Rhianna Pratchett and Neil Gaiman React To the First Trailer for The Watch
BBC America's adaptation of Terry Pratchett's Discworld series has been met with mixed opinions.
There are few fantasy series as beloved and highly regarded as Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. The 41-book series, which takes place on a flat planet balanced on the back of four elephants standing on a giant turtle, has sold over 80 million books worldwide and has been published in over 35 languages. So when BBC America announced they were creating The Watch, a television series set in Discworld, fans were excited and nervous. The Watch follows the adventures of the Ankh Morpork City Watch police force, first introduced in Pratchett’s Guards! Guards!, as they try to bring law and order to an increasingly out of control city.
But ever since images from the series hit the internet in January, fantasy fans have been confused and dismayed by the adaptation. The series aesthetic has been transformed for colorful fantasy to a muted, cyber-punk interpretation. It’s clear that the series creators, while inspired by Pratchett’s work, have deviated greatly from the source material.
BBC America premiered the first teaser trailer, as well as some exclusive clips from the series at New York Comic-Con this weekend, and the results were, predictably, mixed. We get our first look at drunk watch commander Sam Vimes (Richard Dormer, Game of Thrones), Jo Eaton-Kent’s non-binary Cheery, and Anna Chancellor as Lady Vetinari. We also see Lady Sybill Ramkin (Lara Rossi, Robin Hood) and Death himself, voiced by Wendell Pierce.
Terry Pratchett’s daughter, Rhianna Pratchett, responded to the clips on Twitter, writing “Look, I think it’s fairly obvious that
@TheWatch shares no DNA with my father’s Watch. This is neither criticism nor support. It is what it is.”
Look, I think it's fairly obvious that @TheWatch shares no DNA with my father's Watch. This is neither criticism nor support. It is what it is.
— Rhianna Pratchett (@rhipratchett) October 9, 2020
Pratchett retweeted similar sentiments echoed by Discworld fans, who were dismayed by the liberties taken in The Watch.
At this point I think we can all agree that if you put the BBC script in the same room as an actual Discworld novel it catches fire, implodes, and migrates to a different dimension. https://t.co/5DSDirMnLk
— Katabasis Evans 💀👣 (@perpetualgloom) October 9, 2020
Beloved author Neil Gaiman also weighed in on Twitter in response to fan questions on the faithfulness of adaptions. Gaiman, who collaborated with Terry Pratchett on Good Omens, personally oversaw the novel’s adaptation into a miniseries on Amazon Prime, serving as writer and showrunner for the series. Gaiman defended the creator’s original vision of their work, stating “If you do something else, you risk alienating the fans on a monumental scale. It’s not Batman if he’s now a news reporter in a yellow trenchcoat with a pet bat.”
Yes. But the fan base are fans. And they like the source material because it’s the source material they like. So if you do something else, you risk alienating the fans on a monumental scale. It’s not Batman if he’s now a news reporter in a yellow trenchcoat with a pet bat.
— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) October 9, 2020
Gaiman and Rhianna Pratchett have tapped into a sentiment shared by many of the diehard fans. And while adaptations are, by definition, open to interpretation, it’s all too easy to alienate the fans that made it the project such a hot commodity to begin with.
This is a Terry pratchett book try reading one! pic.twitter.com/tmfVek8Oi6
— SKAFool (@skafool) October 9, 2020
Pratchett take her own crack at adapting her father’s work as the co-director of Terry Pratchett’s production company Narrativia. In April, they announced a partnership with Motive Pictures and Endeavor Content to produce several series based on Discworld.
Narrativia released a statement saying, “The spirit of this new alliance has been forged from a shared love of the source material and a commitment to create an epic series, which will kick off with some of the most iconic titles in Sir Terry’s fiercely incisive and satirical universe,”. Pratchett added, “Discworld teems with unique characters, witty narrative and incredible literary tropes, and we feel these should be realised on screen in a form that my father would be proud of.”
Rob Wilkins, the managing director of Narrativia, said of the BBC America series, “Though Narrativia retain an executive producer credit in The Watch, they have no creative involvement in the project. However, they of course wish The Watch all the best.”
What do you think of the first clips from The Watch?
(via The A.V. Club, featured image: BBC America)
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