Brow Beat

The BBC Is Making Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials Trilogy Into a Miniseries

The Golden Compass.
This has to be better than the 2007 film adaptation of The Golden Compass, right?

© 2007 New Line Cinema

Those who were disappointed by the movie version of The Golden Compass in 2007 will have another chance to return to Philip Pullman’s world of witches, Dust, and armored polar bears. The BBC announced today that it has commissioned an eight-part series based on Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. The project will be a joint collaboration between New Line Cinema and Bad Wolf, a production company founded by BBC vets Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner—with Pullman serving as an executive producer.

In a press release, Pullman, who has been vocal about his disappointment with the Golden Compass movie, said he’s been encouraged by the grand scope of other shows in recent years:

We’ve seen how long stories on television, whether adaptations (Game of Thrones) or original (The SopranosThe Wire), can reach depths of characterization and heights of suspense by taking the time for events to make their proper impact and for consequences to unravel.

Pullman might be right to think that a miniseries will best serve the intricacies of his books. The His Dark Materials series tells the story of Lyra, a young girl whose search for a kidnapped friend reveals a series of sick experiments that a powerful church body is performing on children. In the second book she travels to another world to learn about Dust, a mysterious phenomenon that knits parallel universes together, and in the third she discovers that her destiny is to determine the fate of the Universe.

It’s a harrowing (and at times deeply disturbing) story tied to its author’s own disenchantment with religion, and it’s so complex that a trilogy of blockbusters would hardly do the books justice—the movie adaptation flopped in 2007 largely because it eliminates layers that makes the books so fascinating. On the other hand, the large-scale fantastical elements depicted in the books (flying witches, celestial cities, Dust, and magic) might be difficult to capture without a Hunger Games-sized budget of hundreds of millions of dollars.