In the city of Ankh-Morpork, all long-distance communication is done by the clacks (sort of platform telegraphs). But all of that changes in "Going Postal," the third miniseries adaptation of Terry Pratchett's Discworld books -- this one poking fun at the postal service, with a charmining conman, a golem, and a ragtag band of postmen at the helm.
Moist von Lipwig (Richard Coyle) was a very successful forger, conman and embezzler... until the Watch caught him, and he was hanged for his crimes. Fortunately, he's not QUITE dead. It turns out that Lord Vetinari (Charles Dance) wants to give Moist a choice: he can die for real, or he can revive the moribund Post Office.
So Moist finds himself saddled with a decaying building filled with undelivered letters, two slightly insane postmen, and golem parole officer named Mr. Pump. And every night, letters force Moist to see the fallout of his past crimes, including a terrible one against the prickly Adora Belle Dearheart (Claire Foy), whom he is starting to fall for.
But the biggest problem may be the owner of the clacks, Mr. Gilt (David Suchet), who is willing to do whatever it takes to destroy the post office. Though he's becoming a more honest man, Moist must put all his con-man skills to use in a war between the clacks and post office -- or he'll lose a lot more than just his job.
"Going Postal" a grittier, less fantastical story than the previous two Discworld miniseries. Sure, we still have fantasy stuff like banshees, golems, whispering letters and wizardly devices, but it all basically boils down to the Post Office against the telegraphesque clacks. But don't worry, the adaptation is pitch-perfect.
As with the original novel, the miniseries is a witty little affair with lots of funny moments, but it also has some darker moments (Moist being forced to see sepia-toned flashbacks of his crimes' fallouts -- suicide, bankruptcy, etc). The writers give it the usual Pratchett mix: dry, satirical wit ("How dare the Gods work against me! I don't remember giving them permission"), a striking central message, and a clever complicated plot.
Coyle really does a brilliant job as Moist, he's a charming rogue who starts out bratty and selfish, but becomes a kinder, better person as the story goes on... without losing his roguish charm. David Suchet plays Gilt with lip-curling relish, and there are some great smaller roles for Andrew Sachs, Nicholas Farrell, and the coldly Machievellian Charles Dance.
The one problem is Claire Foy. I don't know what it is about this actress, but her Adora is so relentlessly prickly and snarly that it's hard to see why Moist likes her.
It's hard to think of a communication service that makes the postal service look efficient, but "Going Postal" gives you a new appreciation for the written word. Another Pratchettian delight.