Sherlock: His Last (Abominable) Season

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes looking shocked and horrified with hands covering mouth and nose

Oh, the humanity… Honest, it’s just laying there, a mass of smoking wreckage.”

Some folks have asked if I’m planning to review Season 4 of the BBC’s Sherlock.  the caption above is a quote from the Hindenburg Disaster broadcast. I thought it appropriate…  I’m going to borrow from a comment I just posted on the Timey-Wimey-Wibbly-Wobbly post:

I haven’t seen Season 4. I have not even read any fan reviews, though a friend did tell me she was underwhelmed and confirmed two of my guesses as to what happened in episode 1. I do have a recording of the episode, but I’ve not been inclined to watch it given the condition of the world right now (including the Brexit and U.S. election votes). I suspect this will be the last season until Freeman and Cumberbatch decide they need the money and some suit at BBC wises up. Though by then, there will probably not be a PBS broadcasting in the U.S. any longer and any corporate suit who is looking for a surefire nostalgia success will want to reboot with younger actors.

You’d think Moftiss would realize that what people really want is the Hope that the original Sherlock Holmes stories brought, that smart, good individuals did exist, cared, and could bring about justice for even the poor. We can already see the stupid, cruel, and rich crushing the middle- and poorer-classes while making an obscene gesture to the altruistic and enlightened concepts like “Truth, Justice and the American Way”, as the old Superman TV series put it. Though, in fact, it was also the British Way first.

Yes, I am depressed and despondent over the political and social climate, and the descent of Sherlock into soap opera Shock schlock. In our unenlightened, racing-to-the-Dark-Ages, post-fact, (i.e. stupid and ignorant) society we’ve also devolved into a brutish, cloddish, crude, rude, adolescent male, post-taste culture, if it can be called “culture” except in the social science sense.

As for my review of Season 4, I’ll copy my comment in the You’re Disappointed With Me post on the Season 4 pre-release Christmas episode:

I confess I’m not certain I’m going to bother with my review of “The Abominable Bride” because it was so…abominable. The short review is that Moftiss have made it clear that they are no longer interested in doing what made “A Study in Pink” such phenomenal television and storytelling, capturing the spirit of the original Sherlock Holmes stories while updating them to contemporary mindsets and technologies. This is too bad because the first half presented a lovely re-creation of the Gothic story still in vogue in Victorian England about the time Sherlock Holmes first appeared. Alas, Abominable Bride was a very unfortunate look into the Medieval Gothic minds of Moftiss while using the formula of Dr. Who. As the friend I was watching it with said, “I liked the first half when it was spooky Sherlock Holmes and then it just became this excuse to explain away everything that happened in the first half by making it all a dream, or rather a drug-induced hallucination. All the clever lines and bits were int he first half.”

Which, as some know, is my complaint with Dr. Who where something is set up in the first half and the second half is just emotional manipulation before coming up with a timey-wimey wibbly-wobbly “solution” to the problem (often involving a likable character’s not-real or temporary “death” — and Sherlock has now “died” at least 3 times). My friend later sent me a link to a Tumblr(?) post arguing that the symbolism in Sherlock’s “Mind Palace” sequences explains away everything else, including the sexism inherent in the episode, as being not real and simply representing Sherlock’s own messed up interior perceptions. I replied with a link to a review that stated that the “mansplaining” (a really horrible term for so many reasons) wasn’t the most abominable thing about “The Abominable Bride.”

Both Moffat and Gatiss have stated that they don’t feel that Sherlock is about re-telling the original stories or even solving mysteries, but about the characters, thus freeing them to do whatever they wish. Unfortunately, what they wish is not to tell good, let alone great, stories but to show how clever they are at manipulating plots and pandering to the interest of a small group of people. And by pandering, I’m talking about repeating things that were fresh and popular before, such as Andrew Scott’s Moriarty, the little boy from “Sign of Three”, Janine, the cute-meet of Holmes and the riding crop, the cruel banter relationship between Mycroft and Sherlock, Mrs. Hudson complaining, Molly Hooper, Mary Holmes being smarter than her husband, and so forth. Rather than put their minds to it and work to create something fresh, they simply repeat what was popular before as they do on Dr. Who. (And yet, when they do bother to create something fresh and entertaining on Dr. Who, it becomes a big hit…whereupon it is usually done to death in subsequent episodes… This is called hack writing.)

I didn’t bother to go see “The Abominable Bride” on the big screen and even though I have a DVD with the aired episode, I haven’t watched it again, and doubt I ever will.

Though, if I thought it would help return Sherlock to its original genius, I’d consider donning a tasteless purple Klu Klux Klan outfit and, for no apparent rational reason, meet “secretly” with other fans at an abandoned, de-sanctified church lit by bonfires viewable throughout the countryside in the wee hours chanting nonsense words (rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb). It says something when I found the psychopathic young woman pretending to be an abducted child episode of “Elementary” not only more faithful to the spirit of Sherlock Holmes but more enjoyable (even with the unnecessary Watson soap opera subplot).

Oh, and I used to do reviews back in the 90’s of a couple of other shows in the voice similar to the one used by “Joe Bob Briggs.” Mofftiss should be glad I’m no longer using that voice to show my disdain for condescending to their audiences. 😉

I’m still working my way up to some reviews of the Sherlock Holmes pastiche novels I‘ve been reading, but work and life have been getting in the way. And to be honest, what’s happened with BBC Sherlock, Elementary and the news of a re-boot of the Robert Downey, Jr.-Jude law version (something completely unnecessary except for greed and the short attention span of much of today’s audience), combined with some of the appalling fiction using characters named “sherlock” and “Watson” but bearing no understandable connection to Doyle’s creations, has left me disinclined to spend much effort on the site. Sorry about that. Perhaps I’ll feel better after I get through re-reading the Canon this year.

I do wish you a New Year filled with Peace, Prosperity, Joy, Good Health, Happiness, and some stimulating puzzles to solve.

An Apology to Steven Moffat and What Sherlock Holmes Has In Common With Jane Austen and Henry James

Was that an actual apology?

Was that an actual apology?

I owe Steven Moffat an apology. I may have been wrong about Dr. Who. I was talking with a friend about the season opener, introducing Peter Capaldi as the Twelfth Doctor, and a piece I’d read by a Dr. Who fan complaining about the previous Christmas Special with David Tennant, Matt Smith, and John Hurt. My friend, a devoted Dr. Who fan, rejected my complaints about “Deep Breath,” and other recent episodes, being an amalgamation of popular Whovian plot devices and tropes assembled Lego-block fashion into a formulaic structure (And what does this have to do with BBC Sherlock, you ask? Patience. It’s going to connect in a moment.).

My friend then explained that this was what the Whovian fans expected, what they wanted — something familiar, something they recognize, with just enough difference to make it new. It was then I had an epiphany; Dr. Who fans were like category genre readers, or even Marvel Comics movie fans, wanting the comfort of  consistency — a recognizable structure, core characters, style and certain established tropes. I owe Mr. Moffat and apology for my critiques that his scripts and production for Dr. Who were hackneyed; the very things that I criticized in the series were, in fact, essential to the target audience for the series.

But the Dr. Who story structure is not the Sherlock Holmes story structure, which, given my criticisms with “A Scandal in Belgravia” and “His Last Vow,” makes the recent comments from Moffat and Gatiss even more frightening.

…Moffat said it is part of the overall appeal of the series: “An episode needs to be about something in their lives. It is not enough for it to be a mystery.”

Gatiss agreed, saying: “It is a series about a detective, it is not a detective series.”

— Quote from Digital Spy, Nov. 1, 2014

The truly ironic point missed by Mofftiss is that focusing on the personal lives of the characters is exactly what they’ve done with Elementary — and Castle and The Mysteries of Laura and, well, most every network detective or mystery show on the air. ELEMENTARY-liu-miller

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Mrs.Hudson Is Doing Some Housekeeping

Benedict Cumberbatch as BBC Sherlock Holmes stretched out on the sofa in his blue robe.Due to an unfortunate incident resulting from an experiment gone horribly wrong, we’re having to move some things about a bit and make some repairs. We shan’t be long (We hope, though it would go a bit faster if someone who shall remain nameless, Sherlock, would get off the sofa and help. And don’t give me any of that working nonsense. You’re sulking. We all know your sulking.)

 

Do come back in a tick for tea. We will have some news and gossip shortly. (Guy Fawkes at the latest.)

 

 

More Sherlock Holmes, Please Asks BBC and Stephen Fry

Benedict Cumberbatch as BBC Sherlock Holmes in deerstalker sneering

Everyone will be wearing The Hat!

It seems everyone is wanting to see more Sherlock Holmes. And we will. More about that in a moment.

First, Calling All Cosplayers who can be in the London area by 19 July!

Mark Gatiss, Stephen Fry and the National Literacy Trust, along with a number of other authors and celebrities, are attempting to break the Guinness Book of Records for the largest collection of people dressed as Sherlock Holmes, 19 July, at University College London (UCL). The funds raised will go towards the Save Undershaw organization. Undershaw, the former home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was saved from demolition and conversion to a golf club by the efforts of Mark Gatiss, Stephen Fry and many others, however, it’s in desperate need of repairs before it can be converted into a historical site and literary resource. They are, alas, out of outfits for those who don’t have one of their own, but donations and raffle tickets are still available.  For complete information, check out this lovely article on Look to the Stars. And for another take, there’s this piece at Experdon Charity News.

The BBC is Also Wanting to See More Sherlock Holmes

The BBC Trust, the overseers of the BBC Corporation, noted in its annual review, in oh so British understatement, that BBC viewers perceived the BBC failed “to take risks” with BBC1 depending upon long-running, predictable series with exceptions such as Sherlock.  The report also noted that viewers lamented the limited hours of each Sherlock series. Citing US Continue reading

More Sherlock Season 4 Spoilers Reported

The International Business Times offers more spoilers for Sherlock Series/Season 4.  [Do I actually need a SPOILER ALERT here? Really? ] The article quotes Steven Moffat alluding to Moriarty’s returning as a major character and an increase in romance as well as more screen time for Molly and Mrs. Hudson.

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In All Fairness, He’s a Drama Queen, Too

Benedict Cumberbatch holding a paper sign at the paparazzi next to photo of otter holding leaf over face

If Benedict Cumberbatch starts working with otters, I bet we could solve global warming and achieve World Peace in my lifetime!

The International Business Times has an interesting summery of Sherlock and Sherlock Holmes news and gossip, including some Sherlock Series/Season 4 updates and hints from Mofftiss. Since Mofftiss is already teasing and people are already guessing about what’s to come in Series/Season 4, I’ll throw out a few guesses and thoughts of my own.

Sherlock Series/Season 4 Possibilities

First, I believe that the comment by Sherlock in “Sign of Three” that he loves to dance and then demonstrates his skills, followed by —

“Never really comes up in crime work but, um, you know, I live in hope of the right case.”

— is a tease for “The Adventure of the Dancing Men” where the men really do dance. Mofftiss have already done one of these literal re-takes with “The Naval Treaty” being about a belly-dancer and not a military department. (Although it will mean Cumberbatch taking a lot more dancing lessons since it was obvious he didn’t do the pirouette and his waltzing wasn’t Strictly Ballroom quality — but lovely all the same.)

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A Scandal in Baker Street, CAM

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes looking out the Baker Street window with Martin Freeman as John Watson

Those women appear to be protesting. John, what exactly is a “male chauvinist pig?”

The Daily Dot has a piece on the growing concerns among a some Sherlock fans that the apparent sexism and misogyny of Steven Moffat ,expressed in various interviews and certain Dr. Who scripts, has taken root in BBC’s Sherlock series, particularly in the ending of “His Last Vow” in Series/Season 3. Now I’ve expressed my sense that Sherlock has been morphed into The Doctor in my Series/Season 3 rant review, however, I’d avoided publicly airing my earlier concerns about the show’s portrayal of key women from the original Canon. So since I’m burning bridges, let’s go ahead and discuss some issues with the women in Sherlock.

[Oh, and do I really have to say SPOILER ALERT?]

The Daily Dot notes:

What has some fans angry is that Sherlock’s interpretation of Milverton’s death completely removes the agency and power of the female character in the original story. An unfortunate occurrence that neatly fits in with Moffat’s track record with female characters in both Doctor Who and Sherlock.

“The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton” is one of the very few examples in Victorian-era Holmes canon where a female character takes practical action on her own behalf, while Holmes and Watson technically fail to solve the case. Milverton, like Sherlock’s Magnussen, is a foe so powerful that it’s virtually impossible to defeat him using Holmes’ usual methods, which is why the story has to end with Milverton’s death. The final scene of the short story is Holmes identifying Milverton’s killer, but tacitly agreeing with Watson to let her get away with the murder because Milverton was such a loathsome figure.

If Moffat and Gatiss had simply said they wanted Sherlock to kill Magnussen because it was a more interesting story for him as a character, or because it provided an exciting development to lead into the next season, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. But the fact that they seemingly couldn’t believe that a woman defeated Milverton only exacerbates their problems with Sherlock fans who already take issue with the way women are portrayed in the show. Links to the interview are already spreading on social media…

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You’re Disappointed In Me — Sherlock Series 3 Review

…don’t waste your time and ours hooting at crap! Go after the good stuff, or leave it alone.”

— Daniel C. Dennet, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking, “Sturgeon’s Law”

You're not the only one depressed right now, Sherlock.

You’re not the only one depressed right now, Sherlock.

Because Sherlock is not (was not?) “crap,” I am compelled to share this review, even though I know it won’t make any difference in what is going to happen in Series 4 and 5. I feel in all fairness, though, I must warn you, that, in the words of the divine Miss Bette Davis, “Fasten your seat belts. It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

First, before I go any further, let me say that even though my comments on episodes 1 and 2 are brief, it’s not due to lack of appreciation. I have not had television reception for 13 years, but purchased both a wide-screen plasma TV and installed minimal cable just to watch the episodes, and then held rather elaborate Sherlock Series/Season 3 parties for the event. I do not regret a penny spent. Sherlock Series/Season 3 Episodes 1 and 2 were incomparably wonderful, nonpareil storytelling in an expanding Sahara of television.

We’ll get to episode 3.

SPOILER ALERT FOR THOSE WHO DON’T REALIZE A REVIEW WILL HAVE SPOILERS

“The Empty Hearse”

I thought “The Empty Hearse” was a brilliant send up of all the post-Reichenbach Fall hysteria, in the original meaning of the word,  which was very reminiscent of the reaction of the reading public when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle killed off Sherlock Holmes in “The Final Problem.” (By the way, Holmes first fans had to wait 10 years for his return.) It was witty, thought provoking, and gave fans some much needed catharsis, as well as poking a bit of biting fun at the excesses it skewers. There was plenty of angst, but there was a great deal of good natured fun with the characters, and just enough mystery and deduction to  make it an actual Sherlock Holmes story, and not simply an homage to fan fiction.  (People forget that “The Empty House” also focused more on Holmes’ return then on the mystery.) Hearse, however, is not necessarily comfortable viewing for those who don’t like facing a bit of self-examination or non-traditional television. And not particularly satisfying, or undertandable, for “mundanes,” i.e., non-fans. But then freshness and originality is what made Sherlock such a success!

“Somebody loves you! If I had to punch that face, I’d avoid the nose and teeth too.”

—Irene Adler, Sherlock, “Scandal in Belgravia”

Fans of the series got John not just punching Sherlock in the face, but fans of the Canon got a nod to the John Watson originally fainting, when Sherlock reveals himself, in Freeman’s masterful performance of a man willing himself to stay standing and conscious. The acting was, if anything, even better than the previous episodes, and I was struggling for some decorum while inwardly bubbling at Benedict Cumberbatch getting to show off his comedic chops (little did I know then what was to come).

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Holmes and Watson: The Adventure of the Iconic Relationship

The following is a little (“Sarcasm?” “Yes.”) monograph on the philosophy of friendship. Apparently, I was channeling Sherlock Holmes (although my inner-Watson felt the need for a little levity). So I suppose I should put an academic warning on this…
Martin Freeman as John Watson and Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes sitting on a bench

Is the enduring appeal of John Watson and Sherlock Holmes in their complete friendship?

When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote A Study in Scarlet it’s doubtful he realized that he was creating one of the most iconic relationships in literature. With adaptations of the characters appearing onscreen and in print at a near geometric pace, in everything period pastiches to openly labeled alternate universes, Holmes and Watson have replaced David and Jonathan in the 21st Century as a shorthand reference to an everlasting and extraordinarily close friendship. But what makes the friendship so appealing that a hundred years later we are still fascinated with them? How do they epitomize the philosophic ideal of friendship? And what, if anything, do the permutations of the relationship and the characters say about the culture in which they were created and re-created?

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