Home Entertainment The Watch: First trailer and clips show a very different version of Terry Pratchett’s world

The Watch: First trailer and clips show a very different version of Terry Pratchett’s world

3 min read

I am most definitely not what you would call a Terry Pratchett super-fan. Don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love every single one of the late British author’s hilarious fantasy novels that I’ve read, but I haven’t obsessively read all of them and can’t remember every single detail. Even with that though, watching the first trailer for The Watch, BBC America’s upcoming adaptation of Pratchett’s beloved series of stories focused on the City Watch of the sprawling city of Ankh Morpork, I had to go…


When the first pics and character descriptions for The Watch debuted back in January, it was already clear that the series was taking HUGE liberties with Pratchett’s creations. But I still don’t think I was ready for just how different this was going to look and feel. Check it out below:

Well, huh. That’s… different. Different enough that Pratchett’s daughter Rhianna had to publicly announce that the show “shares no DNA” with the original books and that her family had no creative input on it.

And I can’t blame that preemptive washing of the hands, as I’m really not feeling the updated, almost steampunk aesthetic here, nor am I a fan of Richard Dormer’s weird Jack Sparrow-like mannerisms as Sam Vimes, the Captain of the City Watch, and arguably Pratchett’s most beloved character creation. Then there are all the other massive departures from the source, like making Lady Sybil (Lara Rossi) Vime’s wife, gender-swapping Lord Vetinari (Anna Chancellor), Constable Cheery (Jo-Eaton Kent) no longer being a dwarf, etc. Your mileage with these changes and more may vary.

That trailer debuted as part of The Watch’s panel at New York Comic-Con where exec producer Richard Stokes also debuted some more clips from the show, delving further into this new interpretation. He also went on to explain that this all came about because they had to basically smoosh together several bits and pieces from Pratchett’s stories and then let showrunner Simon Allen give it his own spin.

[Pratchett’s] incredibly inventive, his books are full of rich literary environments. But what was clear from the first part of development was that none of the books individually lend themselves to an eight part series…

So we had to do a sort of pick-and-mix of the best bits across the range of books, and invent our own series, invent our own world. And that’s where, with everyone’s blessing, Simon came in, who was able to do his own original take on the characters.

You don’t need to know the books in order to enjoy the series and that’s one of the most exciting things about it.

“Excited” is not quite how I would explain my feelings about The Watch right now. I’ll definitely watch the series, even if it’s just to play “Spot the Landmark” as the show was actually shot right here in my backyard in and around Cape Town, but I’m not optimistic at all here.

The 8-part first season for The Watch is set to debut on BBC on 3 January 2021.

Last Updated: October 12, 2020


  1. I’m cautiously optimistic!

    Naturally, this isn’t going to be a straight adaptation of The Watch – which rankled me too, and has clearly antagonised a lot of book fans. But, sometimes wild departures can work out and / or have their own charm.

    I suppose the risk is whether the departures are for the sake of expression and exploration (can often be good), or just for the sake of departure (yikes).


    • Banana Jim

      October 12, 2020 at 11:02

      Then, don’t call it the Watch (or even that it was remotely inspired by Terry Pratchett). Because, otherwise it’s nothing but a bait-and-switch. It’s banking on fans or even casuals recognising the name Terry Pratchett and then luring them in. It’s extremely slimy.

      If the writers wanted to create their own vision, why didn’t they create their own show and characters. Be original, maybe pay homage to Pratchett’s work, with a few references, that hardcore fans would recognise and say “Oh, now what a second, Cedric did you catch that? They paid homage to Pratchett, pip pip stiff upper lip”.

      Of course, the reason they went with Terry Pratchett’s IP is because they knew it would mean getting a foot in the door, or even a meeting at the BBC. And the BBC itself is probably banking on getting views purely by necromancing the name Terry Pratchett. It’s pathetic.


      • Daniel Hallinan

        October 12, 2020 at 12:45

        I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “casuals” in this context, considering that anyone who’s read any of the books should be able to pick up that this is a different take on the source material.

        In terms of “why do this”, it’s quite common to take an established setting and put a twist on it (look at how often media does it with mythological narratives – greek and norse mythology in particular, of late – how many of those have been twisted and tweaked?). It very often come from a place of love rather than scorn or greed – it’s something we very, very often see quickly come out of fandoms. Budget is also very likely a huge contributor to the changes, considering how much work would have needed to be done to make it representative (and they don’t have a film budget). A combination of passion (well placed or misplaced), budget concerns, deadlines, contracts, executive meddling, a global pandemic, mean that these types of projects are always likey to have mixed results.

        But, mixed results means we can sometimes get amazing stuff out of it. That’s what I’m hoping for this. There’s a lot of stuff here I’m not sure about, in particular I dislike and worry that Rianna Pratchett was left out of the development, and I’m not 100% set on how they’ve portraied either Vimes or Sybil. But I also aknowledge there may be cool stuff in there, despite all that.

        And even if it disappoints… well, it won’t do anything to my experience reading the books. If anything, stuff like this tends to boost book sales, even if it crashes and burns.

        And I’m saying this as someone who struggles to enjoy adaptations in general. I couldn’t stand watching the expanse because all I could notice were the development choices made due to budget constraints, which clashed with the infinite budget of my imagination (as cheesy as it sounds) when I read the bookds. Couldn’t watch Altered Carbon for other reasons. Adaptations are hell to work on, and a coin flip for fans who’ve experienced the source material.


        • Banana Jim

          October 12, 2020 at 14:07

          It’s a good thing you brought up mythological narratives, because that basically proves my case. A lot of the stories that we have today are based in part on parables and tales from the past. Those stories tell tales that are instantly recognisable for all because they describe the human condition perfectly, from tales about good and evil, or the heroes journey to simple tales about right and wrong. All the successful stories we have are inspired by those, and future stories will be inspired by those ancient tales as well.

          However, the creators of great modern stories aren’t merely using an established franchise and piggy-backing on it. They might create new scenarios and stories, but use the DNA of those ancient stories to explore new worlds, new characters, new interactions.

          This version of the Watch has nothing to do with Pratchett’s. It only exists because the creators are banking on the fact that those who are familiar with Pratchett’s will tune in. That’s really it. Whether, their version of the Watch end up being something quite magical is offset by the slimy way they’re going about it.


          • Daniel Hallinan

            October 12, 2020 at 14:49

            They might create new scenarios and stories, but use the DNA of those ancient stories to explore new worlds, new characters, new interactions.

            The vast majority of the adaptations do a lot of piggy-backing – they retread the same environments and same characters with new coat of paint, and very rarely do the same lessons buried in the original myths come through. Hell, they use the myths and settings to sell franchises to publishers and to consumers – Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is definitely jumping on the Viking gravy train due to its popularity and marketability. Similar reason the “rebooted” God of War went with Norse mythology, and the original series wasn’t exactly a constructive narrative of greek mythology.

            Hell, Marvel’s Thor has a paper thin connection to the mythology beyond similar locales and names, and has little more than a passing interesting in how it was represented in the older texts beyond “what bad guy can we throw at Thor”.

            They’re fun media, though. Some genuinely great content.

            Plus, isn’t the use of DNA from an older story, with a new setting, new take on characters, and new character interactions exactly why you’re unhappy with this take on Guards Guards and Discworld?

            Again, I’m not trying to push for the idea that the show will be good (I’ve listed my concerns in the prior post) – just that it may be fine. Possibly even good. Deviating from a strict adherence to the source material isn’t itself proof that something is flawed, nor malicious.

            That all said though, I do think it’s actually prefectly fine to dislike stuff because they changed it from the source material, there’s a hell of a lot of stuff I’ve just not indulged in because I disagree with that they changed. I just disagree that change automatically results in a poorer product – there’s just as much media that I enjoy more because it was changed.

  2. Iskape

    October 12, 2020 at 09:57

    I never read the books, so I’ll be going into this series with no background information, which seems to be the preferable option here.


    • Insomnia is fun

      October 12, 2020 at 10:16

      It does, they took Discworld. Made it a SJW thing and slapped inspired by on the cover and shipped it off hoping people will draw parallels to Harry Potter or Fantastic Beasts or be too young and naive to remember Terry Pratchett


  3. Alien Emperor Trevor

    October 12, 2020 at 10:01

  4. Insomnia is fun

    October 12, 2020 at 10:02



  5. Banana Jim

    October 12, 2020 at 10:30

  6. Gavin Mannion

    October 12, 2020 at 10:36

  7. BradeLunner

    October 12, 2020 at 13:06

    It’s sickening to see someone’s legacy get watered down and mixed into something else. Especially some cherished like this, all because they’re searching for the next big thing instead of honoring the source material. Watch Good Omens instead, there’s respect there


    • Banana Jim

      October 12, 2020 at 18:15

      I was very surprised at how good the Good Omens show was. I didn’t expect it to be such a faithful adaptation.


  8. MaSeKind

    October 12, 2020 at 17:05

    Did I just see electric guitars and mics???

    Not sure who this show is for, but it’s defintely not for the fans of Discworld. Seems like bad fan fiction


    • Banana Jim

      October 12, 2020 at 18:15

      It’s the worst kind of fan fiction – written by those who aren’t fans, or respect the fanbase or the material and merely using a dead man’s IP to get a show on BBC.


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