Our First Look at the Discworld TV Show Is Not What You Were Expecting

Vimes and Angua are on the case.
Vimes and Angua are on the case.
Image: BBC America

The Watch is here. But it’s not a version of Ankh-Morpork’s infamous guard that you might have been envisioning when news of a new Discworld show first popped up.

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BBC America has dropped the first official pictures from The Watch, an eight-episode series that takes the characters of Ankh-Morpork’s City Watch, first introduced in Terry Pratchett’s beloved Guards! Guards! and since went on to star in a series of their own Discworld novels, as they navigate attempting to bring some semblance of law and order to a very lawless and disorderly wonder of a city. But while Discworld might be couched in a more traditional fantasy aesthetic, The Watch looks like a mish-mash of weird, industrial-revolution era history and a more modern sense of style.

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The first pictures give us looks at several of the previously-announced cast in action for the first time. Above is Richard Dormer as Sam Vimes, Captain of the titular Watch, and frustrated that Ankh-Morpork’s rules have effectively neutered the City Guard’s ability to fight crime. Alongside him is Marama Corlett as Corporal Angua, one of the Watch’s senior members tasked in the show with taking new recruit Constable Carrot (Adam Hugill, seen with Angua below) under her wing.

Law & Order meets Game of Thrones, with a dash of Good Omens for good measure. It is a Pratchett show, after all.
Law & Order meets Game of Thrones, with a dash of Good Omens for good measure. It is a Pratchett show, after all.
Image: BBC America

You can already see some of the strange intersections of period aesthetic here—Vimes, Angua, and even Carrot, as appropriately dorky as he first looks, all kind of look like extremely chic modern detectives. Gone is the plate armor they’re seen wearing on Discworld book covers, replaced with jackets, ID badges around their necks, and in Angua’s case, some devastatingly smoky eye shadow. But there are interesting period elements woven into those contemporary designs. Under his jacket, Carrot’s got what looks like chainmail and a belted-up tunic, while Vimes’ jacket has got intricate bits of additional padding to give it a more militaristic look.

Angua and Cheery keeping it casual.
Angua and Cheery keeping it casual.
Image: BBC America
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The clash of old and new becomes even clearer in this picture of Angua and Constable Cheery (above), the Watch’s forensic’s expert. In the books, Cheery is a female dwarf but in the show, Cheery will be presented as non-binary human who was orphaned and raised by dwarves as a child, played by genderfluid actor Jo Eaton-Kent. They’re wearing an extravagant mix of more casual wear akin to the rest of the Watch, but under a leather armored vest.

Our first look at two major antagonists in the series looks a little more evocative of the traditional fantasy you might have been expecting, however.

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Dun was a major antagonist in Night Watch, one of the several City Watch novels.
Dun was a major antagonist in Night Watch, one of the several City Watch novels.
Image: BBC America

Above you can see Sam Adewunmi as Carcer Dun, flanked by guards in bulky armor that’s a cross between platemail and police riot gear, wielding crossbows. Dun is Vimes’ archnemesis in Night Watch, a serial killer adamant of his innocence despite a litany of crimes to his name.

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Meanwhile, below you can see Lara Rossi as Lady Sybil Ramkin. Her role is being expanded for the show—in the books, she eventually becomes romantically intertwined with Vimes and marries him—where she’s being described as a member of the City’s noble classes, who has turned to vigilantism to go after the criminals the Watch no longer has the power to pursue themselves. As you can see here, that vigilantism is, well...fiery.

Lady Sybil gets her vigilante on.
Lady Sybil gets her vigilante on.
Image: BBC America
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 The Watch is set to hit BBC America and BBC One sometime this year.


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James is a News Editor at io9. He wants pictures. Pictures of Spider-Man!

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DISCUSSION

adamwhitehead01
Adam Whitehead

Can you imagine being a scriptwriter egotistical enough to have a copy of Terry Pratchett’s Guards! Guards! and Night Watch to hand and thinking, “No, I’m a much, much better writer than Pratchett. I’ll just use the names and make up my own stuff.” The arrogance of it is absolutely breathtaking.

The writer’s name is Simon Allen by the way, and his breathless CV consists of the BBC’s forgettable Musketeers show and a few episodes of forgettable late night drama New Tricks.

I think this only happened because BBC America did the same thing with Dirk Gently and it ended up working, but they got away with that because Dirk Gently is relatively obscure, already had a successful, faithful TV adaptation and the show was posited as a semi-sequel to the books with an original story, and it worked well on that basis (at least until the showrunner turned out to be a massive sex pest and the series got cancelled).

Discworld, on the other hand, has sold almost 100 million books, is one of the biggest and best-known fantasy series in the history of the genre, has a rabid and enthusiastic fanbase of almost 40 years standing and its author is regarded as one of the smartest, most observant and most humane authors in the history of the field. Taking his work and throw it in the garbage can and setting fire to it was never going to end well for the studio involved.