Top 5 Discworld Screen Adaptations

“Didactylos shrugged. “The Turtle exists. The world is a flat disc. The sun turns round it once every day, dragging its light behind it. And this will go on happening, whether you believe it is true or not. It is real. I don’t know about truth. Truth is a lot more complicated than that. I don’t think the Turtle gives a bugger whether it’s true or not, to tell you the truth.” 

The Turtle in question’s name is The Great A’tuin, he swims through the eternal ether, and upon his back, stand four elephants, whose names I can’t be bothered to look up, and upon their mighty shoulders rests the Discworld.

One of the hidden tragedies of the world came to light yesterday. Most Americans have never read a single Discworld book.

I am not COMPLETELY unreasonable. I understand that reading is harder for some people than others and not all books have those very helpful pictures inside.

But there is good news. literacy can simply be feigned by watching a few movies!

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books have had several adaptations for the small screen. They very drastically in quality and content BUT all of them are a much more sincere effort than the BBC’s upcoming abomination called The Watch.

None of them are anywhere nears as good as reading Terry Pratchett’s caustic, sadly stoic, yet hilarious prose.

5. Colour of Magic:

“Ankh-Morpork! Pearl of cities! This is not a completely accurate description, of course — it was not round and shiny — but even its worst enemies would agree that if you had to liken Ankh-Morpork to anything, then it might as well be a piece of rubbish covered with the diseased secretions of a dying mollusc.” 

Unlike their American cousins, the English like prefer comedies with a sad ending. They like some tears with their laughter. And at first, the Discworld books followed that formula. And so we are introduced in the Cloud of Magic to Rincewind the “Wizzard.” An incompetent magic-user who only ever learned one spell and it’s so powerful there is no room for any others in his head. Also, he doesn’t know how to use it.

This mini-series condenses the first two books of the series (The Colour of Magic and The Light Fantastic into two TV movies.

Colour of Magic is my least favorite of the tv shows and I’m not a huge fan of the book either. Frankly, I’m not that fond of Rincewind come to that, none of his books were all that good. This show had a worse problem than that. Pratchett’s world had changed considerably between the publication of the first book and the making of this mini-series. Originally Ankh-Morpork was a pastiche of Fritz Leiber’s Lankhmar in 1983 but by 2008 it was very much its own thing and it had its own presence in British popculture. The mini-series had to try and achieve a compromise between popular perception and the actual narrative. This was back when the BBC cared about entertaining an audience rather than subverting its expectation.

Hence it’s low rank.

Although, I did like Jeremy Irons as Vetinari.

Currently available on Amazon streaming for about $4.00 but I would only recommend it for established fans.

4. Wyrd Sisters:

“The storm was really giving it everything it had. This was its big chance. It had spent years hanging around the provinces, putting in some useful work as a squall, building up experience, making contacts, occasionally leaping out on unsuspecting shepherds, or blasting quite small oak trees. Now an opening in the weather had given it an opportunity to strut its hour, and it was building up its role in the hope of being spotted by one of the big climates.”

I’m a fan of hand drawn animation, less so of cheaply made hand drawn animation. And sadly this one was pretty cheap. But it is a reasonably faithful rendition.

We meet the Maiden, the Mother and… Granny Weatherwax. There is something very English country about the Lancre stories, which is the core of their appeal.

Currently available on YouTube but it’s pirate upload so don’t count on it being there for long.

3. Going Postal:

“There is always a choice.” 
“You mean I could choose certain death?” 
“A choice nevertheless, or perhaps an alternative. You see I believe in freedom. Not many people do, although they will of course protest otherwise. And no practical definition of freedom would be complete without the freedom to take the consequences. Indeed, it is the freedom upon which all the others are based.”

My second favorite of the books. Maybe my expectations were a little high in consequence. It certainly had the highest production value of any of these, (they could afford Charles Dance as Vetinari). It was trying, but what was it trying to do? Was it trying to tell Pratchett’s story? Not so much really. It was following the A-Story narrative from the book but was more interested in telling the B-Story the producer.

I also had objections to some of the details. Angua was decently cast in this version but she turned into a wolf in a tavern in front of everyone in it, which Angua would never do. And Death wasn’t in it at all.

Had I only known what the future had in store, I would have kept my mouth shut.

Available on Amazon Prime

2. Soul Music:

“Susan hated Literature. She’d much prefer to read a good book.”

The second animated feature on this list. And the first appearance in the books of Susan Death, who was one of my favorite characters in the entire system. Death is a major character in all of the Discworld books. He has an interest in humans but doesn’t quite get them. Consequently, he adopted a girl, who then married his apprentice and they left his realm. Soul Music starts with this couple falling off a cliff in their carriage, to their end. Death is watching all this from a mountain top, he turns to the audience and says, “Yes, I could have done something.”

This animation was made by the same company that did Wyrd Sisters, and again its primary weaknesses are in the art design and the jerkiness of the animation. It’s truer to the original story and I like that story.

Available on for free on YouTube but again, it’s a pirate upload.

Hogfather:

“You can’t give her that!’ she screamed. ‘It’s not safe!’
IT’S A SWORD, said the Hogfather. THEY’RE NOT MEANT TO BE SAFE.
‘She’s a child!’ shouted Crumley.
IT’S EDUCATIONAL.
‘What if she cuts herself?’
THAT WILL BE AN IMPORTANT LESSON.”
 

The first Discworld adaption I ever saw, so perhaps I over rate it. But then this list is based on nothing more subjective than my own preferences in the first place. This is the second Susan Death book on this list and her first live-action appearance.

The show starts with the head of the Assassin’s Guild (played dashingly by David Warner) accepting a contract to kill the Hogfather (the Discworld Santa Claus). However, if successful it will mean the end of all life on Discworld. Consequently, Death takes an interest since he rather likes people (and since killing all of them at once is likely to be taxing). He impersonates the Hogfather as best he can while his granddaughter Susan does battle with the Assassin.

Available for purchase on Amazon video. At $4 it’s a pretty good deal.

=================================================

Bonus: Discworld, the Game

““We’re dealing here,” said Vimes, “With a twisted mind.”
“Oh, no! You think so?”
“Yes.”
“But… no… you can’t be right. Because Nobby was with us all the time.”
“Not Nobby,” said Vimes testily. “Whatever he might do to a dragon, I doubt if he’d make it explode. There’s stranger people in this world than Corporal Nobbs, my lad.”
Carrot’s expression slid into a rictus of intrigued horror.
“Gosh,” he said.”
 

4 thoughts on “Top 5 Discworld Screen Adaptations

  1. OK, so where is Hogfather available? You mentioned where to find the others, but don’t seem to mention it for your top pick.

    Like

  2. I prefer to collect ARC versions of his books, my wife is a hard core fan and got me into them. We used to order the UK version of the hardcovers because the North American covers sucked.
    I was in Boston once for training, and I had missed his appearance at the bookstore by a week! My wife was pretty shocked to get an autographed book for Christmas.

    It’s a shame how they pushed out those last few books. No way did he write the railroad one himself. It was pure paint by number, no soul.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s