BBC Set to Adapt ‘His Dark Materials’ Series for Television

The BBC has announced that it plans to adapt author Phillip Pullman’s epic fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials for television. (Woooo!)

The critically acclaimed novels – The Golden Compass (published as Northern Lights in the UK), The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass – have been published in more than 40 languages and sold over 17 million copies worldwide.

His Dark Materials tells the story of Lyra, an orphan, who lives in a parallel universe in which science, theology and magic are entwined.  Lyra's search for a kidnapped friend uncovers a sinister plot involving stolen children, and turns into a quest to understand a mysterious phenomenon called Dust. She is joined on her journey by Will, a boy who possesses a knife that can cut windows between worlds. As Lyra learns the truth about her parents and her prophesied destiny, the two young people are caught up in a war against celestial powers that ranges across many worlds.

The official plot description above is possibly the most bare bones summary of the events of His Dark Materials that you could write, but it’s the kind of story that’s hard to explain in many ways. Yes, they’re technically “young adult fiction”, but these stories also have very complex adult themes, frequently wrestling with detailed philosophical and theological issues.

“It’s been a constant source of pleasure to me to see this story adapted to different forms and presented in different media,” said Pullman in a statement. “In recent years we’ve seen the way that 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.

“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.”

There’s no official word on whether this series will attempt to adapt the story of all three books, or whether it will be based on The Golden Compass, with the hope that subsequent seasons will cover Subtle Knife and Amber Spyglass. There doesn’t even appear to be official word about how many episodes this series will comprise. In short, there’s a whole lot we don’t know.

But, given the fact that the six-part TV version of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell was pretty on point, I’m feeling cautiously optimistic as a Pullman fan.

The Golden Compass was turned into a feature film in 2007 starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. It was…less than well received. (In fact, it was kind of a hot mess.) However, feature films were probably never going to do Lyra’s world justice, so a TV series, with multiple episodes to allow for serious world-building and character development seems to be the obvious medium in which to try adapting this story again.

Fingers crossed, of course.

What do you guys think? Any other His Dark Materials fans out there who need to flail a bit? And, most importantly, dream casting suggestions? I’m holding out for Rosamund Pike  as Mrs. Coulter.