BBC’s Sherlock New Year’s Day special, The Abominable Bride, drew in 8.4 million viewers and the internet is now alive with reviews and discussion about this polarising trip (‘Trip’ being the operative word) back to the Victorian London of the original Sherlock Holmes cannon.
The Telegraph has gone with ‘sleuths, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Sherlock combined period drama, feminism and a fiendish whodunit into a feature length comeback that got 2016 off to a flying start.’
Then at the other end of the scale we have the Daily Mail with – ‘A farce – a self-indulgent, ill-conceived mess that threatens to ruin the show’s reputation as one of the best programmes on British television.’
Sherlock Holmes for Dummies echoes my personal feelings particularly well – ‘So much potential, so much pandering, a few moments of brilliance, so many more moments of self-conscious B.S.’
I was really looking forward to this – I wanted to love it, wanted to rediscover the passion I had for Sherlock Series One and Two but utterly lost in series three. But they really let me down – again.
I still haven’t recovered from Sherlock faking his death with a squash ball and a big blue inflatable. Now they’ve done it again, lazy plot devices enabling them to go back in time with all their mates and have jolly japes together in funny costumes – what a hoot.
Turns out it was all a drug-infused, mind palace trick. Basically it was just a dream – like Booby coming back from the dead in Dallas. Well, that must have taken all of five seconds to come up with. A child could have done it.
We were presented with two different stories here, the Victorian murder mystery of a bride appearing to rise from the dead and walk the streets of London committing murders. Then we jump to where the last episode of Series Three left off with Sherlock on a private jet (can’t remember why, too confusing) suddenly coming back because it would appear that arch villain Moriarty has returned from the dead. Oh-my-gosh, anyone else want to come back from the dead? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle maybe?
Taking the period bits in isolation, they were pretty good. The sets and costumes were beautiful and accurate, the atmosphere of foggy London at Christmas with snow and Hansom cabs was a treat – the cosy sitting room at 221b with a fire roaring in the grate was wonderful. The quick-fire, fast-paced dialogue was a little out-of-place for the period but witty and enjoyable all the same. The quirky editing also uncharacteristic for a period piece but true to the Moffat and Gatiss style and worked fairly well in the main – though breaking with naturalism did pull the viewer away from the suspense of the drama. Holmes didn’t do much in the way of deducting either, which I though was the whole point of a detective drama.
But then everything suddenly turned a bit ‘Doctor Who’ and we’re back in present day. Then we go back and forth, we’re at the Reichenbach Falls, Victorian London, then back to the plane. I was lost; it was a mess and turned into silly, self-indulgent twaddle. Why do they have to do this? Are they so in love with their characters, so powerful that they can just do whatever they want? All I wanted was a cracking piece of crime drama with a really clever plot, lots of brilliant deduction from Holmes, all in the Victorian period – no explanations needed, no ‘it’s a dream/mind-palace (bloody mind-palace I’m sick of it now)/drug high,’ just a loving tribute to the canon without which they wouldn’t have their TV show in the first place.
This could have been so much better; it was a missed opportunity in my opinion. I know my opinion doesn’t matter; in fact no one’s opinion really matters when you can pull in 8.4 million viewers. I think perhaps that’s the problem here – the creative team don’t need to please anyone but themselves because loyalty, fascination, Benedict’s cheekbones, all the Benedict/Freeman fans, all the Sherlock Holmes fans will tune in no matter what. They will put up with lots of mind palace, dream sequences, people coming back from the dead, surviving a fall by landing on an inflatable etc. in the same way football fans will follow their team for life even if they do badly. We’ve got you now, say Moffat and Gatiss, and you’re bloody-well going to like whatever we tell you. Well, I didn’t like it – but yes, I will watch series four, they’ve still got me, I’m under the spell and it will always draw me back. More fool me.