Thoughts & Essays

BBC America’s ‘The Watch’

I am extremely concerned about BBC America’s The Watch.

👉 ‘The Watch’: ‘Game Of Thrones’ Richard Dormer To Lead BBC America’s Terry Pratchett Adaptation.

Eaton-Kent plays Constable Cheery, the ingenious non-binary forensics expert, ostracized by their kin and finding a new home and identity. Hugill plays Constable Carrot, the idealistic new recruit, raised by dwarfs, but really a human abandoned at birth. Corlette is the mysterious Corporal Angua who is tasked with Carrot’s training and keeping the rookie alive. Rossi plays Lady Sybil Ramkin, last scion of Ankh-Morpork’s nobility, who’s trying to fix the city’s wrongs with her chaotic vigilantism. Adewunmi is the wounded and wronged Carcer Dun, out to hijack destiny itself, take control of the city and exact a terrible revenge on an unjust reality.

Um. That’s. A lot.

I’m concerned with Lara Rossi as Lady Sybil Ramkin. Rossi is young and thin, and Sybil is a big, solid older lady. She’s like, mid to upper forties, minimum, and she’s a big woman, tall as well as and heavy. I always pictured her as well bigger than Vimes. Nothing against the actress in particular, she’s a good actress. Just… she’s kinda little.

Also “chaotic vigilantism”? From… Sybil? Huh. Sybil was pretty progressive for nobility, but she was still a noble and it showed. She did activism, sure, but her activism was, like, drawing on her vast network of lady friends to quietly arrange social change via concerts. Nothing against that, it was effective. But it wasn’t exactly what I’d call “chaotic vigilantism.”

(And, because I’m sure there are fake nerd boys out there bitching about it, she’s black and that’s fine. There’s no reason Sybil can’t be a black woman. Don’t come at me with any of that bullshit.)

I’m concerned, too, with the inclusion of Carcer Dun. Is this show meant to be an adaptation of Night Watch? That’s the book Carcer Dun was in. It’s one of my favorite Pratchett books. It has a lot to say about a lot of things, and I’d love to see a proper adaptation of it. But… the way the rest of the quoted paragraph is written makes it sound like we’re more at the beginning of the Watch’s appearances, where Carrot was brand new and Angua had just joined and Vimes was still a stumbling drunk, and Carcer doesn’t turn up until very nearly the end of the Watch stories. The Watch came a long way before Carcer turned up, and that’s important in making him a proper villain. Vimes had put a lot of work in and had a lot to lose by the time he was dealing with Carcer Dun. That’s part of what made Carcer such a threat.

I am interested in how Cheery as a non-binary person changes things, though. Pratchett’s dwarfs all present as male – literally, you can’t tell the difference between male and female dwarfs. Dwarfs can’t tell the difference between male and female dwarfs. Many jokes are made over the course of the books about how part of dwarf courtship involves carefully and politely trying to figure out what sex the dwarf you’re courting actually is. Culturally, sex doesn’t matter to dwarfs – they all use male pronouns, and they all have equal rights.

The deal with Cheery is that she initially presents as a male dwarf and over the course of her first book it’s gradually revealed she’s female, and that she’d like to be seen and treated as female. There’s some interesting stuff in the book about how everyone, including other dwarfs, navigates that.

It would be pretty easy to shift that to a non-binary dynamic, though, and I’ll be interested to see how the series handles the whole thing. Cheery’s first appearance wasn’t dedicated to navigating dwarf gender roles, but there was a lot in there about it. I hope the show isn’t just like “hey, they’re non-binary now, moving on.” I want to see how that affects things, like in the book.

But overall, I dunno. The article says, “Set in the fictional city of Ankh-Morpork, where crime has been legalized, The Watch is a ‘punk rock’ drama.” And like… man. That’s not exactly how I’d describe Terry Pratchett’s work or his Watch stories. I’m worried this is going to turn out like that Americanized Doctor Who movie they did back in the day with the 8th Doctor. Like… they kind of got it, but it was also terrible, and I really, really don’t want to see that happen to Terry Pratchett’s books.