Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Big Book of Sherlock, Part Two?

When you come right down to it, we are a people who worship the words, we Sherlockians.

We call the sixty stories of Sherlock Holmes our "Canon," our "Sacred Writings," giving it a tongue-in-cheek Biblical status. Handed down to us by Conan Doyle like Moses handing the Ten Commandments down from the mount, etc., etc. But even the Bible wasn't always the Bible. You know there had to be a time when the Old Testament had been sitting there for a while, and along came the New Testament, causing the Old Testament Bible-ockians some serious grousing over their morning manna-flakes and milk.

What am I babbling about now, you ask?

Well, that Nashville Scholar of note, Gael Stahl, passed along a link today to Ariane DeVere's transcripts of the first two seasons of Sherlock, and seeing those words in print didn't just make a light bulb come on for me, the clouds actually parted and the Great Gaslamp of Baker Street shone its light of realization down upon me, imparting a single notion that just wouldn't go away. It was a notion that had popped up before in jest, but given what we've seen in the last couple of years, I suddenly found myself giving it more credence. I was far from the first to have the idea, and I definitely won't be the last. But there it was.

And I really hate to even utter the words, as I know the reaction that will definitely come from certain quarters, but we're reaching the point where it must be said. So here goes.

If the Doyle sixty is our Canon, the Moffat/Gatiss nine (at the moment) is starting to look like our New Testament.

Now, wait, wait . . . I'm not saying this out of pure fan love of BBC Sherlock, though I do have a certain fondness for Cumberbatch and company over all other modern incarnations. I'm saying it based on the ripples that one production has caused in our world. It used to be said that aside from Jesus and Napoleon, no man ever had more written about him than Sherlock Holmes. So let's take that a step further: in the history of Sherlock Holmes, has any set of new stories of Holmes had as much written, drawn, discussed, and created about them as the BBC Sherlock tales? Has any other set of new stories of Sherlock Holmes inspired the meet-ups, the media attention, and the actual events that BBC Sherlock has?

Jeremy Brett had, and has, his fans. Laurie King likewise. But no one has eclipsed and predominated this hobby in so short a time as the Sherlock of "A Study in Pink." No one.

Your tastes may follow a different path, to be sure, but can you honestly say that any other set of new Sherlock Holmes tales comes as close to meeting the qualifications for being "the New Testament of Sherlock Holmes?" Or has anywhere close to the same chance as being remembered as the second coming of Sherlock Holmes by Sherlockian believers in decades to come?

It's easy to dismiss video as ephermeral, mere photons coming from a screen, flickering and gone. But something about seeing the words written out gave that new Sherlockian text a weight in my mind that seemed to say, "This one is solid. This one is here for the long haul." Just an impression that came to me, and as it did, felt like something more than the light of a bonfire soon to burn out. 

Of course, being somewhat of a heretic, I hate to bring up the subject of bonfires and burning. We all know how these sorts of declarations go. But you just never know how history is going to play out. Could our current wave be more than just fleeting fad? I'm starting to wonder if it has some potential.


  1. What gives me hope is that a year and a half after the last episode aired the fandom has remained true. Many have gone to the actual Canon to discover more about Holmes and Watson and to assuage the yearning for new episodes of the show. Last night I participated in an online video chat "pajama party" hosted by Sherlock DC as "A Study in Pink" aired again on PBS. I was the oldest person in the room by far, which actually delighted me. In attendance were many young women--the core of the new fandom--but young men were present as well. They know their Canon; they referenced it at various spots in the show where Moffat and Gatiss ("Mofftiss," to some of us) had left little Easter eggs of Canonical goodness. I sincerely believe that "we have much to hope from the flowers.”

    1. I remember the attention that the book and motion picture "7% Solution Generated." When the movie came out, there were watch parties. Members of the BSI were debating whether this item should be added to the sacred Sherlockian canon. Happily, nothing came of it. Just as what you call the Old testament was augmented by the Talmud among its original and still current observers, the Sherlockian canon must stand alone. As the Talmud supports the Jewish canon, so the later Sherlockian writings - pastiche or commentary - should continue to breathe new life into Sherlokian discourse.

    2. Brad, when you put it that way, the Word is what it's all about. What Jacqueline might call the Mofftiss Word ignites the Canon and makes it revelatory. I too felt very different when I saw the transcript, the words, on paper as it were, and not an audio/video presentation. There is some kind of new canonicity going on. Thanks for feeding this new fodder. The Sherlockian word just keep growing and gathering. ~Gael Stahl

  2. Surely the Canon is the Old and New Testament and this new stuff is the Book of Mormon or Scientology...?

  3. What a wonderful idea and great observation, Brad!

  4. Way too early to say. I hope Jacquelynn is right -- in fact I am in some ways counting on it -- that at least a statistically significant segment of the Sherlock series/Cumberbatch superfans will turn out to be long-term, lifetime Sherlockians...Sherlockians with a real affection for and interest in the original stories as well as the modern manifestations.

    But I am not at all sure if that will turn out to be the case. That's certainly what happened because of the popularity of the Brett series. But that, after all, was an actual adaptation of the canon. And as good as "Sherlock" is--and it is good--truly canonical it is not.

    If, five or so years after "Sherlock" leaves the air for good, we are still having 221B Cons and the same level of enthusiasm and interest in the Cumberbatch adaptations and the same output of fan fiction, then you may be right, Brad. But until then, I think you are a little premature.

  5. David R. McCallisterAugust 30, 2013 at 8:52 AM

    Might it be apropos to say that BBC Sherlock is the Mishnah to the Canon's Tanakh, with the Higher Criticism as the Midrash?
    It's all Torah for.

  6. Would it be fair to say that BBC Sherlock is the Mishnah to the Canon's Tanakh? And the Higher Criticism its Midrash?
    It's all Torah to me.

  7. Some of us are too young to remember, and some of us are too old to forget Sherlock's Radio Days with the well-written pastiches of Edith Meisner an her successors. No 2013 "woop-dee-doo," but many a Holmesian had his/her ear glued to the radio each week, in a much S-L-O-W-E-R world.