Monday, July 31, 2017

The haunting of time-displaced Sherlock.

Following Rob Nunn's lead and starting a blog post with an Elinor Gray tweet this week is definitely a copycat move that's hard to resist:

Looking back on the cartoon Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century with an eye to Sherlock's emotional state, as much as he might have tried to push it down, is, like Elinor says, devastating.

Waking up in the future after being stored in honey for centuries, Sherlock Holmes not only has to exist in a world in which everyone he knew is long dead . . . he is constantly followed by a grim mechanical reminder of the man he was closest to: A robot Watson.

Bad enough that he has an ancestor of Lestrade present and an actual clone of Professor Moriarty to deal with . . . both ways that Watson could have also made it to the 22nd century, but did not . . . Holmes gets a robot Watson that was surely not programmed to be the Watson he knew, but a Watson who's really just a compudroid cosplayer doing a fanfic imitation. You don't recreate a personality by reading someone's journals, you simply become a pastiche.

But Elinor's thought didn't just sadden Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century for me.  What about the 1987 TV movie, The Return of Sherlock Holmes? What about 1994 Baker Street: Sherlock Holmes Returns? Back in the day when creators thought the only way to have a modern day Holmes was to physically haul him from the past to the present, the poor guy was in for a lot of sadness.

And every time he comes back, there has to be a Watson there to remind him of what he lost. He is a haunted man. Wherever Sherlock Holmes finds himself, a "Watson" must appear. Maybe not the Watson. But "a" Watson. It's almost like he has a curse upon him: "You, Sherlock Holmes, made John Watson suffer through your false demise and actual return, now you must suffer his actual demise and false return!" Gawd-awful, that is.

As we moved further from the Nigel Bruce era and into an age where John H. Watson is a fully-formed human being with real value, things have changed. Nigel's Watson was a little too easy to replace without looking back. Martin Freeman's Watson won't go as quietly in our hearts and memories, to have his role filled by anyone who happens to be around with a name anywhere similar to "Watson."

Perhaps we can end Sherlock Holmes's curse and just let him have the Watson he always should have had from here on in. After all, how hard is it to freeze Watson too? Or throw them both in a Tardis and fly them forward? Or just reincarnate them next to a London sandwich shop . . . .

"The world is big enough for us," Sherlock Holmes famously said to Watson, "no ghosts need apply." And those very words could apply to all future Holmeses from here on in. The world is big enough for both Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. No Watson ghosts need apply for that job.

It isn't vacant any more.

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