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

3 min read
19
the-watch-ep1-1

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.

the-watch-ep1-3

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.

the-watch-ep1-5

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.

the-watch-ep1-2

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.

the-watch-ep1-4

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

19 Comments

  1. Mia

    January 20, 2020 at 13:06

    Booooooooooooooooo.

    Reply

  2. Stoompot

    January 20, 2020 at 14:21

  3. Original Heretic

    January 20, 2020 at 12:47

    Oi, Geoff, show SOME love for Hogfather. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
    Going Postal was also superb.

    Reply

  4. Lu

    January 20, 2020 at 13:07

    Hoping this turns out good. The watch novels are dear to my heart.
    Not a fan of gender and race swaps for the sake of it (Butler in the upcoming Artemis Fowl film for one really annoys me buuuut still gonna watch it).
    BUT (before peeps get pitchforks)
    The key to all these adaptations is regarding them as a separate entity entirely to the source material, inspired by rather than copied from.
    The Hobbit film is not the book.
    Game of Thrones is not A Song of Ice and Fire.
    So its best to just enjoy the new story as the screenwriter intended it. If it sucks don’t watch it.

    Reply

  5. Daniel Hallinan

    January 20, 2020 at 13:07

    I think the only thing I have issue with is their representation of Sybil. In the books, I liked that she got shit done *and* wasn’t a stereotypical lithe magazine cover girl.

    Somewhat ironic (I think? Irony is weird) that they swapped out a nice bit of character variety and female representation with a more… generic form of representation.

    Reply

    • Geoffrey Tim

      January 20, 2020 at 13:12

      Yeah, I think that’s the one that’s doing my head in most.

      Reply

    • MaSeKind

      January 20, 2020 at 13:24

      Yep they seem to be missing the point with a lot of the characters.

      Reply

  6. Weanerdog

    January 20, 2020 at 13:12

    Interesting take on the dwarfs. I always considered them to be androgynious as opposed to NB.

    Also Cheery identifies and is female but I suppose if the dwarfs are NB then I suppose it could be seen as trans.

    Anyway, don’t like any of the castings or changes to the characters. I know that we are meant to judge this in it’s own right but it is difficult when the books are so well loved.

    Reply

    • MaSeKind

      January 20, 2020 at 13:30

      Yeah dwarfs are most definitely not non-binary. They are fully aware what gender they are and whose a male or female dwarf (well hopefully), it’s just not something they worry or talk about unless required.

      But hey this is 2019 2020 and we need to represent as many minorities as possible. Personally I think it’s a bit racist to cast a tall person as Cheery.

      Reply

      • Weanerdog

        January 20, 2020 at 13:30

        Thanks, I was worried I was the one smoking the socks.

        Reply

      • Hammersteyn

        January 20, 2020 at 13:30

      • Weanerdog

        January 20, 2020 at 13:30

        Although have to disagree on knowing who is male and who is female. Courtship has to be done very carefully is a line if memory serves me correctly.

        Reply

        • MaSeKind

          January 20, 2020 at 13:36

          That’s why I said hopefully 🙂 Yes they make a joke about having to be sure you’re courting what you want to court, but Carrot talk about the dwarfs’ mothers (when he makes them all cry in the bar) and obviously everyone knows who their mother and father is and that they aren’t completely the same.

          The point being that in their society men and women are treaty equally. There’s no need to differentiate between the sexes unless you want sexy time. But that’s not the same as being non-binary

          Reply

  7. Hammersteyn

    January 20, 2020 at 13:36

    Googles Constable Cheery to see what’s going and aaaaaaand…………. https://media2.giphy.com/media/jpaf7BYNTPSsE/giphy-downsized-medium.gif

    Reply

  8. G8crasha

    January 20, 2020 at 13:49

    Colour me interested!!!

    Reply

  9. Kromas

    January 20, 2020 at 13:49

    Ah shit. Way to ruin it for me. I can tolerate some discrepancies (Witcher 3 Triss Merigold cough cough) if the show tries to stay on the intended path but making characters completely screwed up sucks.

    And what is worse is his books dealt with this before. He literally has a book called Equal Rites about a wizard who is a girl and wizards can’t be female.

    But yeah … he is dead and people will screw with his amazing work because of money.

    Reply

    • Stoompot

      January 20, 2020 at 14:02

      Money and progressiveness!

      Reply

  10. Richard Wickens

    January 22, 2020 at 12:31

    If the woke bunch of morons want to send a message they should do it with their own stories, but they all seem to lack the talent to actually do that, instead they take a perfectly good story and break it to fit their narrative. If the original screen writers had just stuck to the original story they would have had MILLIONS of happy Terry Pratchet fans, with this garbage they are going to annoy MILLIONS of fans and doom the show. WHY? Why let sub par “screen writers” who no one even knows mess around with a world famous author’s work?

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Check Also

Next Mr Bean movie is animated because Rowan Atkinson finds the role too “stressful”

Rowan Atkinson is returning for a new Mr Bean movie. Only this time, he will come in anima…