Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials is an interesting trilogy, and for once I mean that word in the way it was originally intended: it strains credibility that this series even exists. These three books, ostensibly for children, are about killing God. People often categorize the series as fantastical atheism (you know, for kids!), but Pullman’s said of himself and His Dark Materials, “I suppose, technically, you’d have to put me down as an agnostic. But if there is a God, and he is as the Christians describe him, then he deserves to be put down and rebelled against.” This is a wild stance to take in a YA fantasy series, and one that works beautifully, powerfully, amid the backdrop of an alternate Victorian multiverse.
His Dark Materials was infamously adapted by Chris Weitz’s 2007 film The Golden Compass, which riled Christians so much that by picketing the film it was an assured flop and an intended franchise never saw the light of day. Interesting then that BBC is making an eight-part mini-series of the trilogy. Why? Perhaps because they can. Considering that series like Game of Thrones has found a loyal audience, perhaps fans of the books may be happy the books will finally be adapted into a different medium. As Pullman explains:
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 audiobook, a graphic novel — and now comes this version for television.
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. 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.
Yes, exactly! An eight-part miniseries (“initial” eight-part miniseries, at that) will give the books the space they need to breathe.
Like other popular YA science fiction fantasy books (Divergent and Hunger Games) it’s interesting that His Dark Materials is being retold by a woman, though it’s written by a man, the story is really that of the main character Lyra Silvertongue. Lyra’s is a distinct female voice like other popular fiction.
If you need a synopsis of the books, you can find one, but really you’d just be best to buy the cheap paperbacks and dive in. The books are a challenge for Christians, but we may all need to read this series to be part of the inevitable conversations it may raise if it finds the audience BBC hopes it obviously will.