So what up on the blog today?
In addition to following Doctor Who, the family of El that dwells here in the Fortress of Ineptitude also follow Steven Moffat’s other producing effort, Sherlock.
- It’s based on the character and adventures of Sherlock Holmes as originally conceived by writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
- It translates Doyle’s Victorian era creation to the 21st century with Holmes solving crimes via Wi-Fi connected laptops and smartphone texting.
- It stars It British dude Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock, a high functioning sociopath with stunning cheekbones.
- Martin Freeman plays Dr. John Watson who dutifully records Sherlock’s exploits via a blog but is not afraid to tell Sherlock he’s being a jackass. (Not that Sherlock cares.)
- Frustratingly, Sherlock only produces 3 episodes per series or season and only produces a series once every two or three years. Meanwhile, it’s American counterpart, Elementary, which airs on CBS and has Lucy Lui as Watson, has produced 287 episodes over the last three years.
And we’re off in 5…
The story opens up with a bit of a retelling of events from Sherlock's first episode, A Study In Pink. Except now events are set over a 100 years in the past. Watson is an army doctor back from the wars in Afghanistan and needs a place to live. Through a mutual acquaintance, Watson meets Sherlock Holmes, a decidedly eccentric private detective with a keen mind with eyes to match but a dull sense of societal mores.
After the theme music set over scenes of Olde London Towne, we pick up some years into the sleuthing adventures of Holmes and Watson. Inspector Lastrade with frightfully large sideburns brings an equally frightful tale of a murder beyond the grave. He relates the story of a woman dressed in her bridal gown on the anniversary of her wedding who shoots herself through the head, blowing out the back of her own skull. However, this does not prevent her from turning up a day later to kill her husband.
- Some kind of alt-fiction on John Watson's blog?
- A straight up homage to the classic films starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce?
- Perhaps the much denied crossover with Doctor Who?
- Someone gets conked on the head for an extended dream sequence?
Well, yes it was a dream sequence but a dream sequence with a purpose. What we get is a delightful take on the Moffat/Gatiss version of Sherlock transplanted to 120 years in the past that also connects with the current series, bridging the end of Series 3 to Series 4 (which won't be coming to our screens until 2017? Arrrgghhhh!)
One of the fun things in this special is seeing how the characters we know and love behave in an environment that is the same but different. Holmes is as eccentric as ever but is a bit colder in his Victorian mode, Watson is less easily amused, Mycroft is more of a dilettante and Lestrade is not quite as bright. The interesting bit is these differences are explainable both through the prism of Victorian England and the filter of modern Sherlock's perceptions of himself and his acquaintances. It's interesting that it's the women in Sherlock's life, Mary Watson and Molly Hooper, who are just as effective in their Victorian personas as they are in the modern day (even if Victorian Molly has to disguise herself as a man to get anywhere.)
As soon as we break the conceit of the Victorian Sherlock as having any sort of reality, the parallels and the differences between modern Sherlock and this 19th century version become even more clear. If anyone doesn't fit in to the Victorian mode, however, it's Jim Moriarty but then again, his outsized ego, intelligence and immorality make Moriarty an outsider to the 21st century as well. It might be argued that the women and the villain behave consistently in both worlds owes a lot of Sherlock's respect (and perhaps fear?) of these individuals.
Near the end of the 19th century adventure, Watson's persona of that age becomes more like his modern day self as Holmes acknowledges his respect for his crime solving partner.
Overall, this was an exciting mystery with a lot of humor and a lot more to make the mind think. At the center of this is Benedict Cumberbatch who makes both versions of Sherlock recognizable but uniquely distinctive. It's an exemplary display of acting matched by Martin Freeman as the John Watson we know and the one we know less of. I can see why this story was done as a special as it goes off the pattern established by the previous 9 installments; but I'm glad they made it connect to those episodes and the episodes to come. After all, we've got a long wait to see Holmes and Watson on the case in modern London again.
One more note before I wrap this up. While my wife and I saw the episode when it aired the night of January 1st, my daughter missed it so I elected to withhold this post (she actually reads this thing, the poor dear) until she had a chance to catch up. Which she did last night when we saw the episode in the theater with a fairly large crowd of Sherlock fans. It was a very enjoyable communal experience.
That's that for today. Another blog post coming up tomorrow. Until then, remember to be good to one another.