His Dark Materials commissioned for BBC One

His Dark Materials commissioned for BBC One

BBC One has commissioned a new drama series based on Philip Pullman’s epic fantasy trilogy of novels, His Dark Materials.

To be made in Wales, the series, which will be told across “many episodes and 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.

Hill said: "It is an honour to be bringing Philip Pullman’s extraordinary novels to BBC One. 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."

His Dark Materials consists of the Northern Lights, first published in 1995, which introduces Lyra, an orphan, who lives in a parallel universe in which science, theology and magic are entwined. Lyra's search for a kidnapped friend uncovers a sinister plot involving stolen children and turns into a quest to understand a mysterious phenomenon called Dust. In  second novel, The Subtle Knife, she is joined on her journey by Will, a boy who possesses a knife that can cut windows between worlds. As Lyra learns the truth about her parents and her prophesied destiny, the two young people are caught up in a war against celestial powers that ranges across many worlds and leads to a thrilling conclusion in the third novel, The Amber Spyglass.

Pullman said in recent years television had shown that long stories could reach “depths of characterization and heights of suspense” by taking the time for events to make their proper impact and for consequences to unravel, which made long-form television a “formidable” medium.

He said: “It’s been a constant source of pleasure to me to see this story adapted to different forms and presented in different media. It’s been a radio play, a stage play, a film, an audiobook, a graphic novel—and now comes this version for television.
"In recent years we’ve seen how long stories on television, whether adaptations ("Game of Thrones") or original ("The Sopranos", "The 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. 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.”

Pullman added that the BBC has “no greater support” than from him. “I’m especially pleased at the involvement of Jane Tranter, whose experience, imagination, and drive are second to none,” he said. “As for the BBC, it has no stronger supporter than me. I couldn’t be more pleased with this news.”

Tranter, executive producer for Bad Wolf added that ever since the Dark Materials trilogy were first published the books had been a “huge influence” on her thinking and imagination.

“To say that I am grateful to Philip Pullman and to Toby and Carolyn at New LineCinema 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 and to the responsibility that Philip and the incomparable BBC have bestowed on us,” she added.

His Dark Materials has been published in more than 40 languages and has sold worldwide close to 17.5 million copies, Penguin Random House said. 

The series was most recently published on World Book Day of this year (5th March) by Scholastic, in new paperback editions to mark the 20th anniversary of the book's first release. On the same day Penguin Random House, which owns the digital rights to the trilogy, published the trilogy in e-book format for the first time.