One of the delights in recent TV watching is the new HBO/BBC production of His Dark Materials, based on the wonderful trilogy from Philip Pullman.
Unlike the 2007 film of The Golden Compass, the TV series doesn’t sanitise the evil of the Magisterium, a religious organisation which rules Lyra’s world. The film suggested that the evil was a military fascism with religious overtones, rather than being a key characteristic of strict authoritarian religions.
The TV series opens with the great Oxford flood, when Lyra was deposited in an Oxford college for “sanctuary”. We only see the tail end of the arrival at the college, which is described in considerable detail in The Book of Dust, the first volume in Pullman’s new trilogy. (One of my delightful reads in October).
This is a beautiful production, with realistic daemons (?$%#!) and a fine adaptation of the original material.
Ruth Wilson, as Mrs Coulter, is both terrifying and beguiling. James MacAvoy does a nice turn as Lyra’s “uncle”, Lord Asrial, the explorer seeking the meaning of dust.
There’s a lovely presentation of the outcast armoured polar bear, Iorek Byrnison (Joe Tandberg), and his balloonist friend, Lee Scorsby (Lin-Manuel Miranda), both of whom provide a much needed sense of action and humour.
The main concern with the TV series is that, unlike the first novel which was very much from Lyra’s viewpoint, the TV series tries to explain everything before Lyra discovers it. Prime example was the early reveal of alternate realities by episode 2 — they weren’t even seen until the end of the first novel.
Still, airships, armoured polar bears, daemons, gyptians, witches and kidnapped children. The series is off to a great start.