When it was announced that the BBC and HBO were to bring Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy to the small-screen, millions of fans rejoiced that the beloved story would finally receive the treatment it deserved following the lacklustre 2007 adaptation of the first book, The Golden Compass, which was cancelled following a terrible $70 million gross at the domestic box-office. Now it appears that fans will finally get to see Lyra Belacqua’s entire journey, albeit in a rather more truncated form than expected.
Speaking at a TCA panel during a recent press tour, Deadline reported that executive producer Jane Tranter said that they took the decision to opt for a 2 season, 16 episode run because if they’d aimed for three seasons they “thought it would look greedy.” She went on to add “I think of it more as 16 episodes rather than two seasons because the end of the first novel is continuous with the second. As we move from one season to another we have children in the show and they grow up really quickly. They don’t look the same 12 months later and Lyra is the same age, so we had to find a way to turn the piece around quote quickly in order for that story to be told. There was a great thing in the book about a girl going through puberty and we wanted to be able to pace that out appropriately. That’s why HBO and the BBC went with us for 16 episodes.”
Alongside Tranter was series writer Jack Thorne, who also spoke about the decision, as well as detailing some of the more challenging aspects of adapting Pullman’s trilogy. He said “I wrote 46 drafts of episode one in order to find a way to tell this story as elegantly as possible. [Pullman’s] denseness is a blessing and a curse; it’s so exciting.”
“Sometimes when you’re doing an adaptation of something there’s a moment when you know everything there is to know. With Phillip you never can. It’s a very challenging show to write but also glorious to write.”
Let us know what you think of the decision to squeeze the three books into two seasons. Do you think this is enough time to do Pullman’s opus justice? Use the comments section below, or by head to our our Twitter page to continue the discussion.
Adapting Philip Pullman’s award-winning trilogy of the same name, which is considered a modern masterpiece of imaginative fiction, the first season follows Lyra, a seemingly ordinary but brave young woman from another world. Her search for a kidnapped friend uncovers a sinister plot involving stolen children, and becomes a quest to understand a mysterious phenomenon called Dust. As she journeys through the worlds, including our own, Lyra meets Will, a determined and courageous boy. Together, they encounter extraordinary beings and dangerous secrets, with the fate of both the living — and the dead — in their hands.
Directed by The Kings Speech and Cats helmer Tom Hooper, the series stars Dafne Keen (Logan) as the lead character Lyra, James McAvoy (It: Chapter Two) as her uncle Lord Asriel, Ruth Wilson (The Affair) as Mrs. Coulter, Clarke Peters (The Wire) as The Master and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Mary Poppins Returns) as Lee Scoresby. Also appearing in the series is Ian Gelder (Queers) as Librarian Scholar Charles, Will Keen (Wolf Hall) as Father MacPhail, Ariyon Bakare (Life) as Lord Boreal, and Georgina Campbell (Krypton) as Adele Starminster.
Other cast members include Anne-Marie Duff (Suffragette) as Ma Costa, James Cosmo (Game of Thrones) as Farder Coram, Lucien Msamati (Richard II) as John Faa, Mat Fraser (Cast Offs) as Raymond Van Geritt, Geoff Bell (War Horse) as Jack Verhoeven, Simon Manyonda (King Lear) as Benjamin de Ruyter, Lewin Lloyd (Taboo) as Roger Parslow, Daniel Frogson (The Devil Outside) as Tony Costa, Tyler Howitt (Apple Tree House) as Billy Costa and Archie Barnes (Patrick) as Pantalaimon.