How Terry Pratchett’s ‘Going Postal’ Champions The Public Postal Service

There are surprisingly few official TV and film adaptations of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series of novels. Especially considering how many books he wrote. And frankly, just how popular they all are.

There were a few animated television adaptations in the 90s. And there are several future adaptations planned by different studios and television channels. But who knows how many of those will actually make it to screen.

In 2006 the first official live-action adaptation of the series was released. A three hour long two-part Christmas miniseries called Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather.

I first discovered this series in 2020. So you can trust that I am not clouded by nostalgia when I tell you that this is a really enjoyable Christmas film. I call it a film, for despite it being released as a miniseries, it works best when viewed as a whole.

There was a sequel to the series released in 2008. This one adapted ‘The Colour of Magic’ from 1983, the first book in the Discworld series. This series is enjoyable, although not as fun as Hogfather, and features a lot of actors I like. Like Sean Astin, Tim Curry, David Bradley, and Christopher Lee as the voice of Death.

But the series I wanted to write about for this post is Terry Pratchett’s Going Postal from 2010.

The book Going Postal was released in 2004. It covered themes of governmental services, corporate takeovers, human rights, and more.

Being one of only three books out of now 41 Discworld novels to have been given the official live action adaptation treatment, that probably says something about how highly the book is regarded.

In Going Postal we follow Moist von Lipwig after having been hanged as a conman. Lord Havelock Vetinari, Lord Patrician of the city-state of Ankh-Morpork, gives Lipwig a second chance at an honest life.

Lord Vetenari is played wonderfully by Charles Dance, as usual typecast as the smartest person in the room, slightly annoyed at everyone he has to deal with.

How Terry Pratchett's 'Going Postal' Champions The Public Postal Service

The post office of Ankh-Morpork had long been in dire straits. And as leader of the city, Lord Vetinari naturally wants to revert it back to its former glory. A functional postal service is an important part of any society that’s worth a damn.

The sending of letters through the mail may not be strictly as important as it used to, what with the new Clacks system that makes it possible to send short messages quickly through the air via message towers. But there are many physical objects that would be either impossible or just unwise to send through the air. Like medicine, goods from small businesses without their own delivery service, or voting ballots from remote residents. Or, possibly more importantly for Lord Vetinari, his own biography.

With so many important things that required the affordable service of a postal system to be available for all of Lord Vetinari’s citizens, he would have been a completely incompetent leader if he had not tried to save the post office, and downright villainous if he himself tried to dismantle the service.

But that is the goal of the actual villain of the story, Reacher Gilt. Played by Poirot himself, David Suchet. Gilt is the rich owner of the Clacks company, and seems to mistreat his employees for profit. He also likes to have a monopoly on sending messages, and actively sabotages the post office and other new competitors.

How Terry Pratchett's 'Going Postal' Champions The Public Postal Service

Had Lord Vetinari been interested in killing the post office off for good, it would have been very easy for him to just find a new Postmaster with a vested interest in seeing the post office fail. Say, someone with stocks in the Clacks Network, just as an example. But thankfully, being a good leader Lord Vetinari looked for a man with cunning enough to save Ankh-Morpork’s postal service, and landed on the conman Moist von Lipwig.

One of Lipwig’s smartest moves when trying to save the post office was to hire a bunch of golems. These autonomous workers were able to sort and deliver the mail much faster than just a small amount of human workers could do on their own. Thankfully nobody tried to remove the golems from the picture in this story, as that would have been a surefire way to hamper the post office’s procedures.

At several points in the story, Lipwig is confronted by the spirit of the post office, who shows him visions of the people who were hurt by his many cons and lies.

Lipwig now has to pay for his crimes. Even if it is just in a small way, by seeing the consequences of his actions. All thanks to the power of humanity’s collective souls, working as one through the power of mail.

Gaining a realization for how much he had hurt his victims, he atones by managing to expose Reacher Gilt’s crimes to the public.

Lipwig saving the Ankh-Morpork postal service is not just good for that city-state, but also for people in other cities that could also benefit from a cheap delivery service to and from one of the most influential cities on the Discworld. Be it someone who wanted to order something from the city, or a writer who just wants to sell comic books at an affordable price without having to worry about a monopolized private delivery company price-hiking him.

How Terry Pratchett's 'Going Postal' Champions The Public Postal Service

I hope I haven’t been too vague about what I’m talking about here.

Just so that I am being completely clear; state-run postal services should not be there to make money. They are there as an essential service. To help people. To make sure that the little people have a chance to compete with giant businesses. It may need to do things like selling stamps to have the money to stay operational. But not turning a profit is not a valid reason to try to shut down such an essential service.

Be like Lord Vetinari, Moist von Lipwig, Mr Pump and Adora Belle Dearheart. Save the post office.

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