New Line Cinema is getting into the TV business, and the company has a really large project planned for its first big foray onto the small screen. This morning, the company announced plans to produce a series based on His Dark Materials, the beloved children’s series by Phillip Pullman. The first book, The Golden Compass (Northern Lights in the UK), was made into a spectacularly bad movie back in 2007. The project is being made for BBC One.
The popular set of novels follow Lyra Belacqua and her daemon Pantalaimon, who roam the grounds at Jordan College until a plot to kill her Uncle Asriel sends her on a mission to look into a mysterious entity called “dust.” This takes her well beyond the college’s walls on an adventure through her world, where she meets the beautiful but cold Mrs. Coulter and many other heroes and villains along the way. The fantasy series is comprised of three books: The Golden Compass, The Amber Spyglass and The Subtle Knife, but we don’t know exactly how this story will be fleshed out into a full series, yet.
The BBC’s report today notes that Charlotte Moore and Polly Hill have commissioned the series, which is being produced by Bad Wolf and New Live Cinema. Executive Producers will include Philip Pullman, Jane Tranter, Julie Gardner, Toby Emmerich, Carolyn Blackwood, Bethan Jones and Deborah Forte. No other big details are forthcoming at this juncture, except that the new series will be shot in Wales. If all goes well, hopefully the drama will get a worldwide release, as well.
Obviously, this is huge news for fans. The His Dark Materials novels have sold millions of copies and been translated into numerous languages. They have an intense, avid fanbase similar to other fantasy franchises, including the likes of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (but not quite that big). And while the heroine in this novel, Lyra, is a young girl and the partner she meets along the way, Will, is a young boy, fans of all ages still enjoy the stories, similar to The Chronicles of Narnia and other youth-based fantasy series.
Still, this is a bit of a risky venture. Pullman’s books have been made into movies, radio shows and stage productions in the past, but they’ve never been made for the small screen (although that might actually be a better fit for this type of material). The first book was made into a movie starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig just a few years ago, and despite pulling in $372 million at the box office, that wasn’t enough to help the studio to want to continue with the franchise. Plus, it didn’t do super well critically and hasn’t lived on as a beloved movie with fans who have read the books over and over again. What the BBC needs is to capture the spirit of the books, the scientific probing and the ability to think critically about those in charge (in the book’s case a theocratic organization) that makes His Dark Materials such a special series. What the BBC needs to do is make something that doesn’t suck.
Obviously, the His Dark Materials series is moving forward over at BBC One, which means we should start hearing about casting and more in the weeks that come. We’ll let you know as soon as the series begins moving forward in earnest.