells a new story set within the alternate world of His Dark Materials, first filling in the gaps around a decade before Northern Lights, before picking up (in 2019’s The Secret Commonwealth) with lead character Lyra as an adult.

“La Belle Sauvage has got Lyra as a baby, and gives some of Asriel and Coulter’s backstory, and some of Lyra’s origin story,” Tranter said.

“And The Secret Commonwealth is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I just don’t think there is a better study of depression, in some ways, in a fantasy landscape.

“It’s the most exciting story but ,like everything Philip does, it has many levels to it,” she added. “And it’s an extraordinary piece… so huge and ambitious. But if anyone ever gave us the opportunity to do it, we’d be there.”

Of course, if any Book of Dust adaptation was on the cards it’d be a long way off – the team hasn’t even officially started on The Amber Spyglass adaptation yet – and presumably, the story would require His Dark Materials star Dafne Keen (who plays Lyra) to age up to comfortably play the older version of the character.

James McAvoy as Lord Asriel and Helen McCrory as Stelmaria in the His Dark Materials Book of Dust flashback (BBC)
James McAvoy as Lord Asriel and Helen McCrory as Stelmaria in the His Dark Materials Book of Dust flashback (BBC)

But that doesn’t mean Pullman’s newer material can’t be included in other ways. In His Dark Materials’ first series, a scene from the end of La Belle Sauvage was added as a flashback starring James McAvoy, and screenwriter Jack Thorne has now hinted similar extraneous material (including novellas like 2008’s Once Upon a Time in the North) will be woven into the new episodes.

“I’m not going to name anything particularly, but I’ll tell you what we did do, and what we do all the time,” Thorne told press. “We’ve got the sort of encyclopaedia in our heads. And we are constantly referring to that. So you pull bits of character from stuff.

“Once Upon a Time in the North for Lee [Scoresby, played by Lin-Manuel Miranda], is very very important. And actually there’s a few opportunities where we get to use some Once Upon a Time in the North Lee in there.

“There’s always little bits like that where you’re just pinching like a little piece from somewhere and trying to find places to put that in.”

In other words, even if all of Pullman’s novels don’t make it to screen for their own adaptation, fans are likely to see them crop up in some form within His Dark Materials itself. Time to watch carefully…

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His Dark Materials begins on BBC One on Sunday 8th November. Want something else to watch? Check out our full TV Guide.