'His Dark Materials' first look: Can Ruth Wilson and James McAvoy outdo 'The Golden Compass'?

Tom Butler
Senior Editor
Ruth Wilson as Marisa Coulter in His Dark Materials (BBC)

The BBC has today revealed the first footage from its big budget adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. Starring Ruth Wilson, James McAvoy, Logan’s Dafne Keen, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, this lavish new fantasy drama from the people behind Doctor Who, looks like one of the Beeb’s most ambitious shows yet.

Check out the first trailer below.


The story is set a fantasy world where people exist in tandem with their daemons, a sort of living embodiment of their souls that takes the form of an animal. Lyra Belacqua (Keen) finds herself going on an epic journey through the multiverse as she seeks to discover the secret of a mystical substance called Dust.

The first book of Pullman’s YA trilogy was previously adapted in 2007 into the ill-fated The Golden Compass starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig, which – despite winning a BAFTA and Oscar for its VFX – was poorly received by critics, and at the box office.

Jane Tranter, the show’s executive producer said in a statement on Twitter: “We wanted to have a tiny glimpse of His Dark Materials. As with Lyra there are many more worlds to discover as start upon this epic journey.”


The BBC has already renewed the series for a second season, although no air date for the first episodes has been announced yet.

Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech, Les Miserables) will lead as director and helm the first two episodes.

Here’s a synopsis, courtesy of the BBC:

Dafne Keen takes on the lead role of Lyra, the young protagonist of the story who lives in Jordan College, Oxford. Placed there at the request of her Uncle, Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) she lives a sheltered life amongst the scholars and college staff while under the watchful protection of The Master (Clarke Peters) and Librarian Scholar Charles (Ian Gelder).

Lin-Manuel Miranda as aeronaut Lee Scoresby (BBC)

When the glamorous and mesmeric Mrs Coulter (Ruth Wilson) enters Lyra’s life she embarks upon a dangerous journey of discovery from Oxford to London. Here she meets Father MacPhail (Will Keen), Lord Boreal (Ariyon Bakare) and journalist Adele Starminster (Georgina Campbell) at a glittering society party where she first hears about the sinister General Oblation Board.

Lyra is subsequently thrown into the nomadic world of the boat dwelling Gyptians – Ma Costa (Anne-Marie Duff), Farder Coram (James Cosmo), John Faa (Lucian Msamati), Raymond Van Geritt (Mat Fraser), Jack Verhoeven (Geoff Bell) and Benjamin de Ruyter (Simon Manyonda) who take her North in her quest.

Once in the North she meets charismatic aeronaut and adventurer Lee Scoresby (Lin-Manuel Miranda) who joins them on their epic journey and who becomes one of Lyra’s closest allies.

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