WHERE? BFI IMAX RUNTIME: 60 minutes (episode 1 to air on BBC1 3/11 and HBO 4/11/19)
Piers Wenger is BBC’s controller of drama and describes this eight-part first season of Sir Philip Pullman’s renowned literature trilogy as ‘the most ambitious drama the BBC has ever made’.
- Read on for reasons including what to expect from episode 1 which airs on BBC1 Sunday 3 November 2019
He tells us that we’re the first audience in the world to see this show – adapted by Jack Thorne and a BBC co-production with HBO – on the UK’s biggest screen at the BFI IMAX in London.
He’s joined by writer Pullman (far right below) and stars Dafne Keen (pictured centre below), who plays girl heroine Lyra, and Ruth Wilson (second from right below) who is the villain Marisa Coulter.
Wilson loved playing the villainess: ‘I know my nieces and nephews won’t want me to babysit again. She’s scary and dangerous – which is incredibly exciting to play.
‘She’s so enigmatic, we don’t really know why she’s doing what she’s doing.’
Keen hadn’t read the books: ‘It will definitely be more frightening for adults because they will understand fully what’s happening.’
She rehearsed with puppeteers to have a sense of the movement of daemons, or animals, that would be appearing on screen beside her.
Says Keen: ‘What’s amazing about Lyra is how she grows up to become such a heroine.’
The stars are joined by author Pullman who has already seen his books become a play at the nearby National Theatre and a film: ‘The big difference between writing a book and making a TV series is that the screen has to be occupied by something at all times.
‘The most important thing is the cast and I couldn’t be happier.’
He mentions The Sopranos breaking new ground decades ago for quality television and is pleased his work is now realised in this form.
He says: ‘When you make a movie you have to leave most of it behind because it comes in at something less than 100 minutes or so. The great virtue of this new long-form of television 20 years since The Sopranos is precisely the time it affords. You can see connections develop.’
Filming is already underway on series 2 in Cardiff, so what is episode 1 like?
James McAvoy won our Best Theatre Actor monsta in 2015 and here makes an impressive Lord Asriel who is at the heart of the action discovering a mysterious death and a lost city glimpsed through inexplicable dust.
Anne-Marie Duff strikes a chord as a mother who fears for the safety of her missing child.
We’d describe the opening episode as a solid start in laying the foundations for an intriguing seven hours of television wonder to come in the run up to Christmas.
Musical theatre favourite Lin-Manuel Miranda is even set to appear in future episodes.