His Dark Materials is the latest adaptation of Phillip Pullman's trilogy of the same name, and unsurprisingly, HBO/BBC have made some changes from the original source material. While there is nothing that takes away from the core story, these may be a bit of a surprise to the book purists.
Created by Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), the new take on His Dark Materials stars Dafne Keen (Logan) as protagonist Lyra Belacqua, with James McAvoy and Ruth Wilson filling in key roles as Lord Asriel and Mrs Coulter alongside an expansive (and impressive) supporting cast, aiming to bring the books to life. One of the big problems with the previous adaptation of this story - 2007 film The Golden Compass - was its approach to the novel.
The first episode of His Dark Materials, 'Lyra's Jordan', begins with a scene that isn't in the original trilogy, and carries on from there to create a world that captures the heart of Pullman's story - but with these major differences.
The Opening Scene & Jordan College
While The Golden Compass novel opens with Lyra as a child in Jordan College, on the night that Lord Asriel arrives to make his presentation to the scholars, His Dark Materials opens twelve years earlier, on the night that Lord Asriel first brings her there. This happens on the night of the Great Flood, when the college is partway underwater, and shows Asriel desperate and seeking scholastic sanctuary for the baby. While this scene will be totally new to some book readers (although Lord Asriel leaving Lyra with the scholars is later referenced in the trilogy), it will be familiar to readers of Pullman's follow up trilogy, The Book of Dust. La Belle Sauvage, the first in this series, ends with this same scene, which is also when Asriel leaves the Alethiometer with the Master (Clarke Peters).
Lyra & The Alethiometer
There have been some changes made to the Alethiometer itself, as well. The most immediately obvious change is a purely aesthetic one - to the shape! In the books, it is described as a 'thick disc of gold and crystal', whereas this version is square. Of course, this change is unimportant to the actual story, but may be a surprise to book readers just the same. In addition, the Master reveals that Alethiometers are illegal in this world, which they are not in the original. This is a much larger change, and one that speaks to the reach and power of the Magisterium, and the increased emphasis on heresy.
Finally, the way that Lyra first explores the Alethiometer is very different; in the books, she seems to figure it out a lot faster, immediately turning the dials to manipulate the hands. In the His Dark Materials series, however, she speaks to it - almost as though it's a smartphone. This change does a wonderful job of introducing a little comedy and relatability to the series, especially for viewers who have grown up with voice-activated technology.
Roger & Lyra's Friendship
While Roger (Lewin Lloyd) & Lyra's friendship is a vital part of the books, it is even more heavily emphasized in the series than it was at the start of the novels. In the original series, Lyra is just as fixated on going North, but talks about going with her uncle alone, rather than taking Roger with her. In His Dark Materials, however, it's clear that Lyra's plan always includes Roger. This is hammered home when she learns that Mrs. Coulter will take her North, and only agrees to go if Roger can come. In the books, Lyra is significantly more selfish, and when she learns that she can go North, she briefly forgets about Roger entirely - which is how she takes so long to notice that he has gone missing. This does get a brief moment in the show, as Lyra ignores him at dinner when captivated by Mrs. Coulter, but it's clear that the series is going to make a much bigger deal of their friendship throughout.
The Gyptians & The Tonys
The Gyptians are a major part of the first His Dark Materials episode, and the way that they are introduced is something totally new. In the books, the reader learns of the Gyptians through Lyra's history at Jordan, her battles with the townies in the claybeds, and her adventures with Roger stealing a riverboat. In the series, however, the Gyptians are introduced during a ceremony for Tony Costa's (Daniel Frogson) coming of age, as his daemon has settled. This actually makes far more sense, especially as a way to introduce another vitally important element of His Dark Materials' mythology (daemons settling on a shape) at the same time as the Gyptian people.
The ceremony itself is a totally new creation of His Dark Materials, and it appears that the series will also be combining two characters from the books: Tony Costa and Tony Makarios. In the books, Tony Makarios is a boy with a daemon named Ratter, who is one of those taken by the Gobblers, while Tony Costa's daemon is named Lyuba. In the ceremony, though, Tony Costa's daemon is named as Ratter, and there is no sign of Tony Makarios with the Gobbled children, which suggests that these characters are being changed. This also suggests that there may be tragedy in store for Billy Costa (Tyler Howitt) - without spoilers for non-book-readers, Tony Makarios is discovered by Lyra in the North, which is how she learns what the Gobblers want with kids. If he doesn't exist in this world, it means that either Lyra will not make this discovery this way, or that someone else (possibly Billy) will be the one that she discovers.
The final major change that the show is making is in how they present the Magisterium. In the original book, the Magisterium is mentioned, but doesn't have a huge part to play - although they move out from behind the scenes as the series goes on. In the series, however, they are far more present from the start. In the premiere, viewers get to see a shot of their headquarters, and they are mentioned frequently. Their power also seems a little more overt and far-reaching, and it's likely that they will be a much bigger part of His Dark Materials than the original book and subsequent movie. This, like most of the other changes, works in the show's favor, as it sets them up as the major villains from the start, rather than waiting until further in to really bring them forward as the bad guys.
His Dark Materials continues with "The Idea Of North" November 10 on BBC and November 11 on HBO.