Follow TV Tropes


Series / The Watch (2021)

Go To
The Watch is a British fantasy, comedy, police procedural series, inspired by the Discworld novels of Sir Terry Pratchett. The show depicts the Watch, an incompetent, ragtag, toothless police force, located in the city of Ankh-Morpork, in a parallel universe to our own. The Watch, led by the depressed alcoholic Captain Vimes (Richard Dormer), is tasked with protecting the city from a mysterious new threat: a ginormous dragon, summoned by Vimes's former (and supposedly long dead) friend Carcer Dun (Sam Adewunmi). He is joined by dragon enthusiast and vigilante Lady Sybil Ramkin (Lara Rossi), and the rest of the Watch: Newbie Constable Carrot Ironfoundersson (Adam Hugill), the cynical werewolf Corporal Angua von Überwald (Marama Corlett), Troll Sergeant Detritus (Ralph Ineson), and the Dwarven forensic expert Corporal Cheery Littlebottom (Jo Eaton-Kent).

The show was released on BBC America in January 2021, after having spent ten years in development and going through several production teams, including at one point Pratchett's daughter Rhianna. The final product deviates considerably from the plots, characters, and medieval/steampunk setting of the novels, but uses various elements of all of these in a punk-rock dystopian setting.

The Watch provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Lady Sybil Ramkin is the best hand-to-hand fighter of the series, able to hold her own against multiple trained assassins.
  • Adaptation Name Change: The Auditors of Reality are referred to as "the Observers".
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade:
    • Carrot is much more distraught at having been abandoned as a baby than in the books, where he never comments on it.
    • Angua is even more resentful of her werewolf heritage than in the books, especially since her family staged for her to kill her human friend while in wolf form to prove that humans and werewolves could not live together. She also has little or no self-control when the full moon forces her to change, unlike books-Angua who is merely stuck in wolf form at such times yet retains her own will.
    • Lady Sybil Ramkin witnessed her parents' assassination as a child and it still haunts her. Nothing of the sort happened in the books. No doubt the idea was show the very real personal effects of the city's licensed crime policy.
    • Vimes first met Detritus after the latter saved him from an attempted suicide. While Vimes is still a depressive alcoholic in the books, nothing of this sort happens.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: Lady Sybil Ramkin in the books is described as being rather a large, middle-aged woman whose hair has been burned off by dragons, although Vimes still finds her quite beautiful. In the series she is depicted as more conventionally attractive, being younger and of a more athletic build.
  • Adaptational Badass:
    • Sybil in the books is still a courageous and formidable woman but does not really have much combat experience. In the series, shes a full blown Action Girl.
    • Cheery becomes the host for the Summoning Dark, rather than Vimes, granting her an array of powers.
  • Adaptational Comic Relief: Sam Vimes. In the books he's a hard-core Determinator and often the Only Sane Man amidst the antics of the other Watchmen, earning the nickname "Old Stoneface". In the series he's a lot more kooky and comical, which might have something to do with the fact that Fred Colon and Nobby Nobbs, the main comic relief characters from the books, have been Adapted Out.
  • Adaptational Skill:
    • Cheery's range of knowledge and general savviness is far wider than in the books, to the point that she is now The Smart Guy of the Watch. She is the team healer, comes up with most strategies, usually has a piece of knowledge that will help them find the next clue, and eventually comes up with the way of defeating the Noble Dragon. In the books, she is the medieval equivalent of a forensic expert and a grows into being a very good cop, but never displays such a range of skills.
    • Lady Sybil Ramkin is one of the best fighters in the series. In the books, while undoubtedly brave and performing quite well under pressure, she was never shown to display such mastery, nor was there any hint that she had anything but a basic knowledge of combat training.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • In the books, Throat is a usually harmless seller of dubious goods. Here, she is an outright crime boss, who ends up leading the Thieves' Guild.
    • A mild case with Lord Vetinari (see Ambiguously Evil below). S/he never does something outright evil, but is more ambiguous and seems far less dedicated to the good of the city than his/her book counterpart.
    • Ingio Skinner, in the books a servant of Vetinari who is largely on Vimes's side, is here an Assassin and the one who murdered Sybil's parents.
    • Igor (if he is any specific Igor). In the books, Igors are only evil because they work for evil people, and even then only until the angry mob shows up ("'We' belong dead? Where doeth it thay that?"). Here, Igor is part of an ambush for the Watch.
    • Sally behaves mostly as a stereotypical (albeit loopy) vampire, while in the book she was reformed and ultimately proved a decent addition to the Watch.
    • The Alchemists' Guild are depicted as drug dealers who control (most) of the city's supply of Slab, wheras in the books they are infamously explosion-prone Mad Scientists.
  • Adaptational Wimp:
    • Vetinari seems far less on top of things than in the books.
    • Death is far more bumbling than in the books, even when he is doing his job. He seems more interested in being part of a band than actually reaping.
  • Adapted Out: Sergent Colon and Corporal Nobbs do not appear nor are referenced in any way. In the books, Nobbs had been a member of the Watch for almost as long as Vimes and Colon for even longer.
  • Agony of the Feet: Vimes gets a magic sword thrown into his foot.
  • Ambiguous Gender Identity: Lord Vetinari, a male character in the books, is played by Anne Chancellor here but still with the title "Lord". Male pronouns are used for Vetinari usually, with "He is a man of her word" being used once, making it very ambiguous if this version is transgender (possibly nonbinary).
  • Ambiguously Evil: Lord Vetinari. Vimes is suspicious of his/her intentions in wanting control of the dragon, but s/he hasn't actually done anything outright evil and, in fact, tacitly encourages Vimes's altruism and willingness to go against the status quo. The worst thing s/he does is, in the finale, hide in a lushly furnished prison cell while the Watch are busy fighting the dragon.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: Dr Cruces, the head of the Assassin's Guild, who wants control of the dragon for dubious reasons. Lady Sybil is a rare exception, being one of the few nobles with an ambition to reform Ankh-Morpork for the better.
  • Assassin Outclassin': Dr. Cruces and Alice try to kill Sybil after everything's wrapped up, and wind up being dropped down a shaft in her house.
  • Because You Were Nice to Me: Cheery is kind to a goblin named Spike who is part of the group working for Carcer and Wonse (see Fantastic Underclass below.) As a result, Spike flips to the Watch's side and later takes an arrow in the back for them.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Skinner is caught trying to dig out of his cell with a spoon and claims that he was not trying to escape but simply likes the taste of mortar.
    • When Carrot announces that he is a virgin, everybody else reacts with obviously faked surprise.
  • Can't Spit It Out: Carrot and Angua and Vimes and Sybil. They're clearly attracted to each other, but seem unwilling to actually say it out loud.
  • Cliffhanger: The first season ends with Vimes being abducted to the Observers' realm, with Wonse announcing that she will destroy him.
  • Composite Character: Cheery takes elements from both her book counterpart (a dwarf seeing herself as female in a One-Gender Race) and Igor, as the team medic and The Smart Guy.
    • Wonse is also a female wizard who disguises herself as a cleaning lady, much like Eskarina.
  • Consulting Mister Puppet: The alternate Urdo Pew has a person who "talks" through his hand.
  • Crazy-Prepared: There's one cell in the Watch's basement which has long been rusted shut, and they never found the key. Vetinari, naturally, has it. So s/he can lock hirself in if the need ever arises.
  • Creepy Child: Assassin Alice Band, who looks like a teenage girl with Girlish Pigtails, while being a top-ranking Assassin and a bit Ax-Crazy.
  • Death by Adaptation: Detritus dies early in the series even though he survived through all the books. Possibly for budgetary reasons, since he's made of animate stone.
  • Death Glare: Angua is prone to these.
  • Description Cut: The premiere episode opens with Captain John Keel recruiting Sam Vimes to the City Watch of Ankh-Morpork and declaring that in twenty years Vimes will be a captain, an inspiration, a symbol of good. We then cut to a scene of a much more grizzled Sam Vimes reduced to trying to arrest a stray dog and the message "20 years, 9,321 bottles of booze, 68,237 brain cells later," with the "68,237" counter ticking up one by one.
  • Diegetic Soundtrack Usage: In "Better to Light a Candle," the members of the Watch, performing as their band "The What," play a version of the show's theme tune to summon the Noble Dragon. Prior to this, Lady Sybil's dragon Goodboy had been humming in several previous episodes. Sybil releases Goodboy, who then chitters the tune to the Noble Dragon, which then meets its end.
  • Don't Fear The Reaper: Death is a curmudgeon who just wants to get on with the job, and resents how people perceive him. Characters are generally polite to him when they see him. After the members of the Watch get to know him better, he mostly takes the times he runs into them to talk about his music.
  • Driving Question: How is Carcer Dun still alive, and as young as the day he disappeared?
  • Dungeon Punk: The setting of The Watch could be described as this, mixing together electricity, magic, a kitchen sink of fantastic races, all presented with a punk rock dress sense and style.
  • Expy:
    • The Observers are a stand-in for the Auditors of Reality, with implicitly the same motivation of wanting the mortal world to end so that they can stop having to keep track of all the new messiness life constantly creates.
    • Wayne the (boring) talking sword is reminiscent of the equally boring talking sword Kring.
  • The Faceless: Death has no apparent face, except for a pair of bright blue lights for eyes.
  • Fantastic Underclass: The Goblins are perpetually trying to unionize, frustrated by their unpleasant and dangerous jobs as villainous mooks.
  • Fur Against Fang: Vampires and werewolves hate one another one sight. Hissing tends to follow.
  • Gender Flip:
    • ZigZagged. Lord Vetinari is played by a female actress in this adaptation, but their gender is ambiguous, with one character even remarking that "He is a man of her word". He/him pronouns are most often used.
    • Wonse, Cruces and Throat are also women, while they were men in the books.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Carcer is merely a Mook Lieutenant working for a group of mysterious entities that are determined to destroy Ankh-Morpork.
  • I Have Many Names: The Observers, according to Death, and even using one of them summons hideous death on whoever says it.
  • I Just Want to Be Special: Carrot resents not having any special abilities or characteristics and quite welcomes the idea that he could be a descendant of the King. Turns out it is not the case.
  • Incorruptible Pure Pureness: All iterations of Sam Vimes. So much so that even "the worst version" of him that the Observers could find in all the multiverse, who's been in prison for decades, still won't kill Sybil, despite the threat of being returned to prison.
  • In Name Only: The show has been described as inspired by the Discworld novels rather than based on them and it takes a great deal of liberties with the source material. Sir Terry Pratchett's daughter Rhianna and his long time collaborator Neil Gaiman have both pointed out that the show shares very little common ground with the original novels.
  • Instrumental Theme Tune: The show's theme tune is entirely instrumental and played by the members of the Watch as their band "The What" in the first season finale "Better to Light a Candle."
  • Interspecies Adoption: Carrot is a human raised by dwarves and identifies as "A dwarf. And also not a dwarf."
  • Laugh with Me!: Dr. Cruces has to instruct the Assassins to laugh when she makes a joke. Problems befall the new girl when she laughs too hard.
  • Literal-Minded: Carrot, as Sally the vampire finds when she tries to hypnotize him to make out with her but he takes her instruction to "dance" literally.
  • Loophole Abuse: Used to avoid being murdered by the Assassins Guild, the Watch use their newly acquired Musicians Guild membership to grant themselves immunity from attack, as members of a guild. When Dr. Cruces points out that Sybil, who wasn't there when they tried out for the Musicians Guild, is therefore fair game, they point out that as members they can give a tryout to whomever they want, and after some really terrible singing on Sybil's part, she's a member too.
  • Luxury Prison Suite: Vetinari's cell in the Watch's dungeon... isn't a cell. It's more like a lounge. Funnily enough, all the locks and bolts are on the inside, so he can remain there to her heart's content, and if anyone starts investigating, s/he just wanders up to the door and moans a little to reassure them.
  • Mirror Universe: In episode 7, Vimes is swapped with his counterpart from another universe, where he is a cowardly prisoner while Carcer is the benevolent head of the Watch and Carrot a sadistic warden.
  • Misplaced Kindergarten Teacher: The alternate Sybil, who is head of the Tanty, runs it like a kindergarten, complete with mandatory arts-and-crafts sessions.
  • Mistreatment-Induced Betrayal: Wonse turns on Carcer when he stabs her. But when he's erased, she vows to continue his work when the Watch, no longer remembering him, thinks she committed his crimes.
  • Murder, Inc.: The Assassins Guild. All of their "inhumation" work is legal, so long as they leave behind a calling card, don't kill members of other guilds and stay inside of a quota.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • A lot of references to the books appear as Freeze-Frame Bonus or Funny Background Event, e.g. there are advertisements from Throat for dragon detectors - a piece of wood.
    • Carrot is at one point thought to be the rightful heir to the throne of Ankh-Morpork, although this is eventually disproved. In the books, most people suspect this to actually be the case, although it has never been officially confirmed (and Carrot does his best to keep it that way).
    • Sybil gets the Watch out of Assassin-y death by singing part of "All the Angels".
    • An announcement asking Cohen the Barbarian to meet his chiropodist at the reception can be heard while the Watch visits the Twilight Canyons retirement home. In his first appearance in the books, Cohen ended up marrying a (former) sacrificial virgin with a very welcome knowledge of chiropody.
    • In episode 4, Sam and Sybil have an argument about the Sam Vimes Theory of Economic Unfairness. Here, Sybil coins the term sarcastically, and Sam nicks it.
    • At the beginning of episode 5, Throat recites part of Vetinari's speech from the end of Guards, Guards about the people of Ankh-Morpork, and how they "don't say 'yes', but don't say 'no'".
    • Cheery's dwarf song consists in the word "gold" repeated over and over (at least in the subtitles - the word seems to be different each time she says it). In the books a Running Gag is that the dwarves' most popular songs are "Gold, gold, gold" or "Gold, gold, gold". The use of multiple words for "gold" in the song is probably a logical (and funny) extension of how dwarfs don't have any single/general word for "rocks": they have dozens of very specific ones.
  • Nave Newcomer: Constable Carrot, who is disgusted and surprised to learn the Ankh-Morpork Watch, far from doing any police work, are actually in cahoots with the criminal guilds of the city.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Vimes triggers the plot by simply doing his job, attempting to apprehend the murderer Carcer Dun, which leads to his apparent death.
  • Not His Sled: In the books, Carrot is all but confirmed to be the last descendant of Ankh-Morpork's royal line. In the series, he thinks he is for a hot second but it's proven false.
  • Oblivious Adoption: Carrot, a human raised by dwarves, didn't know he was adopted until his parents told him at 16.
  • Oh, My Gods!: Vimes swears "My Gods" after seeing the Noble Dragon for the first time.
  • Our Dwarves Are All the Same: Played with. Both Carrot and Cheery are dwarves, though Carrot only via adoption. Both are upwards of six foot tall, with Cheery's explanation that dwarves "come in all shapes and sizes". Carrot doesn't have a beard, and Cheery initially keeps hers shaved off, though later regrows it. Cheery presents as female with dresses and makeup. Cheery also has a phobia of the dark, making her ill-suited for mines. Later, it is revealed that her local dwarven culture demands homogeneity to the point where they all wear beards, dress identically, and use he/him pronouns regardless of gender, in the belief that it keeps the Summoning Dark away. The dwarves literally try to be all the same. But on the other hand, the dwarves Carrot was raised by weren't like this.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: Most of the vampires of Ankh-Morpork are old and senile, confined to a retirement home, and even the one young vampire we see is a bit dotty.
  • Overly Long Name: Cheery's full dwarfish name takes more than 5 minutes to say.
  • Police Are Useless: This is a key premise of the story. The crime guilds in the city operate on a quota system and police themselves. The Watch has no jurisdiction over guild members which means that they have no jurisdiction over most crime in the city. In the first episode, they are assigned the case of a missing library book and, before this, Vimes was trying to arrest a stray dog for lack of anything better to do. Lady Ramkin detests the Watch because they were powerless to do anything after her parents were killed by an Assassin.
  • Psychological Torment Zone: The area outside the city where the Unseen University dumps its crap. It hones in on a person's worst memories, and makes them tear themselves from the inside out. Literally.
  • Race Lift: Sort of. Characters are rarely specified as being of a particular ethnicity in the books, however, in Night Watch it is revealed that Sam Vimes bears enough of a resemblance to John Keel to assume his identity. In the series Vimes is played by Caucasian actor Richard Dormer, while Keel is played by Hakeem Kae-Kazim, who is of Nigerian descent.
  • Reading Your Rights: Towards the beginning of "A Near Vimes Experience," Sam Vimes tells a stray dog that he's been reduced to trying to arrest that it has the right to remain silent. It pees on his foot.
  • Reduced to Dust: The final fate of Carcer when the Observers erase him from reality.
  • Ripple Effect Indicator: The first sign Carcer is being erased is the stab wound he inflicts on Wonse vanishing.
  • Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory: Wonse in the Season 1 finale. After Carcer Dun is erased from existence, the Observers rewrite things so that people believe that she was the one who summoned the Noble Dragon and tried to burn the city. She remembers the truth and goes before the Observers, demanding that they give her power to destroy the Watch.
  • Running Gag: The Arch Chancellor of the Unseen University cannot swear without being censored out by an unseen choir of singers.
  • Schizo Tech: Ankh-Morpork has computers, electricity and security cameras but, on closer inspection, these are often operated by imps, magic, or are pilfered wholesale from somewhere called "Round World". The Watch still use crossbows and assorted medieval weaponry.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The visual effect of Carcer being erased from existence is identical to people getting snapped.
    • Aristocrat Lady Sybil Ramkin became a vigilante after witnessing the murder of her parents while she was a child.
  • Special Guest: Matt Berry provides the voice of a talking sword.
  • They Look Just Like Everyone Else!: Sybil reacts like this on meeting the man who killed her parents, who's a professional Assassin, saying he looks like an accountant (he's ordinary-looking with glasses). He's actually quite upset by this.
  • Thieves' Guild: One of the crime guilds in Ankh-Morpork, who have a quota on thefts. Within it, they can steal.
  • Thought You Were Dead: Vimes to Carcer Dun, who should have been very dead for at least the last 20 years.
  • Title Drop: Most of the episode titles come from something that is said in the episode itself. "The What?" is the name that the Watch uses as their band name, albeit without the question mark. "Twilight Canyons" is a nursing home visited by the group within that episode. "The Dark in the Dark" is confronted by Cheery within said episode, after having been mentioned by the sword Gawain. "Nowhere in the Multiverse" is so named because it's said that there's "Nowhere in the Multiverse" that Sam Vimes will kill Lady Sybil Ramkin. Finally, there's "Better to Light a Candle," which originates from the phrase "It's better to light a candle than to curse the darkness."
  • Unexpected Virgin: Inverted. When Carrot admits to being a virgin, absolutely no one is surprised, though they all pretend to be, including Spike the goblin in goblin-speak.
  • The Unintelligible: Inverted in the case of the goblins: their speech is subtitled for the benefit of the audience, but very few characters understand what they actually say.
  • Unperson: In the finale, when Carcer Dun fails to defeat the Watch and destroy the city of Ankh-Morpork via the Noble Dragon, the Observers do this to him, completely removing him from having existed. Only Wonse remembers him, but everyone else thinks that she is the one who committed his crimes.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: At the end of episode 8, Vimes takes a few tries to point out to Sybil she's got a fork embedded in her back, from where Alice Band has tried to stab her.
  • Used Future: Much of Ankh Morpork is a graffiti-blazoned, concrete slum.
  • Vigilante Man: Sybil is one, abducting, torturing and then killing criminals.
  • Voice of the Legion: When a vampire or werewolf gets tetchy, their voice starts becoming demonically deep.
  • Was Once a Man: The Librarian, formerly a human wizard, has been turned into an orangutan by magical mishap.
  • Wretched Hive: Ankh-Morpork, where crime is authorised through guilds operating on a quota system.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Watch



In the opening of "Twilight Canyons" from "The Watch," Captain Sam Vimes and Cheery discover that Lady Sybil Ramkin's dragon Goodboy is humming a tune, one that just so happens to match that of the show's theme music.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / DiegeticSoundtrackUsage

Media sources: