BBC Sherlock: The Lying Detective – review

***Contains spoilers***toby-jones

The game is certainly on, and the creative team behind this exhilarating fourth series keep on raising theirs to dizzying new heights.

The Lying Detective was a pure, 90-minute adrenaline-rush full of action, suspense, visual quirks, frenetic editing and a brilliant Toby Jones as uber-villain Culverton Smith.

Once again, the team have framed the episode around a single story from the canon, in this case The Dying Detective. It was a clever upgrading of the original story in which Holmes faked a fatal illness to entice a confession from murderer and tropical disease expert Culverton Smith.

In Lying Detective, we have a Smith who is hiding-in-plain-sight as a wealthy philanthropist, using his money and celebrity to conceal his serial killings. Sherlock’s descent into a drug-fuelled mania leads to a stay in the hospital Smith has funded, luring the killer to Sherlock’s bedside. Sherlock extracts a confession before Smith attempts to strangle him and John bursts into the room just in time to save him.

Unlike in the original where Watson hides and hears the confession, this time it is a listening device hidden in John’s old walking stick which ultimately proves to be Smith’s downfall. Clever stuff, a decent way of re-telling the story in a modern context and weaving it into an ongoing narrative about John’s anger towards Sherlock for Mary’s death, ultimately finding a way to bring John back into Sherlock’s world. Poor John, there really is no escape, even his new therapist turns out to be Sherlock’s sister. Right from the start I thought that the red rug under his chair in the therapist’s office, which looked like a giant blood stain, hinted at impending doom.

I really like this new style of focusing on just one original story and hanging the whole episode on it. Much better I think, than their previous ‘pick and mix approach’. Yet again we have a good balance of drama and some heartfelt emotion. I think the script in this episode was particularly strong, such as when Sherlock talks of Mary saying – ‘By saving my life she incurred a currency on it, it is a credit I don’t know how to spend.’

Benedict Cumberbatch gets plenty of meat to sink his experienced acting chops into. Lines like that were delivered with perfection, and his expression after John attacks him, that close-up as he’s on the hospital floor – his face was so full of pain and emotion that personally I think it was more heart-wrenching than the ‘hug that broke the internet.’

In Lying Detective, we see a very emotional Sherlock, able to express feelings, to embrace his friend recognising his pain. In contrast, John has become very self-contained, far less likable. This is an interesting dynamic which they have explored well.

Again, we have plenty of good canon references, even the sister is called Euros, the East Wind (As in, there’s an East wind coming…) And just like in the Dying Detective, it is Mrs Hudson who implores John to come to the aid of his terribly ill friend. But this time she does it in an Aston Martin bless her. I do love how they’ve grown the Mrs Hudson role and Una Stubbs is so perfect for it, she’s a gem and probably having the time of her life as the lynch-pin of the whole show.

The pace was blistering and held my attention entirely for the whole 90 minutes. Husband stayed awake too, that’s two out of three so far for series four – the best barometer for success that I know of. Will next week’s episode achieve a hat-trick on the Tim sleep-o-meter?

I wrote copious notes and could write a very long blog indeed about this episode if I, one – could read my writing, and two, wasn’t bothered about boring people to death. So, to sum up, I really enjoyed this episode, the balance was there between emotional drama, deductions, crime, good v evil. Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Toby Jones, Una Stubbs and Amanda Abbington were all superb. The characterisation of Smith was very strong, he got right under my skin, very creepy – far better in my opinion than Milverton.

But, there were problems and it is impossible to ignore then. How do we all feel about John’s violence towards Sherlock? It was a bit uncomfortable to watch and perhaps a step too far from the canon. And the way Sherlock absolutely dominates John’s life from the death of his wife to the whole therapist/sister-shooting him-thing, there really is no escape. It is a controlling relationship and hard to see what John gets out of it any more.

How come Sherlock didn’t recognise his own sister? Surely the world’s greatest detective with unrivalled observational skills would have seen through her disguise? So, who’s Sherringford? Is there another brother as well? Will it be Tom Hiddleston or was that just a very clever red-herring to put us all on the wrong track? And as Husband asked, what did Sherlock actually lie about?

Why did all the people in the meeting with Culverton Smith so willingly take the TD12 memory-altering drug? I’d have shouted, ‘Bugger off you lunatic!’ and run from the room.

Was John’s visions of Mary a bit of a lazy plot device? Or was it the only way of showing the conflict in his mind about Sherlock as he wasn’t really talking to anyone about his feelings?

How funny that after so many reviewers complained last week about how they have turned Sherlock into James Bond, he suddenly turns up in the boot of an Aston Martin? That did raise a smile.

There has been too much use of slow-motion in this series, it’s become the new mind palace.

The constant chopping up of the chronological order did make it very hard to follow. All the flashes back and forward were too much. It was a good way of showing the drug-addled confusion in Sherlock’s mind but hell to follow. Is that what Gatiss and Moffat want? They want us to work hard? Is that the point? This is event television, it demands your full attention. Or is it just too clever?

My biggest gripe however, was the heavy shades of Jimmy Savile in the characterisation of Culverton Smith. It did make for uncomfortable viewing at times, knowing that someone had done this in real life – funding a hospital then using it as your own personal playground for unspeakable things. Smith even had a set of keys just like the unfettered access Savile enjoyed at Stoke Manderville hospital, which he re-built through his charitable work then used as a cover for his abuse of vulnerable patients. I think the episode came too close to this real-life horror, even giving Smith a Yorkshire background, showing him being adored by children at the hospital etc. I think this was a mistake, the Savile story is too raw, too horrible and they should have stayed away from it in my opinion.

I read a review last week which slammed The Six Thatchers for its over-the-top plot which they felt was impossible to follow. They asked an interesting question, are we in a post-plot era? In these times of clever, quick, slick dramas does plot (or at least, one you can really follow and truly understand) take a back-seat in preference to a very attractive, well dressed cast and stylish presentation? Has plot become less important? Has clever dialogue, style and cinematography taken over from plot? Interesting to note though, last night’s episode got less viewers than Six Thatchers, and less than BBC’s Countryfile and even the Antiques Roadshow!  Something which will please my father who’s been AR’s biggest fan for the past thirty years. Will Sherlock’s fandom endure in the same way? Or is it already starting to wane?

Click here to read my review of The Six Thatchers.

Agree with my thoughts? Post your comments or your own review below.

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BBC Sherlock: A triumphant return to form in The Six Thatchers – review

sherlock_4-1_29***Contains spoilers***

As I was disappointed by the direction taken in series three, I didn’t hold out much hope for the return of BBC Sherlock. After a three year wait for the series to return and endless hype, Hollywood-style trailers, speculation and intense marketing (even announcing the birth of John and Mary’s baby in the Daily Telegraph), I was fearing the worst. It all seemed to point towards more of the over-indulgent, pretentious cleverness which, in my opinion, spoilt series three.

 The first episode of series four, The Six Thatchers, aired on the BBC last night and I loved it, I really loved it. Finally, we see a return to the magic of the first two series, a terrifically good plot which was gripping, exciting, made sense (just about!) and contained brilliant deductions staying true to the science of deduction central to Holmes’ unique character. I also think the canon was treated far better here, sticking much more closely to the essence of the original stories which shaped this new narrative.

The episode was an amalgamation of two stories from the canon, The Six Napoleons and The Sign of Four. Both were cleverly worked into this new tale while containing lots of recognisable elements, from AGRA to the Borgia pearls, the smashing of plaster busts of Margaret Thatcher (described in the episode as the ‘new Napoleon’) – even the detail of the busts being smashed under a porch-light so that the burglar could look for their hidden contents. I loved the reference to the Wigmore Street post office too. Much thought and care went into maintaining the integrity of those two original stories, updating them to our modern world and using them as a device to further their own plot. I applaud this heartily, and know how difficult it is to do.

I loved watching Sherlock being a detective again, Lestrade bringing him a case and he deducing the hell out of it. The dialogue was, at times, hilarious, the pace remained high-octane, the editing slick and highly stylised, and the acting by Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman et al was superb. Even Husband stayed awake all the way through, he nodded off during every episode of series three and after about three minutes of The Bride.

I even started to like Mary more, and it was very appropriate to bring in Sign of Four references – this was the story in which we first encountered Mary Morstan. Here, I think we truly encountered this new Mary for the first time, seeing a more fleshed-out and believable character than the one we met in series three (who always felt a bit too extreme and hurriedly thrown in for my liking.)

Series three felt so over the top, not exactly less is more – rather just more, more, more. But here they managed to get the balance right overall, there was that lightness of touch, that little bit of restraint. Not too much, but enough to make it creditable without losing that very distinctive style Moffat and Gatiss have.

For the sake of balance, there were some things I didn’t really think worked but none of them were deal-breakers. Poor Sherlock has ended up in a state about breaking his vow and failing to protect Mary, but what about John? What about the vow he made when he got married to forsake all others? There he is texting some girl he met on a bus just after his wife has given birth to their first child. For me, this did detract from John’s grief as he cradled his dying wife. As the makers said, in this series Sherlock becomes less of a dick and John more of a dick – I see what they mean now.

What was the point of Mary fleeing abroad when finding out her ex-agent buddy wanted her dead? Surely, if you are an elite, highly trained agent, you would simply stay in London, track him down and neutralise the threat? Not hop off to umpteen different countries, with lots of new identities? This felt like pointless filler to me, needing something to make up the ninety minutes. It was too extreme, a moment where the balance was lost.

Would a new mother really take a bullet and die for her husband’s best friend? Would she really leave her child motherless and her husband widowed however much she cared for Sherlock? And if there was time for her to get in front of that bullet, couldn’t he have simply moved out of the way himself?

But these minor niggles don’t really matter, they just make for some interesting post-episode discussion.

I loved The Six Thatchers, I felt like fist-pumping the air. And I was beginning to fear I would never feel like that about Sherlock again. Will this really be the last ever series as some are speculating? Have they saved the best till last? Let’s see what they do with Culverton Smith in the next episode before rushing to judgement, but it’s safe to say that the signs are looking very good. Signs, Sign of Four, get it? No, fair enough – I’ll leave the humour to Moffat and Gatiss.

Agree with my thoughts? Post your views below.

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Guess who’s back? 90 second trailer heralds the return of the BBC Sherlock juggernaut

sherlockThere I was still trying to recover from the shock of Jane not winning the Great British Bake Off, and suddenly a trailer for series four of BBC Sherlock jumps onto the screen. Aired in typically dramatic fashion after the finale of one of BBC’s most popular shows, the 90 second Hollywood-style trailer was a tantalising promise of what is to come, (and a reminder that the BBC hasn’t lost all its top programmes.)

 So it is now confirmed that Sherlock, (and possibly Moriarty,) will be back on New Year’s Day – 01/01/17. How do I feel? Mixed emotions. After the highs of the first two series and the lows of series three and the one-off Christmas special, I just don’t know what to expect. I must admit, the trailer was great – full of drama, action, perhaps a bit over the top but hinting at a return to the mystery-based, thriller style which I think made the first two series so great. Or will it be the self-indulgent, Sherlock and John love-in which I felt the last instalments became?

Hopefully, it will be a perfectly-balanced blend of the two this time, delivered with a lightness of touch and clever brilliance giving new insight into Sherlock’s development as a character. The trailer bodes well, but I can’t help fearing the worst.

 The image of the violin with it’s broken string is very strong, but what will finally break Sherlock? Harm befalling those he cares for? Losing the game? Being wrong? How will Benedict Cumberbatch deliver this? Can’t wait to find out. Please let’s have a Sherlock episode I can love again, write blogs full of praise about. It seems like a lifetime ago when I last did that. But I‘ve never given up hope. Only two months to go!

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The joy of audiobooks, of hearing someone else’s voice bringing your words to life…

identityToday I heard someone else reading out one of my stories for the first time. A Question of Identity has been brought out as an audio book by MX Publishing and narrated by actor Steve White.

It was a joy to listen to, Steve’s voice so rich and full of character, rising well to the challenge of having to do so many different accents in one story – RP, Northern, Birmingham and Pakistani. He has really brought the story to life.

 There’s something so relaxing about listening to an audiobook, there I was doing the ironing as the words flowed out from my laptop filling the room, sounding so much more alive than if they were simply going on in my head. Audiobooks breathe life into stories, give them levels of characterisation and a richness beyond the humble page.

Listening to A Question of Identity also reminded me of how much I’d enjoyed writing it, what a pleasure it was to delve into Conan Doyle’s A Case of Identity and update it to present day. The themes it contained are still so relevant today, so timeless – a young girl’s love for a mysterious boyfriend, the wicked step-father, the clever consultant solving the case. Conan Doyle managed to be both of his time and ahead of his time in so many ways. Adapting and re interpreting his works remains a constant pleasure and privilege.

You can download ‘A Question of Identity’ here.

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Review – Bonnie MacBird’s Art in the Blood

art in BloodLet’s face it – there are thousands of Sherlock Holmes pastiches out there. The world and his dog have all had a go at trying to re-capture the magic of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories with very varied degrees of success. Some try to ‘do their own thing’ with the world’s favourite consulting detective, putting him in space, the future, New York, modern day, into sexual relationships (both straight, gay and both) or simply weave him into another character’s story. But most try to write a story, narrated by Dr Watson, which sounds so authentic it’s as if someone has uncovered a lost manuscript from the pen of Doyle himself (or Watson, if you prefer to play the great game.) Sadly, almost all fail in recreating Watson’s voice and the genius of Doyle’s story-telling.

So it’s always nice to come across a book like Art in the Blood, a Sherlock Holmes novel written in the traditional style by author Bonnie MacBird and published by HarperCollins. I must confess here that I do consider Bonnie a personal friend, but I think that actually gives me a good insight into understanding why her debut novel is so enjoyable – she is a genuine, knowledgeable, passionate fan of the canon (as well as of Jeremy Brett and BBC Sherlock.) This isn’t some cynical attempt by a writer to cash-in on the current popularity of Holmes, this is a labour of love – and it shows.

Art in the Blood is meticulously researched and written in the true spirit of the original Sherlock Holmes stories. It is full of subtle, well-placed canon references and both historical and geographical accuracies that give it real gravitas. The author has done an excellent job of re-creating that warm, humorous, self-deprecating, no-nonsense voice of Dr Watson that all Sherlockians know and love. The friendship between Holmes and Watson sings out from the pages and is both touching and authentic. The science of deduction, the very exact and unique way in which Holmes reaches his conclusions in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original works, is well replicated here and very cleverly explained.

The plot itself is great fun – a beautiful French singer, a missing love-child, the theft of a priceless work of art, all woven together into a tale which soon becomes hard to put down. We have a very capable Watson, intelligent and brave, willing to risk his own safety for his friend. In Holmes we see the imperfections we all love to analyse, his drug use, his malaise when in need of work, his ferocious energy when set upon a case. It’s so hard to get these elements right, but Bonnie MacBird has mastered it. There is a lightness of touch here which is so often lacking in pastiche, and the novel is all the more enjoyable for it.

After finishing Art in the Blood, I made the mistake of watching ITV’s Houdini and Doyle which I had recorded from earlier in the week. From one extreme to another! But I’ll save my thoughts on that for another blog…


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BBC Sherlock: The Abominable Bride – opinions as messy as the plot (contains spoilers)

fe817b86-1ba2-472b-b9ff-f1c473bcf4f8-bestSizeAvailableBBC’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.

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Elementary finale gives us a battle between Holmes and his ultimate nemesis – heroin

****Contains spoilers****

elementary-season-3-episode-15The Warner Bros film gave us an actual fall into a waterfall, BBC Sherlock gave us a fall from grace and now Elementary has given us a fall back, or relapse, into addiction. We love to see Holmes being brilliant but we also like to be reminded that he isn’t infallible, indestructible. Whether it’s being defeated by Moriarty or heroin, we like to see him fall. It makes future victories even sweeter and shows his human side.

Season Three ended with Holmes being forced to face his demons and ultimately succumbing to the temptation of his biggest enemy – heroin. The dominant thread running through all three series of Elementary has been Holmes’ battles to stay in recovery – it was what brought he and Watson together in the first place when his father paid her to be his sober companion. So this relapse felt like an inevitable conclusion to a very long-running storyline.

I just wonder where it can go from here and wish that the build-up to it had been better, longer. The episode felt hurried and unrealistic – a fellow addict discovers the dead body of his sister and all he can think about is Holmes’ previous put-downs and continuing sobriety. So he dreams up and executes a plan in which he kidnaps Holmes’ sponsor Alfredo, pretends his sister is still missing, forces Holmes to help find her and leads him back to his old rehab facility and a ‘shooting gallery’ in the hope he will relapse. When he gives him heroin the temptation proves too great.

It was silly and unrealistic, just a vehicle to get Holmes from sobriety to using again in space of one episode while also providing a crime to be solved and something for the police to do. After a three-series build-up, I expected better. But we have been given the tantalising promise of finally discovering the identity of Holmes’ billionaire father who is now flying in to see his fallen son. That will guarantee I tune in to episode one of season four but whether Elementary will hold me through another 24 episodes is hard to tell at this stage.

Overall I’ve enjoyed series three but it lacked the dramatic threads that came to conclusions in the first two – Irene and Mycroft. I even came to like Kitty but disliked the way she interrupted the Holmes-Watson partnership.

The crimes remained clever and inventive (except for this last one), the addiction issues are well-handled and Holmes’ growing ability to form friendships and think of others was believable and touching – if at times a bit oversentimental. As usual, the original Sherlock Holmes stories were largely ignored but certain themes remained the same – Watson moving out and finding love only to return after their tragic death being the best example.

My main problem with Elementary is that Watson is now a detective in her own right. Her abilities almost equal Holmes and she sees private clients as well as the cases they work on together. That just doesn’t work for me. Watson should be a doctor, an everyman character who dips into Holmes’ world and gets a unique up-close look but remains rooted in the same world as the reader/viewer. Watson should be ordinary, Holmes extraordinary, that’s how the dynamic works. Yes, Watson should be capable, intelligent and have ‘unexplored possibilities’, but shouldn’t be a detective. Watson should be an assistant, a friend, an observer and biographer.

I also think that the Elementary version of Holmes is a bit too official, too accepted by the police. He and Watson are both consultants with the NYPD but I much prefer BBC Sherlock’s interpretation of him as a ‘freak who shows up at crime scenes just because he likes it’, an outsider who isn’t exactly accepted, more simply tolerated because he’s an oddball but useful.

I sometimes think Elementary gives us a more sanitised version of Holmes but then I also feel that they delve into his phycology better than anyone else ever has. His vulnerability, his childlike neediness contrasts extremely well with his other side which is arrogant and fiercely independent. Elementary play out the contrasts very well and for all its faults, I’ll miss it now the series has ended.

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Sherlock Holmes – were his abilities a blessing or a curse?

I’ve just watched an episode of Elementary and it raised an interesting point – are Holmes’ abilities a gift facilitating interesting work, or an illness that he uses the work to treat?

In episode 18 of season three, ‘The View from Olympus’, a causal lover asks Holmes to have a child with her. She doesn’t need him to have a relationship with either the child or her, she just needs him to (to put it delicately) do the biology. Towards the end of the episode, there’s a wonderful scene when Holmes finally explains to her why he must decline her offer.

She had previously tried to persuade him by telling him he is remarkable and a good person for using his abilities to help people. In their final scene together Holmes agrees that he is remarkable, but explains that this is the very reason why he can’t have a child:

“The things I do, the things you care about, you think I do them because I’m a great person, but I do them because it would hurt too much not to. It hurts Agatha, all of this (pointing out of the window across the city), everything I see, hear, touch and smell, the conclusions I’m able to draw, the things that are revealed to me, the ugliness. My work focuses me, it helps. You say that I’m using my gifts; I say I’m just treating them. So I cannot in good conscience, pass all of that onto someone else.”

I found this so touching, a clever and more sensitive interpretation of Holmes’ abilities than the usual ‘Look at me I’m brilliant’ approach. I have always argued that Holmes’ abilities to see connections between things, hidden meanings, minute observations, are more like a compulsion than a choice. I’ve explored this in my own writing, likening it to a form of OCD, an addiction almost. If it wasn’t for being able to channel them into his work, they would consume him.

I think Elementary explored this in a very eloquent and sensitive way, better than I’ve seen done before. It’s a very modern interpretation of Holmes, the flawed hero battling mental health issues and addiction. This suits a contemporary audience well I think. We need to get inside the heads of our heroes; we want that level of analysis and complexity, the tortured genius. Conan Doyle hinted at these things in the canon but its shows like Elementary and Sherlock that dare to take them one step further.  Holmes is evolving before our very eyes.

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Arthur and George tested the waters – now the BBC is jumping right in

imagesLast night ITV aired the final episode of their three-part dramatization of Julian Barnes’ novel – Arthur and George. Starring Martin Clunes as a gentle but determined Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the action follows Doyle’s investigation into ‘The Wyrley Ripper’, a case he takes up in order to clear the name of the accused – George Edalji. Right from their first meeting, Doyle is sure of the man’s innocence and he works tirelessly to prove it, using the case as a way to cope after the death of his first wife.

Based on true events and set around 1903, it was almost like watching a traditional Holmes and Watson adventure. Doyle applied many of his creation’s methods to solve the crime and outsmart the sceptical, sneering police. Examining footprints, breaking and entering, testing a knife to see what sort of wound it would make, arguing with officials and defending an innocent man despite the odds – sound familiar?

Doyle was assisted in these endeavours by his friend and valet Mr Wood (Woodie), who fitted into the Watson role perfectly – advising caution and trying to be the voice of reason to temper Doyle’s persistence.

Hansom cabs rattled along the cobbles and steam trains puffed into stations. It felt very much like ITV were testing the waters to see if there was an appetite for a traditional Sherlock Holmes set in the period, similar to the famous Granada series starring Jeremy Brett which aired on ITV between 1984 and 1994. It certainly left me hankering for it.

But then, this morning I see that Steven Moffat has now officially confirmed that the BBC Sherlock one-off special will be entirely set in the Victorian period – not a dream sequence or costume ball as I had feared. ‘The special is its own thing,’ Moffat told Entertainment Weekly. ‘It’s not part of the run of three episodes. As we could hardly conceal – it’s Victorian.’ Moffat also adds – ‘(co-creator Mark Gatiss) and me, we wanted to do this, but it had to be special, it had to be a separate entity on its own. It’s kind of in its own little bubble.’

So no testing of the waters for the BBC, the massive success of Sherlock and the popularity of the cast has given them the confidence to jump straight in and give us a traditional Holmes. Personally I think this is brave and exciting but I hope they don’t spoil it with gimmickry and over-the-top ideas – just keep it simple please, full of subtleties as with Arthur and George.

Clunes put in a great performance as Doyle with a soft, warm Scottish brogue and gentle manner but obvious passion against injustice and racial prejudice. And for me personally, I grew up near to the area where the drama was set so loved hearing the accents of my childhood, of Cannock and Staffordshire. Some of the scenes were even filmed at the Black Country Living Museum, an excellent local visitor attraction I have been to many times.

I’d say that the future of Sherlock Holmes looks set to go back to the past, possibly on both BBC and ITV. Or will we get a whole series of ‘Sir Arthur investigates’?

Can it be only a matter of time before we get the natural successor to the Granada series? And will this end up being bigger than both Sherlock and Elementary who have displaced the detective into a modern setting? Is it time we went back to the past?

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What does this year’s BBC Sherlock one-off special really have in store for us?

24F1F53200000578-2921763-image-m-111_1421938850201First we had the official picture of Cumberbatch and Freeman in period costume evoking a Brett/Hardwicke vibe. Now the internet is alive with more pictures of the pair in Victorian dress, along with Amanda Abbington. The pictures were taken while the team were filming at Gloucester Cathedral and seem to confirm speculation that the one-off special will indeed be set in Victorian times.

Personally, I’m delighted about this. I think it’s brave and inventive, harking back to the spirit of series one and two when Moffat and Gatiss simply wrote the show exactly as they wanted to, not writing for the fans or the awards or ratings. It was quirky, stylised and a bit niche.

While defending the change from the Victorian setting of the original stories to present-day London, the team said it was the essence of the characters and sense of adventure that mattered, not the period. I entirely agreed and still do. So taking the same characters and placing them in a different century is a great idea, especially as they seem to be paying due respect to the highly successful and much loved Granada adaptations. I hope there are plenty of nods to Granada and Brett in the episode, it would also be great if the team decide to take an original ACD story and re-tell it authentically but with their own unique twist.

People are speculating about how they will explain the change of time period – will it be Sherlock in a coma like Life on Mars? Will it all be a dream like Dallas? Is it fancy dress? Or time travel to right the wrongs of the past like Quantum Leap? Did aliens abduct them and dump them in Victorian England? Will it be a strange Doctor Who mash-up?

I really hope it’s none of these – I hope they are brave and bold enough to just go for it without any explanation at all. Let’s have a whole episode in the period where the stories were originally set, no explanation needed. If the quality of the drama is good enough, no one will even question it after about two minutes because we will all be so absorbed by the storytelling and characters.

I’m so excited about this episode and hope I don’t end up feeling as let down as I did at the end of series three. Please let this not be a publicity stunt, or as disappointing as Sherlock surviving his fall by landing on a big blue inflatable. I can’t wait to find out!

Posted in BBC Sherlock, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle | Tagged , , | 11 Comments