I’ve never read a single Discworld novel in my entire life.
But BOY, do I love the radioplay adaptations of Dirk Maggs!
Dirk Maggs was responsible for a lot of adaptations of long-running comic books featuring Superman, Batman, Judge Dredd, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four. He also adapted for radio comedies, novels, Gerry Anderson’s Thunderbirds and even a movie when he did his own version of “An American Werewolf in London”. He was also the spiritual successor to Douglas Adams when he brought back the original BBC Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in the mid-00’s, covering the rest of Adam’s novels into three new series. Most recently, he adapted Neil Gaiman’s “Neverwhere” series into an all-star ensemble piece, and this segues nicely to what we’re about to cover…
On Christmas 2014, Radio 4 / BBC Iplayer released a 6 parts radioplay adaptation of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s book 1990 “Good Omens” It starts Peter Serafinowicz and Mark Heap as Crowley and Aziraphale: a demon and an angel who band together in secret to prevent the coming of the apocalypse destined by the uprising of the antichrist. Unfortunately for our odd couple, their plans backfire in amazing fashion when due to a mixup at the convent, the child was switched with the wrong baby, so instead of a US senators child (Named Warlock), the antichrist is actually the naïve young boy called Adam Young, and he has a lot of magazine reading to do…..
Now, I’m going to skip past the plot from here on in. Mainly because I’m a firm believer of getting people to enjoy stuff unspoiled. If you’ve already listened to this audioplay, then…. Well, yay! You’ve obviously come here to read my thoughts, and I’m honoured. Thank you. Don’t worry, I’ll try not to ramble. If you’ve come here off of reading the book, and you want a comparison between that and the audio, well I can’t give you that either. As I stated above: I really haven’t read much of Pratchett’s fiction. In fact the only novel I ever read was Diggers when I was 10. That was a looooooong time ago now. But I can tell you this: listening to this audioplay, combined with the recent Old Oilhouse roundtables, has made me want to start, and I’ll be grabbing the original Good Omens novel quite soon, I think. So, my thoughts will be exclusively on the audioplay as presented.
In over 20 years, I have never been disappointed in a Dirk Maggs production yet, and this was no exception. Maggs goes for a pioneering audio style that cheats you into thinking you are watching a blockbuster movie with your eyes shut. This was enhanced in the recent Neverwhere adaptation with the inclusion of homegrown Hollywood actors like Benedict Cumberbatch and James McAvoy. In Good Omens, what we have is possibly the cream of british comedy who also happen to be bloody good actors, alongside some child actors who have the chops to go far. A nice inclusion was having Simon Jones (the definitive Arthur Dent) as Adam’s dad, right down to his asking if he could have a cup of tea. Another nice touch are two certain gentlemen making a cameo in episode 1. See if you can pick them out. Story wise, there are elements here that I can’t help but think that Kevin Smith might’ve adopted for his Dogma script. Considering the source material, though, this is probably just a coincidence. Overall the things I liked were the interaction between Crowley and Aziraphale, and their demonstrations that prove that even when you are the literal metaphorical manifestations of good and evil, there are always shades of grey. Their scenes together are interesting and engaging. Also, witnessing Adam unknowingly playing out his pre-determined role as the antichrist, albeit from a very youthful and naive point of view, shows that quite literally the road back to hell can be paved with good intentions. Having said that, I don’t really connect with him either: he actually comes across as quite stuck up his own importance for me to really think of him as genuinely kind-hearted. But then: were any of us really “good” when we’re young? Ooooh, this is getting deep. Better cut that out…
Oh, I have one gripe: whatever became of Warlock?
After listening to this, I wonder if Dirk will tackle more Pratchett fiction? Maybe even the discworld itself? If anybody was ever suited for such a task, it’s him. He has proven time and time again that novel to audio adaptations are in safe hands with him. He’s a fellow geek who loves what he does, and that’s enough for me. We actually interviewed him on the podcast a couple of years ago, and you find it on this very website! Well worth a listen. Then again: I am kinda biased.
Is this audio worth a listen? If you like modern day fantasy, go for it. I highly suggest you get the CD version, as it has a lot of deleted scenes put back in, and even a blooper reel at the end. Will the lovers of the original book like this play? You tell me by writing a comment down below this article and tell us what you thought.
This coming May marks 25 years since the first publication of the book. I can’t think of a more fitting celebration.
Matt "Timelord" Clark has been in the podcasting circles for longer than Dinosaurs roamed the world, Starting from Autobot City, and then creating and running The Nerdsphere Network, and slowly becoming the Victorian Gentleman he was born to be, Matt's work can be found strewn throughout internetland