A young girl is destined to liberate her world from the grip of the Magisterium which represses people's ties to magic and their animal spirits known as daemons. Ralph Potts reviews the Blu-ray release of His Dark Materials Season One from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.


The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )



Audio/Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )


Studio and Year: Warner - 2019
MPAA Rating: NR
Feature running time: 460 minutes
Genre: Fantasy/Drama

Disc Format: BD-50
Encoding: AVC
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Resolution: 1080p/24

Audio Format(s): English DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio, French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French
Starring: James McAvoy, Ruth Wilson, Dafne Keen, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Clarke Peters, James Cosmo, Anne-Marie Duff, Will Keen, Ariyon Bakare
Directed by: Various
Music by: Lorne Balfe
Written by: Philip Pullman
Region Code: A

Release Date: August 4, 2020

"One Girl Will Change Worlds"


“A young girl is destined to liberate her world from the grip of the Magisterium which represses people's ties to magic and their animal spirits known as daemons.” – Warner Bros. Home Entertainment.

My Take:

His Dark Materials takes place in a world parallel to our own, where a human’s soul exists outside one’s body in the form of a talking animal called a “daemon.” The all-powerful Magisterium rule over this world where they suppress any knowledge that attempts to challenge its ideas, particularly around the theory that multiple worlds exist.

Season One of this HBO series follows Lyra (Dafne Keen), a young orphan who was left as a baby at Oxford’s Jordan College by her uncle Lord Asriel (James McAvoy) and desires a life of adventure beyond the confines of her bookish, scholarly surroundings. But when Lyra’s best friend goes missing, her search for her kidnapped friend uncovers a plot involving stolen children and transforms into a quest to understand a mysterious phenomenon known as Dust. Over the course of the season, as she journeys through the different worlds – including our own – Lyra encounters extraordinary beings and dangerous secrets, with the fate of both the living and the dead at stake.

I haven’t read author Philip Pullman’s fantasy trilogy upon which His Dark Materials is based. I have seen 2007’s “The Golden Compass” which is also derived from this story. That film’s critical reception wasn’t very good but, I enjoy it and have seen it several times on Blu-ray. The film was clearly meant to have a sequel but, that never materialized and you’re left hanging. His Dark Materials allows the narrative to breath over its 8 episodes as it peels back the layers of the primary plot and supporting characters/subplots.

It starts off just a tad slow but, by the end of episode two things are well on their way. The elements of mystery, fantasy, drama and action are nicely balanced over the course of the season. Its building storyline keeps interest from waning as it marches toward the events that set the stage for the next part of the telling in season two. I thoroughly enjoyed the performance by the ensemble cast and found that young Dafne Keen (loved her in Logan!) had no problem handling the role of Lyra. In general, the production elements are solid for a TV series of this type.

Given the current state of affairs I am not certain when we will see season two. I am hopeful that it comes to fruition.

Here is Season One’s episode listing:

· Lyra’s Jordan
· The Idea of North
· The Spies
· Armour
· The Lost Boy
· The Daemon-Cages
· The Fight to the Death
· Betrayal

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

The series contains violence and, thematic material.

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.

Audio: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics:
  • Low frequency effects:
  • Surround Sound presentation:
  • Clarity/Detail:
  • Dialog Reproduction:
  • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element):

Video: 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Resolution/Clarity:
  • Black Level/Shadow Detail:
  • Color Reproduction:
  • Fleshtones:
  • Compression:

His Dark Materials: The Complete First Season comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound.

This television series effectively uses visual aesthetics to set the tone based upon the subject matter or mood of a particular scene. In all respects there is a pleasing blend of primary colors that are capably offset by delineated secondary hues. Fleshtones are natural and lifelike in depiction. Resolution is estimable as close ups and midlevel pans have appreciable depth while exhibiting varying levels of refinement.

Fine detail isn’t always copiously on display which results in images appearing less delineated at times. On the contrary there are many instances where the video has defining sharpness and lucidity. Contrast is stable and blacks are dynamic with excellent perceptibility in shadowy areas within the image. I didn’t see any obvious signs of video related anomalies.

The DTS-HD MA soundtrack features crystal clear dialog, robust dynamics and a subtle, yet enriching surround sound mix. I was pleased with its use of spatial dimension and directional cues to create an apropos and occasionally immersive sound field. This worked hand in hand with show’s music and accentuated the show’s thematic elements. I thought it sounded quite good.

Bonus Features:

  • · Making His Dark Materials (**Exclusive to Blu-ray and DVD)
    · Dafne Keen: Bringing Lyra Belacqua to Life
    · Ruth Wilson: Bringing Mrs. Coulter to Life
    · Lin-Manuel Miranda: Bringing Lee Scoresby to Life
    · James McAvoy: Bringing Lord Asriel to Life
    · Adapting His Dark Materials
    · The Daemons of His Dark Materials
    · Dressing His Dark Materials
    · Building His Dark Materials
  • Digital Code

Final Thoughts:

Based on the book trilogy by Philip Pullman His Dark Materials is a well-executed and primarily engaging TV series that kept me interested over season one’s 8 episodes. It comes to Blu-ray from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment featuring excellent technical merits along with a fan friendly assortment of extras. His Dark Materials: The Complete First Season is recommended viewing for genre fans. Here’s hoping that we see season two!

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS2000 4K Ultra High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman color calibration software and Portrait Displays C6 HDR2000 colorimeter from Portrait.com)
Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
Panasonic DP-UB820 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Oppo BDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/Roomie Remote V6 Universal Remote Control
SVS Ultra Tower Speakers (Gloss Finish)
SVS Ultra Center Channel (Gloss Finish)
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
Niles Audio In-Ceiling/In-Wall Series Speakers
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems