This is a BBC adaptation of the fantasy trilogy written by Philip Pullman . The first book was previously adapted into a movie, The Golden Compass (2007) , which flopped and failed to produce the two sequels.
The protagonist is a young girl who lives in Oxford University. This is in a parallel world, run by a religious dictatorship. Oxford has relative immunity, on academic grounds, much like how the Roman Church could claim it was outside the law of the land in many ways.
The protagonist awaits the return of her uncle, Lord Asriel (James McAvoy - Atomic Blonde (2015) ), who has been on an expedition to the Arctic. When he arrives, he delivers exposition that changes the understanding of their world. However, intrigue begins as there is a conspiracy to suppress his research.
Uncle Asriel returns to his expedition, leaving the girl alone. She is approached by Marissa Coulter ( Ruth Wilson ), who is working for persons unknown and may not be trustworthy.
There is a subplot about missing children. One of the protagonistís young friends goes missing, and everyone says that monsters called Gobblers are responsible. Nearby, the local canal-boat gypsies led by James Cosmo ( Braveheart (1995) ) are out to rescue their own children from these monsters. Bear in mind, this may be a Fantasy story but nobody has actually seen the monsters yet.
Lyra goes to live with Marissa Coulter ( Ruth Wilson ), who seems to be very nice at the start but has a nasty undercurrent. There is something creepy about her, like how her daemon (soul monster) manages to travel around the place. It turns out that the daemon, an orang-outang, uses a series of secret passages inside the walls. Like Bruce Willis in Die Hard (1987) , only this version actually makes sense. Since Lyra is a child, and thus almost as small as the daemon, she can also crawl around and explore the place.
A journalist ( Georgina Campbell ) gate-crashes the party. She gets a main billing as a character, so we can assume she quit her role in Krypton so she could get this role, but it seems somewhat limited.
James Cosmo ( Braveheart (1995) ) and the gypsy people are still looking for their stolen children. It turns out that the Gobblers are just a gang of kidnappers, not supernatural monsters, which is a bit disappointing. They store the kids in an illegal orphanage which seems reminiscent of Oliver Twist . Yes, alternate universes do not need to look to the future to create a dystopia - they just evoke the Victorian era.
Lyra is in the hands of the Gobblers. However, they are themselves being hunted by the gypsies. Finally, the heroine gets to hide out with James Cosmo ( Braveheart (1995) ) and his friends.
A couple of gypsy boys, acting on Lyra's suspicions, decide to break into the office of Marissa Coulter ( Ruth Wilson ). Unfortunately it is in her apartment, and they will not have as easy a time of it as Lyra did.
It seems that a couple of people are regularly travelling between worlds, using a secret interdimensional portal. Not only do they keep it secret from their governments, they are also secretly investigating other portal users.
Lyra takes a ship to Norway, with James Cosmo ( Braveheart (1995) ) as her guardian. This episode is spent introducing new characters. One is Lee Scoresby (Lin-Manuel Miranda), an American who is an airship pilot. Another, a friend of the pilot, is a polar bear who has been debt-slaved by humans in the town.
This is also the first mention of the witches of the north pole. One of them in particular is mentioned - Serafina Pekkala. Presumably this is the character played by Eva Green in the movie, which seemed a gratuitous cameo at the time but was no doubt setting up her introduction in the intended sequel.
Lyra accompanies James Cosmo ( Braveheart (1995) ) and the others on the way north. They discover what happened to Billy Costa.
The plotline in the alternate universe is still plodding along, with no sign of development in any real sense. There is still no sign of how this will affect the main storyline. The investigators are after Col. John Parry / Jopari (Andrew Scott - ), so they interview his widow Elaine Parry ( Nina Sosyana ).
Lyra is now in the hands of the Gobblers. As always, she has a plan to cause chaos.
Lyra finally gets to confront her mother, Marissa Coulter ( Ruth Wilson ).
This leads up to a climactic battle. After the events of the previous episode, the so-called good guys do not fight fair.
Lyra finds herself in the hands of the polar bears. They are not nice and friendly like her buddy Yoric. The Polar Bear King has made a deal with the villains. However, Yoric the outcast is a potential replacement for the King. Real Sword in the Stone stuff.
In the other world, the plot thickens. The investigators ramp up the pressure on the widow Elaine Parry ( Nina Sosyana ) and her son.
Lyra is reunited with her father, Lord Asriel (James McAvoy - Atomic Blonde (2015) ). However, he is less than happy to see her. She may have gone through a lot of trouble to find him, but she fails to point out that there was no safety for her back in England. On the good side, he gives her some exposition.
Marissa Coulter ( Ruth Wilson ) is en route with a gang of well-armed henchmen. We get the start of a good battle scene, with her airships and paratroopers against Yoric and his army of armour-plated polar bears. However, the real climax is focused on characters instead of spectacle.