Monday, 16 January 2012

Definitely the New Sexy!

This article contain spoilers for Sherlock episode A Scandal in Belgravia and the film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. 

What a glorious start to the year! The much awaited new series of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’s Sherlock burst onto the screen with an excellent opening to the second series, and continued with intelligent, exciting and unique episodic adaptation of Sherlock Holmes into fantastic television, one I can write and talk about for a very long time, and I will for the next few days; starting with my review of the first episode: A Scandal in Belgravia.

A friend mentioned to me once that Steven Moffat said in an interview, about Doctor Who that either everything is cannon or nothing is. This approach to something with as big an industry as the one surrounding Doctor Who, manifests itself quite cleverly in his creative control of the series, which sometimes challenges and sometimes embraces, but never indifferent to everything Doctor Who.  

From the first episode of the first series, one of the most wonderful things about Sherlock that caught my attention, was the mouth watering mishmash Moffat and Gatiss made of several stories and the vast iconography and culture around Sherlock Holmes, which creates a unique hybrid of Sherlock Holmes the literary figure, Sherlock Holmes the public persona and  and whole new Sherlock emerges.

Like I wrote in my my previous post about Sherlock Holmes the character, in all the adaptations I have seen, and admittedly I haven’t seen them all, on films and TV, regardless to my personal preference, I haven’t found my Sherlock Holmes, the one I have had in my head since I was a young girl. Sherlock is no different, and with all my love to Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays him beautifully, the character, as it was for me in the Conan Doyle books remains elusive.

However, though I can't imagine Benedict Cumberbatch when I read Sherlock Holmes, I can definitely imagine a little bit of Holmes when I watch Sherlock. Cumberbatch, on the one hand is far too good looking to how I see Sherlock Holmes. Far be it from me to complain of Cumberbatch dominating my TV, on the contrary, the more the better, but, like I explained previously, I don’t see Sherlock quite as handsome as I see Cumberbatch. On the other hand, his Sherlock puts his fingertips together and up into his face when he thinks. This is a very accurate Sherlock pose, and one which Cumberbatch, in a course of one episode, is in more frequently than any other adaptation I came across. I can’t explain the tingling sensation I get from this seemingly ridiculously minor detail, so easily forgotten, being used as extensively as it is by Cumberbatch on Sherlock; so much so that it has assimilated into his body language. Other adaptation simply marked this gesture more as a crowd pleaser than a Sherlock Holmes nature. Silly I know, but I can't help it. 

Sherlock offers great drama, thrilling action, trendy maverick detective that fits with all others of our days, fashionable bromance with gay sub-textuality and excellent actors who are more than just eye candy, even if you're not a Sherlock Holmes enthusiast, but most importantly Sherlock, in this series more than the previous one, opens a window to the world of Sherlock Holmes.

If you are a Sherlock Holmes fan, and you don’t even have to be an obsessive one, than Sherlock becomes a different kind of experience and, in the case of this fan, creates waves of almost childish pleasure that combines the joy of spotting beloved references with the elation at this consolidation of Sherlocks from books and beyond, into an intelligent and insightful interpretation of everything Sherlock Holmes. Indeed like Moffat said; everything is cannon and nothing is.

I liked the first series very much, but compared with the one that just ended, it was a lot more cautious, which make sense in a first series, and while there was the mixing and matching of different stories and creating new ones, it seems creators Moffat and Gatiss were careful not to step too much outside the familiar book references. This is why, for me, the first series was good but the second series, right from the first episode, was brilliant.

A Scandal in Belgravia opened with a flood of references first from other Sherlock stories, but very quickly started pointing to other Sherlock Holmes' outside the books and eventually turned into the wonderful homage to one of my own favourite Sherlock Holmes films by Billy Wilder: The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, which is an independent Sherlock Holmes film which only uses one original story as a point of reference rather than adaptation, and has its own new Sherlock Holmes story and outlook.

The original story: A Scandal in Bohemia is not even, in my opinion, one of the best Sherlock Holmes stories, and if it wasn’t for the fact that it was the story of The Woman who beat Holmes, and so taught him and the readers of the 19th centaury a naïve lesson about feminism, I doubt it would have been so memorable. Irene Adler, as I previously wrote, has become, because of that, a lot bigger than she really was in the books, and her character adaptations, as well as the discourse about her, gained independent life, outside the books. The original story was quite small part of the A Scandal in Belgravia episode, and the homage to the Billy Wilder film, which started with small hints, developed to become the heart of this first episode.

The suggestion that the deer-stalker hat was something which was forced on Sherlock by his fans, rather than his choice of accessories, was something that the Billy Wilder’s Sherlock has suggested as well, and has more than some truth to it; in the books Holmes doesn’t actually wear the deer-stalker hat very often, only when he goes out of London into the countryside and not always then. In the early illustrations of Sherlock Holmes there is no sign of the deer-stalker hat. The Deer- Stalker hat moment in A Scandal in Belgravia was the first hint to Wilder's film and like in the film a wonderful address to the fans.  

The first time Irene Adler meets Sherlock in the episode, she welcomes him naked. Gabriel Valladon, the mysterious woman who shows up on Holmes doorstep with no memory in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, enters Sherlock’s room naked, thinking he is her husband. In hindsight of the film’s conclusion, her nakedness suddenly becomes a weapon just as it was intended in the TV episode. While Moffat and Gatiss’ Holmes is baffled by the nudity and it disables his deduction abilities, Wilder’s Holmes uses Gabriel’s nudity and state of mind to get information. Both women's bodies turned out to carry the information Sherlock needed, which happens to be a code that unlocks a secret: Gabriel had the stamp of her locker number smudged on her hand and Irene’s safe combination is her measurements.  

Both A Scandal in Belgravia and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, refer to the original Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of Bruce- Partington Plans, though Sherlock referred more directly to this story on the last episode of series one: The Great Game. Both the film and the episode elaborate and expand the the story of the actual plans. I personally found the idea of the flight of the dead in A Scandal in Belgravia, as wonderfully bonkers as the idea of the Loch Ness monster being a submarine operated by midgets with canaries in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

But perhaps the most obvious connection between A Scandal in Belgravia and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is of course The Woman. Both women, though have different names, are THE women who confused Sherlock Holmes and exposed his vulnerability, even if only for a moment. I adore The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, but I can’t pretend that it didn’t hurt me to see Sherlock Holmes so defeated and hurt as he was in that film, and I admit that letting Sherlock come out on top in more ways than one in A Scandal in Belgravia, in contrast to the film, has made me happy. I appropriated Gatiss and Moffat's mercy as if, like me they couldn't bare to see their hero so defeated. It turned the dramatic "Auf Wiedersehen" of Billy Wilder to the more optimistic Goodbye Mr. Holmes, and I can’t help it, the romantic within me loved it.   


  1. Great article about the BBC series 'Sherlock'. Loved your review.


  2. Replies
    1. I saw 'A Scandal in Belgravia' last Sunday. Here is my my review .