Undaunted, perhaps, by the middling success of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, the BBC has once again decided to green-light an effect heavy science fiction fantasy series based on beloved novels. According to reports, the BBC has commissioned the first eight episodes of what they hope will be a several series long show for the Philip Pullman trilogy His Dark Materials.
Now, as most people remember, this is not the first time someone has tried to bring the series to the big screen. In the initial wake of the Harry Potter movies, NewLine banked on The Golden Compass as their first installment of a successful franchise. (The title came from the US title of the first novel which in the UK is called Northern Lights.) Clearly, the BBC is betting that an eight episode season will give the production more room to better serve the first novel. And for those who still think of the BBC as home for cheap effects, may I remind you that MILK VFX does some impressive work.
Interesting side note–this commission for the show is with a brand new company called Bad Wolf. (Yes, like the Doctor Who reference.) Bad Wolf also has partnered with HBO to get a first look deal for the program. Chances are, if the series looks good, the US airing will then wind up on HBO, instead of BBC America or PBS.
In the press release Phillip Pullman praised the new ability of long form television to bring fantasy stories to life.
“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.’ I’m especially pleased at the involvement of Jane Tranter, whose experience, imagination, and drive are second to none. As for the BBC, it has no stronger supporter than me. I couldn’t be more pleased with this news.”
Let’s hope those formidable talents work for the Dark Materials this time. Personally, I would be delighted to see the BBC company of actors take on the roles of from the story. Though I assume Lyra and Will would be newbies, one can easily imagine someone like Michelle Dockery knocking Mrs. Coulter dead. Is Charles Dance too old for Lord Asriel? Discuss.