Presenting the upcoming TV series adaptation of Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” novel trilogy as part of its Television Critics Association press tour this week, HBO has confirmed that the series will only consist of two seasons of eight episodes each.
A co-production with the BBC, the story is set in a universe where humans are paired with daemon animals. Lyra (Dafne Keen) tries to navigate a sheltered educational system, even as her uncle Asriel (James McAvoy) keeps secrets from her. When Lyra’s friend is kidnapped, she goes on an adventure to find him. Along the way she meets Lee Scoresby (Lin-Manuel Miranda) and his armored bear,
Executive Producers Jane Tranter and Jack Thorne were on hand this week to discuss the challenges of adapting the work, and spoke about why they’re only doing two seasons. Turns out a big part of it is to do with the child stars of the series growing up, so they set out to make the entire two-season production within the space of a year before the kids physically change much. Tranter says:
“We have children in the show who as we all know grow up very quickly. They don’t look the same twelve months later. And yet, Lyra Belacqua, now Lyra Silvertongue, is the same age. So, we had to find a way of turning the piece around quite quickly in order to allow that story to be told. There is a great thing in His Dark Materials of a girl going through puberty and we wanted to be able to pace that story out age appropriately. And so, that’s why we went, everyone, HBO and the BBC, went with us for 16 episodes.”
While the seasons will largely follow the books, Thorne says they will be bringing forward some smaller elements from the latter books into the first season:
“There are a few treats I’ve stolen from future books that I’ve tried to infuse this season with. To give that away would be to give away some quite big secrets, so I can’t quite do that here. The whole thing was looking at the whole story, three books, and going, ‘How did Philip think of them like this? And how can we celebrate them in the best possible way?’ And sometimes, that celebration involved moving certain elements forward.”
Tranter adds she doesn’t expect to face the same protest from religious groups who dubbed New Line’s previous failed big-budget film adaptation “The Golden Compass” as an “anti-Christian” work. She says:
“One of the things that can happen when you adapt a book for film is that you have to sort of cut down the middle of the story. We can sound every note that Philip Pullman in his book sounded, and in so doing, we make clear that the religious controversy that there was around the film was not relevant to the books themselves. In His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman talks about oppression. He talks about the control of information. He talks about the falsification of information. And he chooses the form of The Magisterium, which is a fantastical organization which includes church and state and is a byzantine organization, to do it. There is no direct contrast with any contemporary religious organization for His Dark Materials.”
Ruth Wilson also stars in the series which premieres this Fall on HBO.