There seems to be a strong connection between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Who these days, both in a certain common creator and a lot of certain fans, so it should probably come as no surprise that the premiere of a brand new Doctor might inspire thoughts of a Sherlockian nature. (Especially when Madame Vastra is involved. More on her later.)
The last season of BBC Sherlock brought commentary from several directions that the writers were servicing the fans overmuch, and I was reminded of that strongly in Stephen Moffat's opening salvo of Doctor Who for this year. A new actor and a changed persona are a staple of the Who-niverse, and in this particular opener it felt that not only was he cognizant of the fans, he was actually preaching to them a bit through his characters . . . which then made one wonder what we have to expect in upcoming Sherlocks.
But aside from such quibbles, a rebooted story, as Dr. Who does a bit with its regenerations, definitely gives one a moment to step back and reconsider just what it is that attracts us to these characters, be they Sherlock Holmes or that doctor of unknown name.
Are they mere entertainments? Pretty young men or women with clever lines popping out of their mouths? Well, since Sherlock Holmes has not always be a pretty young person, we can be very certain that's not it. And his fan base has been strong in heterosexual males for eons, so he hasn't built the House of Sherlock on sex appeal, whatever his age.
No, good Sherlock Holmes, like good Doctor Who, like good . . . anybody, to me is a not just something you go brain dead and relax through. And it's not something that merely titillates with sex, violence, jokes, or other fleeting "shock and awe" tactics. No, there's something stimulating about a good hero with whom we can share an adventure or two. And not just something to get the blood pumping a little faster. No, our greatest, most legendary heroes actually make us feel like better people after spending time with them.
That's what I've always looked for in a Sherlock Holmes, and that's what I find I'm using to judge a new Doctor as well. Do they inspire, do they make you proud to be a person? Do you come away a little more energized from your time with them? Perhaps it's a high bar, but as long as certain creators can dish that delicacy out in ample portions, I think I'll keep that as my base criteria.
Now, back to Madame Vastra . . . her character on Dr. Who always makes me a little sad. Love her little Victorian team, with Jenny Flint and Strax, yes. But Madame Vastra has always been played as the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. Her cases seem to have been his cases. She's smart, but always eclipsed by the Doctor. And she's a lizard, and you know how us mammals instinctively feel about those scaly bastards.
Madame Vastra, sad to say, doesn't have that certain something the real Sherlock Holmes brings. She's also a major impediment to any Dr. Who/Sherlock Holmes crossovers . . . which would be a rough go in any case, as it would suddenly allow that crazy aliens exist in the world of Sherlock. (As he once said, "The world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply." Nor aliens. They have their own big worlds.)
With Peter Capaldi, the newest actor to take on the Doctor, however, I think we find something we haven't seen since Tom Baker took the big leap (to mixed results) . . . a Doctor Who who could also do a pretty fair Sherlock Holmes. It'll be fun to see how it goes.