Freesat - His Dark Materials: First Episode Review

His Dark Materials: First Episode Review

Winter has finally come. Author Phillip Pullman’s magical universe was brought to life last Sunday in BBC’s new eight-part drama, His Dark Materials. Based on the best-selling novel, The Northern Lights, the highly-anticipated series had some serious expectations, because let’s face it, book-to-TV adaptations are always going to be tricky – especially with the whole host of fans they need to please. 


Even with an average of 7.2 million viewers tuning in (according to overnight BARB figures), we asked the questions that have been playing on everyone’s minds: Did it deliver? And, is it worth watching? Read our review below to find out…

The series follows the story of unruly, yet wonderfully fierce orphan Lyra, and her animal daemon sidekick Pan. Lyra resides at Jordan College in Oxford after being taken in by her uncle, Lord Asriel (James McAvoy), who returns from an expedition to the North. He has some shocking news to tell his fellow scholars, and his journey back home is short-lived. It seems adventure is truly on the cards…


James McAvoy: "It's about a group of people, in different ways, trying to go about either freeing humanity, in all its forms - and it takes many forms in this story - or trying to oppress humanity."

Lyra’s part to play in all this is somewhat of a question mark thus far, but it’s made clearer with the arrival of Mrs Coulter (Ruth Wilson), an authoritative figure with political connections. One thing is made absolutely certain at this point, and that is that the casting is spot on. James McAvoy makes a convincing Lord Asriel (Daniel Craig who?), and Ruth Wilson knows how to make an entrance. She is almost glacial as Mrs Coulter, in that she is quite beautiful, however there’s a cold sternness and a sense that she is not afraid to be sharp if you get to close, as Lyra will soon find out…


If you’re looking for your fantasy fix, then this just might be it. The visuals are great, and it’s evident that the series is setting itself up to explore the deeper and more complex storylines that go beyond a children’s book, from religion and authority to philosophy and physics. However, we will admit that if you haven’t read the book it may be difficult to follow, although if you’re patient enough we are hopeful that the confusion you might feel won’t last long. It’s one of those series that is the perfect Sunday pick for the whole family to enjoy, both children and adults alike.


Our verdict? It’s early days to say it’s delivered on all accounts just yet, but we’ll definitely continue to watch. We have a feeling the best is yet to come, and we won’t turn down an adventure just yet.  

Head to BBC iPlayer to watch the first episode. You can access BBC iPlayer in the On Demand section of your box, or in Showcase On Demand, where you will find the programme pick available under Drama.

His Dark Materials airs on Sundays, BBC One, 8pm.