SPOILER ALERT: If you keep reading, you can’t whine about me ruining any surprises later.
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.
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.)
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
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.
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.)
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…
“…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”
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).
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?
“Only they’re not really telegrams.” — Sherlock Holmes, Sign of Three
Very brief post to a couple of terrific articles you might like. The first comes from Wired Magazine where the geeks have created a list of all the “shout outs and references you missed” in The Empty Hearse. (And yes, I did miss a couple, so I guess I’ll just have to watch it again. Darn. “Saracasm.” “Yes.” )
Rolling Stone Magazine has a nice piece on “How ‘Sherlock’ Made Holmes Sexy Again” (showing that either Rolling Stone has finally started hiring women, is comfortable in its masculinity, or as decided to “pander” to a wider audience than it did in the 20th Century when sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll, and misogyny ruled the editorial board). They’ve also got a linked piece on why Benedict Cumberbatch is “The Bitchiest Holmes Ever” (not my word choice, dearhearts).
Must go. Work, work, work. “How dull.” So true, Sherlock, so true.