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His Dark Materials: how many more fantasy epics must I watch before I die? | Television & radio

His Dark Materials: how many more fantasy epics must I watch before I die? | Television & radio

His Dark Materials (Sunday, 8pm, BBC One) is very good and all, but the only thing it made me think when I was watching it was: I wonder how many more opening episodes of blockbuster fantasy epics I’m going to have to watch before I die? How many times will I have to watch a special child central to the mystic storyline run lightly across the high walls of an olde building? How many times will I have to watch another child, their friend (not special), gasp “Wait for me!” as they pace off into the distance? How many times will the matron of the house grab the special one by the ear and say: “You know you shouldn’t be out here, miss, racing around like that! G’worn now!”? How many times will I have to watch two old men in scholars’ uniforms meet secretly by a fireside and say: “The girl … she is not long for this place”? How! Many! Times! Will! I! Have! To! Watch! A! Bad! Guy! Converse! With! A! Snake!

How many fantastical airships will I have to watch take off from perfectly trimmed, green and lustrous lawns? How many MacGuffins will I have to watch be handed with holy sanctity to a child before they go on their “journey”? “Careful, Lyra,” the scholars may as well be saying, “for the MacGuffin is vital, and made of bronze. Nerds on Reddit will be talking about the importance of this for, like, the next five years.” How many times do I have to watch a child be warned: “Don’t go in there, dear: for it is my forbidden room” – then watch the child walk straight into the forbidden room and find a secret almost immediately? How many times do I have to watch a rough-and-tough character storm around in the mud and snow and ice and then, on their return to the warm embrace of humanity, be saluted and addressed as “Lord”? How many two-minute intro sequences where stirring orchestra-and-choir music plays while swish CGI graphics construct either a clock or a horse out of atoms will I have to sit through before the abyss embraces me?

How many arcane-symbol bad guys will I have to watch talk in plotting whispers as they look ominously off over a high balcony? How many times will I flinch when everyone in the show says “ma” instead of “mum” in forced, rough, drama-school working-class accents? How many times, crucially, will I have to listen to a boring man with a thin, lank ponytail tell me at length at a party that, actually, the books were better, and, actually, a very crucial scene from the second book has been omitted, and that’s why the thing with the dragon doesn’t make sense?

Anyway, we’re in an era now – and you know what I mean: post-Game of Thrones – where fantasy is now all right, and the adult figurine market booms. This latest BBC effort is lavish, A-list, beautiful, drawn from immensely popular and perfectly mystery–adventure-dense source material (in this case Philip Pullman’s hit novel series), and they’ve got James McAvoy in as the glue. They have – apart from a small segment in the first episode where someone shouts: “NO! THE GOBBLERS ARE REAL!” – got everything right. So in answer to the question of how many more of these I’m going to watch entirely through before death, the answer is: at least one more.

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