Tag Archives: Sherlock Holmes

National Theatre Live, Sherlock, Moriarty, Exhibition and More

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. 🙂

Laterz!

Spooky Action at a Distance

Benedict Cumberbatch as BBC Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as John Watson looking shocked[Warning: This is a story about Einstein, quantum physics, and John “Three Continents” Watson in action. There’s an expletive not deleted and reference to the physical response of male anatomy. Apologies in advance to any physicists reading this for the liberties taken with the science. Hey, don’t blame me. You guys named it entanglement.]

 

by J. H. Watson

(~1,300 words)

A chilly autumn rain started again. Umbrellas popped up; a business man raised a newspaper above his head; a young man in a pea coat shook like a dog and said, “Fuck.” Sherlock Holmes huddled deeper into a door frame, watching the entrance to an alley down the street. He sipped the hot coffee he’d just purchased at the cafe on the corner. He frowned. He forgot the sugar.

#

John Watson glanced around the room as he took a sip of his coffee. He made a face, looked to his right and said to the woman beside him, “I’m sorry. Apparently, I just drank your coffee. I’ll buy you another.”

She looked up from her phone screen, smiled and asked, “Are you flirting with me?”

John thought the woman had a lovely smile. He returned it. “No. But I’d be happy to flirt with you if you’d like.”

“What made you say that’s not your coffee?”

“Someone’s put sugar in it.” He wrinkled his face remembering the cloying taste, looked around for its possible owner.

“Yes. You did.”

“I did?”

“I saw you.”

John set the cup firmly on the counter and stared at it. A small dark stain spread slowly towards him where the coffee slopped over on impact. Rings of coffee waves rippled from the center.

“Is everything all right?” the woman asked.

John studied the cup as he replied, “Yeah. It’s just I don’t drink sugar in my coffee. I never drink sugar in my coffee.”

The woman beamed another smile at him. “Ah. Spooky action at a distance.”

“What?” John thought, Oh, great. A nutter. A pretty nutter, but still…

“Einstein’s comment on quantum entanglement. Oh. Right. You aren’t with the conference.” John took the opportunity to glance down at the woman’s chest. It was a nice chest. Presently it was adorned with a name badge declaring her to be Dr. Chris Cooke attending the International Conference on Quantum Implications and Intelligent Systems Engineering. Dr. Cooke asked, “Do you know anyone who drinks coffee with sugar?”

“I… used to.”

“Two spoonsful?”

John looked up sharply. “How did you know that?”

“That’s what you put into your coffee.”

For a moment John felt weak. Dr. Cooke said, “Are you alright? You look a bit pale.”

“I’m… I’m fine.” John shoved the disturbing images from his mind. He concentrated on Dr. Cooke’s smile. “I guess I was just… spooked. Like Einstein.”

Dr. Cooke’s smile widened. “Ooh, I like that. You could say Einstein was spooked by quantum theory. I don’t suppose I could steal that for my lectures…”

“Feel free.”

“Thank you… You know my name, but I don’t know yours.”

“Sorry. Dr. John Watson.”

“Please to meet you, Dr. Watson.” Dr. Cooke looked at John and smiled again.

John held her gaze, returned an even wider smile and replied, “John, please. So what’s quantum… What did you call it?”

“Entanglement?”

“Quantum entanglement, right.”

“Well, you know how particles normally exist in their own state?”

“I’ll take your word for it.”

“Sometimes, two particles act on one another so that the pair can only be described as a single quantum state. We call that pair entangled.” As she spoke, Dr. Cooke’s eyes widened, and she leaned slightly forward.

John leaned in closer as she said, “When one particle spins right, the other spins left, even if they are millions of miles apart. The particles are always connected and they act on one another instantaneously, behaving as one. That’s why Einstein called it ‘spooky action at a distance.’” Their two heads were nearly touching now. John noticed the deeper blue-green flecks in her pale blue-grey eyes. Long dark lashes stroked creamy skin when she blinked. She continued in a sultry voice, “Einstein thought Quantum Mechanics flawed because the affect of one particle on the entangled partner appeared to be faster than the speed of light.”

“Fascinating. May I buy you a drink?”

“I don’t really think I need any more coffee. I’m stimulated enough.”

“There’s a very nice restaurant in this hotel and I’m sure it has a bar.”

“I suspect you’re right. There’s also a mini-bar in my room.”

John stood up and tossed some money on the counter as Dr. Cooke collected her bag. One of the bills landed in the spilled coffee, soaking it up, marking it.

#

Sherlock dropped the offending shopping bag on the sales counter. “Excuse me. You apparently gave me someone elses purchase.”

He glowered at the scrawny 26-year old sales clerk from Surrey who clearly had no medical need for those glasses nor the large quantity of alcohol, in unfortunate combinations, consumed the night before in a South London basement and on an East London rooftop, where she wound up cleaning the vomit off her shoes of someone male, judging by the aroma impregnating her sweater, who’d also consumed too much alcohol mixed with MMDA and West Indian soup made with an excess cumin. As she attempted to casually slip her phone under the counter, Sherlock observed she was looking for a new flat — and a new boyfriend.

The girl peered over her plastic frames at Sherlock for a moment before opening the bag and pulling out the sweater inside. “No. This is yours. It’s what you bought. I remember.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Do I look like someone who would wear…” Here words did not so much fail Sherlock as get censored by the filter of his former roommate. He waved an accusing and dismissive hand at the repugnant garment. “…That?”

The sweater was a deep red with black and white geometrics spreading from the neckline down to the shoulders and chest. Leather patches were stitched at the elbows on the sleeves. The yarn was a machine-washable blend. The sales clerk tilted her head and replied, “I thought you were trying to make an ironic statement.” Sherlock merely stared at her. She looked at the receipt and pushed it towards him. “Is that your signature?”

Sherlock glanced at the “Sigerson” scrawled in his writing. The strangled silence tightened between them as the sales clerk waited. “Yes,” he finally conceded.

“So I got it right and you’re returning it?”

“Yes.”

“It was a sale item.”

Sherlock waited this time, an eyebrow raised in question, until the clerk flicked a strand of her dark hair off her face, sighed in resignation, and added, “So I can only give you an exchange or in-store credit.”

“Fine. Where are your dress shirts? Perhaps a dark purple. Aubergine.”

The sale clerk sneered. “So you are wanting something ironic?”

#

“I like your shirt. I like a man who’s well-dressed but not boring.” Dr. Cooke said as she handed John a glass of scotch from the mini-bar and settled beside him on the sofa. She opened her laptop and turned it on.

“Oh, uh, thanks.”

She slid the laptop where he could see it as well and shifted beside him. “It’s a very good color for you. What do you call it? Thistle or heliotrope?”

“I call it purple.” John could feel the heat where their thighs touched. He took a sip of his drink. “You know, I went in to buy a sweater. I don’t know how I ended up with this shirt.”

“More spooky action. Maybe you’d be interested in seeing my abstract for the conference.” Dr. Cooke looked at John over the rim of her glass and arched an eyebrow.

John smiled, leaned towards her and said, “I’d love to see your abstract.”

#

Sherlock awoke in the small hours of the morning from a disconcerting dream about a school exam he’d forgotten to prepare for involving calculations for momentum and thrust. Under the covers he had an erection.

 

### End ###

 

 

 

 

Blackbird Singing in the Dead of Night

By J.H. Watson

(~ 250 words)

I’m not dead, John. It was all a hoax. You were right. The hoax was a hoax.

John Watson felt a chill slither down his collar. He shivered, someone walking upon his grave. Heavy wet drops slid down his cheeks like the cool caress of dead fingers.

An explosion of thunder slapped John awake. The bench on which he sat shuddered. People in the park ran, fleeing for shelter from the storm. Behind John a muffled foomph, foomph, foomph sound, like the blades of an army helicopter starting, approached. Dazed and disoriented, John turned slowly to look.

A large black bird landed and stared at him.

Sherlock Holmes observed the bird study him from just inside the desolate shed. The bird eyed Sherlock warily but did not flee, cautiously sharing the space. The bird had obvious trust issues. Gently Sherlock tossed it a crumb. The bird pulled back, feathers ruffled. Slowly it hobbled towards the morsel, casting one last suspicious glance before hungrily feasting.

The rain beat rapidly on the shed roof. A drop fell on Sherlock’s face. He slid deeper into the shadows. The bird tilted it’s head, keeping one eye on the man and one on the rain.

Sherlock broke off another bit of sandwich and tossed it to the bird saying, “It won’t be much longer, John. The storm is already breaking. Soon we’ll be able to go home.”

You were only waiting for this moment to arise.
— Lennon & McCartney

## End ##

For the Sherlock Seattle Convention, I created a mini-poster handout with this flash fiction on the back. The .png version of front and back is below. They’re designed to be printed 2-up on 8.5″ x 11″ paper.

RF-SC-Stylized-Oversize-Postcards-png

RF-SC-Stylized-Oversize-Postcard-back-png

Interesting Sherlock Holmes Research Claims Norfolk Is Where It All Started

A lovely piece from the BBC about research done in the 1980’s by the Sherlock Holmes Society of London investigates the real-life source for the setting for The Gloria Scott, the only story that gives us any information about Sherlock Holmes obviously lonely youth and former best friend. The article has a nice sidebar summary of the connections between Sherlock Holmes and Norfolk. (I am now adding Norfolk to my British Invasion 2014 List. How I’ll manage to see everything on the list I don’t know. Win the lottery?)

 

Everybody Shut Up!

 

By J.H. Watson

(~ 700 words)

 

At first I missed his voice.

There’d been times when I’d thought I’d go mad if he didn’t stop talking, talking, talking. He would talk for hours, for days; once he talked for three days straight, at least I assumed he’d continued when I’d fallen asleep, or gone to the loo, or even went out to get the shopping. I know he’d continued to talk when I’d gone to Dublin, missing nothing except my absence.

Now I missed his voice. I can still hear it in my head. Don’t tell my therapist I said that, she would misunderstand. But I do hear it in my head. Those rich, plummy, public school tones; that caustic, snide, superior note. I could read his mind with just a word. John, he would say, and I’d know whether to draw out a suspect or a gun. He could play me like his violin, and treat me as cavalierly — wanting me to hand, but setting me aside at a moment’s distraction. He once said he thought better when he talked out load — so he talked to me.

Then the talking would stop and a silence would begin.

And now I miss the silence. There wasn’t one silence, he had a quiver full of them that he’d fired at me. There was the cold, hard silence of his displeasure. The brittle, bright silence of his injured ego. A silence so taut the air seemed to vibrate around me when his mind was fully engaged, and I knew he would shortly release a brilliant string of deductions. He had an ominous, suffocating silence that seemed to hang like a sodden cloud when he was bored. I miss the cacophony of his silences. But now the deafening silence doesn’t stop, will never stop, there is no end to this dead silence.

So I talk to a skull named Billy to keep from being buried in the silence.

#

I thought I’d miss the quiet satisfaction I got from John’s listening. He listened actively; not in that fatuous way that therapist do when they “actively listen,” parroting your last remarks, twisting them into question like one of John’s insecure dates trying to appear interested and caring. He listened with his whole being, striving to catch the flow of my quicksilver thoughts, not knowing his efforts caused mine to split and tumble about like beads of mercury prodded with a rod until they suddenly coalesced into a single, bright pool of insight.

But what I miss is the sound of him.

His comings and goings in his solid shoes, his maddening two-finger typing that never found a consistent rhythm, his crap telly braying in the background, his giggling with his gaggle of girlfriends, then the shushing and murmuring before the predictable rhythm of his creaking bed and muffled exclamations as he had sex upstairs. In the morning would be tiptoeing down the stairs, the whispering and kiss at the door, followed by the unconscious humming as he made coffee. Even when he was quiet, he wasn’t still. I find myself waiting and realize I’m waiting for the sound of John’s shifting in his chair; leaning forward and back, his weight sliding from his left hip to his right — there and back again, his limbs moving with a restlessness that told me in the first moments of meeting that he was a man who craved action as much as I craved mental stimulation.

I hear him in my head sometimes, an admonishing “Sherlock.” Or that tight, strained rumble as he erupts into a verbally violent rage pouring forth some pent up frustration because he cannot keep up with my reasoning. He yells well.

The other day a waiter set a cup of tea upon my table and I said, “Thank you, John.” The waiter stopped, startled, and asked, “How did you know my name?” I told him I’d seen it on the seating roster. I lied. The cup and saucer had rattled exactly the way they would when John set tea beside me when I was working. Lost in thought, I’d spoken automatically.

In this well-built room, the sounds of the city and its inhabitants fall deadened. I cannot sleep in peace.

 

# End #

Congrats, Mycroft, on the Royal Success-ion!

After reading all the rumours about the Duchess of Cambridge looking at pink baby clothes and requesting pink items for her baby shower and  the subsequent speculations in the tabloids that the new heir to the throne would be a girl, which was followed by some rather studious revisions to the Order of Succession law — which very nearly didn’t get passed in time, — only to have the baby be a new little prince after all, I couldn’t help but see a certain person’s hand in all of this…

A Succession of Events

By J.H. Watson

(~ 875 words)

 

Dr. John Watson accepted a glass of whiskey from a totally silent staff member of the Diogenes Club. The unsolicited scotch meant Mycroft Holmes wanted something from John Watson. John sipped his scotch and found it an extremely expensive, very old, and probably very rare single malt whiskey. Correction, Mycroft Holmes wanted something very big from John Watson.

Mycroft Holmes sat across from Dr. Watson speaking softly into his mobile phone, and it says a great deal about the man that, even though his CV would state Mycroft  “held a minor position in the government,” he was talking with a Vice-Premier of China. Mycroft finished his call and slipped the phone into his suit breast pocket before offering a crocodile smile to John.

Mycroft said “I have need of someone who can pass for an army doctor.”

“I am an army doctor,” John replied.

“Then it should be a piece of cake for you.”

“What exactly should be a piece of cake?”

John’s therapist had put the phrase “trust issues” in her evaluation case notes. Mycroft knew this. John knew that Mycroft knew. It pretty much summed up their relationship.

“How’s the drink?”

“Excellent. Which is why I want to know exactly what you want me to do and why you need someone who can pass for an army doctor.”

Mycroft simply offered another smile. “There will be a car waiting for you when you leave here,” he began. There was always a car; sleek, black, sophisticated, expensive, like a first-class British brolly. It might even be the same one that had picked John up off of Gower Street and brought him to the Diogenes Club.

Mycroft’s phone must have vibrated because he stopped and pulled it out of his pocket with the faintest crease to his brow. He glanced at it and made a mild face of displeasure, setting the phone on the table beside him. Mycroft continued, “In the car you will find a uniform, identification, a phone, and everything else you will need.”

“Need for what exactly?” John asked.

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Benedict Cumberbatch Gave His Sherlock Fans the Birthday Present

Benedict Cumberbatch as BBC Sherlock Holmes peering closely at a corpse

Are you absolutely certain this is a Birthday cake? I think I should test it first. John, eat a slice.

Just in case you missed the previous post, Team Sherlock released a video gift at the San Diego Comic Con with a lovely Martin Freeman and charmingly manic Benedict Cumberbatch just in time for Mr. Cumberbatch’s birthday — which just happens to be today.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Benedict Cumberbatch!

May all your birthday wishes come true.

Ta for now.

A Nicer Sherlock With a Bigger Star Than Benedict Cumberbatch? Really BBC?

Benedict Cumberbatch as BBC Sherlock with blowtorch and goggles reading computer over John Watson's shoulder

Over at Deadline London, Ben Stephenson, BBC drama head, confirms that if Sherlock had been made with a focus on international sales it would have been with different casting, specifically someone other than Benedict Cumberbatch. The article states:

If Sherlock had been made expressly for international, Stephenson told me recently, it would have been cast differently. In the early days of the show, he said there were concerns that Benedict Cumberbatch’s high-functioning sociopath would not be embraced. “Couldn’t he be slightly nicer? Couldn’t you have a bigger star?” are questions he said were bandied about. “Ultimately it was the courage of convictions. It made Benedict a star and people love those rough edges.”

Why am I thinking that “the courage of convictions” were Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss throwing polite but firm fits at casting “a bigger star” instead of using the right actors?

Although, I do have to mention a recent “Happy Hour” conversation I had with someone who said she couldn’t watch Sherlock because “he’s just so mean to people.” I should mention that this person is a graphic designer who announced in the same conversation that she had just used Adobe Photoshop layers for the first time. After I picked my jaw up from my cheese plate (she’s not that young or a new designer), she explained she used Illustrator for all of her design work and used Photoshop to crop pictures. In other words, this is not someone who handles change in her life, or contradiction, well.

Fortunately, a large part of the prime PBS demographics disagrees with her and likes a character who says what we all wish we could say but are too polite to do so.

“What’s it like in your funny little brains? It must be so boring.”— Sherlock Holmes in BBC Sherlock, A Study in Pink

Taxes nearly done. Class materials prepared (and class starting tomorrow). Alas, I won’t be able to make 221B Con (despite having a membership), but I will get a chance to work on the fanfic and some more captions this weekend. Ta for now.

Sherlock Season 3 Spoilers, Sweetie!

Last Updated: 08 January, 2014

(Yes, duckies, I’ve made this post “sticky” again because people are looking for it.)

Note: I’ll be posting the new links and speculation in reverse chronological order (in other words, the newest stuff will be on top once we get to the actual spoilers and speculation).

Right. There’s going to be some updated theorizing and guessing about Sherlock Season 3, but there will also be some definite “spoilers,” if you call sneak peeks at shooting, rumor, and hints by BBCOne spoilers. If so, stop now. If you don’t want spoilers, stop now! We’ll just mention that shooting is definitely underway and being observed in Bristol, in Cheltenham, in London…

If you don’t want Sherlock Season 3 spoilers, you might want to check out another post like this one with some guesses about Sherlock Season 3 or this one for a bit of post-RF fanfic or this one for a bit of video. We’ll wait until you leave the room before we chat about the latest spoilers.

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Okay, don’t say your weren’t warned, Sweetie. (Sorry. I seem to be channeling River Song (who I was hoping was going to be the Doctor’s new companion).) There are video clips with Benedict Cumberbatch in full Sherlock regaliafrom some exterior filming below.

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Sherlock Holmes Is Not A Drug Addict, Watson

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes sneering in A Study in Pink

“Physically or mentally dependent on a particular substance, and unable to stop taking it without incurring adverse effects is the definition of addicted. Why can’t people just think?”

There’s a charming review of BBC Sherlock on FlickeringMyth.com entitled Late to the Show — Sherlock you might want to read. I’m particularly impressed with how he manages to review the series without any spoilers.

The author does, however, consistently make the mistake of referring to Sherlock Holmes opium addiction. Sherlock Holmes never took opium in any of the stories or incarnations. He did take seven percent solution of cocaine from time to time. And  the only time Sherlock ever takes morphine, in the actual stories, is when he is received a serious injury requiring stitches. In fact, using any or all of the standard definitions of addiction, the only thing Sherlock Holmes appears to have an addiction to is solving crime.  Lack of interesting cases has the deleterious affect on Holmes, not his drug use. He may not even have an addiction to nicotine, if we use the stories as evidence!

Which is why I want to nail this “Sherlock Holmes was a drug addict” myth with a Buffy-sized stake through the heart (or double-barreled blast to the head of all the Sherlock Addiction Zombies, if you prefer).

Why Sherlock Holmes Is Not, Nor Has Ever Been, A Drug Addict

Addiction is the continued use of a mood altering substance or behavior despite adverse dependency consequences, or a neurological impairment leading to such behaviors.
Wikipedia

Ad•dict•ed/Ad•dic•tion: compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly : persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful
Merriam-Webster

addicted – compulsively or physiologically dependent on something habit-forming; “she is addicted to chocolate”; “addicted to cocaine”
The Free Dictionary

(sorry my OED is boxed up at the moment)

Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson in BBC Sherlock looking skeptical.

Exactly how many nicotine patches are you wearing right now, Sherlock?

Note that all of these definitions refer to a dependence and most refer to an adverse or harmful result. Sherlock Holmes does not show a dependency upon any drug, even nicotine, at any time in any story. He is perfectly capably of going for long periods of time, when on a case, without so much as a cigarette or pipe. If anything, he seems more adversely affected by lack of tea. (But, of course, he is British and it is Victorian England). Dr. John Watson repeatedly mentions that the use of a seven percent solution of cocaine is taken only when Sherlock is between cases. In the very first story, A Study in Scarlet, we have this description of Sherlock by Dr. Watson:

“Nothing could exceed his energy when the working fit was upon him: but now and again a reaction would seize him, and for days on end he would lie upon the sofa in the sitting-room, hardly uttering a word or moving a muscle from morning to night. On these occasions I have noticed such a dreamy, vacant expression in his eyes, that I might have suspected him of being addicted to the use of some narcotic, had not the temperance and cleanliness of his whole life forbidden such a notion.” [Emphasis mine]

From the beginning of their relationship, Dr. Watson notes that Sherlock Holmes is not an addict, nor does he have the personal habits or behaviour of an addict. In The Sign of the Four, Sherlock does his masterful deductions about Dr. Watson’s watch being previous owned by Watson’s brother who was an alcoholic while high on cocaine. Sherlock uses the deductions to demonstrate that the cocaine has not dulled his wits.

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