His Dark Materials: Series screenwriter provides update

Rob Keeling

It won’t have slipped under the radar of any fans of Philip Pullman’s seminal fantasy trilogy His Dark Materials that a TV adaptation is currently in the pipeline at the BBC. Considering the fairly lacklustre movie adaptation of the first book came out way back in 2007, the time is undoubtedly ripe for a fresh attempt at adapting Pullman’s epic novels.

It was understandable therefore that when the fresh project was first announced by the BBC back in 2015, expectations were immediately rather high. Pullman’s incredible story is so captivating and unique, it’s clearly crying out for a screen adaptation to be made that can go some towards matching his vision. The presence of screenwriter Jack Thorne on the project is certainly one reason for optimism that this series could do just that.

Thorne wrote for Skins and Shameless, co-wrote This Is England ’86, This is England ’88 and This Is England ’90, wrote hit Channel 4 drama National Treasure and also penned the screenplay for the immensely successful West End production of J K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Needless to say, he has a pretty strong pedigree when it comes to both adapting fantasy and writing tense drama.

(Image Credit: Pamela Raith)

The project remains a little way off yet though and is still very much in the pre-production phase. However, Thorne recently discussed the adaptation with RadioTimes.com at the recent BFI & Radio Times Television festival. His comments will make intriguing reading for any His Dark Materials fans, anxious to see how his take on the story will take shape:

“It’s at an exciting point where we’re just throwing things at the page and trying to work out what works and what doesn’t…”

He added:

“I mean, the most important thing is being loyal to the books, and trying to tell those books as well as we possibly can.”

On the subject of adapting a text for the small screen he went on to say:

“The advantage of television is we can slow down. In the film and on stage they had so much plot to get through, so much plot to churn through, whereas we’ve got the luxury of having time to get to know [lead character] Lyra, and spend time in her world.”

Before adding on the subject of understanding a certain sense of responsibility to pre-existing fans:

“The thing is that as a writer you want to do the things you love, and it happens that other people love the stuff that I love too…You realise that you’ve got a responsibility not to let them down, but you’re really excited about being given the opportunity to play in that amazing, amazing world. I mean, Phillip is… every single page, you learn something new. He’s a beautiful and incredible writer.”

There’s no air date set for the show as yet, and clearly it’s very much early days for the project as a whole. However Thorne’s reverence for Pullman and clear understanding for the wishes of His Dark Materials fans, certainly bodes well. Watch this space for future news on the BBC’s adaptation.

(Main image credit : Radio Times)

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