I laughed, I cried, I learnt. Back in Black was not entirely what I expected, but it was a touching and largely fitting tribute to a writer, and person, whose influence has touched millions of lives, including my own.
Back in Black is neither biography nor tribute, falling somewhere in the middle. It details the critical events in Pratchett's life, but fans won't find many new tales on offer. Instead, it chooses to focus on those closest to the author, including family, friends and various fans themselves. The interviews touch on parts of Pratchett's life but the emphasis is on his death, the preceding fight with Alzheimer's, and the ensuing tribute event that was held. The footage of the latter is brilliant and not something I've seen included anywhere else. As someone who was a massive fan but felt no desire to go to the event it let me experience the crucial parts from afar.
In fact, I'd say more than anything else, Back to Black felt like a dialogue of closure. Personally, it was quite an emotional documentary (I'm not kidding when I say I cried, and not just once) that felt more like a final goodbye than a history lesson. There's a lot of personal emotion imbued within the interviews, no matter who is currently talking, and that emotion frequently spills beyond the screen. I remember seeing a lot of love and thanks being extended by the fan community towards Neil Gaiman, long time fan and friend of Pratchett, after the show first aired. Having now seen his interview I can fully understand why and, frankly, extend my own along as well. For many, Gaiman and Pratchett are intertwined, sharing much of their humour and writing material, as well as co-authoring Good Omens, a book with a huge fandom in-and-of-itself. As such, watching him speak so honestly about both his friendship and his grief was incredibly poignant. Just thinking about it is enough to bring the ghosts of tears to my eyes.
The emotion is interspersed with some clever comedic moments, pulling from Pratchett's past interviews, books and autobiography in equal parts. The writers and producers have done a great job making it feel like Terry was personally involved with the final product; it just feels somehow Pratchett-y. Combined with the emotional intensity and clear narrative arc driving you towards, and ending with, Pratchett's memorial service (if that is even the correct term for a stadium event with live music), the result is strangely cathartic. A common response from those interviewed for the documentary was that they have a single Discworld book remaining that they simply don't want to read. By reading it, they have to accept that they'll never read another Discworld novel for the first time. I was in a similar boat (though personally have several remaining) but, if Back in Black gave me anything, I don't think I am anymore. That is the documentaries greatest feat: it makes Terry's death somehow, if not okay, then at least acceptable.