BBC One: Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials to be major drama event


Philip Pullman’s superb trilogy of novels Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass (known collectively as His Dark Materials) is being made into a major drama series by BBC One. This could well turn out to be this generations Box of Delights or Chronicles of Narnia.

His Dark Materials is one of the supreme works of imaginative fiction for both children and adults published in the 20th century. Northern Lights introduces 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. In The Subtle Knife 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 and leads to a thrilling conclusion in The Amber Spyglass.

Philip Pullman 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, Executive Producer for Bad Wolf adds: “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.”

His Dark Materials has been published in more than 40 languages and has sold worldwide close to 17.5 million copies.

Since first publication in 1995 of Northern Lights, the three books have been acclaimed worldwide and have won many awards. In 2001 The Amber Spyglass was the first and only children’s book to win the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year Award, in 2007 Northern Lights won the Carnegie of Carnegies and in 2005 Pullman was awarded by the Swedish Arts Council, the children’s literature equivalent of the Nobel Prize, The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award.

Nicholas Hytner’s stage production of His Dark Materials was produced in two parts at the National Theatre in 2003-4. In 2006 New Line released a film of The Golden Compass starring Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig and Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra.

Casting details to follow.

His Dark Materials is the first commission from Bad Wolf, a UK/US production company founded by Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner and co-sited in South Wales and Los Angeles and is New Line Cinema’s first move into TV production.

His Dark Materials will be Executive Produced by Philip Pullman, Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner for Bad Wolf, Toby Emmerich and Carolyn Blackwood for New LineCinema, Bethan Jones for BBC One and Deborah Forte for Scholastic.