BBC's ‘His Dark Materials’ adaptation will squeeze three books into two series

Iorek Byrnison is coming to the BBC (credit: BBC / HBO)
Iorek Byrnison is coming to the BBC (credit: BBC / HBO)

Unlike the film version of Philip Pullman’s fantasy classic His Dark Materials, it sounds like fans will actually get closure from the BBC / HBO series, with all three books already adapted by the team behind the show, across just sixteen episodes.

Of course, the film version was cancelled after one instalment, with an intended trilogy binned after an underwhelming response to the first film.

Read more: How will HBO fill the void left by 'Game of Thrones'?

The BBC version was always pitched as a two season series by executive producer Jane Tranter, who said she would have aimed for three seasons, “if I hadn’t have thought it would look greedy.”

Tranter was speaking at the TCA panel as reported by Deadline, alongside series writer Jack Thorne, who reflected on the difficulty of condensing Pullman’s dense prose into telly episodes.

“We wrote papers to ourselves about all the different ideas in the show. We wanted to do a Ph.D. in Phillip Pullman and we tried to do a Ph.D. in His Dark Materials,” Thorne said.

“I wrote 46 drafts of episode one in order to find a way to tell this story as elegantly as possible. [Pullman’s] denseness is a blessing and a curse; it’s so exciting.”

“Sometimes when you’re doing an adaptation of something there’s a moment when you know everything there is to know. With Phillip you never can. It’s a very challenging show to write but also glorious to write.”

It might seem counterintuitive to try to fit so much storytelling into two short seasons, but there’s a very logical explanation according to Tranter.

“I think of it more as 16 episodes rather than two seasons because the end of the first novel is continuous with the second,” Tranter said.

Read more: First full trailer for 'His Dark Materials' grips Comic Con

“And whilst you would have more of a gap — and God knows there’s whole teams in Cardiff that [want more of a gap] — as we move from one season to another we have children in the show and they grow up really quickly. “

“They don’t look the same 12 months later and Lyra is the same age, so we had to find a way to turn the piece around quote quickly in order for that story to be told.”

“There was a great thing in the book about a girl going through puberty and we wanted to be able to pace that out appropriately. That’s why HBO and the BBC went with us for 16 episodes.”

His Dark Materials will premiere in the UK on BBC One in late 2019.

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