Reviewlet: Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal

Going Postal is Sky One’s third Terry Pratchett adaptation. The first, Hogfather, seemed a bit of an odd choice, jumping into the middle of the Discworld series with a story about belief featuring an anthropomorphic Death as a hero, and though impressively put together it was a tough place to start for someone new to Pratchett. The second, The Colour of Magic, was rather more logically based on the first two books in the series, but they’re not my favourite of his.

Going Postal is a later Discworld book and features Moist von Lipwig, a con artist offered a choice between death and cake. Wait, not cake, I meant sorting out the Ankh-Morpork post office, fallen into disuse with the advent of The Clacks, an optical telegraph system. The Clacks exemplify the technological aspects that have steadily been introduced to the Discworld universe alongside its more magical origins, making it a more accessible analogue for our world, and the self-contained and comparatively straightforward plot of plucky underdog triumphing over corporate greed kept my non-Pratchett-reading wife interested where she’d wandered off during the previous two serials.

The production is lavish, with great attention to detail in the sets topped off by judicious use of CGI; apparently two million envelopes were addressed by hand to dress the Post Office, and even a minor location like a pin shop is transformed into an emporium to delight the most ardent pointy-fastening enthusiast. The performances are very good as well, Richard Coyle’s Lipwig holding things together (though I still can’t help but think of him as Jeff from Coupling) well supported by Ian Bonar and Andrew Sachs as Stanley and Groat in the Post Office, Charles Dance lends considerably more gravitas than a Culture ship name to Venitari, Claire Foy is a suitably threatening Miss Dearheart, but David Suchet slightly steals the show with a scenery-chewing anti-Poirot performance as Reacher Gilt, the villain of the piece. There’s a particularly lovely cameo from Sir Pterry himself right at the end as well. All in all an excellent way to spend a Bank Holiday, even for a newcomer to Pratchett.

9 thoughts on “Reviewlet: Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal

  1. Stabs

    Good stuff. Don’t have access to Sky but I have to say for an author of Pratchett’s quality there really hasn’t been enough done with his books in terms of film and TV. Guess a lot of it doesn’t translate well.

    I agree that they’ve picked odd choices. The number one, stand out, bleeding obvious choice is one of the witches stories with very visual gags and the cops and robbers stories involving the watch. Familiar tropes to the viewers.

    Colour of Magic was written when Pratchett really hadn’t figured out yet how he wanted to write. Lots of the gags are very specifically aimed at fans of dungeons and dragons/fantasy such as Cohen the Barbarian and the click of dice rolling as the gods move their mortal pawns about.

    Going Postal isn’t a bad choice, it even has a love interest but why o why o why do we not have a series featuring Vimes that is into its fourth season already? 170 episodes of Charmed got made and Sir Samuel can’t get his own show? Daft!

  2. Capn John

    I started with the Colour of Magic but Samuel Vimes and his Watchmen have, without a doubt, become my favourite of the Discworld series if books.

    If they’re out on DVD, I’m going to have to see if I can track these down here in the U.S.

  3. mbp

    How did I miss this? Postal is one of my favourite Discworld novels. Hopefully it will be repeated.

    Mind you my wife controls the one decent TV in our house and I am pretty much using up all of my allowance in order to catch Spartacus on Bravo.

  4. Zoso Post author

    Seems there could have been a prime time BBC series based on the Guards books, but they couldn’t agree about ultimate control (see Ansible 264). Massive shame, could’ve been a fantastic Saturday night series; I presume the rights get all tangled up (bit like Mort and the famous “Just lose the Death angle” quote), hence the Sky One productions working with what they can.

    The first two are definitely out on Region 2 DVD with Going Postal coming soon, I guess they’re available as Region 1 as well, definitely worth a look. It’s repeated on Friday June 4th from 6pm, I think. (Quite intrigued by Spartacus as well, it looked a bit like almost-comedic lashings of blood when Charlie Brooker talked about it on You Have Been Watching, but then he said it’s actually a pretty good series in his Guardian column.)

  5. mbp

    @Zoso – Spartacus is actually done in graphic novel style transposed to the small screen. Once you accept that the cartoon violence and gratuitous nudity make more sense. I am enjoying it so far apart from some poor voice acting.

  6. Caspian

    ‘Charles Dance lends considerably more gravitas than a Culture ship name to Venitari’ Splendid to know you are a Banks fan sir – If you could explain ‘Excession’ to me at some point, it would be much appreciated…

  7. Zoso Post author

    Right, Excession, well, there’s this house, there’s this house, and er, it’s in the morning – no, it’s the evening, in the evening and er, there’s a garden and er, this bloke comes in – bloke comes in – what’s his name, er, Swann it is, and…

    Hang on, that’s not Excession, that’s A La Recherche du Temps Perdu, I was summarising Proust by mistake.

    Been quite a while since I read Excession, I recall it was a bit of a brane-melter; I might go on an Iain M. Banks spree after I’ve finished the collected works of Anthony Price…

  8. mbp

    It is more than a decade since I read Excession but here is what I vaguely remember.

    Strange object (the Excession) appears somewhere in the Galaxy and everyone assumes it must have uber powers. Some primitive warlike race decides to try and capture it and launches huge fleet towards it. Massively advanced Culture has not paid much heed to this race because they are so primitive but suddenly begins to worry about what will happen if this aggressive species gets to object first. Unfortunately they have been so smug about how advanced they are that they haven’t got any suitable ships close enough to Excession object to have any hope of stopping the barbarian horde.

    In the meanwhile one of their “minds” a General System Vehicle with a typically silly name begins to act even odder than usual. This GSV has been written off as senile for some time because it spends its time collecting dead bodies to make in to grotesque tableaux. Anyway suddenly it takes off towards the Excession travelling at some outrageous multiple of the speed of light. It turns out that it has been secretly building some enormous engines for itself. When it gets to the Excession (around the same time as the barbarians) a further surprise is revealed when a huge fleet of warships pops out and either blows up or scares off the barbarians. The supposedly senile old mind had been preparing for a confrontation like this for quite some time and the senility thing was just a front.

    I can’t remember what the Ecession turned out to be in the end and whether or not it really was uber powerful.

  9. Caspian

    I wasn’t seriously expecting someone to actually explain Excession to me – but you have surprised me… again… Kiasa readers, consider yourselves mighty…

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