Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy to Become TV Series

BBC One has ordered a new drama series based on Philip Pullman’s epic trilogy, His Dark Materials. The show will be produced by Bad Wolf and New Line Cinema, and will be filmed in Wales. Pullman, executive producer of the series, announced: “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 audio book, a graphic novel — and now comes this version for television.” Pullman went on to say that long stories do well on television, mentioning adaptations like Game of Thrones and original series like The Sopranos.

The His Dark Materials series was first published in 1995, and includes the three books Northern Lights, A Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass. The books are loosely based on Milton’s Paradise Lost, but recast original sin in positive light and include a corrupt creator figure. The story is that of a young girl living in a parallel world where people’s souls come in the form of a shape-shifting animal (up until adolescence), which scientists are experimenting with detaching, ultimately leading to a war against celestial powers. Pullman won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2005, one of the biggest prizes in children’s literature, and the books have won several other awards such as the Costa Book of the Year Award.

The trilogy is comprehensive and difficult to summarize, showcased in the 2007 film adaptation, The Golden Compass, interestingly also by New Line Cinema, which failed both in the box office and in the eyes of critics. This article explains well exactly what the trouble was with that first adaptation. Basically, it tried to cram too much information into too little time. The Golden Compass also managed to anger the Catholic Church, which is interesting as it downplayed much of the criticism of the Catholic Church that exists in the book, presumably in an attempt not to offend and to create a more suitable Christmas movie.

Hopefully this time around, the books will get the treatment they deserve. Polly Hill at BBC Drama said: “It is an honor 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.”

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