Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy will finally be getting another adaptation, with former Doctor Who producers Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner commissioning a television series for their new company Bad Wolf.
BBC calls His Dark Materials “one of the supreme works of imaginative fiction for both children and adults published in the 20th century”.
Author Philip Pullman has previously mused that a television series would be a better medium for the story. Philip says: “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 the way that long stories on television, whether adaptations (Game Of Thrones) or original (The Sopranos, The Wire), can reach depths of characterisation 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.”
Jane Tranter says: “It is an honour and a joy to be part of the team responsible for bringing Philip Pullman’s trilogy of novels 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.
“To say that I am grateful to Philip Pullman and to Toby and Carolyn at New Line Cinema for entrusting this to Bad Wolf is an understatement and we will give everything that we have to rise to the challenge of doing justice to these great works and to the responsibility that Philip and the incomparable BBC have bestowed on us.”
If Bad Wolf is allowing for one season per novel, that would give us a minimum of six episodes per season, possibly eighteen to twenty-four hours in which to tell the story. Part of the problem with the 2007 US produced film adaptation of The Northern Lights (The Golden Compass) was the brevity, along with the censorship. The Golden Compass was a critical and commercial failure. It was a huge blow to New Line who had invested heavily in the film, hoping it would bring them the same sort of success they had with the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Despite a stunning ensemble cast and director Chris Weitz trying to stay true to the books, the anti-dogmatic themes and violence proved too much for the studio. Weitz had to alter the ending of the film, straying far from the source material. Plans for a film franchise were scrapped.
Given more time and more creative freedom, I think that this time around His Dark Materials will get the screen adaptation it deserves.