Warning: spoilers ahead for season 1 of His Dark Materials.
In the lead-up to the premiere of season 2 of His Dark Materials, the television adaptation of Philip Pullman’s book series of the same name, we spoke to writer Jack Thorne about how the narrative reflects ‘big issues’ going on in our society, watching ‘sparks arise’ between certain characters in upcoming scenes and his hope that the show will provide solace for viewers in lockdown.
It’s been almost a year since we last caught up with Lyra Belacqua (Dafne Keen), having last seen her mourning the death of her friend Roger (Lewin Lloyd) at the hands of her father Lord Asriel (James McAvoy), a man who she had previously trusted and looked up to more than anyone else in the world.
Following the ending of season 1, which saw Lyra walk through a doorway into a new world, season 2 will follow the young, adventurous girl as she explores the mysterious city of Cittàgazze, making the acquaintance of Will Parry (Amir Wilson), who has also entered a world to which he doesn’t belong.
The first season of the show was written entirely by Jack Thorne, whose previous credits include Skins, Shameless, 2017 film Wonder and the Harry Potter stage production The Cursed Child. For season 2 of His Dark Materials, Jack was joined by several other writers – Francesca Gardiner, Sarah Quintell, Namsi Khan and Lydia Adetunji – who he commends for being ‘a brilliant writers team’.
Jack told Metro.co.uk that it’s been ‘really fun sharing the responsibility’ of carving out the season, explaining that ‘you sort of learn from and are challenged by each other’s passions’ among the team. However, writing for a project as big as His Dark Materials can come with a lot of pressure – especially considering the fanbase for the book series has been around for 25 years.
‘I think you’ve always got to ignore anything like that,’ he said, when addressing whether or not he considers fan reaction when writing for the show. ‘You’ve sort of got to put to the back of your brain what this show means to everyone else and just try and tell it as best you possibly can. And then go into brace position for when the show comes out, and hope that people think that the choices you’ve made are the right ones. Sometimes they won’t, and you’ve sort of got to be ok with that.’
There’s a different pace in season 2 than there was in season 1, Jack explained. Whereas in the first season, ‘we were constantly on the move’ with Lyra continually meeting ‘new allies’, such as Lee Scoresby (Lin Manuel-Miranda), John Faa (Lucian Msamati) and armoured bear Iorek Byrnison (Joe Tandberg), this new season is essentially ‘about two people going on a journey together and their relationship being born’.
Trust is an important element of the new season, Jack stressed, as Lyra and Will must have faith in one another despite struggling to trust others.
‘Lyra did trust easy, and now she doesn’t, and she’s presented with this boy who also doesn’t trust easy and never has, because he was a young carer with a mother who needed a lot of care from him and who wasn’t treated very well by the world,’ the writer said.
‘The two of them are brought together, and now it’s about how much they can be united as a team as they face everything that’s going to go in front of them.’
At this point in the story, Lyra’s inherent ability to trust has been largely broken by Lord Asriel, who she had grown up believing was her uncle. The second season of His Dark Materials was supposed to include a standalone episode about Lord Asriel’s story. However, while the majority of the season was filmed before the pandemic, the episode about Lord Asriel unfortunately had to be cut.
But could the episode be released in some form in future?
‘I don’t think that would be quite right,’ Jack responded, explaining 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.’
For Jack, one of the most exciting moments in the new season, which ‘you might call a second act turn’, comes in episode 5, an episode written entirely by fellow writer Francesca. ‘For me, the whole series revolves around this one moment, when you see four people meet and the sparks that arise from that meeting. It’s just this moment of pure emotion,’ he said with anticipation.
The writer is incredibly humble when discussing his involvement with the show, showering his writing team with praise, describing the actors as ‘authors’ and commending VFX supervisor Russell Dodgson, production designer Joel Collins and executive producers Jane Tranter and Dan McCulloch for bringing the terrifying Spectres and ‘eerie’ city of Cittàgazze to life on screen.
Nonetheless, he is clearly proud to be one of the creative forces behind His Dark Materials, a show that will provide viewers with a much-needed source of distraction and escapism just days after a second lockdown was established in England.
‘I hope it soothes. It’s definitely an escape to another world. It’s a darker world than the world we met in series 1, but I hope that the core ideas within it are ones that people enjoy,’ he said.
‘I hope that the bigger messages of the show, about the choices that adults make and the choices that children make, and the way that we perhaps have let down our kids, and how we need to protect and trust them, I hope that those things shine through when discussions [are being had] about whether kids should be allowed to be fed.’
Jack continued, stating: ‘There’s a compassion to these stories, and we are living in an age of a government that seems to lack compassion, and I hope that shines through too. I think that these stories are about thinking about those sort of big issues. I love the way that Philip writes because I think that he writes with real clarity about the world and I hope that clarity translates to the screen.’
Season 2 episode 1 of His Dark Materials airs on Sunday 8 November at 8.10pm on BBC One.
Credit: Original article published here.