If you’re a lover of dark fantasy, macabre sci-fi visions, or absurdist storytelling capable of shattering your mind into fragments while simultaneously reassembling it, to allow you to view the world differently through the reflections of its new multifaceted shape, then you must be a fan of Neil Gaiman.
It’s a fact that some authors seem to grace the shelves of every avid book enthusiast. Neil Gaiman is one of those Authors, a man who has not only sold oodles of books, but has seen many of his works picked up for TV and Silver screen adaptations.
Since 1996, Gaiman and his stories have been favored by various television and film makers for their unique flavour. The first TV adaptation of note was Neverwhere in 1996. This was only released in the UK and was adapted into a TV Short Series co-written by Gaiman and the comedian Lenny Henry. The story follows a man who finds his life turned literally upside down as he discovers a “London Below” that’s significantly different and invisible from the citizens of “London Above”. Unfortunately, the original run of this show has fallen into obscurity, and was later resurrected in the mid 2000s as a BBC Radio 4 show starring Benedict Cumberpatch and Natalie Dormer.
Undeterred by his medium success with Neverwhere, Gaiman continued on with
his writing and in 2005 an adaptation of his work Mirrormask was released which, although it received mixed reviews, seemingly grabbed the interest of American film producers, as afterwards he would go on to adapt Stardust and Coraline in quick succession (neither of which need any introduction from myself). He later went on to adapt Lucifer, American Gods and most recently Good Omens.
Obviously, I could go on about each of these adaptations for quite some time, as each of them are masterpieces in their own right. In some cases they even have a large cult following.
By just looking at these titles, you suddenly come to realize how much of an impact his work has had on the TV and Film industry within the Dark Fantasy genre. Many of the tropes that TV and films follow today, stem back to Gaiman’s work, and you can see that other creater’s & writers have a trace of Gaiman’s influence in their projects. A trend that is likely to increase as the next generation of authors will have grown up with films like Coraline, leaving a lasting impression on their imaginations.
Gaiman’s last TV adaptation to date Good Omens was one of the first Gaiman novels I ever read. He wrote this in collaboration with Terry Pratchett (of Discworld fame). It was unlike any other book I had read at the time, and I have to say I fell in love with it, and it in turn made me aware of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series, which is a whole other story i’ll get into later.
For years there were rumours about it getting a film adaptation but alas there was no hard evidence of this other than speculative fancy, and just as it seemed to have died a death Amazon Prime and BBC announced they were co-producing a six-episode adaptation, written and produced by Gaiman himself. To say myself and other Gaiman fans were delighted would be an understatement.
Good Omens follows the story of an angel Aziraphale (Michael Sheen) and a demon Crowley (David Tennant), of Heaven and Hell respectively, and they have grown rather fond of the Earth. So it’s terrible news for both of them when they discover that it’s about to end. The armies of Good and Evil are amassing, the Four Horsemen are ready to ride, and should everything go according to plan the world will be cinders, and there will still be time for tea… the only issue is that a key player in the divine plan has gone missing? but who will find him first? Can our heroes find him and stop Armageddon before it’s too late?
Now the thing with TV & Film adaptations is that we want book-to-screen transition to be as smooth as possible without bumps or glaringly big holes left by missing characters or events. We want it to be as faithful to their source material as possible – because, well quite frequently, they aren’t. Good Omens, is not one of those unfortunate adaptations, if anything in places it’s a little too faithful, making it somewhat predictable to fans of the book. Obviously certain things needed to be tweaked and updated to bring the timeline up to speed, as the book was written in the 1980’s and the show was made in 2018. But for the most part it’s exactly the same story as the novel.
Like the novel the tone is kept somewhat whimsical by the clever use of the narrator, and the choice of cast members were a fantastic fit for the characters within the story. It is of no surprise to me, at least, that this was a big hit with the Gaiman community. All in all I would say that Good Omens is as good an adaptation as you could possibly make. I for one am looking forward to more future adaptations of Gaiman’s work on the big and small screen. If you have not checked this one out I highly recommend it!
Until next time, read more books!