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The Quite Nice and Fairly Accurate Good Omens Script Book

Neil Gaiman


  For Terry



  Title Page


  An Introduction

  Episode One

  In the Beginning

  Episode Two

  The Book

  Episode Three

  Hard Times

  Episode Four

  Saturday Morning Funtime

  Episode Five

  The Doomsday Option

  Episode Six

  The Very Last Day of the Rest of Their Lives

  The Regrettably-Deleted Sequence

  About the Author

  Also by Neil Gaiman


  About the Publisher

  An Introduction

  I am writing this in December of 2018. The world is in its Christmas plumage, and I’m living in a hotel. Today, for the first time, when I told someone when I thought Good Omens would probably air, the reply was, ‘That’s soon.’ I’m so used to people saying, ‘That’s such a long way away.’ We’ve handed in Episodes One and Two, and tomorrow we’ll do the final tweaks and polishes, spit-on-a-tissue-and-scrub-its-face things, and send Episode Three out for quality-control checks, because the last graphic we were waiting for – Famine’s name, with a skeletal horse moving behind it – came in this afternoon. And tomorrow afternoon we have dubbing sessions for Madame Tracy and the International Express man, and the unfortunately named Disposable Demon (there was a draft of the script in which we learned his name was Eric), and a fragment of radio to record, and then we will be done with Episode Four’s sound, if you don’t count the animated bunny-rabbit noises. (I will, I have been told, be making the bunny noises in Bang Post Production in Cardiff on Thursday.) So many tiny details that need to be in place to take our six-hour story over the finish line.

  So, when I look at the scripts now, they seem familiar, but half-remembered things – like places I lived a long time ago. And I suppose, in a way, they are exactly that. The people who are making Good Omens are building a glorious edifice, a huge and unlikely place, part temple and part nightclub and a great deal of it is bookshop, and the six scripts are our original architectural diagrams: much-thumbed and creased, with grease-pencil marks on them to show wherever the builders had needed to change things. But they didn’t give you any idea of the splendour of the building, or the colours it would be painted.

  Terry Pratchett asked me to make a Good Omens television series in August 2014. He wrote, ‘I know, Neil, that you’re very, very busy, but no one else could ever do it with the passion that we share for the old girl. I wish I could be more involved, and I will help in any way I can.’ It was a pragmatic letter: he knew that the Alzheimer’s was taking its toll on him. He had never asked me for anything before. He told me he wanted me to make it because he wanted to see it. I agreed. I’d make it so that he could see it. And then, in March 2015, Terry died. I flew home from the funeral and I started writing the first episode. Sixteen months later, in a house on the Isle of Skye, I finished writing the last episode.

  Only I didn’t finish writing it. If you are writing television, you keep writing it. You write draft after draft. And then it’s a week before the read-through and Douglas Mackinnon, our director, and I sat across from each other in a Camden kitchen, and rolled up our sleeves, and did a draft that acknowledged the realities of our budget. Scenes and characters went away (we had already cast the other Four Horsepeople of the Apocalypse, and lor’ were they scary and funny, but they went, and so did some of the rain of fish, and Aziraphale setting up his bookshop in the late eighteenth century and being given a medal. His medal was never given to him, but it was still in the bookshop). Scenes went because they would cost us too much (hint: avoid scenes on motorways).

  And then we shot it.

  And then we edited together what we had shot, and we learned things, and we didn’t stop learning them.

  We learned, for example, that even though we had shot our scenes showing Aziraphale in his Soho bookshop doing surreptitious miracles, and Crowley’s rat-led invasion of the BT Tower and his taking all the mobile phones in London offline, the present-day story started exactly where it starts in the book: in a ruined graveyard, with the arrival of Hastur and Ligur. Somewhere, when we learned this, I knew, a twenty-seven-year-old me was smiling smugly.

  Those scenes are still in this script book. That’s part of the fun, isn’t it? A script book like this is, or it should be, a tour behind the scenes of the scenes, the ones that made it into the final edit and the ones that didn’t.

  It exists because I always loved script books: they gave you the missing bits and the cut scenes. As a boy and then as a teenager who wanted to, one day, make television and movies, script books were the only gateway I had to explain how the magical things that happened on the screen got there.

  There are secrets in this book, and there are spoilers in the end, even for those who have read the original novel.

  The angels, for example. They weren’t in the novel. They were going to be in the next Good Omens book we wrote, only we never wrote it. We knew what they were going to be like. A version of them showed up in a Good Omens film script Terry and I wrote in 1991, although that was mostly interesting, if I remember correctly, for the angels using their haloes as glowing killer discuses in the British Museum. (At the insistence of the film company, who knew that people weren’t interested in used bookshops, Aziraphale worked for the British Museum. Crowley owned a nightclub, although I cannot for the life of me remember why the film people thought this was a wise thing for him to do.) I was delighted to be able to bring the angels in now, the way Terry and I had originally talked about them.

  If you break Good Omens, the novel, down into six roughly equal parts, you will be surprised to discover an almost complete absence of Crowley and Aziraphale in part three. (It is almost as if we had written the novel like madmen, discovering it as we went, and then patched it into one story at the end.) This seemed like a problem in making it into television, as I knew from the start that our stars would be Crowley and Aziraphale, and I wanted them in each episode of the story. The way I fixed it was with the pre-credits sequence, which tells you a lot about the history of Crowley and Aziraphale on Earth over the last 6,000 years (although it omits more than it tells: I think it’s fair to assume that if, at any time in the last 6,000 years, anything interesting happened anywhere on Earth, Crowley and Aziraphale were probably there, not doing whatever it is they were actually sent there to do).

  If any of you are hoping to learn anything about scriptwriting from this book, I should warn you that there are jokes in the stage directions, and there shouldn’t be. The people who know about these things will tell you not to do this. But I like putting jokes into scripts: they tell everyone reading what kind of a thing this is, they keep me awake while I’m writing, and sometimes they are a way of acknowledging that what I’m asking for is impossible, but I’m still asking for it.

  In the scripts, Buddy Holly’s song ‘Every Day’ runs through the whole like a thread. It was something that Terry had suggested in 1991, and it was there in the edit. Our composer, David Arnold, created several different versions of ‘Every Day’ to run over the end credits. And then he sent us his Good Omens theme, and it was the Good Omens theme. Then Peter Anderson made the most remarkable animated opening credits to the Good Omens theme, and we realised that ‘Every Day’ didn’t really make any sense any longer, and, reluctantly, let it go. It’s here, though. You can hum it.

  I’ve left the scripts more or less as they were when we were
done shooting. Things changed, as I said, when we started editing. Scenes went away, they split apart, they joined up, they moved around, they did things that were nothing like what I had planned for them to do. If you compare what we did to what I wrote, you’ll get an idea of the editing adventure we went on. The editing room is its own strange space, one in which we were always prepared to try things, to move them, to break them until they worked. And in the end, it seemed, they always worked, even if Episode One closes, and Episode Two begins, with two halves of a scene from later in Episode Two that was written to neither open nor close anything.

  Episode Six was too long when we edited it, and Episode Five was too short, and didn’t quite work, so we moved scenes from the beginning of Episode Six to the end of Episode Five, and then both episodes worked delightfully.

  Nobody’s seen the whole thing actually finished yet, not even me. It won’t be done for another five or six weeks. I can’t wait to find out what we’ve done.

  Whatever it is we’ve made, we couldn’t have done it without Douglas Mackinnon, our very brilliant director, who kept going when moving forward seemed impossible. Many of the best ideas and things on the screen aren’t really Neil things and they aren’t really Douglas things. One of us said or suggested something, and the other said, ‘No, but . . .’ or ‘Yes, and . . .’ and suddenly a shot or a scene or a concept that had been limping along started to fly. I suppose they were spawned by a two-headed beast called NeilandDouglas, just as, long ago, when a book was written, it wasn’t by Neil Gaiman and it wasn’t by Terry Pratchett, but by a rare two-headed TerryandNeil.

  My friend Rob Wilkins, Terry’s representative on Earth, has been a staunch companion on this journey. He represented Terry, and represented him well. It was Rob who brought Terry’s hat and scarf to the set of Aziraphale’s bookshop and who spirited them away before they could be burned.

  Thank you to the BBC for putting up with me, and to Amazon for embracing the madness.

  The words of a script don’t mean much until the words are spoken: I’m grateful to all our remarkable actors for letting me put words into your mouths and for saying them so much better than I ever could. And most of all, thank you to the (literally) thousands of people in front of the cameras or behind them or thousands of miles away from them who, in any way, had anything to do with bringing Good Omens to the screen. We couldn’t have done it without you.

  Now, welcome backstage . . .


  Episode One

  In the Beginning





  A simple animation. We see, first, the Big Bang, and SCIENTISTS. The CERN particle accelerator. Over this we hear the Narrator, wise and sensible. Could this be the voice of GOD?

  GOD (V.O.)

  Current theories on the creation of the Universe state that, if it were created at all and didn’t just start, as it were, unofficially, it came into being about fourteen billion years ago. The earth is generally supposed to be about four and a half billion years old.


  These dates are incorrect.

  Now we see ancient scholars, working with abacuses, scrolls and scraps of parchment . . .


  Medieval scholars put the date of the Creation at 3760 BC. Others put Creation as far back as 5508 BC.


  Also incorrect.

  Now, USSHER and his ASSISTANTS, with a huge genealogical list of the line of Adam, and how long everyone lived . . .


  Archbishop James Ussher claimed that the Heaven and the Earth were created on Sunday the 21st of October, 4004 BC, at 9:00 a.m. This too was incorrect. By almost a quarter of an hour. It was created at 9:13 in the morning, which was correct. The whole business with the fossilised dinosaur skeletons was a joke the paleontologists haven’t seen yet.

  The glorious universe: Hubble Telescope-like shots of the vast and beautiful stars . . .


  This proves two things: firstly, that God does not play dice with the universe; I play an ineffable game of my own devising. For everyone else it’s like playing poker in a pitch-dark room, for infinite stakes, with a dealer who won’t tell you the rules, and who smiles all the time.


  Secondly, the Earth’s a Libra.

  We zoom in on a copy of the Tadfield Advertiser, a smalltown newspaper. And we end on the YOUR STARS TODAY column, as God reads us the Libra entry.


  The entry for Libra in the Tadfield Advertiser on the night our history begins reads as follows: You may be feeling run down and always in the same daily round. A friend is important to you. You may be vulnerable to a stomach upset today, so avoid salads. Help could come from an unexpected quarter.


  This was perfectly correct on every count except for the bit about salads.


  GOD (V.O.)

  To understand the true significance of what that means, we need to begin earlier. A little more than 6000 years earlier, to be precise, just after the beginning. It starts, as it will end, with a garden. In this case, the Garden of Eden. And with an apple.

  And then over the Garden of Eden:


  Almost a montage:

  A huge black SNAKE slips along a tree branch.

  The Snake’s head whispers into EVE’s ear.

  A hand, Eve’s, picks an apple from a tree. She takes a bite. Grins. Passes it to ADAM. (They are both tastefully naked. I would not make them white people.) Adam also takes a bite . . .

  And then Adam grins lecherously at Eve. Tasteful blackout . . . Time lapse . . .

  A rumble of supernatural thunder!

  An angel in white robes, whom we will come to know as AZIRAPHALE (pronounced AzEERafail), holding a flaming sword, gestures impressively towards an exit gate: they have to leave . . .

  Eve is pregnant. Adam looks miserable. They are wearing fig-leaf-based clothes.

  Aziraphale looks conflicted. We HOLD on him for a moment, then he runs after them, and hands Eve the sword.


  The Garden is walled. Inside, a perfect oasis of greenery. Outside, something more like a desert or an African plain.

  GOD (V.O.)

  It was a nice day. All the days had been nice. There had been rather more than seven of them so far, and rain hadn’t been invented yet. But the storm clouds gathering east of Eden suggested that the first thunderstorm was on its way, and it was going to be a big one.

  Adam and Eve are running, desperately, away from the Garden. Adam is holding the sword. Eve is pregnant and sad.

  Outside the garden animals roar, and Adam brings up the sword to protect himself.


  Watching Adam and Eve leave are the angel, AZIRAPHALE, and beside him, on a tree, a very, very large black snake. The snake hisses loudly.


  Sorry. What was that?

  The snake transmutes into a male demon whom we will come to know as CROWLEY. He’s dressed in black robes, as opposed to the angel’s white robes, and his eyes look like the eyes of a snake. Crowley’s wing feathers are grey; Aziraphale’s are white.


  I said, ‘Well, that one went down like a lead balloon’.


  Oh. Yes, it did, rather.


  Bit of an overreaction, if you ask me. First offence and everything. And I can’t see what’s so bad about knowing the difference between good and evil, anyway.


  It must BE bad, Crawley. Otherwise you wouldn’t have tempted them into it.


  They just said, ‘Get up there and make some trouble’.


  Obviously. You’re a demon. It’s what you do.


  Not very subtle of the Almighty, though. Fruit tree in the middle of a garden, with a ‘don’t touch’ sign. I mean, why not put it on top of a high mountain or on the moon? Makes you wonder what God’s really planning.


  Best not to speculate. It’s all part of the Great Plan. It’s not for us to understand. It’s ineffable.


  The Great Plan’s ineffable?


  Exactly. And you can’t second-guess ineffability. There’s Right and there’s Wrong. If you do Wrong when you’re told to do Right, you deserve to be punished. Er.


  I don’t like the look of that weather.

  Low rumble of non-supernatural thunder on the horizon.


  Didn’t you have a flaming sword?


  Er . . .


  You did. It was flaming like anything. What happened to it?


  Er . . .


  Lost it already, have you?


  (mutters inaudibly)

  I gave it away.