BBC commissions new His Dark Materials series: Who would you cast?
VOD News | On 03, Nov 2015
The BBC has ordered a new drama series based on Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials.
The novels, first published in 1995, beginning with Northern Lights, have become staples of both children and adult fiction, thanks to their bold intertwining of science, theology and magic. The literary masterpieces have resonated around the world, selling over 17 million copies in more than 40 different languages, picking up the Whitbread (now Costa) Book of the Year Award, the Carnegie of Carnegies and the The Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award from the Swedish Arts Council.
For those who haven’t read them, they follow a young orphan called Lyra, who lives in a parallel world where humans are accompanied by daemons, the animal embodiment of (more or less) their souls. After searching for a kidnapped friend, she uncovers a sinister plot involving stolen children and a mysterious phenomenon called “Dust”. Her path crosses with that of Will, who has a knife that can cut windows between worlds, taking them on a journey that encompasses everything from destiny and her family to sin and growing up.
For those who have read them, the news of the Beeb’s commission will come as a mixed blessing. Indeed, the novels have been adapted many times to varying degress of success. Nicholas Hytner directed a sumptuous stage production at the National Theatre, while in 2006, New Line released The Golden Compass (pictured above), designed to be the first in a trio of feature-length adaptations but never well received enough to prompt the sequels.
If the movies’ playing down of the theological aspect over fears of a US backlash led to much criticism, though, the involvement of the BBC in this new interpretation is a more promising starting point.
The series has been commissioned by Charlotte Moore, Controller BBC One and Polly Hill, Controller BBC Drama Commissioning, and will be produced by Bad Wolf and New Line Cinema which will be made in Wales for BBC One. Bad Wolf is a UK/US production company founded by Julie Gardner and Jane Tranter, whose previous career at the BBC oversaw such quality drama as Spooks, State of Play and Bleak House, and – to reassure fantasy fans further – was named after the first season of modern Doctor Who. It also arrives hot on the heels on the BBC’s stunning adaptation of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.
“It is an honour to be bringing Philip Pullman’s extraordinary novels to BBC One,” says Hill. His Dark Materials is a stunning trilogy, and a drama event for young and old – a real family treat that shows our commitment to original and ambitious storytelling.”
The format, too, will give the material more time to be explored on screen.
“It’s been a constant source of pleasure to me to see this story adapted to different forms and presented in different media,” comments Pullman. “In recent years we’ve seen the way that long stories on television, whether adaptations (Game Of Thrones) or original (The Sopranos, The Wire), can reach depths of characterisation and heights of suspense by taking the time for events to make their proper impact and for consequences to unravel.
“And the sheer talent now working in the world of long-form television is formidable. For all those reasons I’m delighted at the prospect of a television version of His Dark Materials. I’m especially pleased at the involvement of Jane Tranter, whose experience, imagination, and drive are second to none. As for the BBC, it has no stronger supporter than me. I couldn’t be more pleased with this news.”
Tranter adds: “The broad horizons of television suggests itself as the best of vehicles to capture the expansiveness of the story and worlds of Lyra and Will and I am looking forward to seeing how Northern Lights, The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass will occupy their place in an audience’s imagination across many episodes and seasons. “To say that I am grateful to Philip Pullman and to Toby and Carolyn at New Line Cinema for entrusting this to Bad Wolf is an understatement and we will give everything that we have to rise to the challenge of doing justice to these great works.”
One of the BBC’s strengths has always been casting the best people in its dramas, with Bertie Carvel and Eddie Marsan both helping to bring Strange and Norrell to life, and Peter Capaldi the latest in a long line of well-chosen Time Lords to steer Doctor Who’s TARDIS.
The question, then, is who should be cast in BBC’s His Dark Materials? The film version starred Dakota Blue Richards as Lyra, Nicole Kidman as the sinister Mrs. Coulter, Daniel Craig as Lyra’s uncle, Lord Asriel, Ian McKellen as the voice of Iorek Byrnison, an armoured bear who becomes Lyra’s friend, Eva Green as witch queen Serafina, and Sam Elliott as the moustached Texan aeronaut Lee Scoresby. The BBC’s previous adaptation of the novels, for Radio 4, cast Bill Paterson as Oxford’s Master of Jordan, Kenneth Cranham as Gyptian leader Farder Coram and Terence Stamp as Lord Asriel.
Who would you like to see the BBC pick? Let us know your dream casting choices below!