Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials Gets TV Adaptation at BBC

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Philip Pullman's <i>His Dark Materials</i> Gets TV Adaptation at BBC

BBC’s flagship channel, BBC One, has commissioned an initial eight-part series based on Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials, from Bad Wolf and New Line Cinema, according to Variety.

The popular trilogy has been published in 40 different languages and has sold more than 17.5 million copies.

The first part of the epic trilogy, Northern Lights, follows an orphan named Lyra who lives in a parallel universe where science, theology and magic are intertwined. As Lyra searches for her kidnapped friend Roger, she uncovers an evil plot involving stolen children and a mysterious substance called Dust. The series has occasionally been challenged in school settings for its religious themes, but is considered a landmark work of young adult fiction.

In The Subtle Knife, the second part of the trilogy, Lyra teams up with a boy named Will who possesses a knife that has the power to cut windows between different worlds. Through her journey with Will, Lyra learns a shocking truth about her parents and her prophesied destiny. The pair eventually get caught up in a celestial war that spans across several worlds, whose outcome is revealed in the final conclusion of the trilogy, The Amber Spyglass.

The series, which is the first commission from U.K./U.S. production company Bad Wolf, will be executive produced by Pullman, Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner for Bad Wolf. New Line Cinema’s Toby Emmerich and Carolyn Blackwood will also executive produce alongside Scholastic’s Deborah Forte.

“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. “It’s been a radio play, a stage play, a film, an audiobook, a graphic novel — and now comes this version for television.”

Pullman goes on to further discuss the impact of various TV shows and Tranter’s involvement in the series.

“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,” said Pullman. “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,” said Pullman. “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.”

Tranter also voiced her enthusiasm about the series and about working with Pullman.

“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,” said Tranter. “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’s Northern Lights (1995), which won the Carnegie of Carnegies in 2007, was adapted into a New Line Cinema film the same year under the name The Golden Compass. It starred Daniel, Nicole Kidman and Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra, but underperformed commercially.

Pullman’s final novel in the trilogy, The Amber Spyglass, also went on to receive critical acclaim when it became the first and only children’s book in 2001 to win the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year Award.

The author was then was awarded by the Swedish Arts Council, the children’s literature equivalent of the Nobel Prize, The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2005.

“It is an honor to be bringing Philip Pullman’s extraordinary novels to BBC One,” said controller of BBC drama commissioning Polly Hill. “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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