Books VS Films: Terry Pratchett (Part 2)

By Luke Farnish

Three of Pratchett’s works have now been adapted for straight to TV films by production company ‘The Mob’ for Sky. These are Hogfather (2006), The Colour of Magic (2008) and Going Postal (2010).

Going Postal

In my previous article, I discussed the book, TV and graphic novel versions of ‘The Colour of Magic’ by Terry Pratchett. I talked about the fact that all three adaptations were very true to each other. The third Terry Pratchett book adapted by ‘The Mob’ for TV, ‘Going Postal’, on the other hand, changes a large number of plot points.

Like previous films, the cast includes some fine actors, including Richard Coyle, David Suchet and Charles Dance. Richard Coyle’s performance is particularly engaging as the main character Moist Von Lipwig, a con artist who is forced into public service, rebuilding the ruined Post Office and taking on the ‘clacks’, the Discworld equivalent to both The Telegraph and the internet.

Although the core of the story is preserved in both versions, the details of the story are heavily altered in the TV version. Unlike ‘The Colour of Magic’, ‘Going Postal’ is set in a single location and is not an episodic adventure story. The characters persist and are more noticeably missed. Characters ranging from the ancient and fascinating golem messenger Anghammarad, tasked with carrying a message for all eternity to Tiddles, the Post Office cat, are missing from the film version. This does have the effect on the film, making it feel less populated, but equally we get to know certain characters far better for this, such as postmen Stanley and Mr. Groat who are almost absent in the final act of the book.

Notable too is that some characters see changes to their personality, the most significant being Adora Belle Dearheart. She is somewhat unusual in being a female character from a fantasy book who is shown as being highly capable and strong in her own respect. However, the book version is not quite so strong. For example, the TV version is shown to have a good knowledge of the clacks technology and is strict on Moist’s use of golem’s in the Post Office, ensuring their rights are not violated. The book version of Adora had no issues with the use of golems and had absolutely no technical knowledge of the clacks system.

As well as this, a number of minor plot points are changed. Again, the list is very long and to include too many would spoil the enjoyment of the story for anyone inspired to read/see it after reading this article. However, some notable examples include the manner in which Moist prays for money and the time that we learn of Moist’s crimes. He confesses them to Adora Belle Dearheart in the prologue of the film, but in the book they are mentioned around 2/3 of the way through.

There are also some major plot points changed dramatically or omitted. Naturally, anything pertaining to a missing character is not present in the TV version, such as the plot surrounding Anghammarad. The final act is most notable for this, with all but the basic outline of Moist’s plan to beat the clacks being altered in the TV version. Overall, even without seeing the TV version or reading the books one can appreciate the changes made between adaptations here. The question is, which version is better?

The book goes into far greater detail than the film, which is particularly interesting for anyone curious about the way Pratchett’s Discworld operates. As well as this, Pratchett’s humour, wordplay and passion shine through his words and are a true joy to read. That being said, I have to say that I prefer the TV version. The story is far slicker and easier to follow, making its core message that physical message-sending still has a place in the modern world far clearer. This, combined with good performances and a beautifully created world, make it three hours of pure viewing pleasure.

Therefore, I suggest that for this story, film is better than book.

Image “Some Terry Pratchett Books” by Bargainmoose licensed under CC BY 2.0

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