Speaking at Comic-Con@Home on Thursday, executive producer Jane Tranter said that the new season will be seven episodes instead of eight after a standalone story starring James McAvoy as Lord Asriel was unable to shoot.
The episode featured a self-contained narrative, which does not appear in The Subtle Knife, the second Philip Pullman novel on which Season 2 is based. Writer Jack Thorne penned it with the blessing of Pullman, and it was set to be McAvoy’s main appearance in the second season. Instead, it has ended on the cutting floor after filming halted when the UK went into lockdown in March.
“It was separate from the other seven episodes because it was a standalone episode which Jack had written with the blessing and input of Philip Pullman, which looked at what Lord Asriel had been doing between going through the anomaly at the end of season one and when we see Lord Asriel at the beginning of book three The Amber Spyglass,” Tranter said.
“It meant that we could continue post-production on the seven episodes that make up The Subtle Knife and just put the Asriel standalone episode to one side and maybe in the future we can revisit it as a standalone. But essentially our adaptation of The Subtle Knife had been completed.”
She added that it was an “incredible piece of luck” that the special was the only episode left to shoot when the pandemic hit. The main filming unit wrapped just before Christmas 2019.
McAvoy reflected on the lost episode on the Empire magazine podcast earlier this month. “We were one day into shooting that and Boris [Johnson] called the lockdown, so it’s gone now, unfortunately, so I’m barely going to be in Season 2,” he said.