BBC's 'His Dark Materials' release date announced

Tom Butler
Senior Editor
Iorek Byrnison in His Dark Materials (BBC)

Mark your diaries: The first episode of the BBC’s adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy will air on Sunday, 3 November on BBC One and iPlayer. This is a whole day earlier than the show’s US debut where it will air on HBO on 4 November.

Starring James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Logan star Dafne Keen in the lead role of Lyra Belacqua, it’s the first episode of an eight-part series that covers the events of Pullman’s 1995 novel Northern Lights.

Published in America as The Golden Compass, the book was previously adapted into a feature film in 2007 starring Daniel Craig and Nicole Kidman. Although it was a decent-sized box office hit, it wasn’t enough for studio Warner Bros. to move ahead with a sequel.

Thankfully, the new production by Bad Wolf and New Line Cinema for BBC and HBO has already been commissioned for a second series, that will cover the events of the second book in the series, The Subtle Knife, first published in 1997.

Lyra (Dafne Keene) with her daemon Pantalaimon, seen here as an ermine. (BBC/© Bad Wolf/HBO)

With Game of Thrones now finished, HBO and BBC will be hoping for His Dark Materials to fill the fantasy gap left behind by the award-winning show. However, the Pullman stories skew much younger, and will likely air in a more family-friendly time slot, although that remains to be confirmed.

Read more: His Dark Materials voice cast revealed

The eight-part adaptation tells the story of Lyra (Keen), the young protagonist who lives in Jordan College, Oxford. Placed there at the request of her Uncle, Lord Asriel (McAvoy), she lives a sheltered life amongst the scholars and college staff while under the watchful protection of The Master and Librarian Scholar Charles.

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

Lord Asriel (JAMES McAVOY) in His Dark Materials.

Lyra is subsequently thrown into the nomadic world of the boat dwelling Gyptians - Ma Costa, Farder Coram, John Faa, Raymond Van Geritt, Jack Verhoeven and Benjamin de Ruyter who take her North in her quest. Once in the North she meets charismatic aeronaut and adventurer Lee Scoresby who joins them on their epic journey and who becomes one of Lyra’s closest allies.

With talking polar bears, daemons, and Dust - the mysterious substance at the heart of the plot - to explain, expect the first few episodes to contain a lot of exposition.

His Dark Materials begins on Sunday, 3 November on BBC One and iPlayer. Watch a trailer below.