Announced in 2015, the first small-screen adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Northern Lights arrived in November 2019 – not that there was anything small about it. The eight-episode series painted the world of the book on a vast canvas, taking us from the rooftops of an Oxford-not-unlike-our-own to Arctic mountain peaks.
In series two, which was commissioned before the first even aired, the BBC-HBO co-production will be taking us even further – into whole new worlds. Filming on the new episodes is thought to be largely complete, with the lengthy post-production on its CGI daemons, creatures and VFX underway.
The plan for the future? Speaking to Deadline, Executive Producer Jane Tranter has said that if plans to adapt the third book in Pullman’s original trilogy go ahead, she’d want to spread The Amber Spyglass over two series so there’s enough room to do it justice.
Read more about that, and a round-up of all the series two info below.
His Dark Materials series 2 – The Geek Lowdown
How many series are there? One, with one on the way and at least one more under discussion
Renewed or cancelled? Was renewed for series two in September 2018
Next series air date confirmed? Not yet, but expected late 2020
Where to watch? BBC One and HBO
Created by: Jack Thorne (writer) based on Philip Pullman’s novels.
What happened last time: Here are our spoiler-filled series one reviews.
His Dark Materials series 2: filming largely complete
Due to the ages of young teenage leads Dafne Keen and Amir Wilson, the production couldn’t afford to hang around and series two began filming well before series one aired.
Though no official wrap announcement has been made, as of January 2020, it’s thought that filming is largely complete on the new episodes. Lin Manuel Miranda, who plays Texan aeronaut Lee Scoresby, announced that his work on series two had concluded at the end of September 2019, but many of the rest of the team were still hard at work after that, well into the November launch of the first series. At the beginning of December 2019, Lyra’s stunt double Christina Petrou posted here online that her role on the second series had wrapped.
His Dark Materials series 2 cast: a witch, an archaeologist and a porter
Though not officially confirmed, it was reported in November 2019 by The Witcher fan site Redanianintelligence that three new cast members had joined for series two.
First up is Remmie Milner, recently seen as Martha Cratchit in BBC One’s A Christmas Carol, and reported as playing Lena Feldt, a witch who has dealings with the nefarious Mrs Coulter. Reference to His Dark Materials no longer appears on Feldt’s online CV, but the online CV of Robin Pearce (Black Mirror, The Crown) confirms his role as our-world archaeologist Dr Oliver Payne, a colleague of book two and three key player Mary Malone.
Joining them is thought to be Line Of Duty’s Henry Miller as ‘Porter’, possibly a role linked to Oxford’s Jordan College. And according to this fan account, British actor Kirsty Besterman is rumoured to have been cast in the role of Texan fur trader Sam Cansino in episode four of the new series, though there’s no confirmation of that as yet on Besterman’s online CV.
Regular cast-members certain to be returning are Dafne Keen (Lyra), Ruth Wilson (Mrs Coulter), Lin Manuel Miranda (Lee Scoresby), Andrew Scott (Colonel John Parry), Ariyon Bakare (Lord Boreal), Clarke Peters (Master of Jordan College), Ruta Gedmintas (Serafina Pekkala) and many more whose stories have yet to conclude.
James McAvoy’s character Lord Asriel barely features in book two of the trilogy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the actor will be entirely absent from series two. Watch this space for more news.
His Dark Materials series 2 episodes: Leanne Welham to direct, new writers join
Series two, which was commissioned in September 2018, will have eight episodes. It’s rumoured that episode four has been directed by 2017 Screen International Star of Tomorrow Leanne Welham, as per her online CV. Other directors are yet to be confirmed.
Jack Thorne remains the lead writer on series two, but reported to be joining him on the new episodes is screenwriter Sarah Quintrell, joined by Black Mirror and Humans writer Namsi Khan (as reported by Deadline). The Man In The High Castle’s Francesca Gardiner has also been linked with writing on the second series.
His Dark Materials series 2 story: a new world, and new threats
The series one finale saw both Will and Lyra step through portals to parallel universes – her on a mission to discover what she could about Dust before Lord Asriel, and him escaping pursuit from the law. Without giving away spoilers, series two will see both enter a new world barely glimpsed so far in the series, with its own chilling threats. The Magisterium, the witches and Mrs Coulter all have a key role to play, as do new characters from Will’s world, and new fantasy creatures.
A good chunk of The Subtle Knife was blended into series one so that Will Parry’s story could hit the ground running in series two. Our introduction to Will, his mother, his missing father Colonel John Parry and the threat posed to them by Lord Boreal were all covered in the first eight episodes.
The book’s titular knife was also mentioned in series one, as the answer the Magisterium’s alethiometer gave to Lord Boreal’s question ‘How can I find what Grummann discovered?’ Boreal was told that the answer lie in a knife in a tower surrounded by angels, and that Grumann’s son would lead him to it. Series two will take us there.
His Dark Materials series 2 release date: expected in late 2020
HBO president of programming Casey Bloys told press in January 2020 that the network were in the process of receiving the episodes for season two, on which filming appears to have largely wrapped. After a lengthy period of post-production for all the VFX, we should expect to see the new series in late 2020, around a year after the first series aired.
His Dark Materials future: will The Amber Spyglass be split into two series?
Speaking to Deadline, executive producer Jane Tranter said that her preference would be to split the final book in the trilogy The Amber Spyglass into two series. Describing the novel as “huge” and “sprawling”, a single eight-episode series would not be able to do justice to the story.
As yet, a third or indeed fourth series commission has yet to be officially announced.