When a book is made into a TV show it is always a worry for fans whether the show is going to be able to do the books justice. Most fans would prefer that the TV version follows the books as closely as possible. However, this is not always possible, mainly due to time constraints as there is a specified amount of time that the story needs to be told in. When an adaptation of His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman was made for the BBC, it was important to everyone involved that they stay as true to the books as they could. Several members of the cast and crew were big fans of the books and so it was important to them that they respected the story. This was confirmed by James McAvoy in an interview with the Radio Times. However, there are still some slight differences between this show and the books that fans would have noticed, and most of these are to do with the characters rather than the setting. Some of the biggest differences between the show and the books are listed below.
Roger is Lyra’s best friend and in both the book and the TV series he goes missing. However, this disappearance happens earlier in the books although it still takes place before Mrs. Coulter takes Lyra to London. In the show Lyra’s final decision to move to London is made in part because she sees it as a way that she can try to save Roger. In the books she ends up feeling a sense of guilt because she is enjoying time with Mrs. Coulter so much that she doesn’t think about Roger as often as she thinks she should.
Billy Costa and Tony Makarios
In the TV series different aspects of the character of Tony Makarios are blended in with Billy Costa to create a single character. This means the Billy Costa in the show is different to the one in the books. This is something that fans of the book have suspected since the first episode. The theory that the two characters have been merged is confirmed in the fifth episode when Billy dies. This death mirrors the way that Tony dies in the books. However, the fact that it is Billy that dies in the show leads to some important parts of the story in the TV adaptation being able to be told. Ma Costa travels north which does not happen in the book and this leads to her and Lyra being able to have some interesting conversations. The funeral scene for Billy is one of the most emotional moments of the show so far as it shows how deeply the Gyptians mourn their own, but in the books it is Tony that the funeral is held for and it is more respectful than emotional. This is one of the biggest changes that has been made in this adaptation of the books but it seems to work within the story. Good Housekeeping reports that Philip Pulman stated at the premiere that he was very pleased with this adaptation and so this must not be a change that he minds too much.
Lord Boreal and Father MacPhail
These two characters are part of an organization called The Magisterium. The two of them are shown almost immediately in the show and it is clear that they are part of The Magisterium. It is also heavily suggested that they will be a threat quite early on in the show. However, this is not the way that it happens in the books as we don’t really get to see much of these two characters until the second book. The books do not really go into too much detail about The Magisterium in the beginning and so they are seen as more of a distant threat. Lord Boreal doesn’t make his first appearance in the books until one of Mrs Coulter’s cocktail parties and this is at a much later point. Lord Boreal features much more prominently throughout the series than he does in the early point of the books.
Will Parry is another character that is introduced far earlier in the show than he is in the books.
The circumstances in which Lyra acquires the alethiometer are different in the book compared to the TV series. The alethiometer is also known as the Golden Compass and it is a truth-telling device that is given to Lyra in order to keep her safe. In the show it is The Master that gives Lyra the compass, but in the books it is a different character altogether named Malcolm. In both the books and the show, Lyra is given no instructions about how to use the alethiometer and so it is something that she has to work out for herself. Her first attempt at using the Golden Compass comes earlier in the story in the TV show than it does in the books.
The Appearance of Lyra
In the books Lyra is described as a girl with blonde curly hair. When actress Dafne Keen first auditioned for the part, she did not think she would get it because she has dark straight hair. She told the Express that she had also been stung by a jellyfish just before she sent in her audition tape which meant that her face was swollen. Even though Dafne may not physically look like Lyra, their personalities are quite similar and she believes this is what helped her win the part.
Overall, fans of the books seem happy with this adaptation. There have been a few changes in the order that things happen, but overall the story line stays faithful to the books which is what a lot of the fans were hoping for. The viewing figures for the show have been very good and there is a good chance that the series will be renewed so that it can continue to tell the rest of the story after this season has finished.