In the twenty-fifth and final chapter of Darwin’s Watch, watch and listen. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to finish The Science of Discworld III.
So, my gut reaction here, and I wanna make sure to note that this was written BEFORE: this chapter reminded me so much of the end of “Vincent and the Doctor.” And yes!!! That aired years after this book was first published! But when Ridcully said he wanted to leave Darwin with at least one memory, this is not what I thought he meant. But it’s subtle enough—especially given the context of how this goes down—that Darwin can slip back into his old life with just a sense that the implications of his work are right. That’s the gift given to him with this closing scene. Ridcully takes him to the place that is the “Temple of the Ascent of Man” in the universes where The Ology existed. That felt intentional, too, on Pratchett’s part. Even if they’re not necessarily religious in the strictest sense, a well-curated museum can feel like a temple, and many of them are constructed in a manner that feels spiritual once you’re inside them.
I can’t actually recall the date of my first trip to the Natural History Museum in London; I’ve been a few times over the years. But it was when the giant blue whale skeleton was hanging over the place, and I don’t know if that places it within a certain date range or not. (I don’t know if it was always there.) But there is a beautiful sense of grandeur when you step inside that building, and I love that this is conveyed through the brief scene here. Not much is described about the museum itself, but there’s enough to ground the whole thing in a stunning reality: Darwin’s work was immensely influential to that place and to humanity as a whole. And so, while he looks upon the museum, the wizards tell him most of the truth of Roundworld. But this line, spoken by Ridcully at the start, is the most striking of them all:
‘I would like you to know that because of you, humanity turned out to be fit enough to survive.’
Does Darwin understand everything he’s told? Probably not. But the general meaning behind it all sticks, and he instead accepts a narrative that is context specific and meaningful: the wizards are like the ghosts in A Christmas Carol, and he’ll soon wake from a dream and understand what he was struggling with on the entangled banks. Not only that, but Ridcully’s full plan comes to fruition when Darwin asks to have his memory erased. He doesn’t want to remember this entire experience. And it made so much sense to me! Darwin already suspected the truth of his work before this “dream,” and all this did was give him a subtle, subconscious nudge in the right direction. At least, that’s what this will feel like from his perspective, right?
And before this wrapped up on a rather sweet note, the Auditors make a final appearance, all so they can claim the uselessness of humanity by bringing up the worst of history that unfolds in the years after Darwin. The text is not in denial about the terrible wars, the terrible technology used for those wars, or the influence Darwin’s thinking had on these global conflicts. It’s complicated, sure, but does that mean that the Auditors are right? Should all humans be wiped out because humanity makes so many mistakes?
The wizards don’t believe so. They believe the humans should still have every chance to survive, thrive, and progress. And that’s a really optimistic note, isn’t it? We should have the chance to be better, even if we’ve done THE WORST.
While the previous chapter made it clear that Darwin is part of a philosophical argument that Darwin’s Watch is trying to make, the book ends with two very touching tributes to him. One is this:
‘Did you know they put his statue in the canteen, sir?’ said Ponder, a little shocked.
‘Did they? Good idea,’ said Ridcully brusquely. ‘That way, every sensible person sees it.’
Which is a nice joke about the wizards’ love of food and drink! But also, they’re not wrong. People do spend a lot of time in that specific place in EVERY museum, and thus, more people will see Darwin there than almost anywhere else. It’s a fitting tribute in general, but this book has been a very specific one, too. Whatever take I might have on some of the details, I can’t deny the position that Darwin WAS instrumental in changing the world and humanity’s understanding of it. I learned so much cool shit about Darwin’s life, the time he lived in, his process, and the ramifications of his thinking. This book probably had the least number of sections I didn’t really understand, and the Discworld section came to a satisfying end, too, and I found it much better paced than The Science of Discworld II. This was a great experience!
But I am REALLY excited that we’re getting back into the regular series. I feel like we’re in the home stretch, you know? Unseen Academicals begins on Monday, and I have no clue what it is about. ONWARDS I GO.
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