The Anti-Christ’s arrival has been prepared for… but there’s always a chance something can go wrong…
Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett’s collaboration is one of my favourite books, and Dirk Maggs has done a tremendous job turning it into a six-part radio serial, broadcasting across Christmas week. The opening sequence, set in the immediate aftermath of the expulsion from Eden, sets up the two key characters – Crowley, a demon, and Aziraphale, his angelic counterpart – and the relationship between them which will affect all of human history. Peter Serafinowicz and Mark Heap sound exactly as I expect the characters to (and after seeing so many pictures of Mrs Blaylock in the wake of Billie Whitelaw’s passing, it’s hard not to imagine the former in a black dress playing nanny to the child he believes is the Anti-Christ). There’s a lot else to set up in this opener – from the prophecies of Agnes Nutter (Josie Lawrence) to the mix-up in the hospital, with Simon Jones as a bemused father who’s about to get far more than he imagines – as well the chance for a few injokes (the cameos by the authors is sensibly incorporated very early into the narrative).
Inevitably some of the richness of the text, with its footnotes and wanderings off at a tangent, is lost, and I was concerned that stripped of that, this episode in particular would feel like a simple reworking of the early section of the classic movie The Omen. I shouldn’t have worried: Maggs has found ways to incorporate a lot of the text into dialogue, and chances are everyone’s favourite bits of Gaiman/Pratchett description is going to be there somewhere. It also helps that the music doesn’t try to pastiche Jerry Goldsmith’s wonderful chorally satanic score for The Omen.
Verdict: A grand start to an apocalyptic tale. 8/10