The VFX supervisor for His Dark Materials has shed more light on what the axed James McAvoy episode would have included, revealing that it would have featured ‘more Spectre’ content.
In July this year, it was announced that a special episode of His Dark Materials focusing on Lord Asriel, who is played by James in the show, had been cut.
The standalone episode had to be dropped due filming restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic, with executive producer Jane Tranter stating that it had been written by Jack Thorne ‘with the blessing and input of Philip Pullman’.
We were already made aware that the episode would have shown what Lord Asriel got up to in between creating the anomaly into another world at the end of season one and his return in The Amber Spyglass, the third book in Philip’s His Dark Materials trilogy.
But we now have some more information on what the episode may have looked like had it gone ahead this season.
While speaking to Metro.co.uk about the visual effects in season two, VFX supervisor Russell Dodgson of Framestore spoke about how much of ‘a shame’ it was that the Lord Asriel episode couldn’t be released.
‘There was a missing episode that we were going to do, there’s an episode that we didn’t get to shoot, we got a week into it – and that had more Spectre stuff in it,’ Russell said.
‘So we actually did more development [on Spectres] than we managed to deploy in the show, but that such is life.’
Going into more detail about the Lord Asriel episode, Russell said: ‘We had more Spectre stuff in there, and it had more about the history of Cittàgazze in it, you got to see a bit more.
‘It was a bit of a shame. We managed to take kind of all the best kernels of the ideas that we had from that and still have them in the show as best as we could.’
During a recent interview, His Dark Materials writer Jack said that he didn’t think the Lord Asriel episode could be released at a later date
‘I don’t think that would be quite right,’ he said, adding that the ‘new bit of story’ was written ‘with the full cooperation of Philip Pullman’.
‘It was the hardest thing I’ve had to write for His Dark Materials by quite some distance, and we got four hours in and then it was like, shutters. Which was really upsetting but we were so much luckier than most, so we can’t complain.’
The latest season of the fantasy programme features an incredibly impressive array of visual effects, from the spooky Spectres to new animal forms for daemons.
Russell explained that the visual effects and concept art teams wanted to avoid making the Spectres – beings which prey on the souls of adults – look like creatures from other stories, such as Dementors in Harry Potter or Marvel character Venom.
‘It’s about trying to create a creature that fits the tone of what you’re doing, which doesn’t feel derivative,’ he said. ‘We looked at them being more like spider webs that hang around the town that then start to move as you walk past. We tried things that felt more like sea creatures.’
The visual effects expert outlined: ‘The idea of Spectres is that they’re a kind of mass. So they can be small or big, or two of them can come together and make a bigger one.’
While we may not have seen more Spectres in the cut Lord Asriel episode, we’ve definitely had our fill of the terrifying beings in season two of His Dark Materials.
The season finale of His Dark Materials season two airs next Sunday at 7.10pm on BBC One.