The City Watch story arc in Terry Pratchett’s influential comedic fantasy series, Discworld, follows the exploits of the police force in Ankh-Morpork, the realm’s corrupt capital. Recently, BBC America developed a television show loosely based on these tales entitled, The Watch that aired this evening (although the first episode was made available on the AMC+ streaming service three days earlier). How does this different take on the police procedural fare? Let’s dive in to the season premiere.
Crime is so rampant in the city, that it has become legalized and bureaucratized. As long as the law-breaking is kept within the assigned quotas and have the appropriate accompanying paperwork, the Watch have no choice but to look the other way since any interference will result in death. However, a new upstart appears on the scene not obeying these very generous rules and its up to the rag tag crew of law enforcement to confront this threat.
“A Near Vimes Experience” does a great job introducing the members of the diverse, titular group. Constable Cheery is the forensics expert and one of the few dwarves who is open with her gender. Don’t let Corporal Angua’s pixie-like looks and diminutive frame fool you. She packs quite the bite, literally, since she is a werewolf. Sergeant Detritus, a troll, is the lumbering muscle and Constable Carrot is the new by-the-books recruit. Though she’s not an official member, the good Lady Ramkin is a wealthy citizen who wants to clean up Ankh-Morpork and aids the Watch. They are all lead by Sam Vimes, who spends more time drinking than policing.
This collection of personalities puts a unique spin on the crime genre blending in the fantasy elements. We’re still only exploring the surface of these characters but I’m already interested in learning more about them and to see how each of their special talents can help them in crime fighting. The world building in general crafts an imaginative setting with all these different creatures living side by side in the city. There’s a somewhat steampunk feel in how modern technology is incorporated with the combination of magic and practical energy sources. The imp powered security cameras are a nice touch.
The series also emits a punk rock vibe throughout. The soundtrack, the set designs, the humor, and the way certain scenes are shot, all add to this rebellious attitude. It all provides energy to help fuel the show even during the slower, investigative portions.
Story wise, the episode does recycle many aspects from the police procedural. Vimes and Carrot are the typical grizzled, alcoholic, veteran and idealistic, naïve, small-town rookie. Speaking of Vimes, his original intentions for joining the Watch and subsequent change of heart along with his ties to the up-and-coming gang lord are not entirely new either. At least the seemingly separate cases—an unsanctioned murder, a missing library book, and the new criminal—are cleverly connected.
Though it relies on familiar tropes, the fantasy mash-up and punk rock feel provide a fresh take on the typical crime drama in The Watch.
The Watch airs Sunday nights on BBC America.
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