Abhay Rana aka Nemo

His Dark Materials Season 1 Readthrough

A long time ago, I tried to do a readthrough for Game of Thrones (Book 1) alongside the first season. I managed to reach Episode 5, before I sped through the rest of the book, but I tried.

Trying something similar for His Dark Materials, which is a great series if you’re looking to watch something new. Instead of noting down Chapter/Book equivalence (like I tried last time), going to write down my thoughts here as I’m reading along. Spoiler Warning for the entire first season obviously.


The show is very tightly knit with the book with a few over-arching changes from the story-telling perspective:

  • You get to see other points-of-view, other than just Lyra. Helps establish what else is happening, especially in the other worlds.
  • A lot of infodumps are prevented, or better, broken down into multiple sessions.
  • The major change from the first book is ofcourse showing Will’s PoV and our earth.

Chapter 1

  • The opening scene with the great flood sets some context, but isn’t in the books.
  • The Master/Butler chat on the wine poisoining happens much later in the books.
  • There is a lot of foreshadowing around Lyra’s parentage that happens in the first 2 chapters that is entirely missed in the show.

Chapter 2

  • The entire Grumman’s skull and hunt sub-plot hasn’t shown up in the book so far (presumably because we only see Lyra’s PoV).
  • The party scene is very-well handled (with all the subtle changes for the better. Superb acting as well :)
  • The hiding-lyra-in-the-boat scene is merely given a passing mention in the book, but so well done in the show.

Chapter 3

  • Splitting Lyra’s parentage reveal (Coulter reveals her father) is a smart move in the show.
  • The show changes Lyra’s kidnappers from Turkish slavers to Gobblers.
  • The Alethiometer reveal happens with both Father Coram and John Fa in the book. The section also has a huge infodump, especially since it involves the parentage reveal. The show breaks it into 3: alethiometer reveal with Father Coram, a previous interrogation of Lyra with John Fa, and Lyra’s parentage reveal (mother) with Ma Costa.

Chapter 4

  • The one notable “not-in-the-book” scene is the Coulter’s meeting with Iofur.

Chapter 5

  • Interesting to note that the characters of Billy and Roger are fused in both the film and the TV adaptations.

Chapter 6

  • Lyra starts a fire in the books, but the show makes it more dramatic by destroying the machine.
  • The balloon ride covers a lot more in the books.


Overall, the show has been nicely adapted so far, and I think there’s a few reasons:

  1. The show barely messes with Lyra’s timeline. Important to ensure this to avoid creating cascading issues down the path.
  2. Majority of the changes are either made on kill-able subplots, or side-plots that show us what’s going on elsewhere.
  3. And finally, the show spends time on where the medium works best. The scaring scene in Chapter 2, for eg.

I’m still sad that the ghosts in the crypt don’t get to be seen, though.

Published on June 07, 2020 in