His Dark Materials – Season 3

And that’s a wrap. The BBC has reached the last episode of the final volume of His Dark Materials. Well, they did so a while back, but I have finally watched them all. What are we to make of it?

Echoing previous seasons, they have done a fine job of adapting the story to television. Ruth Wilson continues to be brilliant as Mrs. Coulter. James McAvoy is suitably monomaniacal as Lord Asriel. Dafne Keen and Amir Wilson have grown nicely into their parts as Lyra and Will. And Will Keen is delightfully creepy as Cardinal MacPhail. Some of the animation of the daemons is a bit dodgy at times, but overall it is very impressive television.

If I have a complaint, it is that the sound is even more muddy than usual for TV drama. Even with headphones on, I could not make out what the actors were saying when they were whispering. I understand that Amazon Prime is introducing a feature that helps make speech clearer in dramas. I do hope that other streaming platforms follow suit.

Having come to the end of the series, however, we need to look at the overall message, and whether anything has changed from the books.

One thing that appears to have been skipped is the idea that daemons will become fixed in form when their humans become adults. That’s not hugely important, except for the fact that a transition from childhood innocence to sexual maturity is a key part of the narrative.

There is also one big surprise change. In the original book, Mary Malone’s sexual awakening, which prompts her to renounce her religious vows, is with a man. In the TV series it is with a woman. Frankly, I’m a little surprised that Pullman allowed this, but well done to whoever’s idea it was. Yet another literary classic “ruined” for the cishets by “woke queer nonsense”. Huzzah!

When I first read the books, I was carried away with the beauty of the prose, and with the overarching idea of what I described as a version of Paradise Lost in which humanity wins. His Dark Materials is a three-book rant about the evils of the concept of Original Sin, and anyone who has it in for Augustine of Hippo is OK as far as I’m concerned.

However, in the time since the books were published, much has happened. In particular Philip Pullman has demonstrated that, while he might be opposed to the tyranny of the Christian Church, he’s perfectly happy with other forms of tyranny. And if you look, you can see that in the books too.

We discover, at the end of The Amber Spyglass (or season #3 if you prefer), that travel through the multiverse cannot be permitted. Apparently every gate between worlds cut by the Subtle Knife causes Dust to leak out of the worlds and be lost.

Why? Who says so? What is so wrong with contact between cultures, that means that each individual world can have no influence on any other? Is miscegenation bad?

We also learn that, as a corollary of this, no individual can survive for long in a world that is not their own. Their daemons, which are their souls, would not survive for long. Therefore, although they have saved the multiverse by falling in love (and having sex, if you have read the book), Lyra and Will must be punished for their sin by spending the rest of their lives apart. Hey, I thought the whole point was that falling in love (and having sex) wasn’t sinful. Instead it appears that it is only Original Sin that Pullman objects to. Children are therefore innocent, but once they become adults, and sexual beings, they become sinful.

These, apparently, are immutable rules of the multiverse. But who says so? Why does it have to be like that? Well, someone created those laws. Someone in Authority. Someone who is, an Author.

Maybe it is time for someone to organize a rebellion.