The big Sunday night dramas just keep on coming and His Dark Materials is perhaps the BBC’s biggest yet.


Based on Philip Pullman’s original trilogy of books (Northern Lights, The Golden Compass and The Amber Spyglass), the BBC has spared no expense in bringing the author’s incredible vision to the screen.

The first episode, which aired a couple of weeks ago, saw a mysterious man (Lord Asriel) wading through a flooded Oxford clutching a small baby. Swimming behind him was a snow leopard...

This is no ordinary world, as all humans have an animal counterpart (or Daemon) bearing the human’s soul.

As the story progresses, we see the baby grown into a young girl (Lyra), who longs to be an explorer in the north like Asriel.

Her wish comes true, though at a price, as she finds herself engulfed in a dangerous adventure that will unlock secrets about her very existence and the true nature of the world (worlds?) around her.

The expansive original music for the series has been composed by Lorne Balfe, a Grammy-winning, BAFTA and Emmy-nominated composer who cut his teeth working with Hans Zimmer in Los Angeles.

Born in Scotland, which he still calls home and where he set up his own state of the art music studio (in Inverness), Balfe won a scholarship to Edinburgh’s Fettes College aged just 15. He originally had aspirations to be a percussionist and then set his heart of becoming a film composer.

Chancing his arm, he wrote to the Media Ventures studio in LA (now known as Remote Control) and offered his services for free. He soon found himself knee-deep in Hollywood music-making and very quickly became Hans Zimmer’s assistant.

Learning his craft at the coalface with Zimmer and other composers based at the studio, Balfe contributed music and arrangements to some big movie titles, including The Dark Knight (for which he shared a Grammy).

2010 saw a big break, co-composing the score (with Zimmer) for the DreamWorks animated feature, Megamind.

From there he never looked back and has since written music for the likes of Home (2015), Terminator Genisys (2015), The Lego Batman Movie (2017) and Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) for the big screen.

On the small screen his tunes have graced the likes of ITV’s Marcella and Netflix’s smash-hit The Crown (co-composed with Rupert Gregson-Williams) and Genius.

He has written for games, too, with his music appearing in big hitters like the Assassin’s Creed, Crysis and Call of Duty franchises.

He has been well prepared then for His Dark Materials, which finds him creating intriguing soundworlds for the multi-layered story unfolding before our eyes.

Special synthetic effects merge with ethereal choir and large orchestral forces. The latter comes courtesy of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, which recorded the score at its base in Cardiff – incidentally, where much of the series was filmed.


His Dark Materials continues on BBC One on Sunday evenings at 20:00 (GMT) and on BBC iPlayer. A selection of Lorne Balfe’s music for the series is now available to stream and download.


Michael BeekReviews Editor, BBC Music Magazine

Michael is the Reviews Editor of BBC Music Magazine. He was previously a freelance film music journalist and spent 15 years at St George's Bristol. Michael specialises in film and television music and was the Editor of He has written for the BBC Proms, BBC Concert Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall, Hollywood in Vienna and Silva Screen Records.