His Dark Materials Explained

Pros: Dafne Keen as Lyra; main cast; good graphics for depicting daemons; atmosphere Cons: some liberties in the adaptation of the book “His Dark Materials” / His Dark Materials

Fantasy genre
Creator Jack Thorne
Cast: James McAvoy (Lord Asriel), Dafne Keen (Lyra Belacqua), Ruth Wilson (Marisa Coulter), Anne-Marie Duff (Ma Costa), Clarke Peters (Master of Jordan College), James Cosmo (Farder Coram), Erion Bakare (Lord Carlo Boreal), Will Keane (Father MacPhail), Lucian Msamati (John Faa), Gary Lewis (Thorold), Andrew Scott (John Parry), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Lee Scoresby), etc.
Channel BBC One, HBO
Year of release 2019
Episode 8
Site IMDb

In the first season, His Dark Materials takes on the plot of the novel Northern Lights. A story from another world, vaguely similar to ours, is unfolding before us. There are airships flying in the sky, and every person has a daemon – a manifestation of the soul that incarnates into an animal.

An orphan girl named Lyra (Dafne Keen) lives with her daemon in Oxford, where she is protected by scientists. The heroine is visited by her uncle Lord Asriel (James McAvoy), who is conducting research in the North that could change the understanding of the system of the universe. Asriel sets off on another expedition, refusing to take Lyra with him. However, the girl does not stay in college; she is suddenly taken away by Mrs. Coulter (Ruth Wilson), a scientist who charms Lyra with her beautiful speeches. At this time, certain Priests appear, kidnapping children. Hard times are coming, but Lyra does not yet know that she will soon have to play a decisive role in large-scale events.

The idea of ​​​​turning the film adaptation into a series is the best thing that could be done with the works of Philip Pullman. There are so many details, plot twists and allusions in the world invented by the writer that it is simply impossible to fit them into a full-length film. This became extremely clear back in 2007, when The Golden Compass appeared. Despite the impressive cast (Nicole Kidman, Daniel Craig, Eva Green starred), the film failed to convey the full meaning of the novel.


His Dark Materials has a lot more time and script space for this. Under the leadership of showrunner Jack Thorne (who worked on The Aeronauts and the yet-to-be-released film adaptation of The Secret Garden), the series is divided into several storylines. All of them are important in their own way for understanding what is happening. Thanks to eight episodes, each lasting about an hour, not only the central character has time to reveal himself, but also the secondary characters, whose characters are clearly defined through their actions.


Perhaps fans of Pullman’s trilogy will not like the fact that the scriptwriters, before starting the plot, reveal the main points that became clear only as they read the books. However, in order to clarify what is happening for viewers who have not read the novels, there is no other way to do it. At the same time, the series manages to maintain the intrigue of the overall plan, as well as maintain interest around Lyra’s purpose.


What’s really satisfying is the appropriate depiction of daemons, whose appearance largely characterizes the people to whom they belong. For the filming of the series, they decided not to use real animals; instead, wooden puppets were made, controlled by puppeteers. They were in the frame, which saved the actors from having to carry on a conversation with someone they couldn’t see. At the editing stage, the puppets were replaced with computer graphics, which very accurately conveyed the movements of the animals. They were given realistic fur or feathers, and the voice acting that made the daemons speak did not deprive these characters of believability.


Also successful was the cast of the series, which received personal approval from Philip Pullman. Young actress Dafne Keen (who performed well in the film Logan) becomes the perfect embodiment of the curious and courageous Lyra. James McAvoy appears rarely, but manages to convey the headstrong traits of Lord Asriel. Actress Ruth Wilson, who plays Mrs. Coulter, understands the essence of her character perfectly, gradually revealing his weak and cruel aspects.


These are far from the only actors who were memorable in the first season. The cast of the series is very large, and it is also worth noting Anne-Marie Duff (gypsy Ma Costa), Lin-Manuel Miranda (aircraft mercenary) and Erion Bakare (whose character Lord Boreal received a separate line, which became a clue for the events of the second season).


The continuation of the series “His Dark Materials” should be very interesting, so you shouldn’t miss the first season. This is a moderately dark and worthy adaptation of the novel, which manages to convey Pullman’s emphasis on the system of social control.

Perhaps in each episode there are some liberties in the interpretation of the text and repetition for viewers who do not know the plot of the trilogy. However, this does not prevent you from watching the series in one sitting.


turning the His Dark Materials trilogy into a series was definitely a good idea that was implemented.

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