We multitask far too much these days. And tonight I made the mistake of overlaying a viewing of the HBO series Westworld with a bit of Canonical research. Or the reverse of that. As my mind was immersed in the Canon of Sherlock Holmes, with all it's familiar lines and character actions, the framework of Westworld set in.
You know Westworld, whether you once saw the 1973 movie a long time ago, or the current premium cable series, the amusement park full of robots who play out wild West storylines for the amusement of the guests. Just like when an imaginative Sherlockian wanders the world encapsulated in the sixty stories of Mr. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson, M.D.
I've long had a view of Holmesworld as a virtual amusement park. If you're one of the few that encountered my book, The Armchair Baskerville Tour, published back in 1995. It was my tour guide narration of a walk through The Hound of the Baskervilles itself. It was called utter rubbish by an expert on the real world Dartmoor, but it wasn't about his Dartmoor. It was about that virtual world a reader walks into when opening that novel and reading the first page.
Now, the thing about Westworld is that it's about a virtual world that goes off-script. The Holmes Canon doesn't go off-script for those Sherlockians who enjoy the safe, familiar ritual. It's a beautiful place, even with its literarily polluted air, muddy streets, and bloody murder. Letting it be is a fine thing . . . for many.
Then there's the rest of us. Those who see beneath the surface to see that Holmes and Watson might be lovers. Or that "John Watson" might be Doc Holliday in disguise. Or that Martha in "The Last Bow" is landlady Hudson. The Holmesworlds of our headcanons range from the simple changes like Watson staying faithful to a single wife to the sheer madness of a second Holmes coming back from the hiatus after the first died killing Moriarty. We wander Holmesworld, moving the furniture around when it's unspecifically placed, listening to the words spoken "off-camera." Letting the stories beyond the stories play out.
There have been a few discussions lately about what the "real" Holmes and Watson were like. The thing is, Holmes, Watson, Lestrade, Adler, Hudson, and the rest are only as real as we let them be, in that imaginary Holmesworld for which Arthur Conan Doyle laid the framework. The framework. We build the pieces between the words, the timelines, the resurrections, the loves, and even the lives of those creatures within. We love them, we have a certain respect for them, but in the end, you have to see them for who they are . . . larger than life toys for our mental playtime.
They probably aren't going to go off-program and start killing us, as Yul Brynner's robot cowboy did in the original Westworld. And they probably aren't going to attain sentience or something like that, as I'm suspecting might happen in the HBO version (I'm not that far in!). The only real danger is Holmesworld is from the other guests who don't seem to want to share the toys . . . or want to share their exact version of these toys a little too much. Usually those are the folks who think it's something more than a big toybox . . . or Holmesworld.
Have fun kids. Just remember where you are.