Written by Paul Mount Tuesday, 03 November 2015

TV News

In a move which might surprise many following the failure of the recent Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel series, the BBC have announced that they will be returning to the world of extreme fantasy once again with a new – and potentially long-running – family series based on Philip Pullman’s extraordinary His Dark Materials novels.

The series – an initial eight-episode run – is the first commission for Bad Wolf, the UK/USA production company recently formed by former BBC executive Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner, both of whom were instrumental in the successful relaunch of Doctor Who in 2005 (Bad Wolf, of course, takes its name from the ‘Rose Tyler’ meme which threaded throughout the first new Doctor Who season and which reappeared intermittently in subsequent seasons). Pullman’s books have sold over 17 million copies across the world and have already been adapted for the stage and the cinema (2007’s box office failure The Golden Compass starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig). This new series, though, looks to be the real deal, a proper sprawling adaptation of Pullman’s visionary work.

Jane Tranter says:  “It is an honor and a joy to be part of the team responsible for bringing Philip Pullman’s trilogy of novels His Dark Materials to the BBC. Ever since they were first published these books have been a huge influence on so much of my thinking and imagination, and it is enormously inspiring to be now working on them for television adaptation. The broad horizons of television suggests itself as the best of vehicles to capture the expansiveness of the story and worlds of Lyra and Will, and I am looking forward to seeing how ‘Northern Lights,’ ‘The Subtle Knife’ and ‘The Amber Spyglass’ will occupy their place in an audience’s imagination across many episodes and seasons.”

Pullman himself is also delighted at the prospect of a potentially long-running series which will finally remain true to the text in all its sprawling imagination. In recent years we’ve seen how long stories on television, whether adaptations (Game of Thrones) or original (The Sopranos, The Wire), can reach depths of characterization and heights of suspense by taking the time for events to make their proper impact and for consequences to unravel,” he says. “And the sheer talent now working in the world of long-form television is formidable. For all those reasons I’m delighted at the prospect of a television version of His Dark Materials. I’m especially pleased at the involvement of Jane Tranter, whose experience, imagination, and drive are second to none. As for the BBC, it has no stronger supporter than me. I couldn’t be more pleased with this news.”

His Dark Materials is set in a parallel world – specifically Oxford – where an orphan girl named Lyra, searching for a missing friend, uncovers an evil plot involving kidnapped children and, as the trilogy continues, she teams up with Will who possesses a ‘subtle knife’ which he uses to open up gateways to other parallel worlds where lurk strange and terrifying creatures and where Lyra might finally fulfil her true destiny.

The series, which is not likely to reach screens before 2017, will be executive produced by Philip Pullman, Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner for Bad Wolf, Toby Emmerich and Carolyn Blackwood for New Line Cinema, and Deborah Forte for Scholastic.


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