From Book to Screen: The Genius of Good Omens

Ah, Good Omens. The 90s cult classic cooked up by a young Terry Pratchett and young Neil Gaiman … which became a smash TV hit some thirty years later.

Pratchett and Gaiman were fairly new authors at the time. According to them, Good Omens was never supposed to be a serious project. “We were just trying to make each other laugh,” Gaiman remembers. That casual approach shows in the novel’s sprawling scope, its patchwork aesthetic. Good Omens could have used an editor peering over her spectacles to ask a few hard questions. “Sir, are you sure the Four Motorcyclists of the Apocalypse…” But the heart of the book—the angel-demon couple working desperately to stop Doomsday—was pure gold.

With David Tennant as the Demon Crowley and Michael Sheen as the Angel Aziraphale, the Good Omens miniseries officially became unstoppable. They were born for their roles; the rogue angel, the restless devil. Sheen was innocence itself in Aziraphale’s perfectly knotted tie, but the slightest naughty gleam lurked in his eyes. Tennant practically fried the TV cameras with Crowley’s million-dollar sunglasses and impossibly red hair, but there was a lost puppy somewhere deep inside him. Together? They were magic. 

Their best scenes weren’t even in the book. In the third episode, we are treated to a solid forty minutes of “Aziraphale and Crowley: BFFs Through the Ages.” Forty minutes of Crowley and Aziraphale bumping into each other, checking up on each other, rescuing each other, in every historical era and every conceivable historical costume. Nibbling grapes in a Roman bathhouse. Striding through English mists in full knightly armor. Braving the French guillotine. Surviving the Blitz. Dodging Nazis. Together, always together… the angel and the demon who just can’t leave each other alone.

In the novel version of Good Omens, we’re told Aziraphale and Crowley have been friends for six thousand years. But there is something magical about seeing their friendship evolve. The TV show took a risk, slowing the merry-go-round Doomsday plot for this long, luxurious chunk of back story. But it was worth it. After all, without their deep, Heaven-and-Hell-defying friendship, Crowley and Aziraphale would have no reason to stop the Apocalypse. They need Earth as their cosmic meeting place. If Earth gets destroyed, they’ll never see each other again.

And once you’ve watched Crowley march straight into a church about to explode, the consecrated ground scorching his feet every step of the way, on the off chance he might save his angel buddy… you understand what a loss that would be.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jessica Prescott writes books under the name Katie Hanna and blogs under the name Charles Baker Harris (confusing, she readily admits). You can find out more about Jessica, her pet projects, and her obsession with Doctor Who at I’m Charles Baker Harris (And I Can Read).

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