The Watch–Funny, clever, light-hearted fantasy series begins on BBC America

Review by C.J. Bunce

A worn-down cop that looks like Johnny Fever (from WKRP in Cincinnati) with a partner that looks like Korg (from Thor: Ragnarok) with a tough-as-nails front desk gal who evokes Janine Melnitz (from Ghostbusters), and a human adopted by a dwarf fresh off a hike to the big city (like Elf in Elf), encounter a rebel woman who wants to make a fantasy world act like our real world… with the aid of a dragon.  It’s a little bit The Librarians and very much Vagrant Queen.  And it’s filled with characters out of the Tolkien fantasy world and adapting characters from a Terry Pratchett series of novels.  It’s the light-hearted fantasy series The Watch, airing Sunday nights on BBC America in the States.  You can catch the first episodes this morning on BBC America, and the third episode tonight.

It’s very, very much a fantasy version of the (unfortunately short-lived) sci-fi series Vagrant Queen.  Lots less dark and less serious than the fantasy Carnival Row, far less wacky than Galavant, and more accessible and fun than the last Pratchett-adapted series Good Omens–The Watch is an easy, airy fantasy series that doesn’t take itself seriously.  We don’t see a lot of fantasy shows from the UK, and this one can’t help but have the feel of both Doctor Who and its short-lived spin-off Class.

It stars Richard Dormer (Game of Thrones) as Captain Sam Vimes, a lanky Popeye-chinned, pirate-inspired character who we see in his early days, but mostly after a decades-long career that has made him all kinds of washed-up.  He’s a grimy fellow, but Dormer embodies him with such enthusiasm that he might actually keep you coming back for more.  The very versatile Ralph Ineson (The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, Ready Player One, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Sherlock, Guardians of the Galaxy, Game of Thrones, the Harry Potter series) is in the big troll suit as Sergeant Detritus, the perfect kind of companion for a rogue hero.  Marama Corlett (His Dark Materials, Guardians of the Galaxy) is Corporal Angua von Uberwald, who appears to be some kind of werewolf, Jo Eaton-Kent is the quiet Corporal Cheery, and the tall Adam Hugill (1917) is Constable Carrot Ironfoundersson, the human adopted son of dwarves.

They work together at a not-so-much frequented police station of sorts.  The reason for the lack of activity is the world is upside down from our own.  Guilds are free to commit crimes, so long as they don’t exceed their quota.  So when young Constable Carrot arrives from afar and wants to arrest nearly everyone he encounters, he must learn the lay of the land.  That includes a Thieves Guild, Assassins Guild, Apothecary Guild (for trafficking drugs), etc.  And it leaves The Watch with not much to do.

It’s all stirred up when Vimes thinks he meets his old partner (played by Doctor Who actor Samuel Adewunmi), who he let fall off the side of a building years ago, and Vimes encounters Lara Rossi’s (Robin Hood) Lady Sybil Ramkin, who is dead-set on unwinding the rule of law and order that made the town slide into the crevice of debauchery that it has become.  And she has a pocket-sized dragon.

Keep an eye out for the strangely assembled and armored goblins, whose speech appears to the audience something like word balloons, and have some of the funniest dialogue and running gags.  Also watch for James Fleet (Phantom of the Opera, Sea of Souls) as the Archchancellor of Unseen University, who is a bit of a wizard misfit with a clever backstory.

Watch the first two episodes of The Watch, re-airing today at 9 a.m. Central on BBC America.  The third episode premieres tonight at 7 p.m. Central.

Leave a Reply