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.
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…
No spoilers really. But I may have to reconsider my thoughts on the efficacy of prayer. I’ve been asking for no major plot or character holes and for Mr. Cumberbatch to be given a chance to demonstrate is comedic capabilities. My prayer has been answered in spades — so far. Granted the tissues do get passed around, but in a good way, at the end of the evening. (And do not think I am slighting Martin Freeman’s comedic turn either, but he gets more opportunities so it isn’t quite as comment-worthy.)
Of course, His Last Vow is from Mr. Moffat, so the atmosphere will turn and there will be much wailing and gnashing of teeth, I am certain.
I just realized I should mention that I’ve updated the Guesses and Spoilers posts with my thoughts on His LastVow (Sherlock Series/Season 3, Episode 3). Without giving anything away,because we’ve all seen the trailers, let’s just say I think John is going to be a lot more grieving (which is too bad because I really like Mary) and I’m also concerned about Molly’s health. This is Moffat, after all, and he’s run out of Timelords and their companions to kill for the moment. And we all know Moffat Must Kill Someone.(Imagine a series where Moffat and George R.R. Martin collaborated. Shortest series in history. Everyone killed off by the end of the first episode!)
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! )
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.
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