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Good Omens: Adapted from TV

Good Omens. From a poster image © Amazon Prime.
Good Omens. From a poster image © Amazon Prime.

So… one of my favourite things is the Amazon Prime TV adaptation of the Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman novel “Good Omens”. It’s perfectly cast, well condensed and a wonderful love letter to the book whilst also being a thing of beauty of its own. And so it should be, given how it was adapted by Neil Gaiman himself.

But episode three begins with the longest cold open in TV history (although I’m sure other shows are sitting there itching to say “hold my beer”) and it includes a tonne of scenes not in the book. There are well-documented reasons for this, but I found myself wishing they were in the book so decided to try writing one of them myself. And here is the result.

I hope I got the style close enough, but it was in any case an interesting writing exercise to do. I may do the other scenes too if I don’t get horribly shut down.

Mesopotamia, 3004 BC

It was a nice day. But Noah knew all that was about to change. In about thirty minutes to be precise.

As he watched the animals boarding the Ark, he tried to exude a positive demeanour, a sheen of certainty he hoped would appear to the onlookers – of whom there were quite a few – as if it were a gift from God.

Deep inside, however, Noah harboured doubts. For one thing, the whole “clean animals” thing seemed to be somewhat arbitrary. God had been very clear about that: seven pairs of each clean animal, but only one pair each of the unclean. As of this moment, therefore, he was feeling a little bit bad about the unicorns – especially since, of the two he’d selected, one seemed decidedly skittish.

And, as far as Noah was aware, God rather liked the unicorns – not as much as the whales, for sure, but at least the whales could swim. Come the flood the whales would be fine – just so long as they didn’t get distracted and strand themselves on an inconvenient sandbank when the seas receded again.

And so, the animals came in two by two. Or, in some cases, fourteen by fourteen. Noah just kept nodding approvingly as they paraded past, while wishing – far too late – that there was some way of managing a project of this scale which didn’t just rely on his memory.

The Ark, frankly, had been hard enough to build as it was; he’d found some stray nails in the most amazing – not to mention inconvenient – places, but he’d persevered and now the project was ready to set sail.

Which was just as well. The clouds were gathering.

Despite his neighbours’ scorn, Noah was vaguely gratified to see the crowd who’d assembled for the off. He’d been derided for many months; even the kindest of healers had joked that some of his splinters had splinters. Despite their lack of faith, however, he knew they weren’t entirely bad people, so he was trying not to think too much about what would happen to them once the heavens finally opened.

Aziraphale was nearby, keeping a close eye on developments. This was God’s plan, after all, so he felt – as an angel – he ought to keep Gabriel updated on developments if he were to be asked. The crowd had spent the last few hours harrying around him, but he was suddenly aware of a slight disturbance caused by someone creating an unexpected space by his side and then snaking their way into it.

“Hello Aziraphale!” said a surprisingly jaunty voice.

“Crawly!” he acknowledged, nervously. The angel was already on edge enough without this development, but he tried desperately not to show it. When he was finally able to steel himself to look, he saw that Crawly had a look on his face that suggested he was fully enjoying an opportunity to needle him. Which, Aziraphale had to admit, was pretty much Crawly’s job as a demon, so he prepared himself to stick it out.

Sure enough, Crawly brought up a past misdemeanour. “So…” he grinned, “giving the mortals a flaming sword: how did that work out for you?”

Aziraphale blanched. He couldn’t quite meet Crawly’s gaze, but at least he could tell what was, essentially, the truth. “The Almighty has never actually mentioned it again” he breathed, awkwardly.

“Probably a good thing” Crawly conceded. He looked around at the crowds, the Ark and the onboarding creatures. “What’s all this about anyway?”

Aziraphale shivered as Crawly continued: “Build a big boat and fill it with a travelling zoo?”

“From what I hear,” the angel’s voice had dropped to a conspiratorial – and not entirely approving – whisper, “God’s a bit tetchy.” His voice developed a breathless, yet pleading, tone. “Wiping out the human race” he quavered. “Big storm!”

Crawly seemed a little confused. “What, all of them?”

“Um… Just the locals!” Aziraphale felt he had to underplay it as much as he could. He was an angel after all, and as such he was compelled to protect the brand. “I don’t believe the Almighty’s upset with the Chinese,” he stammered. “Or the Native Americans.” At this he scraped the barrel of his mind for any other examples. “Or the Australians,” he added feebly.

Crawly was unimpressed. “Yet,” he said, flatly.

“And God’s not actually going to wipe out all the locals!” the angel continued, desperately trying not to catch Crawly’s eye. “There’s Noah, up there. His family, his sons. Their wives. They’re all going to be fine.”

Crawly’s look of disbelief was, to say the least, a shock. “But they’re drowning everybody else?”

Aziraphale nodded guiltily, rubbing his hands together and looking in any direction he could to avoid Crawly’s gaze. The demon cast his eye around the area and saw something that chilled him to the bone. “Not the kids,” he said, in disbelief, “you can’t kill kids”.

Aziraphale whimpered slightly and stared dead ahead. He felt wretched enough as it was without Crawly’s eyes burning into him. But instead of a rebuke, challenge, or sarcastic remark, Crawly’s response was even more heart-breaking. “That’s more the sort of thing you’d expect my lot to do.”

And, in the depths of his soul, Aziraphale couldn’t help but agree.

“Yes, but…” he rallied, the party line reasserting itself despite his better judgement, “when it’s done…” He already knew what he was about to say held about as much water as a badly damaged sieve, but felt compelled to plough on. “The Almighty’s going to put up a new thing called ‘a Rain Bow’. As a promise. Not to… drown everyone again.”

“How kind” Crawly snarked. Any opprobrium, however, was not meant for Aziraphale. They both knew it. Still, Aziraphale felt compelled to try and stretch for a moral high ground he wasn’t entirely sure was really there.

“You can’t judge the Almighty, Crawly,” he began, “God’s plans are…”

“Are you going to say ‘ineffable’?” Crawly had heard this line before, and right now he wasn’t having any of it.

“Possibly.” Aziraphale hadn’t felt this uncomfortable since the Garden of Eden. His stomach had been turning itself into increasingly complicated and tortuous knots for days. Even the most below-average scout troop would have had seriously critical notes.

Thankfully Crawly’s attention was distracted. “Oi! Shem!” he yelled. “That unicorn’s gonna make a run for it!”

It was too late: the creature had already bolted, heading off into the sand-dunes in pursuit of pastures new. It didn’t seem like much of a consolation, but Crawly at least tried to offer Shem the positive news that at least they still had one.

He knew, ultimately, that a species had just been doomed due to a serious lack of project oversight, but in the back of his head an inspiration had struck and was quietly filed away. Millennia later, the rough beast’s hour would come at last, and Microsoft Project would slouch towards California to be born.

Aziraphale and Crawly watched glumly as the final animals boarded the world’s first-ever documented lifeboat. As they did so, heavy drops of rain began to fall, gradually becoming heavier and heavier until the ground became at first sodden, then transformed into horribly shifting rivers of mud. Soon after, the angel and demon departed the area with some discretion – there was, after all, no point in unduly scaring the locals – and left the story to unfold as had been Written.

As the waters lapped ever higher, a pair of eyes watched the Ark with some interest. The unicorn had been certain she would never have had the requisite sea legs for the journey, hence her obvious nerves and eventual well-timed escape.

But now, as the tides began to rise around her ankles, she was beginning to wonder if she hadn’t made a monumental mistake.

Good Omens is a co-production between Amazon MGM Studios, BBC Studios, Narrativia and the Blank Corporation, based on the novel by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. No infringement of copyright is intended.