BBC's The Watch 'shares no DNA with Terry Pratchett's work', says daughter

Rhianna Pratchett joins fans unhappy with the forthcoming TV adaptation of her father’s Discworld stories about Ankh-Morpork’s City Watch

Terry Pratchett’s daughter Rhianna Pratchett has said that the forthcoming television adaptation of the late author’s stories about Ankh-Morpork’s City Watch “shares no DNA with my father’s Watch”, and that she “should know”.

The Watch, a new series from BBC America and BBC Studios, will air in January in the US, but a trailer shared over the weekend has prompted an outpouring of criticism from fans. Describing itself as “inspired by” Pratchett’s novels about the City Watch, the new trailer for the series shows Richard Dormer as a punk-rock version of the Watch’s grizzled commander Sam Vimes, in a show that BBC America is pitching as about a band of “misfit cops as they fight to save a ramshackle city of normalised wrongness from both the past and future in a perilous quest”.

“Look, I think it’s fairly obvious that The Watch shares no DNA with my father’s Watch. This is neither criticism nor support. It is what it is,” wrote Rhianna Pratchett, a game designer and author, on Twitter.

The award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Aliette de Bodard was one of many to criticise the new trailer. De Bodard said she was “super disappointed”, and would not be watching the adaptation. “I feel someone took my teenage years and just repeatedly trampled them while setting them on fire,” she wrote on Twitter.

“I’m a big fan of remixing things and adapting them, and I don’t expect any adaptation to be faithful in the sense of rigidly following books. But... you cannot take the core of what makes the story, remove it, and then change every single character and still call it the Watch,” said de Bodard. “I see absolutely NOTHING of the books in the trailer. I see vigilantism (which Vimes ABHORS) being justified … I see Vimes as some kind of funny, incompetent seeming policeman, and that is NOT what Vimes is about. Vimes is drunk. Vimes is angry. But Vimes is never anything less than sharp.”

Neil Gaiman, who co-wrote Good Omens with Terry Pratchett and shepherded the recent adaptation as showrunner, added his voice to hers. Fans, he pointed, out, like the source material, “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”.

Rhianna Pratchett had previously called out the showrunner of The Watch, Simon Allen, for failing to thank her father in a message to the show’s creators, and has been clear that the show is “inspired by”, rather than based on, the City Watch books. The BBC has had “complete creative control”, she has said, and she has not been involved “for years”.

In a panel at New York ComicCon last week, the show’s executive producer Richard Stokes said that Pratchett’s books were “incredible, but what was very clear from the early 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.”

Stokes said you “don’t need to know the books to be able to enjoy the series and that’s one of the most exciting things about it for a big audience”.

Rhianna Pratchett, through the independent production company Narrativia which was launched by her father, is currently working with Motive Pictures and Endeavor Content to create “truly authentic … prestige adaptations that remain absolutely faithful to [Pratchett’s] original, unique genius”.


Alison Flood

The GuardianTramp

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