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Everything we know about His Dark Materials, HBO’s next big fantasy drama

His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman’s mash-up of young adult fantasy and Paradise Lost, John Milton’s 17th-century retelling of the Book of Genesis, hasn’t had the best of luck on the screen. In 2007, New Line Cinema brought the first book in the trilogy to the big screen as The Golden Compass, which starred Nichole Kidman, Daniel Craig, and Dakota Blue Richards. While The Golden Compass was a hit overseas, it floundered at the domestic box office, and the sequels were canned.

This fall, HBO and the BBC will try again. His Dark Materials‘ first season, which looks like it’ll follow the first book in Pullman’s original trilogy, arrives this fall, and it’s already in better shape than the feature film: A second season of His Dark Materials has already been ordered. Here’s everything we know about His Dark Materials so far.

Release date and trailers

His Dark Materials debuts on BBC One in the U.K. on November 3, 2019, and the first episode will air in the U.S. on HBO on November 4. The first season will run for eight episodes.

You won’t have to wait until Halloween passes to get your first look at the show, however. HBO has already released four trailers for His Dark Materials. The first, which arrived in February 2019, introduces the show’s hero, Lyra, and teases the sinister events that draw her into the action.

His Dark Materials | Teaser Trailer - BBC

The second trailer arrived at San Diego Comic-Con in July 2019, and is more Game of Thrones-esque, delving into the conflicts surrounding the Magisterium, the Holy Church’s ruling body, and a whole host of political conspiracies. Don’t worry, though, there’s plenty of action, too.


The third trailer focuses on Lyra and her quest to find her missing friend, Roger, who has been kidnapped by a mysterious organization. That video hit in August.

His Dark Materials Trailer | 'One Girl Will Change Worlds' - BBC

Finally, October 2019 brought us the fourth preview, which details His Dark Materials‘ fantasy setting, the golden compass, and Lord Asriel, played in the TV adaptation by young Professor X himself, James McAvoy.

His Dark Materials: Season 1 | Official Trailer | HBO

The cast

Image used with permission by copyright holder

His Dark Materials is a big story, and it has an all-star cast to match. For the lead role of Lyra Belacqua, HBO and the BBC have enlisted Dafne Keen, who made a big splash as Laura/X-23 in Logan.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Meanwhile, Ruth Wilson, star of Luther and The Affair, plays Mrs. Coulter, a shrewd and calculating villain with a keen interest in Lyra.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

As Lord Asriel, McAvoy brings the same charisma he exhibited in the latter-day X-Men films, Atonement, and M. Night Shyamalan’s Glass to the role of the famous explorer (who also happens to be Lyra’s uncle).

Wikimedia Commons/John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda also appears in His Dark Materials as Lee Scoresby, an adventurer who travels by hot air balloon. The Wire‘s Clarke Peters plays The Master, who gives Lyla her golden compass, and relative unknown Joe Tandberg voices Iorek Byrnison, His Dark Materials‘ armor-clad polar bear.

The plot

The first book in the His Dark Materials series, The Golden Compass (or, as it’s known overseas, Northern Lights), takes place in an alternate dimension where Earth is ruled by the Church, a nefarious organization devoted to stomping out heresy. In this world, people’s souls live outside of their bodies as creatures called dæmons, which can change shape as long as their owners are children.

Lyra and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, get called into action after Lyra’s friend, Roger, disappears. Armed with a golden compass that can answer any question, Lyra sets out to find her friend, uncover the truth behind a mysterious substance known as Dust, and figure out what the Church is really up to.

The Golden Compass came out in 1995, and the series has been popular among readers ever since. However, His Dark Materials has also endured its fair share of criticism from Christian groups, thanks to its less than flattering depiction of religion and some fairly blasphemous material in the second two books.

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Chris Gates
Christopher Gates lives in Los Angeles, CA and writes about movies, TV, video games, and other pop culture curiosities. In…
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