When Terry Pratchett died in 2015, he left behind one of the most prolific, beloved, and lucrative fantasy series in the history of English-language publishing: Discworld. Set in a satirical fantasy universe that rapidly undergoes a magic-tinged version of the Industrial Revolution—complete with societal meldings and racial tensions between humans, dwarves, trolls, vampires, gnomes, and more—Pratchett’s books sketched out one of the most deliberately realized bits of world-building in recent genre lit, paired with the author’s simultaneously biting and gentle sense of satire. Adaptations of Pratchett’s work have endlessly struggled to capture that very particular tone, often losing their balance and falling away into the absurd or the glib.
Which might explain why BBC America’s new Discworld adaptation, The Watch, doesn’t even try. Loosely based on Pratchett’s Night Watch sub-series of books, the show’s trailer suggests that it instead intends to substitute in a whole new vision of its own, one that somehow attempts to make the ideas of “punk rock” and “policing” work together (while still operating in a medieval fantasy setting, natch). Nowhere is that clearer than in the Richard “I was on Game Of Thrones” Dormer’s heavily eye-shadowed take on drunken Night Watch commander Sam Vimes, who, rather than the dour bitterness of his book incarnation, is seen here tossing middle fingers at his sardonic boss Lord Vetinari (Anna Chancellor).
And despite being extremely not-Discworld, the trailer kind of…works? It’s energetic enough, certainly, and it’s hard to turn down any show where Matt Berry plays a magical talking sword. (It was also announced today that The Wire’s Wendell Pierce will be pulling similar voice duties as the franchise’s iconic version of the grim reaper, Death.) Of course, there’s no way to know whether the show itself can keep up this sort of manic energy, or whether it’ll be able to calm down enough to appeal to the millions of Discworld fans. We’ll know soon enough, though; the show also got its release date today, arriving on BBC America on January 3, 2021.