It’s been a long time coming, but His Dark Materials is finally coming to a TV near you. But it’s not the first screen adaptation of the Phillip Pullman fantasy novels. As fans will know, in 2007 The Golden Compass arrived in cinemas, telling the story of the first book in the fantasy trilogy, Northern Lights. And it wasn’t great.
With the movie only holding an approval rating of 42% on Rotten Tomatoes, many felt the adaptation had lost the bite and many key plot points of the original book. However, looks like the makers of the much-awaited BBC series – the first run of which will also be an adaptation of Northern Lights – are confident the show will delve a lot further into the source material.
“I think that what the film lacked that the television series has is size,” Jane Tranter, executive producer of His Dark Materials, told RadioTimes.com and other publications.
“I like the breadth as well as depth that television offers. And I think actually having that space to adapt the books is part of the thing that made it less daunting and gave us the courage to do it. We just had to follow the path. And the film could not do that.”
Fans of the fantasy saga will also be pleased to know the BBC series worked closely with Pullman to expand on the story portrayed in his book.
“We spent a good amount of time talking to Philip [Pullman] before launching forward with the adaptation. And we asked Philip questions about the characters,” Tranter said.
“One of the brilliant things he does is that there is hinterland to the characters outside of what they’re just doing on the page. And he leaves these little threads lying around – it’s become our job to pull that thread and see where it might go.
“It was like asking him ‘so this character is offscreen for this period in the book – what were they doing?'”
Speaking about going beyond the source material, writer Jack Thorne added: “We also had one amazing advantage that novelists don’t have: we have actors. When you’ve got Mrs Coulter in your head in the book, you’ve got one version of her. When you’ve got Mrs Coulter as played by Ruth Wilson, you’re learning all the time about who she is.
“We have assembled the most almighty group of actors, and they have breathed life into these characters.”
The first series of His Dark Materials will follow 12-year-old Lyra (played by Wolverine’s Dafne Keen) in an alternate pre-industrial universe Oxford where people are constantly accompanied by ‘daemons’ – a physical manifestation of a person’s soul.
Also starring in the eight-part first series is James McAvoy (Lord Asriel) and Luther’s Ruth Wilson (the dangerous Mrs Coulter).
His Dark Materials begins at 8pm on Sunday 3rd November on BBC1