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DVD Review

DVD cover

His Dark Materials
Season Two


Starring: Dafne Keen, Ruth Wilson, Anne-Marie Duff, Clarke Peters and James Cosmo
Distributor: BBC Video
RRP: £19.99
5 051561 044441
Certificate: 12
Release Date: 28 December 2020

Lyra Silvertongue is a girl who leaves her home in the Oxford of her world in search of her father, Azrael, who is studying the properties of something called Dust. As Season 2 begins, she discovers an abandoned city which exists separate to everything else. Here she meets Will Parry, a boy from our world, and learns that their destinies are inextricably linked. There are more immediate matters to attend to, however. Will is the new bearer of the Subtle Knife, which can cut through realities. Lyra agrees to help Will find his father but, unbeknown to her, Lyra is the subject of a prophecy to bring harmony and unite all worlds. But this places her in great danger, least not from her devious and scheming mother, who has connections with the Magisterium, an evil religious order. Then they discover that Dust is the same as Dark Matter in our world, and it has a conscience. In fact, a great many consciences. But who or what is the Authority...?

Every so often a quality drama comes along which is not only extremely well-made in every respect, but which unites the adult and child demographic. This is very much a family viewing experience, with neither age group being spoken down to. This story is based on Philip Pullman’s fantasy/intrigue trilogy spanning alternate worlds. It seems that each series follows the plot of each book in turn. So, the first series was Northern Lights, this second series is The Subtle Knife, and series 3 will be The Amber Spyglass. There is also The Book of Dust (a prequel) to consider. Pullman’s story is very well realised here. The characters with demons (a sort of witch’s familiar animal; they are the same essence) have their companions speak and move realistically – unlike those hugely annoying talking animals in TV advertisements. Everyone has their own agenda, which is as it would be, and this adds a suspense and almost thriller aspect to the whole. It is also represented in a manner which keeps you coming back for more. This is not as easy as it sounds in a modern, inpatient society wherein everyone is so fickle.

The series stars Dafne Keen (Logan), Ruth Wilson (Luthor), Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton), Andrew Scott (Sherlock), Ariyon Bakare (Good Omens), Simone Kirby (Jimmy’s Hall), and James McAvoy. I have to say that the acting is uniformly very good, and the animal demons have just as much character – which must be very difficult to achieve. I found my favourite character to be the aeronaut Lee Scoresby, played by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is a single-minded adventurer, and through his clothing and actions adds a Steampunk and Western aspect. All of the demons are remarkably well-matched to their human counterparts. Scoresby has a large female hare.

This BBC Studios Season Two Boxset is very nicely put together, being in a solid slipcase the insert of which opens out horizontally to reveal a lovely picture representing the major characters, and three separately mounted discs incorporating three episodes each on discs one and two and episode seven and the extras on disc three. The set also includes four double-sided art cards. There is a very enjoyable and informative behind-the-scenes documentary covering the first series. Of particular interest in this are the excellent animal puppets and their operators who created realistic movements and a point of contact for the actors to work to, before the CGI was added. The Subtle Knife is listed right underneath on the special features, so I expected another in-depth documentary. However, this lasted only a matter of minutes. There is an interview with Lyra’s Dafne Keen, and a feature on The Powerful Mrs Coulter.

If you somehow missed the series, or want to revisit these colourful characters, there’s no better way than to add this to your collection and wait with baited breath for series three.


Ty Power

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