His Dark Materials
His Dark Materials is a long-beloved trilogy of novels set in a rich universe created by Philip Pullman. A movie based on the first book, The Golden Compass, came out in 2007, but it didn’t live up to expectations. (The Golden Compass, or Northern Lights as it’s known in some countries, not only won the Carnegie Award for children’s literature in 1995, it also won the ‘Carnegie of Carnegies’, a public vote determining the all-time favourite winner.)
Now, to honour this incredible story, there’s a lavish 10-episode series brought to us by HBO and now streaming first and only on Showmax. It’s already been renewed for a second season, and a third is in the works. Critics and fans are saying that His Dark Materials is finally getting the richly detailed canvas of big-budget, serialised, episodic storytelling to do justice to this magnificent fantasy.
In case you haven’t read His Dark Materials, here’s some basic background to fully prepare you to enter the world of the Magisterium.
Everything starts with Lyra (Dafne Keen), a very brave teenage girl from another magical world who embarks on a quest to search for a kidnapped friend. Her journey will take her through many different worlds, with magic present in them all, in her journey north to solve a very big secret.
You’ll meet her explorer uncle Asriel (James McAvoy), the enigmatic Mrs Coulter (Ruth Wilson), the adventurer and “aeronaut” Lee Scoresby (Lin-Manuel Miranda), a courageous boy named Will Parry (Amir Wilson), and a score of extraordinary beings ranging from witches to an armoured polar bear. And there’s also an airship!
In this story, all humans have talking animal companions called daemons. Everybody’s animal is different and, in the simplest explanation, is the outer manifestation of that person.
In Lyra’s search for her kidnapped friend she will uncover a sinister plot involving stolen children. You will hear and see something called an alethiometer, an ancient device – of which there are only a few and no more can be built – that is basically a magical symbol reader. Lastly, there is a mysterious particle called Dust. Don’t worry – you don’t need to know what any of these things mean before you start watching.
The joy of His Dark Materials for novices will be in figuring out how everything fits together, and for fans of the books, it will be in seeing Pullman’s incredibly detailed worlds brought to life.