Early January is often a time the BBC releases unusual series. Sherlock and Dracula are just two that spring to mind. In recent years the broadcasting network has made a name for itself adapting fantasy novels, often in cooperation with streaming companies. Neil Gaiman, Philip Pullman and now Terry Pratchett. The Watch is a show derived from the longstanding fantasy novel series Discworld. While I was aware of the series, I had never read any of it. But as it is early January with little else to do what do I stand to lose. The Watch is about an eclectic set of police officers in the fantasy city of Ankh-Morpork. It is lead by Commander Sam Vimes (Richard Dormer). However, The Watch is not without controversy since the start of production. It has been derided by Neil Gaiman and Pratchett’s son. And I must say, they were nearly right.
The initial 15 minutes of The Watch were not interesting. The show nearly lost me as a viewer. The ‘punk rock’ visuals were bad and the writing staff went too far depicting Sam Vimes as a useless alcoholic. As most crimes have been legalized in Ankh-Morpork City there appeared no incentive developing a story around its Watch (or police department). The low-point came when Vimes passed out from alcohol and being hit over the head. He recovers in the morgue of the Watch, it is a scene that is not funny, nor does it progress the story. Besides the tribulations of Vimes the Watch also has a new member, Constable Carrot, played by Adam Hugill. Being new to Ankh-Morpork City he is basically a fish out of water. It allows the audience to better relate to the circumstances but his dumbfounded reactions just last too long.
As though sensing its weakness the creative staff permit the episode to quickly move on. Vimes remains obsessed with events from over 20 years before when his friend Carcer Dun tried to kill him when Vimes refused to kill a member of the Watch. Vimes continues to see apparitions of Dun everywhere and decides to investigate. A trail of dead alchemists and stolen slab (some sort of drug?) means Vimes is investigating something. A stolen book about dragons also feature into the plot somewhere. Things take a turn for the absurd when Vimes is abducted by Lady Sybil Ramkin, a young woman who has become a vigilante. Considering crime is legalized in Ankh-Morpork City I can understand her point of view. Vimes does as well and finally gets the incentive to act professionally. By the end of the episode Dun is tracked down and his conspiracy uncovered.
Final words on The Watch
It ends with Vimes being shot forced to deal with Death. Though it is safe to say Vimes will be alright. While it took a long time to develop there does appear to be an actual storyline to The Watch. The beginning of the episode was just a mess. Granted, it is tough to start a series set in Terry Pratchett-derived fantasy world. But between the lame act of Vimes pissing over himself and total lack of chemistry of the other members of the Watch this series was nearly doomed. I hope the creators know what not to do. But as I said the episode slowly evolved. Vimes’s interactions with Ramkin was just hilarious. No doubt strengthened by the chemistry between Richard Dormer and Lara Rossi. I can definitely stand to watch more episode with just them. Now if only the rest of the cast could do the same.
The Watch has already aired two episode, this is a review of the first. While I had plenty of misgivings I dare say I will give this a thumbs up. It has potential. The fantasy / punk setting does work at times and so does the absurdist British humor. But there are risks involved, it is a long way in quality from Good Omens.