Saturday, April 26, 2008

The ways of adaptors are woundrous [stet] strange

Yes...woundrous strange. That's my conflation of the word wounded and the word wondrous.

The average audience member has long been puzzled as to why adaptors of books to film have to change everything around...sometimes jettisoning the source material altogether. I am certainly one of those. I refuse to watch The Lord of the Rings trilogy because of the shabby way Peter Jackson treated Christopher Lee's Saruman in The Return of the King, for example. [Well, also because I didnt' actually like any of the movies, but that's a different kettle of fish.]

Anyway, in England, the BBC produces quite a few book dramatisations each year for radio. And many of these books are given a lot of time - relatively speaking. Running from 1 1/2 to 2 hours for most of 'em. Still not enough time to get through a complete book, but enough to do it justice, one would assume.

Which brings me to Terry Pratchett's Small Gods, currently playing every Saturday at BBC Radio 7. (Each episode is online for 7 days, so if you're reading this blog, you have no exuse to miss it!

Earlier today I tried to listen to it, and turned it off after 10 minutes in a fury. Small Gods is my absolute favorite Terry Pratchett book, and one of my top 10 favorite fiction books, period. And Patrick Barlow, who plays Om, is one of my favorite actors. So I hoped for great things. But knowing the quirks of adaptors, I was a bit nervous.

And in the first 10 minutes two rather vital changes had been made that just ticked me off. However, after calming down, I decided to return to the episode, and it turned out to be not that bad. Lots of the original dialog and prose was left "as is" and Patrick Barlow has a lot of fun with the role.

But the changes - oh the unneccessary changes - or.... were they unneccessary? Did this adaptor, Robin Brooks, have some motive in my mind? In other words, why did he change what he did?

There is a lot of narrative in a Terry Pratchett novel. This narrative voice provides much of the humor. In this adaption, Anton Lesser does the narrating, and he's excellent at it. (I don't know that American actors will know who he is - or indeed anyone in this cast, except for those fortunate enough to have been theater goers and London tourists during the late 1990s, as I was. Visited London, and saw the play Richard II, starring Anton Lesser as Henry, and Alex Jennings as Richard II. And here they are almost 20 years later, in a radio play together, Lesser as Narrator, Jennings as the evil Vorbis.)

Anyway, Brutha is a novice monk in the Citadel. A teenager, he can neither read nor write, but he has an eidetic memory. He remembers everything he sees, and has done since the day he saw a bright white light and somebody hit him.

The Citadel, in the land of Omnia, is the home of the Quisition, which makes sure that the Great God Om is properly worshiped. Om, who normally appears in the form of a great Bull, had come to earth one day three years ago to do some smiting...and when he had metamorphosized found that he had the shape of a small, one-eyed tortoise instead.

An eagle, intending to crack open his shell and eat him, has lifted him up to a great height, and dropped him. But he lands in a garden which is being hoed by Brutha.

And, as will become apparent in this episode, only Brutha can hear Om, because only Brutha, of all the people in the Citadel,( and indeed the land of Om) really believes in him.

So, below is the first change that really set me off, because there was no reason for it:

Om is telling Brutha to go fetch a high priest. If he doesnt, "there will be a shaking of the earth, the moon will be as blood, agues and boils will afflict mankind and diverse ills will befall." This is where the radio version stops. Pratchett adds another sentence - which is absolutely hilarious. "I really mean it." It's perfect. It's hilarious. It would have taken another second or two to say. Why leave it out? Especuially considering the inflection Patrick Barlow could have given it.

Next, we get something more egregious.

Brutha hears the voice of Om, and runs to tell Brother Nhumrod, Master of the Novices about it.

In the book, Nhumrod says, "Sometimes, as He in His infinite wisom sees fit, the God speaks to chosen one and he becomes a great prophet. Now, I am sure you wouldn't presume to consider yourself one of them?"

Brooks version has it:
"Sometimes, as in His infinite wisdom sees fit, the God speaks to chosen one and he becomes a great prophet. Do you consider your voice to have been in that category, Brutha?"

Do you see the difference?

Pratchett is saying that in this religion, there are no real prophets. It's just the religious hierarchy who decides someone is going to be a prophet, and they choose that person.

Then Brooks has Nhumrod going on --- adding a couple of sentences that Nhumrod never said in the book, about nighttime manipulation, etc. (Brutha thinks this, Nhumrod never says it.]

Then, when Brutha brings Nhumrod to hear what Om has to say, Om calls Nhumrod a pederast. Nhumrod is not a pederast. Moreover, Pratchett never uses this word in the book. Pratchett's words are these: Sometimes demons and devils did put disquieting thoughts in his head, but he saw to it that they stayed there and he did not in any literal sense deserve to be called what the tortoise called him, which, in fact, if he had heard it, he would have thought was something to do with feet.

Again, why the change? Pratchett assures his readers that Nhumrod is not a pederast, and so why even mention it in the radio version? Why not have Om call him an "old fool" instead. Unless Brooks wants to make some kind of a point linking Omnian priests to Catholic priests... but it's simply unfair. And at the end of the scene, Brooks has Nhumrod say another couple of sentences that are not in the book - a bit about cucumbers - another hint about Nhumrod's sexuality that simply does not exist in the book -- and therefore should not be introduced into this radio program. (Indeed, in the book Nhumrod' obsession is with melons - ie women's breasts, ie women...)

Then, things are really altered when Brutha and Om talk about religion. Brutha points out all the things that Om had done in the past, and Om points out that he never did any of that stuff.

"He [Ossory] said that you spoke unto him from out of a pillar of flame."


"And you dictated to him the Book of Ossory, which contains the Directions, the Gateways, the Abjurations, and the Precepts. One hundred and ninety three chapters."

"I don't think I did all that...."

"What did you say to him, then?"

"As far as I can remember, it was, "Hey, see what I can do."

Hilarious and quite a smiting at religion, with its one man seeing the burning bush, or the this and the that, and everyone else believing what this one man has to say...

There's no reason at all why Pratchett's dialog here should be changed...yet Brooks changes it. Very annoying!

Obviously, the point about the Omnian religion being created by men and not by Om himself has to be made, in less time than it takes to do in the book. Although, if you leave out Brother Nhumrod's extraneous added dialog, you have more time to say Pratchett's dialog here.

As for the voice work... that's fine.

I would've had Patrick Barlow use a different voice inflection in a few of his lines during that religion quarrel... but then he was saying Brook's lines, not Pratchett's, but overall he does a great job... has a lot of fun with it.

Everyone else does fine as well. Alex Jennings in particular as the cold Vorbis is excellent. Anton Lesser does a good job as the narrator.

So... three more episodes to listen to. Three more chances to hear Robin Brooks interfere with perfection.

Thoughts on Paul Potts (2007)

I don't watch talent shows - not amateur ones, not professional ones like American Idol, or in England, something called England's Got Talent.

Simon Cowell is famous for being vicious towards the amateurs who come on the show, who aren't any good. I don't like that. So of course he gets his comeuppance in 2007 (which didn't raise his consciousness at all) when an overweight, snaggle-toothed phone salesman came onto the show to sing opera.

A year later, Potts is still overweight, but he's got his teeth fixed, and he's touring the world singing opera. A great success story.

But what about the other Paul and Paula Potts out there? The nice people who don't look like much, and just want to live nice lives... but are looked down upon because of their appearance - none of which they can help for the most part. (Yes, getting teeth fixed and losing weight is possible, but your facial features are the result of your parents and there's nothing you can do about it that isn't risky..)

Anyway...what of all the millions of people in the world who dont have great voices in their homely bodies - are they worth less than those people who do? Shouldn't everyone be treated kindly, as if it's not a great voice, perhaps they can write well, or do math, or just be kind to others, etc.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

April 28 - May 1 will be Terry Pratchett week at BBC Radio 7

I am very pleased to report that BBC Radio 7 will be having a Terry Pratchett tribute, for his 60th birthday, coming up the week of April 28-May 1.

The more so because I will finally be able to hear the dramatisation of my all-time favorite Pratchett book, Small Gods, and starring a favorite actor of mine - Patrick Barlow, as the Great God Om. (Indeed, see my blog for him, The Patrick Barlow Experience - still under construction.)

Three years ago the Great God Om decided to pay a visit to his believers and do a little smiting, but when he materialized on Earth he was not a gigantic, ravening bull as he expected, but a small, one-eyed tortoise. He comes to learn that in all the great land of Omnia, crushed under the heels - and racks and pincers - of the Inquisition, the only person who still truly believes in him - is a young man named Brutha.

This was first broadcast about 3 years ago, and I missed it, and I have yearned to hear it ever since.

[I have to admit I'm a bit apprehensive about it. Adaptions are really a hit and miss affair. I'm sure I'll enjoy Barlow's performance but I hope they do justice to this - my favorite Pratchett book.)

Also to be broadcast is an adaption of Mort (one of my least favorite Pratchett's - I'll skip this one) and The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents - an excellent adaption which I'd listen to if I hadn't already recorded it.

Also, Philip Pickard will read Truckers, an excellent Young Adult book written by Pratchett, the first in a trilogy.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Video fan fiction: The Avengers: Let's Get Avengerous

I've been putting together some video fan fiction of the Avengers: John Steed and Emma Peel, as well as Steed's previous partner, Cathy Gale. And John Drake (aka the Secret Agent, aka The Prisoner) makes an appearance, and eventually, so will other 60s secret agents....and villains...

I've got this player at various locations (the videos themselves are at YouTube) but decided I'd embed it here as well.

Please note that the episodes show up in reverse order. So, instead of doubleclicking on the arrow to start the video you see in the screen, go down to the bottom where you see the box of buttony-type things, and click on that, and that will bring up all the episodes. They run from right to left - in other words chapter one is on the far right, then chapter two, and so on.

If it's easier, just go to:, subscribe, and create a playlist so you can have them run in the right order without all this fuss.