Fans of fantasy fiction will be familiar with Philip Pullman’s magnificent trilogy of novels called His Dark Materials. A movie based on the first book The Golden Compass came out in 2007, but it didn’t live up to expectations. Now, the BBC has produced a lavish eight-episode series, which will be available only on Showmax from 5 November 2019.
Already renewed for a second season and distributed worldwide by HBO, His Dark Materials is now getting the richly detailed canvas of big-budget, serialised, episodic storytelling to do justice to this magnificent fantasy.
Never read His Dark Materials? There’ll be a whole lot to discover, learn, puzzle out and get used to in the first season’s upcoming eight episodes. The fun is to do this yourself, just like you did the first time you were immersed in the worlds of Star Wars, Harry Potter or Game of Thrones. We promise you it won’t be difficult.
We’re not going to spoil anything for you besides giving you the basic background and must-know things to fully prepare you to enter the world of the Magisterium with confidence.
Everything starts with Lyra (Dafne Keen), an ordinary-looking, but extraordinarily brave teenage girl from another magical world embarking on a quest to search for a kidnapped friend.
Her journey will take her through many different worlds, parallel universes, if you will – including one that looks similar to ours – with magic present in them all, in her journey north to solve a very big secret.
You’ll meet her explorer uncle Asriel (James McAvoy), the adventurer and “aeronaut” Lee Scoresby (Lin-Manuel Miranda), a courageous boy named Will Parry (Amir Wilson), and a score of extraordinary beings ranging from witches to an armoured polar bear. And there’s also an airship!
In this story, all humans have talking animal companions called daemons (think of the Patronus spell in Harry Potter). Everybody’s animal is different and, in the simplest explanation, is the outer manifestation of that person. For instance, if your daemon is a snake, you’re probably not a very good person!
Three more things: In Lyra’s search for her kidnapped friend she will uncover a sinister plot involving stolen children. You will hear and see something called an alethiometer, an ancient device – of which there are only a few and no more can be built – that is basically a magical symbol reader.
Lastly, there is a mysterious particle called Dust. Don’t worry – you don’t need to know what it is before you start watching. The fun is going to be in watching His Dark Materials to discover what it is, and how Dust and everything else fit together.