Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series is one of the most successful fantasy franchises in human history, a best-selling achievement made only more impressive by the fact that so many of its 40+ books are so damned good. Pratchett’s magical comedies have been described with any number of adjectives over the decades—“hilarious,” “humanist,” “weirdly obsessed with orangutans”—but “punk rock” and “thriller” aren’t typically among them. Which is what makes it so strange to read BBC America’s logline for its upcoming Pratchett adaptation, The Watch, only to learn that it’s a “punk rock thriller inspired by the legendary ‘City Watch’ subset of Discworld novels.”
To be fair, the Watch books—which kicked off with 1989's Guards! Guards!—are typically the most subversive and urban of Pratchett’s novels, centered as they are on the sorts of inept fantasy police officers that get mowed down by heroes by the hundreds in more typical works, but who turn out to be surprisingly effective peacekeepers when given the chance. Still, the suggestion here is that writer Simon Allen is taking some pretty extreme liberties with the tone of Pratchett’s universe, which slowly evolved over the years from a barebones Tolkien and Pern pastiche into a nuanced, comedic look at the way the Industrial Revolution would play out in a world where wizards are treated like WMDs, and dwarves and trolls are just another pair of assimilating ethnic groups vying for a slice of the pie.
Still, it rarely pays to judge a series simply on its ad copy; BBCA has just given a green light to The Watch, so we’ll know more about how it intends to express its, uh, punk rock sensibilities as development moves forward.