03 January 2016

The return of Sherlock

The languor of the Christmas break has left me with plenty of time on my hands so here is a review of the latest episode of Sherlock.

Spoiler alert!

The Abominable Bride was, no surprise, a visual feast. The parlour in the street trick as part of the story telling was a real pleasure to behold. While initially disturbing, I found Watson's moustache quickly grew on me, although Lestrade's sideburns remained an unconvincing and distracting anomaly. And the more I saw of Watson's bowler hat, I found my admiration grew covetous feelings. Perhaps the green of Sherlock's gorgeous tweed was just a little too bright for the actor's pallid colouring.

I did not realise how much I had missed Mrs Hudson, the landlady. Her droll self mockery reached new heights and within moments of her appearance I found myself declaring her my favourite thing in the episode. Along with Mycroft's fantabulous corpulence of course. The pantomime at the entrance to the Diogenes Club preceding Mycroft's transformed appearance was hilarious.

All this, accompanied by such fantastic words: "...mouth like a crimson wound..." was one of half a dozen brilliant turns in the first half of the episode. From there, things went not so well. Best we forget Watson's ridiculous and excruciating attempt to explore what motivates Sherlock's behaviour while they are stalking the ghost.

Do not misunderstand me, I had no problem with the dream, within a dream, in a dream, inside a dream etc. and fully expected self-reverential, but honestly, I thought the suffragette element of the story was thoroughly twee, utterly contrived and mawkish.

For this I can blame the writers. Sure, this part of the plot served to highlight the absurdity of the oppression of women in the Victorian era, if not the short and ongoing history of the world itself. Not having read the original stories, I still feel qualified to assume one of the most remarkable departures from the original story and the abiding feature of transplanting Sherlock into our century is the presence of strong female characters.

Note, I hesitated to include the adjective strong in the last sentence, for present are many familiar, and lazy, female tropes; witness Mrs Hudson's behaviour and the unrequited love of the clumsy lab assistant. However, there are not really many, if any, fleshed out characters in the show, all mostly serve as foils to Sherlock himself. In context, this is hardly a surprise, if not apt. Mary has never quite made sense to me, and Watson, despite all his character development is still most comfortable playing the martyr to Sherlock.

I hope we get to enjoy more of Sherlock's inate brilliance without too many emotional complications and explorations thrown in. Please, don't impose the need to understand Sherlock on us. Even as we prefer the antihero, we are probably still happiest keeping a reasonable distance, particularly for the sake of entertainment.

Summer rain inspired me to go for a run again. It occurred to me there can be no such familiar rain in heaven to speak of and run in it I should while I could. This reflection, I think, comes of my friend Noivedya passing away nearly one year ago. He was a big fan of Sherlock and an ardent spectator of Doctor Who, so I've certainly been quite at a loss to understand my dislike for and boredom with the Doctor's latest incarnation.

Perhaps Peter Capaldi will forever be the brilliantly mordant Malcolm Tucker (The Thick Of It) for me, his presence quite lacking in any other appreciable facet. His cuddly side is always quite forced at the least, and, at the most, I've never been really convinced by his alien-as-God-proxy-with-compassion-for-all-humanity aspect that the Doctor has to bring to the screen.

In other words, the love feels delivered by rote. As a Time Lord who has seen it all before, the capacity to appreciate the coin of life is simultaneously victory and defeat is still no ordinary experience, even if it is an everyday reality. Great sorrow has to admit great delight, it ultimately has no choice.

Noivedya would doubtless be able to explain the current Doctor as an evolutionary quirk in the history of the entire story or a manifestation of the current writers' own preoccupations and style - simply another chapter in a continuing saga and no cause for alarm. Indeed, just so calmly he approached his own regeneration...

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