His Dark Materials (TV series)

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His Dark Materials
His Dark Materials TV Title Card.png
Based onHis Dark Materials
by Philip Pullman
Written byJack Thorne
Composer(s)Lorne Balfe
Country of origin
  • United Kingdom
  • United States
Original language(s)English
No. of series1
No. of episodes8
Executive producer(s)
Producer(s)Laurie Borg
CinematographyJustin Brown
  • Niven Howie
  • Nick Arthurs
  • Dan Roberts
  • Chris Gill
  • David Fisher
Production company(s)
Original network
  • BBC One (United Kingdom)
  • HBO (United States)
Picture format16:9 HDTV
Original release3 November 2019 (2019-11-03) –
present (present)
External links
Production website

His Dark Materials is a fantasy drama television series based on the novel series of the same name by Philip Pullman. It is produced by Bad Wolf and New Line Productions, for BBC One and HBO, with the latter handling international distribution.[1]

The eight-episode first series premiered on 3 November 2019 on BBC One in the United Kingdom and on 4 November on HBO in the United States and other markets. Before the series premiered, His Dark Materials was renewed for a second series, which is set to premiere in November 2020 and consist of seven episodes.


His Dark Materials is set in a multi-world reality, with the action moving from one world to another. The story begins in an alternative world where all humans have animal companions called dæmons, which are manifestations of the human soul. The series follows the life of a young girl named Lyra who is an orphan living with the scholars at Jordan College, Oxford. As in Pullman's novel, Lyra discovers a dangerous secret that involves Lord Asriel and Marisa Coulter. In her search for a missing friend, Lyra also uncovers a series of kidnappings and its link to a mysterious substance called Dust, which leads her on a journey of epic proportions and will lead to her crossing paths with a boy named Will.



Recurring and guest[edit]

Series 1[edit]

Series 2[edit]

Voice cast[edit]

Additionally, lead puppeteer Brian Fisher provides the uncredited vocalisations for Mrs Coulter's monkey daemon.[10]


No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal air date [a]UK viewers
(millions) [16]
US viewers
1"Lyra's Jordan"Tom HooperJack Thorne3 November 2019 (2019-11-03)9.720.424[17]
Young Lyra Belacqua is raised as a ward of Jordan College in Oxford. Her closest friends are her daemon Pantalaimon (nicknamed Pan) and a servant boy named Roger Parslow. Lyra admires her uncle, Lord Asriel, a polar explorer whose research into Dust and what he believes is a multiverse is regarded heretical by the ruling Magisterium. Lyra saves Asriel from being poisoned by the Master of Jordan College, who foresees Lyra's future importance through an alethiometer, one of only six ever made. After Asriel leaves on another polar expedition, the Master arranges for Lyra to stay with Marisa Coulter, also an explorer who offers to groom Lyra as her protégée in London and promises to search for Roger. Meanwhile, the mysterious "Gobblers" have kidnapped a Gyptian boy named Billy Costa and later kidnap Roger. The Master gives Lyra the alethiometer that belongs to her uncle. The Master says it tells the truth and is for Lyra's protection. He warns her to tell no one, including Mrs Coulter, that she possesses it. Lyra accompanies the charismatic Mrs Coulter to London in the hope of finding Roger. The Gyptians pursue the Gobblers to London.
2"The Idea of North"Tom Hooper[b]Jack Thorne10 November 2019 (2019-11-10)7.710.369[18]
Lyra settles into Mrs Coulter's luxurious London apartment, assured that her benefactress is actively searching for Roger. The Gyptians' attempt to rescue the missing children fails. Back at Oxford, the Master of Jordan College denies Lord Boreal, a Consistorial Court priest, access to what is believed to be Stanislaus Grumman's decapitated head, recently found in the north by Asriel. Boreal travels through a portal to an alternate Oxford where he hires the mercenary Thomas to find Grumman. Lyra and Pan grow wary of Mrs Coulter's monkey daemon and her close ties to the Magisterium. Lyra is caught eavesdropping on Mrs Coulter and Father MacPhail. Mrs Coulter orders her daemon to attack Pan before inadvertently revealing that Lord Asriel is Lyra's father. Unknown to Lyra, Mrs Coulter visits Roger, Billy, and the other kidnapped children, saying they are going on an adventure to "the North". While she is away, Lyra discovers that Mrs Coulter is involved with the General Oblation Board of London. During a party at the apartment, journalist Adele Starminster confirms to Lyra that the Oblation Board is known as the Gobblers, prompting Lyra and Pan to flee with the alethiometer. Boreal kills Adele by crushing her daemon. Shortly after, Lyra and Pan are captured by a Gobbler.
3"The Spies"Dawn Shadforth[b]Jack Thorne17 November 2019 (2019-11-17)7.220.348[19]
Billy's older brother, Tony Costa, and his friend, Benjamin, rescue Lyra and Pan from the Gobblers and take her to the Gyptians' camp. Lyra accepts their protection, and also agrees to help them find Roger and the other missing children. Following a raid on Jordan College, Mrs Coulter learns that Lyra has an alethiometer and sends two robotic "spy flies" to track her. Boreal crosses back to the alternate World where Thomas informs him that Grumman is an explorer from his world named John Parry. Thomas also reveals that Parry has a wife and child in that world. Boreal hires another man to find them. Ma Costa reveals that Mrs Coulter is Lyra's mother through an affair with Asriel. Asriel then killed Mrs Coulter's husband in a fight and hid Lyra at Jordan College. Lyra helps Gyptian king, John Faa, to persuade the others to travel North and find the captive children. Tony and Benjamin raid Mrs Coulter's apartment, finding a list of missing children including Billy Costa. The boys are discovered; Tony narrowly escapes but Benjamin deliberately falls down the lift shaft, killing himself, to avoid being captured by Mrs Coulter. Lyra discovers she intuitively can read the alethiometer (which tells her Benjamin has died) before she and Pan are attacked by the spy flies. Farder Coram captures one spy fly, but the other escapes and returns to Mrs Coulter, divulging Lyra's location.
4"Armour"Otto BathurstJack Thorne24 November 2019 (2019-11-24)6.880.396[20]
Texan aeronaut Lee Scoresby and his daemon Hester travel to Trollesund in the Far North seeking Iorek Byrnison, a disgraced armoured bear. Trollesund's Magisterium citizens stole his armour several years earlier, forcing him to work as an indentured worker. Lyra and the Gyptians also sail to Trollesund to search for the kidnapped children. Farder Coram contacts his former lover, a witch named Serafina Pekkala. Her daemon, Kaisa, promises that Serafina will help the Gyptians. Though the Gyptian elders believe Iorek is untrustworthy, Lyra and Pan join forces with Scoresby and Hester to enlist Iorek's help in finding the kidnapped children. With Lyra's assistance, Iorek recovers his armour locked inside a Magisterium church. Iorek, Scoresby and Hester join forces with Lyra and the Gyptians as they continue travelling north. Meanwhile, a Magisterium priest attempts to replace Mrs Coulter as head of the Gobblers with Father MacPhail. However, she blackmails him by revealing that Lord Asriel is being held prisoner by Iofur Raknison, the king of the armoured bears. She offers to give Asriel to the Magisterium in exchange for continuing her experiments and asking a question of the alethiometer ("Who is Lyra Belacqua?"). Travelling north, she meets with Iofur, offering him a baptism and induction into the Magisterium in exchange for working with her.
5"The Lost Boy"Otto Bathurst[b]Jack Thorne1 December 2019 (2019-12-01)6.690.467[21]
Lyra and the Gyptians travel farther north with Scoresby and Iorek to seek the kidnapped children. The alethiometer signals Lyra to go to a nearby fishing village: the Gyptians reluctantly allow her to go after Iorek agrees to take her. In an alternate world, Will Parry looks after his mentally ill mother, Elaine, while attending high school. The Parrys are stalked by Thomas and Father Boreal, who are seeking information about Will's father, John Parry. Elaine gives Will his father's letters, explaining his disappearance. Boreal determines that John has been travelling through the Multiverse ever since his disappearance from the alternate World thirteen years earlier; evidence could be found in Will's home. Farder Coram meets with Serafina Pekkala to discuss the Multiverse and a coming war. Lyra and Iorek arrive at the fishing village and find Billy Costa, who has been surgically separated from his daemon. They return Billy to his family, but he dies soon after. A Samoyed raiding party capture Lyra and bring her to Bolvangar, the Gobblers' base.
6"The Daemon-Cages"Euros Lyn[b]Jack Thorne8 December 2019 (2019-12-08)6.360.393[22]
Lyra, posing as "Lizzie", mingles with the captive children at Bolvangar and she finds Roger. She learns that the Gobblers are using an experimental procedure called intercision to surgically sever the children from their daemons. Mrs Coulter later visits Bolvangar and, discovering that Lyra and Pan are about to undergo an intercision, halts it. Mrs Coulter attempts to persuade Lyra to join her, claiming Dust is the source of sin and that all adults are "infected" by it. She wants Lyra to give her the alethiometer, but Lyra tricks her and attacks her with the captured spy-fly. Lyra escapes and destroys the intercision machine and the base's generator. The children are rescued by the Gyptians, Iorek, Scoresby and the witch Serafina Pekkala, who kill the scientists and mercenaries, although Mrs Coulter escapes. The Gyptians return south with the rescued children, while Lyra, Roger and their daemons travel north with Scoresby and Iorek in the hot-air balloon to reach Lord Asriel on Svalbard. However, flying bat-like monsters called cliff-ghasts attack them, and Lyra falls from the airship. Meanwhile, Will Parry reads his father's letters as Thomas and another mercenary spy on him.
7"The Fight to the Death"Jamie Childs[b]Jack Thorne15 December 2019 (2019-12-15)6.080.485[23]
Lyra survives the fall, but is captured by an armoured bear and taken to Iofur Raknison's palace on Svalbard. She convinces Iofur that she is Iorek's artificial daemon, created by scientists at Bolvangar. Lyra manipulates Iofur to fight Iorek in single combat to claim her. Despite being badly wounded in the fight, Iorek defeats Iofur, and becomes king. He reunites Lyra with Roger and they travel to Asriel's laboratory. Meanwhile, Mrs Coulter, Father MacPhail, and the Magisterium's soldiers are headed for Svalbard to find and kill Asriel. Elsewhere, Scoresby and Hester have crash-landed. Serafina arrives and says the others are safe but Lyra needs help. Lyra, Roger and Iorek climb into the Svalbard mountains and reach Asriel's laboratory. Lyra and Asriel are reunited, though her arrival initially distresses Asriel. Meanwhile, Boreal crosses back to the alternate world and visits Elaine Parry, who resists sharing information about her husband. Will and Elaine return home after Boreal's mercenary has broken into the house. Suspecting that someone may still be there, Will takes his mother to a neighbour's house and returns later to retrieve his father's letters. When Thomas and the Pale-Face Man come back, Will kills Thomas in self-defence, then flees.
8"Betrayal"Jamie Childs[b]Jack Thorne22 December 2019 (2019-12-22)5.870.502[24]
On Svalbard, Lord Asriel informs Lyra about his research into Dust and the Multiverse; explaining that the Magisterium is frightened by his research since they regard Dust as the source of human sin. Back in the other world, Lord Boreal has the Pale-Faced Man continue his search for Will where he has him listed as missing for the police. Later, Asriel takes Roger to a point near the Aurora Borealis, intending to separate him from his daemon in order to create a bridge into the Multiverse. Lyra and Pan learn Roger is in danger and pursue him with King Iorek and the armoured bears. Mrs Coulter and the Magisterium military catch up in a fleet of airships, resulting in a battle with Iorek's bears. Before Lyra can reach the hilltop, Lord Asriel separates Roger from his daemon, killing him but causing an explosion that creates the bridge to the Multiverse. Lord Asriel has a reunion with Mrs Coulter but is unable to persuade her to accompany him and challenge the Authority. After spending time with the late Roger, Lyra enters the Multiverse bridge. Meanwhile, a fugitive Will discovers an entrance into the Multiverse.



The three His Dark Materials novels, written by Philip Pullman from 1995 to 2000, achieved success in young-adult fiction, leading to the development of a 2007 feature film, The Golden Compass. The film received criticism from fans of the trilogy for the dilution of elements of the story that were critical of religion, as well as from some religious organisations for the source material's perceived anti-religious themes. When the film was released, it underperformed at the box office in North America despite grossing $372 million worldwide and the sequels that would have adapted the other two novels in the series became unlikely due to the backlash from religious groups and the film's disappointing reception, according to Pullman.[25]

After several years, the rights reverted to Pullman. In November 2015, BBC One announced that it had commissioned a television adaptation of the trilogy, to be produced by Bad Wolf and New Line Cinema.[26] The eight-part[27] adaptation had a planned premiere date in 2017. In April 2017 writer Jack Thorne told Radio Times that the series was still in pre-production. He said, "It's at an exciting point where we're just throwing things at the page and trying to work out what works and what doesn't", and that he wanted to ensure that they were being loyal to the books.[28] Director Otto Bathurst explained that some elements of the book and film had been changed to give the series a more modern feel, compared to the original's Victoriana fantasy.[29]

On 12 September 2018, HBO was announced as the co-producer and international distributor of the series.[30] On 10 October 2018, Miranda reported that he had wrapped up filming for his role.[31] On 14 December 2018, it was announced that filming for the first series had wrapped.[32]

Before the series premiered, it was renewed for a second series of eight episodes, which is primarily adapting the second book in the trilogy, The Subtle Knife.[33] Filming of the second season began before the premiere of the first season, which was considered "a necessary move considering the age of the show's young star".[34] While filming for series 2 was mostly completed before the COVID-19 pandemic, a standalone episode focusing on Lord Asriel was left unfinished. As a consequence the series ultimately only consisted of seven episodes, with James McAvoy appearing in a reduced capacity.[35]


Promotional image showing lead characters and locations

On 8 March 2018, it was announced that Dafne Keen had signed on to star in the series to play Lyra with director Tom Hooper signed on to direct. Lin-Manuel Miranda would star as Lee Scoresby.[36] On 8 June 2018, it was reported that James McAvoy, Clarke Peters, and Ruth Wilson had joined the cast.[37][38]

On 27 July 2018, the BBC and Bad Wolf revealed the cast and crew for the series.[39]

On 1 July 2020, it was revealed that Bella Ramsey had been cast in the role of Angelica. Additionally, Oliver Monaghan and I-Kay Agu would appear in the second season as the pair of angels Baruch and Balthamos.[40]


On 14 August 2019, it was announced that Lorne Balfe was hired to score the series. Speaking about the job, Balfe stated that he "wanted to write a musical letter to the creators of the show," also mentioning that the series was a "mammoth task" and one of his biggest projects yet. Scoring primarily took place in St David's Hall in Cardiff, Wales with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. While the ethnic Bulgarian choir was recorded in Bulgaria with additional remote sessions taking place at the Synchron Scoring Stage in Vienna, Austria with the Synchron Stage Orchestra.[41] Also featured on the score are cellist Tina Guo, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, classical French horn player Sarah Willis, violinist Lindsey Stirling and recordist Richard Harvey.[42] Two soundtrack albums were released; a musical anthology with thematic pieces and an album containing all the cues used in the series. Silva Screen Records released the albums digitally on 3 November 2019 and 20 December 2019 respectively.[43][44]


On 24 July 2019, it was announced that the series would premiere in the fourth quarter of 2019 in the United Kingdom and the United States.[45][46][47] On 12 September 2019, sources revealed that the series was set to premiere on 3 November 2019 on BBC One and the following night on HBO.[48]

In New Zealand, the series is broadcast by Sky TV and is available on streaming service Neon. The series began on 5 November 2019.[49][50] In Australia, the series is distributed by the cable and satellite television company Foxtel through their HBO output deal.[51]

The second series is set to premiere in November 2020.[52]


Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the series has an approval rating of 80% based on reviews from 94 critics, with an average rating of 7.01/10. The website's critical consensus reads: "The daemon is in the details and while His Dark Materials' visual splendor and exceptional performances deftly capture the essence of Philip Pullman's seminal novels, it could use a little more magic."[53] On Metacritic, the series has a score of 69 out of 100 based on reviews from 22 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[54]

Dan Fienberg of The Hollywood Reporter wrote that "...this effort nails much of what makes the books pop, and both the special effects and a star-studded cast led by Dafne Keen and Ruth Wilson are in fine form." However he followed that by saying "What never fully worked for me in the four episodes [...] sent to critics is the necessary feeling of narrative and thematic momentum. It's vastly better than the movie, but neither fun nor smart enough to quite succeed."[55] Caroline Framke of Variety wrote: "Despite the rich complexities of the novel's world of daemons, power-hungry players and warring faiths, HBO's His Dark Materials feels like it could have been plucked from most any other fantasy epic out there."[56] Beth Elderkin of Gizmodo was critical of the show's inability to capture the connection between humans and daemons.[57]

Ben Lawrence of The Telegraph gave the first episode 4 out of 5 stars, calling it "a fine piece of drama, capturing the strangeness and childlike wonder of the books, but also their rigour and bite. This is intelligent populism writ large."[58] Huw Fullerton of the Radio Times gave the first episode a positive review: "While there is a slight element of table-setting in the series' first hour the appeal of the actors and setting are beguiling enough to pull you through all the exposition and explanation." Fullerton praised Wilson for her performance, saying she "nearly walks away with the whole series".[59] David Levesley of British GQ wrote that His Dark Materials as a whole illustrates the fundamental problem with remaking adaptations, writing "the execution doesn't feel far enough removed from the previous version to actually make for a significantly better product."[60]


Year Award Category Nominee Result
2020 Annie Awards Outstanding Achievement for Character Animation in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production Aulo Licinio Won
British Academy Television Awards Best Costume Design Caroline McCall Nominated
Best Photography: Fiction Suzie Lavelle Nominated
Best Sound: Fiction Dillon Bennett, Jon Thomas, Gareth Bull and James Ridgeway Nominated
Best Special, Visual & Graphic Effects Framestore, Painting Practice, Real SFX and Russel Dodgson Won
Titles & Graphic Identity Elastic, Painting Practice Won
Satellite Awards Best Television Series – Genre His Dark Materials Nominated
Visual Effects Society Awards Outstanding Visual Effects in a Photoreal Episode Russell Dodgson, James Whitlam, Shawn Hillier and Robert Harrington Nominated


  1. ^ The episode first premieres in the UK on BBC One, with the episodes airing in the US the following day on HBO.[15]
  2. ^ a b c d e f Additional direction by William McGregor


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  3. ^ "BBC One - His Dark Materials - Lord Asriel". BBC Programmes. Retrieved 10 November 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d "His Dark Materials - Series 1 - Episode 5". Radio Times. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  5. ^ Elderkin, Beth (8 June 2019). "His Dark Materials Has Found Its Will Parry, And He's Perfect". Gizmodo. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
  6. ^ White, Peter (19 August 2019). "'Fleabag's Andrew Scott Joins HBO & BBC's Fantasy Drama Adaptation 'His Dark Materials'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
  7. ^ a b "His Dark Materials - Series 1 - Episode 3". Radio Times. Retrieved 17 November 2019.
  8. ^ "His Dark Materials - Series 1 - Episode 2". Radio Times. Retrieved 20 November 2019.
  9. ^ "His Dark Materials - Series 1 - Episode 3". Radio Times. Retrieved 13 November 2019.
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  11. ^ a b c d e "His Dark Materials - Series 1 - Episode 4". Radio Times. Retrieved 24 November 2019.
  12. ^ "His Dark Materials". Twitter. 20 September 2018. Retrieved 20 May 2019.
  13. ^ "Loose Ends - Jade Anouka, Sindhu Vee, Ben Hart, Raphael Rowe, Black Pumas, Lady Blackbird, Christopher Eccleston, Nikki Bedi". BBC Radio 4. 1 August 2020.
  14. ^ "His Dark Materials". Twitter. 18 July 2019. Retrieved 19 July 2019.
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  16. ^ "Four-screen dashboard". Broadcasters' Audience Research Board.
  17. ^ Metcalf, Mitch (5 November 2019). "Updated: ShowBuzzDaily's Top 150 Monday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 11.4.2019". Showbuzz Daily. Retrieved 5 November 2019.
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  20. ^ Metcalf, Mitch (26 November 2019). "Updated: ShowBuzzDaily's Top 150 Monday Cable Originals & Network Finals: 11.25.2019". Showbuzz Daily. Retrieved 26 November 2019.
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  27. ^ Ellis, Philip (25 May 2019). "What You Need to Know About HBO's New Fantasy Show 'His Dark Materials'". Men's Health.
  28. ^ Fullerton, Huw (18 April 2017). "Jack Thorne opens up about His Dark Materials TV Series". Radio Times. Retrieved 9 March 2018.
  29. ^ Lewis, Rebecca (8 November 2018). "His Dark Materials will be 'twisted and modernised' for BBC adaptation". Metro.
  30. ^ Andreeva, Nellie; White, Peter (12 September 2018). "HBO Boards 'His Dark Materials' BBC Series Based On Philip Pullman's Books". Deadline Hollywood.
  31. ^ Miranda, Lin-Manuel [@Lin_Manuel] (10 October 2018). "Rachel, I JUST wrapped on His Dark Materials, I could have used you!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  32. ^ His Dark Materials [@darkmaterials] (14 December 2018). "So Lyra and her daemon turned away from the world they were born in, and looked towards the sun, and walked into the sky" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  33. ^ White, Peter (11 September 2018). "BBC Doubles Order Of Philip Pullman Fantasy Adaptation 'His Dark Materials'". Deadline Hollywood.
  34. ^ Brewer, Kyla. "Navigating the multiverse: 'His Dark Materials' follows a girl's adventure through worlds". TV Passport. Retrieved 1 November 2019.
  35. ^ Kanter, Jake (23 July 2020). "'His Dark Materials': Bad Wolf Forced To Cut Lord Asriel Episode From Season 2 Amid Coronavirus – Comic-Con@Home". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 24 July 2020.
  36. ^ White, Peter; Wiseman, Andreas (8 March 2018). "'The King's Speech' Director Tom Hooper & 'Logan' Star Dafne Keen Sign Up For 'His Dark Materials' Adaptation". Deadline Hollywood.
  37. ^ White, Peter (8 June 2018). "James McAvoy & Clarke Peters Sign Up To BBC One Fantasy Drama 'His Dark Materials'". Deadline Hollywood.
  38. ^ White, Peter (8 June 2018). "'The Affair' Star Ruth Wilson Signs Up To BBC Fantasy Drama 'His Dark Materials'". Deadline Hollywood.
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  40. ^ Yslyven (1 July 2020). "Game of Thrones Lyanna Mormont star Bella Ramsey cast in His Dark Materials Season 2". Redanian Intelligence. Retrieved 5 July 2020.
  41. ^ LeDonne, Rob (5 December 2019). "How the Music of 'His Dark Materials' Evolved". Billboard. Retrieved 24 December 2019.
  42. ^ Anderson, Jenna. "His Dark Materials Composer Lorne Balfe Talks Fantasy Worlds, Daemons, and Mission: Impossible - Fallout". Comicbook.com. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
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  44. ^ "New Soundtrack Album for BBC's & HBO's 'His Dark Materials' Announced". Film Music Reporter. Retrieved 24 December 2019.
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  47. ^ "Drama Series "His Dark Materials" Debuts This Fall, Exclusively on HBO". The Futon Critic. 24 July 2019.
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  52. ^ https://www.denofgeek.com/tv/his-dark-materials-season-2-release-date-trailer-hbo/
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  60. ^ Levesley, David (5 November 2019). "His Dark Materials shows the fundamental problem with remaking adaptations". British GQ. Retrieved 11 December 2019.

External links[edit]