His Dark Materials season 3: Release date, cast and latest news
What’s next for Lyra, Will, Lord Asriel and Mrs Coulter? Here’s what you need to know about the upcoming Amber Spyglass adaptation.
Almost two years after the second instalment of His Dark Materials drew to an end, the third and final season of the show has landed on BBC One.
Adapted from The Amber Spyglass, the last volume of Philip Pullman’s trilogy, season 3 brings the story of Lyra (Dafne Keen) and Will (Amir Wilson) to a dramatic end, as the duo join Asriel and his allies in an epic battle with the Authority.
Talking about how she felt about His Dark Materials coming to an end, Lyra star Keen recently told RadioTimes.com and other press: "It’s bittersweet, I’d say. It’s sad because of the people you leave behind and all of the experiences we had and all the good times we had on set with all of the crew and stuff.
"But it’s really nice to see the story wrap up and be privileged enough to tell it and to get three seasons out of it, which has been an honour."
Wilson added: "It’s sad that I won’t be playing Will and Dafne won’t be playing Lyra because we put so much into it and spent six/seven months of our lives doing it every day.
"Yeah, it’s bittersweet, but we’re happy everyone is going to be able to see what we’ve done."
Alongside Keen and Wilson, James McAvoy (Lord Asriel Belacqua) is returning for season 3 after being largely absent in season 2, as well as Ruth Wilson (Mrs Coulter), whose character has captivated fans over the previous two seasons with her charming and villainous ways.
However, this isn't the case so much in season 3. Well, to begin with at least.
Speaking at a recent press screening ahead of the series's launch, Wilson said that viewers will see a "very different" side to Mrs Coulter in season 3.
"In this season particularly you do see a massive change in Mrs Coulter," she revealed. "She’s a very different woman in those two opening episodes, and I think looking after a child reduces her energy, and she’s quite depressed."
She continued: "But she gets her heels on in the third episode, so don’t you worry. I found it really difficult playing her without heels, honestly. It was a really interesting different side of Mrs Coulter that was sort of grounded woolly jumper-wearing, and I was like, 'Oh...'"
While season 3 is the final instalment of the show, there could be more to look forward to in the future, with producer Jane Tranter recently revealing that the team behind the show would love to adapt Pullman's Book of Dust trilogy, which is made up of La Belle Sauvage, The Secret Commonwealth, and an as yet unpublished third novel.
Speaking at a Q&A event ahead of the launch of the final season, Tranter said: "As Philip Pullman calls it, there is an 'equal' which is La Belle Sauvage and then there's a sequel, which is The Secret Commonwealth.
"And I have made absolutely no secret of the fact that I am really very keen to do The Book of Dust and Philip has already said that he would love us to do it. But he needs to finish the third book."
But for now, read on for everything you need to know about His Dark Materials season 3.
His Dark Materials season 3 release date
We now know when the final season will be arriving for UK audiences – with all eight episodes set to be made available as a boxset on BBC iPlayer from Sunday 18th December.
The episodes will also be airing on BBC One – starting on that same date and then continuing weekly from then onwards, although it's not clear yet whether that pattern will be paused on Christmas Day.
Fans in the US can see the final run slightly earlier, with the new season airing two episodes a week from Monday 5th December through to Monday 26th December on HBO and HBO Max.
Production on the new season began in 2021 after a break due to COVID-based delays, with filming then wrapping in November.
The show's official Twitter page said on November 26 2021: "It has been an incredible six year journey through the Worlds of #HisDarkMaterials, but it’s time to close the doors on the final chapter. That’s a wrap on season 3".
Jane Tranter recently said at an event for the series that she would have told the His Dark Materials story "across nine seasons if [she] could have done". Oh, what could have been!
The final season will be made up of six episodes, even though executive producer Jane Tranter had previously angled for a season 4 to properly tell the whole story.
"I wanted to split it in two, but we’re doing it in one," Tranter told Deadline. "You can’t always have what you want. The Amber Spyglass is quite right adapted into eight episodes and I will fully and humbly admit I was completely wrong."
Tranter also recently that she would have told the full His Dark Materials story "across nine seasons if [she] could have done," but that budgets and audience expectations meant it has been kept to a season per book.
His Dark Materials season 3 cast
The confirmed cast for His Dark Materials season 3 is as follows.
- Dafne Keen as Lyra Belacqua
- Amir Wilson as Will Parry
- Ruth Wilson as Marisa Coulter
- Will Keen as Cardinal Hugh MacPhail
- James McAvoy as Lord Asriel Belacqua
- Lin-Manuel Miranda as Lee Scoresby
- Ruta Gedmintas as Serafina Pekkala
- Jade Anouka as Ruta Skadi
- Simone Kirby as Dr Mary Malone
- Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Commander Ogunwe
- Jamie Ward as Father Gomez
- Lewin Lloyd as Roger
- Kobna Holdbrook-Smith as Balthamos
- Simon Harrison as Baruch
- Amber Fitzgerald-Woolfe as Ama
- Chipo Chung as Xaphania
- Sian Clifford as Agent Salmakia
- Jonathan Aris as Commander Roke
- Kit Connor as the voice of Pantalaimon
- David Suchet as the voice of Kaisa
- Joe Tandberg as Iorek Byrnison (voice and motion-capture)
- Sope Dirisu as the voice of Sergi
- Lindsay Duncan as the voice of Octavia
- Andrew Scott as Jopari
Series regulars Dafne Keen and Amir Wilson will continue their lead roles as Lyra and Will, along with Ruth Wilson’s Mrs Coulter, Simone Kirby’s Mary Malone, Ruta Gedmintas’ Serafina Pekkala and Will Keen’s Father (or rather, Cardinal) MacPhail.
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“She goes on a great journey in season 3,” Wilson said of her villainous character. “I can’t wait to get back into Mrs Coulter’s boots.”
“It’s quite interesting because this season we make a reference to her mother,” Wilson told the crowd at the BFI and Radio Times Television Festival during the His Dark Materials: Creating Mrs Coulter panel.
“We actually have some sort of outfits that are her mother’s, that are sent to Mrs Coulter. In my head, [she’s] linked up to the Magisterium, the Church.
“Mrs Coulter’s mother was very much part of the Church. So that actually represents, for her, rules and patriarchy. And I think that Mrs Coulter was always a disappointment to her mother in that way.”
Elsewhere, Heartstopper actor Kit Connor will also reprise his role as the voice of Lyra's daemon, Pantalaimon.
James McAvoy is also returning as season 1's Lord Asriel after being largely absent from season 2 (barring a surprise cameo in the final episode), with his character playing a larger role in the book the next season is based on.
The character was due to get his own standalone episode in season 2 but this was cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic, prompting the shorter episode count in the second run. Instead, he will have an expanded role in season 3.
Similarly, Joe Tandberg’s bear-king Iorek Byrnison will probably return for a larger part after sitting out most of season 2.
The season 2 finale also hints at a return for season 1 star Lewin Lloyd (who played Lyra’s friend Roger) despite the character’s death. Similarly, Lin-Manuel Miranda has been confirmed to reprise his role as Lee Scoresby despite a tragic end for the character in the season 2 finale.
Ariyon Bakare (Lord Carlo Boreal) will presumably not return following his death in season 2 – though apparently that isn't stopping Jopari (Andrew Scott), whose return was announced in October 2022 at a cast-struck panel at MCM London Comic Con.
Jopari's return is a departure from the source material.
Of course, The Amber Spyglass does introduce some key new characters (including several voice roles) that will need to be introduced – and in June 2021 the BBC announced some new cast members who would be bringing these characters to life.
The newcomers include Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Game of Thrones) as Commander Ogunwe, Jamie Ward (The Durrels) as Father Gomez and Amber Fitzgerald-Woolf as Ama, with Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (Mary Poppins Returns), Simon Harrison (Endeavour) and Chipo Chung (Into the Badlands) as the rebel angels Balthamos, Baruch and Xaphania.
Chung takes over from Sophie Okonedo who voiced Xaphania in the second season.
And sadly, the death of actor Helen McCrory means that her voice role in the series (as Lord Asriel's daemon Stelmaria) has been replaced by The Crown's Victoria Hamilton.
Meanwhile, Sian Clifford (Fleabag) and Jonathan Aris (Sherlock) will portray Gallivespians spies: Agent Salmakia and Commander Roke, respectively.
Deadline notes that Pullman describes these characters in this way: "He was striking to look at: he was no taller than Lord Asriel’s hand span, and as slender as a dragonfly, but the rest of Lord Asriel’s captains treated him with profound respect, for he was armed with a poisonous sting in the spurs on his heels.
"He and his kind, the Gallivespians, had few of the qualities of good spies except, of course, their exceptional smallness: they were so proud and touchy that they would never have remained inconspicuous if they had been of Lord Asriel’s size."
So we can expect some exciting new faces in the new episodes!
His Dark Materials season 3 plot
We already have a pretty good idea of what happens in His Dark Materials season 3, as it's adapted from a book that’s been out for decades.
In The Amber Spyglass we see Lord Asriel’s war against religious tyranny (and the leading figure The Authority at the head of it) escalate, pulling in creatures and forces from different worlds and even calling some angels to his side.
Meanwhile, Lyra is captured by Mrs Coulter while Will searches for her (accompanied by two angels who want to bring him to Asriel), and Mary Malone steps into a new world to learn more about Dust from creatures called the Mulefa, where she’s pursued by a Magisterium assassin.
Will and Lyra eventually reunite to head to the Land of the Dead to seek out Roger, while Mrs Coulter joins forces with Asriel to battle the angels, and the whole thing culminates in a huge spectacle as the forces of the heavens and the earth clash, leading to one final tragedy (which we won’t spoil here).
“What can I tell you? It’s war," McAvoy told The One Show. "At the end of the second season we sort of declare war on the Kingdom of Heaven, so yeah, it gets pretty down and dirty, and there’s gonna be a lot of fisticuffs and a lot of explosions and all that stuff.
“But at its heart it’s about a wee girl and a wee boy… and not the adults with the egos.”
All in all, it looks set to be a massive series, and executive producer and production designer Joel Collins says the team are relishing the challenge.
“It's all complicated, but I utterly have an idea of the Mulefa and what their world is, Asriel's Republic [of Heaven] is an amazing place,” Collins exclusively told RadioTimes.com.
“We obviously go to the land of the dead, and what an exciting thing to think about and journey through. It's literally a huge, complicated and brilliantly fun puzzle. I've got loads of ideas.”
And Jane Tranter has confirmed that fans can expect to see lots more of the angels, who appeared briefly in the second season, telling Entertainment Weekly that they "are a very, very significant presence" in the third run.
"We trail them [in season 2] so that they are a forthcoming attraction," she explained.
Is there a trailer for His Dark Materials season 3?
Yes! The latest trailer prepares us for an epic battle. Watch below:
A previous trailer for the final season of His Dark Materials also dropped, giving us a sense of season 3's epic scope.
With the return of James McAvoy's Asriel, hints at an oncoming war and plenty of stunning landscapes and visual effects, it looks set to be a thrilling end to this hugely ambitious series.
You can watch that trailer right here now.
Will there be a series based on The Book of Dust novel La Belle Sauvage?
HBO and the BBC have confirmed no plans to adapt the prequel/sequel trilogy to His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman's The Book of Dust.
In 2020, His Dark Materials executive producer Jane Tranter revealed the team behind the series would be keen to adapt the three subsequent novels for the screen.
“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 told RadioTimes.com.
“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."
She added: “It’s the most exciting story but, like everything Philip does, it has many levels to it. 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.”
His Dark Materials season 3 airs on BBC One and BBC iPlayer on Sunday 18th December. Seasons 1 and 2 are available to stream on BBC iPlayer now.