The only TV show I am more excited about than the upcoming series SHIELD (and you cannot believe just how excited I am about SHIELD) is the new procedural based on the books of Terry Pratchett, The Watch. But why has it taken so long for this to happen and why aren’t we seeing more adaptations of one of the country’s most successful writers? Will the much-trumpeted Narrativia – Pratchett’s own production company, which he launched last year with his daughter and a couple of creative collaborators – actually get things moving?
Despite there being over 40 books in the Discworld series, professional adaptations have been thin on the ground, and often ill-fated. The mega-budgeted Sky mini-series have been slightly hit or miss, reflecting a questionable choice in the source material: while Hogfather was an obvious bet for a Christmas special, the end result felt slow and slightly stodgy, and the Colour of Magic was hampered by being an adaptation of a book that has aged badly – the difference in quality between the first two books and the third is astronomical, with both The Colour of Magic and Light Fantastic now coming across as dated pastiches, a world away from the sophisticated writing of the later novels. Going Postal fared far better: a lighter hand on the source material, a great story and an engaging cast made it an enjoyable watch.
But that’s only 3. What happened to the rest? It’s not like available adaptations of Pratchett aren’t out there – there have been theatrical versions for years, and recently there were BBC radio versions of both Guards! Guards! and Eric. In fact, one of Pratchett’s main creative collaborators in all things attached to the Discworld, Stephen Briggs, first came to the author’s attention when asking his permission to do a stage play based on one of the books, Wyrd Sisters, and he went on to adapt a number of the other novels for the stage. (Personally, I saw an entertainingly grizzled Paul ‘Blake’s Seven’ Darrow play Sam Vimes in a production of Guards! Guards! many years ago, and it was great fun, so they really do work in a theatrical context). So where are they all?
Part of this, of course, is that Pratchett hardly needs the cash and he’s obviously very fussy about who he lets deal with his characters, so he’s avoided the ‘take the money and run’ approach of some of his contemporaries. Also, though he remains prolific, he obviously has well-publicised health issues that may possibly mean his focus is more on his writing (although the forming of the production company would seem to imply he does care about getting these stories out on screen, too).
But there have been a number of promising projects that seem to have been lingering for ages but never come to fruition: a much-mooted adaptation of his book with Neil Gaiman, Good Omens, seems to have been on and then off ever since the novel came out, with several high profile names attached, including Terry Gilliam. This is now, supposedly, one of the main projects of the new production company, though solid details still seem frustratingly elusive (personally, I’m desperate for this to happen because I want Mark Sheppard to play the demon Crowley, which will add a pleasing ‘Supernatural symmetry’ since so much of Season 5 and 6 of that show seemed, ahem, inspired by Good Omens, and Shephard of course plays a demon called, ahem, Crowley who is the scourge of the Winchesters… ). There were talks of Sam Raimi directing the young adult novel The Wee Free Men a while back, but that seemed to just fall by the wayside.
And where are the witches in this? I want to see them on screen! Surely Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg would be a gift to the kind of actresses England turns out by the dozen – Maggie Smith as Granny, anyone? She’ll still have the outfits from Harry Potter, after all. I would pay good money for this!
So I’m hoping – really hoping – not just that The Watch actually happens, and that it’s great, but that it’s a huge success, because I really want someone with the budget and the imagination to take a run at the rest of the books, whether that be the creator himself or someone else entirely. The material is there, and it’s fantastic. Come on, if Joss Whedon can bring Agent Coulson back to life for SHIELD, surely anything is possible?
What do you think – also, have I missed any news on this? Let me know in the comments!
(My own books are far less successful than Sir Terry, alas, and not quite as funny, but you can nonetheless check them out over at Dark Dates… )