More Sarcastic and Faster Paced: The Good Omens Radio Play

During an air conditioned ride on the train, my phone pinged and Laura informed me that "if you can get iPlayer radio, on 4extra they are replaying Good Omens radio play." Driven by curiosity, I found the mentioned homepage and lo and behold, it was available for me.

The Good Omens radio play is, like the name suggests, based on the book of the same title written by Terry Pratchett and Nail Gaiman. This adaptation is written by the same, and consists for six episode each with a length of 30 minutes, with the exception of the last episode which is an hour long.

In these three and a half hours, the angel Aziraphale and demon Crowley band together in an effort to avoid the apocalypse because they had grown rather fond of the dear Earth. At first they try to tutor the son of Satan, so that he would be neither good nor bad and just human, and the events would not be put into motion at all. However, it soon transpired that they had made an error and wasted 11 years, watching for the wrong boy. Instead ... everything has been put into motion in the quiet town of Tadfield.

Overall, the radio play follows the original plot but there are two mayor differences:

The first is the obvious one that comes from transitioning from a book medium to a radio play. Radio plays rely and offer very little in regards of a descriptive element. Everything that is happening has to be explained by a character with words. There is no narrator voice at all. This is in itself not a bad thing, but since this a type of media I interact the least with, it took me a little to get used to. Even so, I was able to follow the actions that occurred.

The second, touches on the different pacing. Good Omens (book) reads comfortably since it includes a lot of explaining, footnotes, and side stories, so at times it reads slow. With only 30 minutes to spare, the radio play has to stick to the core of the story. This changes the pace and ups it. If you compare it to the amazon series, the series and radio play, split the story into the same episodes. Each episode ends at roughly the same point and has to cover the same events of the book, but the radio play only has half of the time available. Thus, a little of the chaotic and "fifth espresso mixed with an energy drink" vibe gets lost.

This also caused several scenes to be cut, such as Crowley trying to explain eternity with his "mountain and bird" metaphor. At the same time, the story takes a shortcut and Crowley doesn't stop by trapping Hastur in the ansaphone. He also pours holy water over the machine effectively killing him and all future scenes that had included him.

However, what hasn't gotten lost the humour.
Nothing I can think up is often as bad as the stuff [humans] think up themselves. Often involving electrons. They got what we lack: imagination! ... and electricity of course."
- Crowley 

Crowley in generally has a more sarcastic note to his persona than in the book with Peter Serafinowicz delivering his lines with a perfect and dry tone. This is due because he is given the job of delivering lines that are descriptive jokes in the book. This doesn't make Crowley lose any part of his dumbassery, instead it only becomes more evident and there appears to me no middle ground for him on that scale.

There are parts that had me smirking and laughing along, such as the switch of the Anti-Christ, and the scene in which Aziraphale curses for the very first time. In fact, I had listened to the latter while driving the car and it made me burst out laughing that I almost rear-ended someone from France.

Despite efforts, the radio play does contain the same slump as the book does after the halfway point. In this case, it is in episode three. It felt like the weakest episode and you don't quite know where it is going with all of this. It is mostly used to set up the various sub-plots leading together, thus, it breaks the pace. I would even go so far as to suggest that you can skip it, if you already know the plot anyway.

Another disappointment had been the bookshop fire scene. Already broke my heart in the book and I expected the same from the radio play and while it has Crowley screaming for Aziraphale and cursing everything and everyone ... it just did not break my heart. I wanted it to be wrenching and sobbing in the car while I almost rear-end someone from the Czech Republic - probably.

This does not undermine the love and domesticity that Crowley and Aziraphale share. It feels like they are not trying to save Earth because they like Earth among other things, but instead they want to protect this little comfort space that they had build together. They are both already completely comfortable with being an angel who's a bit of a bastard and a demon with a spark of goodness inside of him, and the unit they form, which is very reflective of the atmosphere I had gotten from the book.

Which is not surprising because the message of "Good Omens" remains the same. You are not the role you were given at birth, and transcending love across all lines, from an angel and a demon who loved each other and Earth so much and should not have, alongside Adam who also rejects the role he had been given and chooses his own path.

While the airfield scene is dramatic and pretty much everything that you could dream of, the ending leaves you feeling gooey and good. Just as it should.

The BBC Radio 4 dramatisation is one that sticks very close to the idea, message, and humour of the original work. While it might take a bit to get used to a different way of telling a story, it feels familiar and but different enough from the book to be interesting.

Good Omens: The BBC Radio 4 dramatisationby Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Published2014by BBC
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