After hearing someone go on about the "crimes" of Moffat and Gatiss and season four of Sherlock earlier today, I decided to dip back into that trio of episodes this weekend to remind myself of what I found of value in them, which is quite a bit. The controversy over them gave me room to contemplate what a problematic season means to any series . . . and the different reactions different viewing patterns can give.
I mean, go back as far as The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes and some of the stinkers contained within. These days, we just accept them as a part of the whole, and the better stories that came before give us reason to pardon them when they finally show up. We have a full sixty stories to read, and our memories of those good times are still so fresh as we move along that we can cruise by the likes of "The Mazarin Stone" at speed and get back to thinking about "The Red-Headed League."
But when they first came out?
You got "His Last Bow" in 1917. And that was the end. No more Sherlock Holmes stories. BUT WAIT! A miracle happens, and four years later, you get "The Mazarin Stone."
(Insert sad trombone noise here.)
And you now at least two months to contemplate that sorry piece of crap before getting "The Problem of Thor Bridge" to take your mind off it.
I can relate to this as a big fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. To anyone who Netflix binge-watched the entire series, or watched it on DVD, season six when showrunner Joss Whedon was away doing Firefly, was just a bad bump in the road. But to those of us who lived through a full year of such sad spectacles as "Doublemeat Palace" and the ruinous "Normal Again" rationed out one-per-week until a three month summer hiatus brought back something that, while better, could never quite be the same again . . . well, maybe you survived without scars, but my Buffy fandom took a "Star Wars Episode One" level hit.
Which brings me back to Sherlock. Eventually, I'm thinking there are going to be new fans of the series who plow throw all four seasons without the damage it did to so many who experienced show-change in real-time. At which point an older Sherlockian might reply, "You just don't know . . . you weren't there . . ."
Fandoms rarely get to be all roses and sunny days. Talking to the good Carter tonight about her personal canon, classic Star Trek, she too has those hard-to-rewatch episodes of things she first saw nearly fifty years ago. (She didn't start until reruns, so she was a few years late to that party.) And yet, tonight, we sat down to an episode of Star Trek Continues, an amazing piece of work that you can find on its own site or on YouTube, and found that sometimes you get lucky and you can go home again, at least for a little while. (After watching that, I fully expect that someday the Johnlockers are going to get something very close to their wish. Fan video abilities get better every day.)
In the end, the love of the whole will always trump the disappointment of the component part as a fandom moves through its generations. But, man, those hard days are always tough when they do come. Good thing we can have hope.