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.
Where the hell is that bloody cable installer? I’ve got to hook it up to the hard drive and test the video feed before John gets back.
Just a quick post of links to some yummy things to keep us going and as compensation for those of us who do not live in an area where we can watch the BBC Sherlock Series 3 on New Year’s Day. (After 13 years with no TV reception, I am waiting for the cable installers to arrive and give me Local Basic Cable for obvious reasons. Please, don’t tell them that I’ll be canceling it after February…)
First, if you think we’ve been inundated with Sherlock Holmes recently, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! A U.S. judge has ruled that most of Sherlock Holmes canon is now in the public domain (not including John Watson’s second wife, however…). The ruling came as the result of a civil action brought by author and editor Leslie Klinger (the New Annotated Sherlock Holmes) and states that elements of the Sherlock Holmes stories written by Doyle prior to 1 January, 1923 are now in the U.S. public domain. There’s a very well-done article in the New York Times here.
There’s another one that makes a nice distinction between the stories being in the public domain and the characters and story elements being in the public domain at the Wall Street Journal (which makes sense given the financial implications). And if you’ve a legal frame of mind, the blog TechDirt dices the ruling into judicial slices for you. There’s another article at The Hollywood Reporter that also digs into the ruling and its implications for creatives (writers & filmmakers, natch).
The Doyle estate argument definitely was a weak one for the U.S. courts where a fine distinction between “flat entertainment characters” and “complex literary characters” is not likely to be recognized. (I’m writing that with a straight face. No, really, I am… Okay, there was a little sarcasm in my head and there was maybe a little wink-wink-nudge-nudge going on when I typed “recognized.”) While I expect a veritable flood of Biblical proportions of Sherlock Holmes creative (and I use that term in its loosest sense) to deluge my in-box and the internet, it should be noted that an appeal of the ruling is possible (I’d say likely since otherwise the Doyle estate has basically lost all of its U.S. licensing income immediately, as opposed to at least delaying the loss by another couple of years).
But don’t expect to see a flood of BBC Sherlock fan fiction getting published on Amazon any time soon (well, not unless they pull a 50 Shades of Grey and scrub the serial numbers off with different names, et al). BBC and Team Sherlock made it clear when Elementary was being bantered about that they intend to “protect the interest and wellbeing of our offspring.” A reasonably polite way of saying they’ll sue the trousers and pants off anyone who tries to cash in on their work.
Photo Spoiler Alert: Stop Now If You Don’t Want to See ANYTHING from BBC Sherlock Series 3
Second, there’s a lovely bit of fun on PBS to attempt to quell the riots until the 19th January. It’s called Unlocking Sherlock, and if by chance you haven’t seen it, you should. Mark Gatiss has quite a lot of fun chewing up the scenery as he reads excerpts from Arthur Conan Doyle’s original work, and Steven Moffat is rather charmingly mellow and candid as he talks about Sherlock Season 1 & 2, particularly A Scandal in Belgravia (he admits that his Irene Adler is not a nice person and does some incredibly horrible things during the episode — and that Sherlock is chillingly cold-blooded when he saves Mycroft’s bacon and roasts Adler at the end). And then there are all of those behind-the-scenes clips we hadn’t seen before and the bits with Cumberbatch and Freeman (my gosh, Cumberbatch looks so thin in those clips (and pale)! I want to make a giant pot of Tom Kai Gai (Thai chicken soup) and an entire bakery of goodies and go feed him! Eat! Eat! Take a little nosh, bubeleh! )
(Yes, Virginia, there is a Hogfather and yes, he has done a capture of the video, but he’s also good and isn’t going to post it because there’s no reason for all the good little boys and girls NOT to go to BBC One’s site to watch.)
Just in case you haven’t heard, BBC One is offering a Sherlock mini-epsiode on Christmas Day! Mini-episodes: a GREAT idea borrowed from Dr. Who. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, Sue Vertue, and the rest of Team Sherlock!
Sherlock: Oh, thank goodness he doesn’t have that 1970’s mourn-stache crawling on his upper lip! I wonder if he’s figured out I’ve been drugging his coffee to make him think I’m dead?
The mini-episode is entitled “Many Happy Returns” (yes, there will be) and is a prequel to the official BBC Sherlock Series 3 launch on 1 January, 2014. According to the synopsis, it’s been two years since John saw Sherlock die (well, yes it has), but “someone isn’t quite convinced that’s he’s dead.”
I am assuming that, like the Dr. who specials and mini-episodes, the Sherlock Series 3 mini-episode will be posted on YouTube and/or available through iTunes the following day. (Of ocurse, it will be on YouTube, but I mean officially released.) Something else to look forward to on Boxing Day.
I am trapped in the Black Hole of projects but will escape the vortex by next week if I have to start drinking Cuban coffee while nibbling dark chocolate(a precursor to “energy drinks” and much tastier). So fresh fodder will be coming. Honest.
Unlike Sherlock, I haven’t been hiding underground from assassins, however, I have been a bit busy. Over the past week, though, work has been interspersed with more enjoyable activities.
While I try to keep this site strictly for Sherlock Holmes, first let me encourage you to catch the National Theatre Live’s 50 Years On Stage presentation,celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the National Theatre, while you can. I’m planning to catch a second showing at my area theatre. The outstanding performances are too numerous to mention, but you really don’t want to miss Andrew Scott in an excerpt from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Angeles in America. It’s a heartbreaking scene and the range of emotions he conveys with his expression at the end of the scene is a true tour du force. And I have to thank Benedict Cumberbatch for making Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead both accessible and enjoyable. I’d seen two different stagings of the work, both of which left me unmoved and questioning the universal praise for Tom Stoppard. I now not only understand the work, I intend to read it soon. Mr. Cumberbatch had the audience both laughing and aching with the pain of the character and the existential questions of life, death, and eternity. And for Cabin Pressure fans (i.e., all of us), Roger Allam does an amazing monologue from the play Copenhagen, playing the same character (the physicist Heisenberg) Benedict Cumberbatch played in the BBC radio version of the play. (These are the moments when you realize just how incestuous — and talented — the British acting community is. But really, when you have this much talent of this caliber, how can you not enjoy them as much as possible.)
I’ve been traveling a minimum of 90-miles round trip to catch the National Theatre Live performances whenever I can for a few years now, and they have all been worth the time, the effort, and the money. Some of you, I’m certain, caught the Frankenstein presentation where Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller alternated roles. Given the derivative collection of films at your multiplex for a minimum £6, you’d get much more enjoyment for you money (not to mention actually enhancing your neurons) by spending £12, to catch the National Theatre Live broadcasts. In January you can see Tom Hiddleston and Mark Gatiss in Shakespeare’s Coriolanus. Not one of Shakespeare’s most famous or more popular works, in part I think, because it deals with a more difficult and complex question about the responsibilities of public figures.
And speaking of public figures…
While attending OryCon in Portland, Oregon (8-10 November, 2013) to help promote Loncon 3 (the 72nd World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention in London; your are going, aren’t you? I mean Eurocon is the following weekend in Dublin and Loncon is in… well, London!) and Sherlock: The Game Is On project (which is just BRilliant!), I saw the International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. It’s a wonderful excursion for fans of Sherlock Holmes — and their families and friends! The first part of the exhibit has things to fascinate fans of the Canon, including a portion of the Doyle’s original manuscript for The Hound of the Baskervilles in Doyle’s own hand and with his edits and revisions. There’s also the official portrait of Dr. Joseph Bell that makes it clear that the physical description of Holmes is clearly based on Dr. Bell while additional information about Dr. Bell and his work highlight that Sherlock’s core methodology is also based on Doyle’s teacher and mentor. There’s a film clip of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle that makes it clear that the traditional representation of Dr. Watson, in the likes of Nigel Bruce, David Burke, Edward Hardwicke, and so on, is taken from ACD himself. And historical mystery buffs, along with Steampunk fans, will find the collection of medical implements and specimens fascinating.
This continues into the second section of the exhibit which is an interactive presentation of the “tools of the trade” in Sherlock Holmes’ Victorian London. While I’m pretty well versed in most things Victorian, including the use of quite a number of poisons in cosmetics and toiletries, I thoroughly enjoyed trying all of the hands-on exhibits. The ballistics trajectory experiment (although using a laser light might be a bit of a 2oth Century cheat) was surprisingly challenging and I learned that taking rubbings, with the correct tools of the craft, is not as easy as it looks.
In the third part of the exhibit you attempt to find various items “hidden” amongst the clutter of 221B Baker Street. Here it helps to be familiar with the stories in Canon because the items are from the stories. I was bustling along until I hit the “wax bust with bullet hole.” I did a Homer Simpson “Duh!” when I realized the clue was referring to the bust of Sherlock Holmes from “The Empty House” and that I’d been staring at it for 10 minutes! For historical fans and Sherlockians, these tableaus were a delight, but the younger kids in attendance were eager to move on.
The interactive fun really hit its stride in the fourth part of the exhibit where we are invited to actually solve a crime. While the kids were having a good time, the adults were reverting to childish glee! Basically, you must determine whether or not the police have arrested the right person. You make deductions based on experiments you do at various stations such as determining trajectories, type of impact, marks in the sand, even chemical analysis. You even get to test blood spatters at a slaughterhouse, which is not as gruesome as it sounds, although I suspect the faux meat carcasses hanging about gave the Portlandia vegans a bit of discomfort. One little boy could not be pried from the footprint test “devised by Sherlock Holmes,” so he became an unofficial staff member repeatedly racking the sand and then operating the device for anyone needing to use that station. When I left the area, he was attempting to sketch the construction of the device and I suspect there is now a backyard in Portland with a sand pit and a wheel that makes various boot prints when turned.
The last part of the exhibition is the history of Sherlock Holmes on stage, film, and other media. There’s a great deal of memorabilia from the Robert Downey, Jr. Sherlock Holmes films and from the television show Elementary, including some of the costumes and scripts. There’s a small collection from the BBC Sherlock, including the explosive vest John Watson wore at the pool, and a lovely quote from Mark Gatiss. The exhibit rounds off with some additional interactive stations on modern forensics and detection before spilling you out into the inevitable gift shop. Alas, there were no t-shirts in my size remaining (which begs the question of what they are going to do in December) so I came away with a silly green-screened photo of myself in a deerstalker superimposed upon a background of the Parliament buildings and Big Ben, a mug (like I really need another one), a pen (ditto), and a bag of Victorian candies. I was rather disappointed that there was a catalog of the exhibit with more historical information, but I suspect in this digital age, I’m one of the last to collect such things.
I have no idea what the travel plans are for the exhibit, but if you get the chance, I recommend it. It’s loads of fun and delightfully engaging. Although, I suspect for those of a nerdy or geeky mindset, you may run the risk of going home with the intention of developing your own hands-on forensics experiments. (My cats are presently tolerating my experiments in animal and footprints in various types of soils and conditions.)
And last, but far from least, while I plan to have some more fannish things like fan fic, holiday fun, the on-going Sherlock Holmes news feeds, and a run-up to Sherlock Series 3, for some of the best of Sherlock fandom, check out Anne Zanoni’s blog Ariel’s Miscellany… a la Sherlock. Just be prepared to lose and hour or two. 🙂
BBC One has released a new Sherlock Season 3 Teaser trailer and it’s lovely (I especially like the pained and anxious look on Sherlock’s face after we see John in the restaurant. Personally, I think it’s the mustache. Really, I’m certain it’s the mustache. I certainly found it painful as I had 70’s flashbacks…)
I mustache you to forgive me, but I was about to make my own commentary regarding the John’s appearance when the YouTube comment copied below beat me to it.
I really feel John’s been punished enough without Gatiss inflicting the mustache on him (and us), but judging by the look on Sherlock’s face, we aren’t the only ones to suffer in this episode…
And, of course, BBC releases the trailer while I’m traveling through the wilds of British Columbia and don’t have internet for two days…
SPOILER ALERT:The following contains information and links that reveal confirmed information about Sherlock Season 3 content. Please Stop Reading Now if you do not wish to know anything in advance of the actual airing of the Sherlock Series 3 in your area.
Okay, you can’t say you haven’t been warned.
So, Sherlock, that’s what you’re planning to wear to the wedding, is it?