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SYFY WIRE His Dark Materials

His Dark Materials producer hopes to split third book into two seasons

By Matthew Jackson
His Dark Materials Official

His Dark Materials, the much-anticipated TV adaptation of Philip Pullman's beloved book series of the same name, is finally set to debut on BBC One in the U.K. and HBO in the U.S. in the coming days. The series' long-awaited arrival represents the end of a long journey to adaptation for the series, which already had a false start on the big screen with The Golden Compass movie in 2007, but in many ways it's also the beginning of another journey. His Dark Materials is already set for two epic seasons, and if executive producer Jane Tranter has her way, much more is on the horizon. 

More than a year before it was set to debut, the BBC announced that it had ordered a second season of His Dark Materials, setting the stage for an adaptation of the first two books in Pullman's original trilogy, Northern Lights (published as The Golden Compass in the U.S.) and The Subtle Knife. In an interview with Deadline, Tranter — the former head of fiction programming at the BBC who helped relaunch Doctor Who in 2005 and co-founded Bad Wolf in Cardiff years later — explained why that was so important.

“We mainly wanted to make sure that we didn’t wait too long because otherwise by the time we came to film again, [Dafne Keen] could be 18 months older and at that age, you grow up very fast and Season 2 picks up days after Season 1 ends. We had that to consider. The BBC and HBO got that because it takes a year to post-produce,” Tranter said. “We’re turning the filming around in this incredibly tight schedule. It’s been quite hairy.”

The Subtle Knife picks up immediately after Northern Lights, which means Season 2 will pick up immediately after Season 1, which means that the character of Lyra (played by Logan's Dafne Keen) needs to be the same age in both seasons. This created a demand for back-to-back shooting of the first two seasons that the network was, thankfully, game for.

According to Deadline's report, Tranter and the His Dark Materials cast and crew still have four weeks of shooting to go before they get a break, but that hasn't stopped Tranter and her team from looking ahead. If Seasons 1 and 2 of the show prove successful, by 2021 the His Dark Materials team will have a chance to adapt The Amber Spyglass, the massive third novel in the initial trilogy.

Tranter hopes that her team will have the chance to make that "sprawling" volume into not one season, but two. From there, the show would theoretically turn its attention to The Book of Dust, the second trilogy set in the Dark Materials world. So far, two books in that trilogy have been published (the second, The Secret Commonwealth, arrived just last month), and they do everything from depicting Lyra as a baby to showing us her life as a 20-year-old college student.

Though His Dark Materials has yet to air an episode, Tranter has high hopes that the epic series could one day reach Book of Dust territory.

“I’m not saying I could make it happen, I’m just a woman in a shed in Cardiff with a dream but we’ve got to start somewhere,” she said.

His Dark Materials debuts Nov. 3 on BBC One before landing on HBO Nov. 4.