BBC America's 'The Watch' Will Bring Terry Pratchett's 'Discworld' to Television (Sort Of)

The cast of "The Watch" (Photo: BBC America)

There is good news and there is bad news for Terry Pratchett fans in 2021. Good news, new sci-fi drama The Watch is coming to BBC America in January, and it's based on the author's beloved Discworld series of novels, a complex and messy tale of the eponymous Discworld, a flat planet balanced on the backs of four elephants which in turn stand on the back of a giant turtle. (It's a whole thing, just go with it.)

Bad news: The series is what can be only called "loosely inspired" by those same books.  (Though that doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing - and your mileage may vary on how you feel about it.)

On some level, this makes sense, as the Discworld series is comprised of over 40 novels and they're all pretty complicated and more than a bit weird. The Watch looks as though it means to attempt to convey the tone and spirit of Pratchett's work, rather than strictly adhere to the beats of his books, and in the world of television adaptations, that may not be the worst idea ever. But for those who are Pratchett purists, this may be upsetting news. (Or at least something they'll need a minute to get used to.)

The story is sort of loosely inspired by Pratchett's characters, but its plot is certainly not anything you'll find in the novels. Instead, Game of Thrones star Richard Dormer leads an unlikely gang of useless misfits known as the City Watch. This small, generally useless police force is meant to hold things down in Ankh-Morpork, a place where most crime isn't actually illegal, and even the assassins and thieves have official guild representation, which means they're immune from pesky things like jail time. So the Watch has precious little to do, and their leader Sam Vine (Dormer) is generally seen as something of a joke.

And also, magic exists. And not just like, a little bit of magic, either - Ankh-Morpork is populated by wizards, trolls, werewolves, dwarves, and more. So when the group learns of an evil plan to destroy the city by resurrecting a dragon, they know they must come together to try and stop it. Whether they'll be able to or not is the question.

The synopsis describes the series as follows. 

The Watch follows an unlikely group of misfits, The City Watch, who are forced to find the guts to save the world, surprising even themselves in the process. The comedic yet thrilling series pits trolls, werewolves, wizards and other improbable heroes against an evil plot to resurrect a great dragon which would lead to the destruction of life as they know it. From lead writer and executive producer Simon Allen, the modern and inclusive series is inspired by the characters created by Sir Terry Pratchett’s famous “Discworld” novels, including the captain of The City Watch Sam Vimes, the last scion of nobility Lady Sybil Ramkin, the naïve but heroic Carrot, the mysterious Angua and the ingenious forensics expert Cheery, together with The Watch’s own idiosyncratic depiction of Death.

Watch the extended trailer for The Watch for yourselves. 

The show also stars Lara Rossi (I May Destroy You), Adam Hugill (1917), Marama Corlett (Blood Drive), Jo Eaton-Kent (Don’t Forget the Driver)Wendell Pierce (The Wire), and more. 

The Watch premieres Sunday, January 3 on BBC America.

Does this sound like something you'd watch? Why or why not? Let's discuss in the comments.

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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