In 2007, I allowed New Line Cinema to get my hopes up for The Golden Compass, their film adaptation of Northern Lights (published in North America as The Golden Compass), the first book in Philip Pullman’s epic fantasy trilogy, His Dark Materials. Sadly, this attempt at translating the books to film missed the mark, so much so that it was never greenlit for the intended sequels.
Thankfully for fans, production companies have slowly learned a valuable lesson; some books, especially long, complex ones like these, are better made into a TV series where there is enough time to explore the full story and its nuances in a way that a single film, or even a film series, never can. With the advent of streaming services, book to high-quality TV series adaptations is more accessible–and popular–than ever. Into this era steps HBO and BBC to co-produce a second chance at Pullman’s multi-award winning series. I must say the first peak looks promising.
The 40-second teaser is made up of quick cuts, giving fans just as much as they need to see something that will excite them. It begins with a shot of Victorian-era Oxford, including a zeppelin parked in a field and one in the air, establishing the steampunk-ish setting of Lyra’s universe. We see the canal boats of the Gyptians. Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) tells Lyra (Dafne Keen, Laura from Logan), “You once asked me what evil was. There are things that you’re better off not understanding.” The dæmons look great; the CGI seamless. The machine looks terrifying. Ruth Wilson is perfect casting as Mrs. Coulter. She’s already shown us how ruthlessly terrifying she can be in Luther. The bears look amazingly realistic.
The important part, however, is seen in the final seconds of the teaser: Lord Asriel standing next to an empty cage, looking up at the northern lights. This is from a scene at the very end of the book, which was cut out of the 2007 adaptation when the movie ended on an earlier scene of Lyra and Roger heading north together. This acts as a nod to fans that we can expect the show to stay truer to the source material and take us all the way to the heartbreaking, powerful ending.
Frustratingly, the teaser doesn’t give us a release date, just a tantalizing “Coming Soon,” but word is that we can expect the series to start later this year. IMDB has it listed with eight episodes per season. It has already been renewed for a second season, which bodes well for the kind of quality production that this amazing series deserves.