Saturday, February 18, 2017

Sherlock Holmes in the Something-Somethingth Century.

In 1960, there was a book . . . rather hard to find today . . . called The Science-Fictional Sherlock Holmes, featuring a series of stories that involved Sherlock Holmes and science fiction. Combining Sherlock and sci-fi is hardly as uncommon now as it was back in 1960. We even have that lovely cartoon with the catchy theme song, Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century. (Just try to get that ear-worm out of your head once you think of the title.) In fact, when I think of those fellows from 1960 who put together that book, and what they would think of current Holmeses . . .

I mean, we actually have Sherlock Holmes in the Twenty-first Century. Many of them. They don't have a theme song that sings "Sherlock Holmes in the twenty-first century!" on endless repeat, like the hundred-years-later version, but they are still, very much, future Sherlocks.

BBC Sherlock Holmes was employing methods involving Star Trek communicator devices from the very first episode. CBS's Elementary made its hound of the Baskervilles a robot. Were we to copy episodes on to projectable film, put it in canisters, and send those back to 1960, they would be seen, quite naturally, as science fiction movies.

Flip the script, and the original ACD Canon could now be looked at as historical fiction, a genre which Doyle actually did write. Sherlock Holmes has dealt with Jack the Ripper, W.W. I spies, W.W. II spies, the Kennedy assassination, and a whole lot more if you count that game where he actually gets H.G. Wells's time machine. The timelessness of a top-notch consulting detective has been proven time and again.

I suspect that recent episodes of Sherlock were much easier to take for those of a science-fictional Holmes mindset. A Sherlock Holmes who can appear in any time and any place and be just as wonderful, like a Dr. Who who somehow does it all without a time machine, is open to all sorts of other possibilities, like movie-explosion-leaps and super-villain sisters. His relationship to Watson may be skewed this way or that, but Watson's presence is always important . . . whether he's a robot or a daddy. It's extrapolative fiction in either case.

Finding a place for the latest Sherlocks on the shelf with all the Sherlocks who came before is always a process that provides interesting perspectives. At some point in viewing that wide, wide vista, you see so many that no single Sherlock Holmes stands above the rest, even when you look at the original sixty stories . . . and the sixty Sherlocks they presented.

And that multiverse of Sherlock Holmeses is perhaps the most science-fictional part of it all.

And that's what we have here, in our twenty-first century Sherlockian lives of what used to be the future. It's kind of amazing.

1 comment:

  1. They did have video tape in 1960!; but, that aside, I cannot STAND any attempt to project Holmes et al into the future; cross-overs with Star Trek?-deal me out. I can JUST accept Basil Rathbone out-witting Nazis and that takes all my powers of suspension...