Stranger Cat Some Tales Never Get Old
With his first step into the written word in 1886, Sherlock Holmes captured a fan base that will not die. Holmes’ iconic (though mis-appointed) deerstalker and pipe is recognized the world over. In 1893, when The Strand published The Final Problem, featuring Holmes’ apparent death, readers took to the street in mourning. Black armbands were worn all over England in remembrance. But that was not the end of Holmes. The character has lived with us for over a century, guided by many hands other than Doyle’s. Over the years, some of the great writers have played with Holmes, including Stephen King, Mark Twain, and Ellery Queen.
It shouldn’t be a surprise then that Steven Moffat, current show runner for Doctor Who, should be the next to throw his hat into the ring. So off Holmes goes and gets a time update. Instead of the hinge of the 19th century, Sherlock is set in the year 2010. Our title character uses text messages, weather maps on his smart phone, modern labs and other technology to solve crimes while Watson writes a blog. And yet, there’s enough that is familiar from the works penned by Doyle (“the canon” in fan lingo) to keep every fan smiling (the meeting of Sherlock and Watson is almost the same as the initial meeting in A Study in Scarlet).
It should be noted that it’s not a new idea. There’s a cartoon series called Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century that pulls Sherlock Holmes into the future from his 19th century home. Also, numerous characters derived from Holmes, including Gregory House (House, MD), appropriate the idea of a Sherlock Holmes character and adapt it for modern times and modern situations.
Groundbreaking or not, Moffat’s Sherlock is enjoyable. The characters are deep, the actors well-chosen, and the humor is at just the right level to keep it interesting and fresh. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Sherlock Holmes to a tee, bringing the razor sharp mind as well as the wit, curiosity and cunning to the role. He also plays a softer edge to the character that makes Sherlock human and lovable.
The only real disappointment with the story is the case itself. Stripping away the set up for the characters and diving into the plot, we’re left with scarce mystery. It is predictable, slightly unbelievable and full of questions. After greatly building up the cleverness of the killer, all he does is bully people into playing Russian Roulette. Really Moffat? And how many times has the serial killer taxi cab driver been used in mysteries?
The reveal at the end that Moriarty was behind the string of killings was laughable (Moriarty rarely killed anyone in the original canon; his crimes were more cunning and less chaotic).
Perhaps I’m expecting too much from Moffat, who has penned two of my favorite episodes of TV ever (Doctor Who’s The Girl in the Fireplace and Blink). Maybe he’s depending too much on the characters to deal with the plot. Or perhaps there simply wasn’t enough room to introduce great characters and fit a plot into one episode. Or perhaps Moffat can only tell a great story out of order.
What I can say is that if Stranger Comics was given the script to play with there’d be a lot more meat to our serial killer, especially after setting him up to be so sinister. I expected a psychological show down akin to Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling. Instead I was left with someone less interesting than “Buffalo Bill”.
I do, however, can give props to Holmes for inflicting pain on the killer as he lies was dying. It puts the audience on notice that this Holmes is not a detached Victorian clue hound. This Holmes is a man of action, his pulp fiction self as portrayed in the 2009 film.
Too often, modern heroes are restricted to pansy hand wringers that loseWeight Exercise to the bad guys because they’re busy debating moral ethics. A phenomenon I believe lead to the end of the popularity of 24. Moral pressure from outside forces left Jack Bauer a pansy towards the end of the series’ run, it wasn’t until the final episodes of the final season we saw him back to the “in your face, screaming, take no prisoners” character we had come to love. In our entertainment we want results, not moral lessons.
So the verdict? As someone who has been a fan of Sherlock Holmes since age 9, I was pleased with the new series and can’t wait for more.
Sherlock is a three part series currently airing on BBC1.
Gregory House, House
What would you prefer – a doctor who holds your hand while you die or one who ignores you while you get better? I suppose it would particularly suck to have a doctor who ignores you while you die.
Music: Game On, The Guild
Web maven, Felicia Day, has done it again. Game On, a music video for her internationally famous web series The Guild, takes a Bollywood parody about the world of MMORPG to a whole new level of funny. The music and video will be available on iTunes and Amazon on 8/3/10.
TV: Warehouse 13, SyFy
While the start of this series may have been the goofy science fiction we’ve come to expect from the Syfy channel, the story found legs mid-way through the season and has surprised and delighted many hard-core genre fans. Not as classic as X-Files, but with a lot of heart, this is a quirky show to add to your summer viewing.