The best-selling book trilogy was published two decades ago and saw a failed film adaptation of the first novel in 2007’s The Golden Compass. But now the BBC have made a TV series of the entirety of His Dark Materials, with the first season debuting last night on the BBC. But just how faithful is the new show to Philip Pullman’s fantasy books? Well Lord Asriel star James McAvoy, a self-confessed fan, has shared his thoughts.
Speaking with the Radio Times, the actor said: “I don’t think there’s that much that’s different, I really don’t.
“I think it’s a pretty faithful and loving adaptation.
“I think the people who decided to adapt it and to make it were massive fans of it.
“They weren’t just looking to exploit it as ‘oh here’s another fantasy world that we can use to help replace Westeros.’
“There’s a true love and affection for the material, so I think it has actually been pretty lovingly and meticulously translated into television.
“Is there anything really, really different? I don’t think so.”
Despite McAvoy’s assertions, the first episode of His Dark Materials begins differently to Northern Lights.
Instead of the story beginning with Lyra living at Jordan College, Oxford, there’s a scene of Lord Asriel, her uncle, carrying her as a baby there through a supernatural flood.
Interestingly, this is a reference to Pullman’s new tie-in trilogy to His Dark Materials, The Book of Dust.
On this inclusion, writer Jack Thorne said: “We discussed it with Philip Pullman who very kindly gave us permission to include this element.
“We’ve used it very carefully as readers of the Book of Dust will realise. But we think it gives the series the epic beginning it deserves.”
One fan slammed it, saying: “Just watched the first half-hour or so of #HisDarkMaterials – dreary, dull, plodding, slow and lifeless. The adaptation simply fails to engage on any level.
“I can only assume Philip Pullman’s material works better in book form. Either way I won’t be watching any more of this!”
While one defended: “Loving #HisDarkMaterials so far! Intrigued to see how true to the books this is going to be.”
His Dark Materials’ first episode Lyra’s Jordan is available to stream on BBC iPlayer now.