Paul Kaye stars as Terry Pratchett in the BBC Docu-drama Back in Black
Terry Pratchett: Back In Black (Sunday, BBC2) gave us ample opportunity to view the species close up and to acquaint ourselves with its defining traits.
Put simply, they’re all (the ones we met, that is) rather lovely souls, the sort of folk you would be delighted to be trapped in a lift with, sandwiched next to on a delayed long-haul flight.
Interesting, unusual folk with a pathological ability to laugh at the cruelties of the world.
That can’t be true of all of them, of course, but it was the only quality that linked the many friends, admirers and fans of the late novelist and the one they most visibly shared with him.
Fittingly for the man who invented an alternative city-state called Ankh-Morpork and a Grim Reaper always wondering what to do with his days off, this was not your average TV tribute.
Editors, illustrators, friends and fans all chipped in with their memories of the man, who died from Alzheimer’s in March 2015.
But a central role was given to the resurrected Sir Terry himself (actor Paul Kaye stars as Terry) leading us through a curated life story.
Editors, friends and fans all chip in to pay tribute to Sir Terry, who died in 2015
This did not reveal horrific sufferings or triumph over adversity, more a quite standard British story of school bullies and indifferent teachers and dull jobs fertilising an extraordinary mind.
In its way, perhaps that was what drew so many people to Sir Terry and his books, the very ordinary way in which they were so extraordinary.
You could see, too, that in the stories he wrote which were not fantasy so much as the antidote to fantasy – a landscape full of witches and goblins but also of B&Bs and traffic zoning and factories.
It all tied into what Pratchett described as his own Road to Damascus moment when as a teenager at a sci-fi convention, he observed Arthur C. Clarke coming out of a lavatory cubicle.
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Terry Pratchett 1948 – 2015
Sat, March 12, 2016
Author Terry Pratchett has died from Alzheimers disease aged 66
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Author Terry Pratchett in St. James's, London
It was a funny story but, like all those funny Pratchett stories sold by the million, it pointed to a bigger truth.
I guess the acid test of a good TV tribute is not whether the fans approve but if it creates new admirers.
It would take a hard heart to have witnessed the love and joy on show last night and not want to join in.
They do play the odd bum note on Call The Midwife (Sunday, BBC1).
Sir Terry's books inspired so many because they were so fantastic and so ordinary at the same time
‘Thanks for this, dad,’ said teenager Christopher after Dr Turner spent the evening playing darts with him, something he might have thought a decade on but certainly not voiced at the time.
The main story, though, of a woman forced into surrogacy by poverty was spot-on and even more so because of everyone’s reactions to it.
As Marnie’s ‘arrangement’ with her childless sister became known, not one of the assorted nuns and nurses was shocked, or critical.
They’d seen it all before and they knew the kind of stark choices people had to make.
The tribute will no doubt please old fans and create some new ones too
Meanwhile, a surprisingly successful strain of comedy crept in as Nonnatus House received visits and applications for the new midwife job.
Enter a montage of unsuitable types, from a posh dame with pearls, a fussy one with a poodle, a battleaxe with a fag and, my personal favourite, a CV from one ‘Mantlewood, Jeffrey Arnold’.
The nuns were ready for anything. But not that.