Everything We Know About His Dark Materials On HBO, So Far

If you’re looking for a new and expansive, action-packed series to delve into, look no further. His Dark Materials is coming to HBO soon and fits the bill perfectly. 

His Dark Materials is based on Philip Pullman’s literary trilogy and has been a long time in the making. The first book came out in 1995 and the film adaptation, The Golden Compass, came out in 2007. The BBC ordered the production of His Dark Materials as a TV series in 2015. Since then, the show’s creators have been hard at work bringing the mythology-rich series to life. The series will have its protagonist, Lyra, exploring multiple universes as she tries to prevent more children from being kidnapped and figure out who — or what — is behind it all.

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Officially one of the most expensive productions in British history, the YA adventure book series turned television show is packed with adventure, supernatural creatures, and has no shortage of big names attached. The eight-episode series stars James McAvoy, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ruth Wilson, and Andrew Scott, just to name a few. 

Click through to read everything we know about HBO’s His Dark Materials.

Photo: Courtesy of HBO.

What's it about?

His Dark Materials is set in an alternate universe, similar to our own, in which everyone’s soul is embodied by a shape-shifting animal called a daemon. The series centers on a young orphan, Lyra Belacqua (Dafne Keen), who makes Jordan College, one of the fictitious colleges of a similar but not the same Oxford University, her home. 

Two big events change Lyra’s life forever. The first is when she and her daemon, Pantalaimon (Kit Connor), successfully thwarts an assassination attempt on Lord Asriel (McAvoy), a scholar and explorer who spends his time studying experimental theology. The second is when word begins to spread that children are being kidnapped by Gobblers, which are nothing but an urban legend. In reality, they are being taken by Marisa Coulter, the head of the General Oblation Board who is on a mission to separate children from their daemons. 

If the series sounds familiar, you might have seen part of it before when the 2007 film The Golden Compass, was released.

What books does season 1 cover?

Season 1 of His Dark Materials covers the first book which was released under two titles, Northern Lights or The Golden Compass in the U.K. and the U.S., respectively. It does, however, include a little bit extra. This season will tap into some additional source material from Pullman’s latest trilogy, collectively titled The Book of Dust. The first, released with the same title, came out in 2017 and is set 10 years before the start of The Golden Compass. Its sequel, The Secret Commonwealth, came out earlier this month and is set 10 years after the final book of His Dark Materials, titled The Amber Spyglass, ends. 

The trilogy is part prequel, part sequel to the original His Dark Materials series. It could be more accurately described as bookends (pun intended). While it exists in the same universe, the series focuses on different characters. The first book does, however, feature Lyra as an infant and the second book shows Lyra as a young adult.

Knowing how something begins before the beginning and ends after the end gives you a lot to work with when adapting a book series for television, but what they have chosen to take from the new trilogy has been kept top secret. “We use a tiny bit, which I can’t tell you. You’ll have to wait and see. As far as the deeper mythology is concerned, we grab at anything we can get,” Jane Tranter, the series’ lead executive producer, told Entertainment Weekly.
Photo: Courtesy of HBO.

Who is the hero?

The protagonist of His Dark Materials is Lyra Belacqua, a young orphan. Without knowing Marisa Coulter’s real identity, she is hired as her personal assistant and leaves Jordan College to work for and be mentored by Coulter. Lyra’s daemon warns her about Coulter; however, they had no idea how villainous she actually was and that she was the head of the General Oblation Board responsible for all of the disappearing children around England.
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Who is the villain?

The frightening antagonists of the series are Marisa Coulter and the General Oblation Board. As a defected member of the Holy Church, Marisa Coulter was one of their primary researchers specializing in Dust, a mysterious matter that people feared and knew very little about. Dust is attracted to consciousness, but they believed it was the cause of original sin. She used her position of power to form the General Oblation Board under the guise of researching Dust with a team of experimental theologians. As part of their “research,” they experimented on abducted children to see if they could separate them from their daemon which they believed attracted Dust more and more as children grew up.
Photo: Courtesy of HBO.

Who are the supernatural creatures?

There are several supernatural creatures in the His Dark Materials trilogy. The most prominent are daemons, an extension and physical embodiment of a person’s soul. As children, daemons are able to shapeshift and mold as needed; however, as people grow older their daemons become more set in their shapes and their ways. The daemon’s final form resembles a trait related to that person’s character. What a person’s daemon is says a lot about them.

There are several other creatures that are a part of the His Dark Materials universe, such as Panserbjørne, an evolved species of polar bear that has developed opposable thumbs and the ability to speak. They’re also known as armored bears. There are also witches, angels,  palm-sized human creatures known as Gallivespians, and Mulefa, an ancient species able to see Dust with their naked eyes.
Photo: Courtesy of HBO.

When does it air?

We have been long awaiting the release of this series. His Dark Materials premieres internationally on HBO on November 3.
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