Based on the best-selling books by Philip Pullman, His Dark Materials is one of the only non-streaming shows I bother keeping up with. A combined production of HBO and the BBC, this show has brought to life the epic fantasy trilogy that has captivated millions for more than two decades. The His Dark Materials Season 1 Blu-ray contains all eight episodes in glorious HD as well as a number of behind-the-scenes featurettes, giving you hours of entertainment.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this blog post. The opinions I share are my own.
His Dark Materials Season 1 was a rather faithful adaptation of The Golden Compass (or Northern Lights, for everyone not in the United States), the first book in Pullman’s trilogy. That isn’t to say there weren’t some decisions that fans found controversial, but I think for the most part, the changes made to the story – introducing Will early, expanding Lord Boreal’s character – only enhanced the experience.
In general, just in case you weren’t reading my weekly reviews, I really enjoyed the first season. The costuming, the atmosphere, the acting, the effects, everything was simply brilliant and gorgeous.
The episodes on the Blu-ray are in 1080p and the picture is crisp and clear. My main issue was with the audio; the quality was fine but both the episodes and the special features were very quiet. I had to turn my TV volume up considerably in order to hear.
Let’s face it; in this day of multiple streaming services providing you with unlimited access to your favorite shows, buying a series or movie on Blu-ray or DVD is all about the special features. The His Dark Materials Season 1 Blu-ray contains nine featurettes, including “Making His Dark Materials”, which is exclusive to the Blu-ray/DVD. Let’s take a look at each one.
- Adapting His Dark Materials – This featurette talks about the overall process of getting the series greenlit as well as translating the story from book to screen and contains interviews from Pullman and executive producers Jane Tranter and Jack Thorne, among others.
- Building His Dark Materials – This featurette talks about creating the world and designing the sets. It was very interesting to learn how they arrived at the look of the world, which sort of stands apart from time and has both a very nostalgic and a sleek, modern look.
- Dressing His Dark Materials – This featurette talks about the costume design and how they created each character’s look.
- The Daemons of His Dark Materials – This featurette was my favorite, because it was all about how they brought the Daemons to life. The Daemons were entirely CGI, but what was fascinating to me is that for practical reasons, they also built puppets of each animal that were used during filming so that the actors had something to react to.
- James McAvoy: Bringing Lord Asriel to Life – Pretty self-explanatory, but this featurette consists of McAvoy discussing his portrayal of Asriel and what he thinks of his character as well as his opinions on the book series as a whole. I really enjoyed this one because McAvoy had some very interesting takes on the themes of the books.
- Lin-Manuel Miranda: Bringing Lee Scoresby to Life – Miranda talks about wanting to play Lee, his opinions on the character, his journey, and relationships.
- Ruth Wilson: Bringing Mrs. Coulter to Life – Wilson talks about the surprising fan base her character has, as well as the unusual relationship her character has with her Daemon.
- Dafne Keen: Bringing Lyra Belacqua to Life – Keen talks about the pressure of bringing to life the main character of a very popular series, as well as giving her insight on the relationships Lyra has with the adults in her life.
- Making His Dark Materials – This featurette, exclusive to the Blu-ray and DVD, contains segments from the other four behind-the-scenes featurettes, expanding on the process of adapting such a popular franchise, creating the world, and bringing the characters and creatures to life. Even if you watched the other four featurettes, it’s definitely worth it to watch this one as well.
In short, the special features on the His Dark Materials Season 1 Blu-ray are quite interesting, especially for fans of the books or for people who are interested in the process of television production. The featurettes contained interviews with a large number of the cast and crew of the series, as well as Pullman, and I loved getting to hear from even some of the minor characters about working with their “Daemons” or what they thought about their costumes.
My only criticism is one that I often have about Blu-ray special features, and that’s what isn’t included. I love deleted scenes and bloopers, and while I acknowledge that every set doesn’t have to include them (and sometimes there just aren’t deleted scenes, or at least not enough to add them), it makes me very happy when they do. Also, I think this is a show that would definitely benefit from episode commentary, which never seems to be a thing anymore. (I remember when there was always episode commentary!)
Available today from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, His Dark Materials Season 1 retails at $29.98 SRP ($39.99 in Canada) for the Blu-ray and $24.98 SRP ($29.98 SRP in Canada) for the DVD.
His Dark Materials Season 2, which will be adapting The Subtle Knife, will premiere on HBO sometime this fall. Tranter said at the SDCC@Home panel last month that production was largely not impacted by the shutdown, and the series is still on track to drop when it was originally scheduled.
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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