Home Entertainment First look at BBC’s The Watch shows an interesting take on some of Terry Pratchett’s most beloved Discworld characters

First look at BBC’s The Watch shows an interesting take on some of Terry Pratchett’s most beloved Discworld characters

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As a long-time fan of the collected works o Sir Terr Pratchett, I’ve been a little disappointed by the relative lack of live-action adaptions of his oeuvre. Sure there were a few minor series like the best-forgotten Hogfather, and the brilliantly-cast, but middlingly-executed Colour of Magic miniseries, but it almost seems unforgivable that we’ve not seen something really attempt to bring the world and its characters to life in the new golden age of TV.

For that, there’s BBC America’s The Watch, which focuses specifically on Sam Vimes and his ragtag troupe of lawmen. An eight-episode run that was filmed in Cape Town, The Watch is a fantasy police procedural “set in a fictional city where crime has been legalized,” and is “a genre-busting series that follows a group of misfit cops as they rise up from decades of helplessness to save their corrupt city from catastrophe.” Which sounds very much like books. They have made some questionable changes to the casting and characters though – the sort that usually get people riled up because of diversity. And I don’t really know how I feel about it in this instance. Much of it seems shoehorned in and changed for the sake of it.

I must say that Game of Thrones star Richard Dormer looks delightfully dour as Sam Vimes. Likewise, the casting of the perpetually idealistic Carrot Ironfounderson (Adam Hugill) is perfect. It starts going downhill from there though.

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Angua, the Watch’s first woman cop is also the city’s first Werewolf member of the police. She’s played by the petite Marama Corlett seen here with Carrot. In The Watch, she servers as Carrot’s mentor, “tasked with Carrot’s training and keeping the rookie alive.” The small differences from the books will likely rankle fans. It gets worse though.

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Lady Sybil, for example, becomes Sam Vine’s wife. In the books, she’s a bit portly, and while she’s always erred on the side of justice despite her privileged upbringing, she’s a bit sheltered. Here she’s a skinny vigilante, “trying to fix the city’s wrongs with her chaotic vigilantism.”

Cheery Littlebottom, one of my favourite characters from the books is a dwarf. In Dwarven culture as established within the novels, they’re a nonbinary culture that sees no difference between men and women. Cheery chooses to identify as a woman in one of her best arcs. Here, Cheery appears to be a non-binary human (or perhaps, just a large dwarf), which I think takes the bite out of her story. Constable Cheery is played by non-binary actor Jo Eaton-Kent, who is an “ingenious non-binary forensics expert, ostracized by their kin and finding a new home and identity.” Her story within the novels already served as a wonderfully insightful look at transgenderism, and this seems to have cheapened that. Of course, I’m basing that on a single shot, and Littlebottom could be treated right in the show.

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There are probably many more liberties taken with the source material – like the fact that the Patrician, Havelock Vetinari, is played by a woman. She’ll be played by the incomparably brilliant Anna Chancellor, but the gender swop might be a step too far for some.

I have to keep reminding myself that this is an adaptation and that it does nothing to ruin my own memories and interpretations of Pratchett’s work. If it ends up being nonsense, then I can happily ignore it. If it’s good, then that’s just gravy.

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The Watch is executive produced by BBC Studios’ Hilary Salmon (Luther) and Phil Collinson (Doctor Who). The eight-episode series was written by Simon Allen (Das Boot). The series stars Richard Dormer, Anna Chancellor, Lara Rossi, Ingrid Oliver, James Fleet, Marama Corlett, Sam Adewunmi, Jo Eaton-Kent, Adam Hugill, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Ruth Madeley, Bianca Simone and Ingrid Oliver.

Last Updated: January 20, 2020

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