Monday, April 28, 2014

Mycroft cool.

And now, I shall state the obvious: Mycroft Holmes is cool.

I feel inclined to state that these days because the American television branch of his P.R. seems to be doing an especially weak job of relaying that fact to the citizenry of the U.S. So let's review the facts.

What's the number one reason Mycroft Holmes is cool?

Not the hazy, yet important government job. Not the club of silent men where he recreates. Not his enormous girth and flipper-like hands, so oft-ignored by the media.

Why is Mycroft Holmes cool?

Because he's smarter than Sherlock Holmes.

Here's how it works: Dr. Watson introduces you to this guy named Sherlock Holmes. And Sherlock Holmes is a frickin' genius. Not like an Einstein genius, like a genius who can be Harry Potter amazing with no magic in the world. And just about the time you're going, "Wow, this is like the smartest guy on Earth!" Sherlock Holmes pulls the rug out. How?

By introducing his brother Mycroft, who can do what Sherlock Holmes does, only better. Watson tries to put the thought down to modesty at first, only to have Sherlock basically say, "No lie, he really is better!" And Mycroft doesn't even care to use his better-than-Sherlock skills to be a detective!

How cool is that? Just sitting around his club of silent men, patting his big ol' belly, going, "Yeah, I could help individual people with their problems, but I'm going to do it on a global scale instead." You could actually see the decline of the British empire coming, based upon its eventual overdependence upon a guy who was probably going to die of heart disease not long after the Victorian era was done.

One could probably construct a formula upon the declining rate of Mycroft's coolness based upon his presence in a given story-set. Original Canon had 6.666666666 (etc.) percent Mycroft. If you want to round that down it's 6.67 by the way, so he's not the Revelations Beast . . . besides Revelations didn't happen when the Victorian period was done. It's more interesting to note that if you round it to a single digit, the Sherlockian Canon is a seven percent solution of Mycroft.

Adding more Mycroft seems like a swell idea, but the next thing you know, he's jogging on a treadmill wearing a funny track suit or trying to date Dr. Watson. Lord only knows what a Mycroft who appeared in three or four Basil Rathbone films would have turned out like, given Rathbone's eventual hair styles and Bruce's . . . well, everything.

A little Mycroft goes a long way. He can still be an interesting fellow with more usage, though, if you stick with what brought him to the party: He's the one guy who is smarter than Sherlock, and Sherlock knows it.

Because that is what makes Mycroft Holmes cool. Now and evermore.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Shipping quietly goes mainstream.

When the BBC's Sherlock took Holmes fandom to a whole new level, there were suddenly a lot of new concepts that some of the elder Sherlockians among us found a little much at first. A few of those were seen by the more conservative as traits of "the hysterical fangirl," a category some even tried to use to minimize the enthusiasms of fellow Holmes buffs, to their own detriment.

One of those new little fandom features that was not as popular in the olden days of Sherlock fandom was "shipping," exploring romantic relationships between various characters in the Canon of Holmes. Since a lot of shipping involves males in love with males, conservative-conservative Sherlockians were definitely not going "Yippee!" and jumping on that bus, despite the fact that Holmes-Adler shipping has roots that run deep. Still, inroads began to be made.

But this week, shipping reached an entirely new level as a certain television program with millions of viewers in mainstream America moved ahead with its own little fanfic plotline.

Yes, Watson has moved out of the rooms he shared with Sherlock Holmes many times for many reasons, but did he ever consider doing it before so he could have a relationship with Mycroft?

That's what came up on CBS's Elementary this week. Of course, to do it in front of ten million viewers in middle America, it had to be with a female Watson and a male Mycroft . . . were they a couple of boys, instead of a failed surgeon and a shady restauranteur of opposite sexes, they might have upset a few viewers.

As it was the whole relationship has been spoken of in such hushed tones and never actually shown, it's been very easy not to even notice in any moment when the show's wacky Sherlock isn't slut-shaming Watson for having sex with his brother. It doesn't fit the show's procedural format, so it has to sidelined to subplot conversations, so it's definitely not having the impact it could, even with Sherlock Holmes fans . . . I mean, c'mon! Mycroft and Watson getting together? That's huge!

Had BBC Sherlock put Mycroft and Watson together, creating a love triangle with Sherlock, it might have been huge. And controversial. And . . . well . . . hard to ignore.

But Elementary's quiet plunge into shipping seems to be fairly unremarked upon. Perhaps it's because the show has already taken so many liberties with Canonical Holmes that it's practically unrecognizable anyway. Perhaps it's because the show hasn't featured any scenes of Mycroft and Watson in bed together, or showed much emotion directed toward each other. The show doesn't seem to get people as excited as Sherlock does.

But it still seemed worth a note as the ever-changing face of Sherlockian culture moves forward. Fifty years from now, when John H. Watson and Mycroft Holmes are sharing rooms in Pall Mall, some neophyte Sherlockian will be researching just when it was that John and Mycroft pairings first attained prominence, and Elementary will be remembered as the day when it went beyond the borders of fanfic media and on to a major network.

What a world, what a world, as a certain other cranky old person used to say.

Friday, April 25, 2014

The KRM. Worth a re-watch?

It has long been suggested that I judge things too quickly, and maybe that's the case with this week's Elementary. In my earlier report on "The Man With The Twisted Lip" (CBS version), I proclaimed that the Killer Robot Mosquito (or KRM, as I have come to affectionately call it), was the shark-jump for the show. But after a day of that cyber-insect buzzing about my imagination, I realized what it truly was.

It's the robot dinosaur that elevates Elementary to the level of the Baker-Street-Babe-beloved Asylum Sherlock Holmes: the moment where Elementary finally goes from "just bad" to "so bad it's good."

So I had to watch it again.

The girl over Mr. Elementary's left shoulder looks severely creeped out by his "I am without peer" speech at the start of the episode. Or maybe she's thinking of Philip Jose Farmer's The Adventure of the Peerless Peer, a goofy team-up pastiche of aged Sherlock Holmes meeting either Tarzan or Mowgli, depending upon which edition you managed to get your hands on. I think I made a face like that, too, when I read it.

The dinner party with Mr. Elementary, Brother Elementary, Joan, and Miss Hudson that follows the credits features the great line "Have you come back here to sleep with Watson again?" -- a question the Sherlockian Canon somehow never got enough of. How Miss Hudson sits through the entire conversation between the Elementary brothers and poor abused Joan without breaking out laughing is a mystery one of these detectives should solve . . . though her lack of a single post-credit line makes one wonder if the reason wasn't some paid-by-the-line budget issue.

Captain Gregson also seems to be getting out of the episode as soon as possible after Mr. Elementary does an amazing off-camera job of riding a bicycle to trail a drug dealer back to his hideout and orchestrate an arrest. (Hey, filming bicycle chases through New York costs money!)

Brother Elementary luring Joan Watson to his Diogenes restaurant by waving desserts under her nose, then hitting on her, is about as creepy as his monotone "romantic" propositions. If this were a WWE wrestling show, an entire arena full of fans would have been chanting "BOR-RING! BOR-RING!" at the top of their lungs, but hey, they're used to better acting. Watson's stuttering "I'm so flattered . . ." sounds like every kindly cheerleader who ever got asked out by the head of the local Star Trek re-enactors guild. And somehow, Mycroft still keeps Joan at his empty restaurant so late she comes home and goes straight to bed.

But Joan has to get her beauty sleep, because Mr. Elementary is going to be standing by her bedside at some moment just after dawn as usual. This time, he's holding breakfast on a tray instead of a turtle, though, because we can't have Miss Hudson and Clyde in the same episode. And then Harriet Tubman enters the picture. (Random trivia element! DRINK!)

The missing person for their missing person's case has a Harriet Tubman plaque as her song-writing companion. One would hope for at least a statue to qualify as a "companion," but apparently the missing Page had as low budget for her life's supporting cast as the rest of the show.

The invisible Killer Robot Mosquito makes its first non-appearance just  after the sixteen minute mark of the episode, and only Mr. Elementary can see him. Detective Bell just supplies the "It's too early in the year for mosquitos," so Mr. Elementary can respond with an almost Canonical "That's why I mentioned it." Except he throws the line away in his newfound quiet tones. After a season and a half of noisily squawking when he didn't have good Sherlock-Holmes-like responses, Mr. E. throws away his "That is the curious incident!" moment with a near-mumble.

But poor Mr. Elementary has to deal with his brother trying to date his pal Joan . . . a brother who has mysterious Frenchmen in his restaurant receiving packages at the same table. The brothers Elementary have a long whisper-conversation in which the one supposedly dating Joan calls her a "sow." Of course, if one "try some desserts at my restaurant" is "dating," then Killer Robot Mosquitos follow Mr. Elementary around . . . oh, wait, here's our friend the KRM!

At this point we also learn about another robot that carries a shotgun. "Drone" may be the word all the cool kids are using these days, but you know Mr. Elementary is talking about another flying robot. Especially after he finds some paintball-shooting flying robots on YouTube or it's Elementary-world counterpart. Since we don't actually ever see the shotgun-wielding flying robot, I'm going to deduce that it was KRM and a group of his friends hauling the shotgun around. Makes as much sense as anything else going on here.

"I've had a wonderful time with you on multiple occasions," says Joan Watson to her potential beau, Brother Elementary, just before she announces that she wants to move out of Mr. Elementary's house so she can date his brother. I suspect Joan's dialogue was written by robots, too. "I've had a wonderful time with you on multiple occasions." Of course, maybe she's a Conehead from "France," as France seems to be coming up a lot this episode.

If you ever need to interrogate a psychiatrist, here's a tip: Make sure he hides banned Italian candy eggs with an illegal choking hazard toy inside in his community garden plot. Threatening to arrest a guy for illegal candy is always the best way to get a doctor to violate doctor- patient privilege, isn't it? I mean, it's not that unusual, right? Not like the odds of him getting attacked by a Killer Robot Mosquito . . . oh. Whoops.

Ah, KRM, how can I ever hate you? You are the best thing to come out of Elementary in two years!

Mr. Elementary likes holding messages in front of cameras to communicate with people. And this time he's doing it to talk to C.O.O. Kenneth Carlson, KRM's "daddy." Perhaps Carlson will pay to get KRM his own sober companion so he can have his own spin-off series. Well, one can hope, can't one?

If Joan's horrible dating skills put one off of her this episode, her ability to break into a safe using a car-jacking tool, sliding a piece of metal in the crack at the top of the safe door, should make up for that fact. I have never seen that technique employed in any TV show or movie before, so it must be cutting edge. Or safes have gotten really cheap, unbeknownst to me.

Of course, the way Joan gets chloroformed and thrown in a van faster than B.A. Baracus being sent off on an A-team mission make one wonder about her other detective skills. Seems a very Nigel Bruce move.

And . . . finis.

"The Man with the Twisted Lip" is, perhaps, one of the most re-watchable episodes of Elementary ever, thanks to KRM. But I'm still a bit baffled as to why they entitled it after the Conan Doyle story of that same name. Comparing Mr. Elementary's A.A. meeting to the rascally Lascar's opium den is a bit of a stretch, and, unfortunately, we get no Mrs. Neville St. Clair in a flimsy nightie.

The whole Mycroft-Joan relationship subplot is so tortured that Dick Cheney will probably claim it as an effective counter-terrorism measure. And are we going to finally find out that this version of the elder Holmes brother is the French government, instead of the British one? (Hey, they can't copy Sherlock, even if Sherlock is just using the original source material . . . which is soooo unoriginal, isn't it?)

I really shouldn't re-watch these things. Curse you and your cute metallic hide, KRM!

You should see him with his shotgun!

Episode 221 of the show that didn't go with 221.

The online listings for this week's Elementary held much promise: "Episode title: (#221) "The Man With The Twisted Lip."

Sure, it wasn't the two-hundred and twenty-first episode, but the twenty-first episode of the second season. But how could that magical number 221 be lost on the show's creators? And the title is pure Canon! (Though after the waste of a title in "The Hound of the Cancer Cells," we've learned not to expect Canon from Canon-title.) And brother Mycroft, who runs restaurants and somehow had an unremarkable one-night-stand with Joan Watson, is coming back! Surely, something exciting was due to come out of Elementary this week!

"I am without peer," Mr. Elementary states during the show's opening. "And that is the greatest threat to my sobriety."

Poor Mr. Elementary. Not a single person on Earth is as smart as he is, except for Jamie Moriarty whom he considers insane, and that's going to cause him to go back to the heroin, or whatever his often vague addiction issue is. Of course, the minute he returns home, two possibly smart people are already inside his home: the long-absent Miss Hudson and Joan Watson's former lover Mycroft. (That's not me emphasizing the Mycroft/Watson tryst, it was featured in the "previously on Elementary recap.)

Mr. Elementary and Watson actually discuss the two Holmes brothers having "shared custody" of Joan. When Mr. Elementary said he was without a sane peer, I think he may have over-rated his own sanity. Perhaps he and Jamie Moriarty do need to be together in a padded cell somewhere.

Mycroft gets Watson to his Diogenes Restaurant and reveals he has an interest in Joan . . . characterization and relationships on this show have always been ridiculously forced and ham-handed, and the scene is just painful to watch. I once wrote that the creators of Elementary didn't know how to write smart people, but I've decided to expand that statement: they don't know how to write relationships, addiction, or humans. Other than using the words that indicate such things exist, of course.

Joan and Mycroft apparently became e-mail buddies after their one-night stand, which is what real people do, right? Unless Mycroft is simply manipulating Joan for some future use and we're actually supposed to believe she's foolish enough to believe such a thing after being supposedly bright enough to be an apprentice consulting detective.

And let's cut to the chase: this season's finale has to be a crisis in the addiction, right? And something in Mr. Elementary and Joan's "relationship," though that thing is so badly constructed it's hard to line it up with anything in reality after all this time.

And then we get the robot mosquito surveillance drone. Seriously. Seriously! A robot mosquito drone that can inject toxins. We have entered Elementary's "serum of langur" phase, and if that makes it more Canonical to have come up with an idea as silly as one of the silliest moments Conan Doyle came up with, well, enjoy the Canonicity, Elementary fans.

Seriously, a killer robot mosquito. Wow.

I'm usually a big fan of TV show continuity, but when Elementary revisits its own continuity, we start getting a compilation of really stupid things that were probably best forgotten. And there is so much good material in the Sherlockian Canon that they're ignoring in favor of this teetering Jenga-stack of crap that the creators' crime becomes even worse.

And then, instead of jumping the shark, Elementary jumps the killer robot mosquito.

Only a month or two ago, it seemed like I might be adapting to Elementary, that I might even be becoming fond of the ugly little mutt. Episode 221 pretty much put those hopes to rest. I thought I'd enjoy Miss Hudson's unexpected return, if it ever happened. That hope was killed tonight by the rest of the episode. Oh, this show sucks.

At the end of this episode, Joan Watson is grabbed and hauled away in a van. One can only hope she's being driven somewhere off this show, for her own good. Maybe they can find a way to drive her on to the fourth season of Sherlock, as John's adopted sister or something. And then let Sherlock sort her entire messy New York past out.

Killer robot mosquito. Sigh.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Could Conan Doyle sell his Sherlock Holmes today?

Sherlock Holmes. Very popular right now, upon that we can probably all agree.

So it almost seems silly to pose this question, but let it simmer in your brain-pot for a bit and see if it cooks:

Could Conan Doyle sell his Sherlock Holmes today and attain the popularity he did in the 1890s?

There is, of course, the obvious bit: no great market for short stories these days, and short stories were where Sherlock Holmes shined brightest. Sure, episodic TV has a certain similarity, but Conan Doyle's scripts were never his strong suit. Still, Doyle, could, and did, write many a novel, so he could probably get over that little hurdle.

Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes was neither the slam-bang action Holmes that Guy Ritchie sold movie audiences, nor the more relationship-oriented Holmes that Moffat and Gatiss sold TV audiences. His continuity was definitely not up to modern standards, and one has to wonder how he would have handled fan interaction on Twitter. His less-than-loving attitude toward Holmes definitely wouldn't have endeared him to the fans, nor the fans to him.

Once one starts considering Conan Doyle's personality in the equation, it almost seems like a Conan Doyle born into the modern era would head more toward military fiction to start with, and come out with a Sherlock Holmes who had more of a British Jack Reacher vibe. He would probably not have tried aiming toward the more female end of the market, where Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey live, but historical novels, perhaps with a touch of the supernatural, could have been his turf.

But Sherlock Holmes? That unique and complex product of the Victorian era? Could anything like him have been produced in our current climate? As much fun as some of our current adaptations can be, I don't know if Sherlock Holmes would exist as a popular character today if he wasn't a popular character before.

While Moffat and Gatiss managed to move Sherlock Holmes to the modern day with great success, it's harder to imagine Conan Doyle coming forward into this day and time with equal ease. And to have him, once here, pull off Sherlock Holmes all over again, if said fellow had never existed?

Now that is a mental puzzle worthy of a Holmes-level intellect, and we would have to create such a fellow to ponder it anyway. If we had a Conan Doyle. And a chicken or an egg.

Blogger tip of the day: Don't write when you're falling asleep, no matter how good the idea seemed this afternoon!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Thoughts toward an alternate history of Sherlockiana.

Christopher Morley was 44 years old when he founded The Baker Street Irregulars of New York.

Forty-four is an interesting age, old to a young person, young to an old person. Seasoned, yet still holding on to the drives of youth for a while longer.

About twenty years later, when Evelyn Herzog and some fellow college girls started The Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes, needless to say, they were much younger. Follow that statement up with a glance at the Baker Street Babes of our modern era and one starts to wonder . . . do female Sherlockians tend to organize earlier than their male counterparts?

And to take it a step further -- if women had not been held back by the sort of culture that didn't give them the right to vote until 1920, would we have had a Sherlock Holmes society in the Roaring Twenties, instead of the war-torn 1940s?

A goodly chunk of any sci-fi/fantasy section of major bookstores can be found holding novels of alternate versions of history, where one takes a "What if?" premise and rolls out a story from there. T'were I not such a lazy soul (or otherwise occupied with work, take your pick) it might be fun to play with the concept of the first Sherlock Holmes society being spearheaded by a flapper-era female dynamo, and how that might have played out, especially with Morley and crew coming to the party second.

As I'm very short on time this morning, I can't even play with that concept on this page as much as I'd like, but it seemed interesting enough to let you think about it as well.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Mary Morstan gets one more feather in her cap.

There are some things in the Sherlockian universe that I've never been a fan of.

Well, perhaps "never" too strong a word, being the absolute, so let's go with "rarely."

And very rarely at that, in the case of one particular topic: mysteries starring characters from Sherlock Holmes's world other than Sherlock Holmes.

I mean, seriously, it's a bit like a hamburger without the hamburger, isn't it? We read Sherlock Holmes stories because we love Sherlock Holmes, not because Billy the page boy just might appear in the story. And yet, for many, many decades, writers have tried to skirt the challenge of writing Sherlock Holmes or tried to find their own special niche market by focussing on minor characters.

So when Howard Ostrom posted the latest link to a Ross K. Foad production on YouTube on the WelcomeHolmes list and the title was "The Mary Morstan Mysteries 'Rings of Change' Part 1/2," I was not jamming my finger on the mouse with excitement trying to click the link. But its a dull Sunday morning, and Mary Morstan has gotten a lot more interesting since the latest run of Sherlock, so I thought I'd give it a shot.

The result? Well, here is my current ranking for current English-speaking Holmes video:

1. BBC Sherlock.
2. "The Mary Morstan Mysteries."
3. "The Diogenes Documentaries"
4-99. A bunch of other things on YouTube.
100. CBS Elementary.

When I first ran across Ross K. Foad's productions "No Place Like Holmes" back in 2010, I have to admit that, while being delighted to see the enthusiasm behind creating such the series and going "Oh, that's cute," I wasn't really seeing the series as a major development in Sherlockian fanworks. (What can I say? I'm old school and slow to adapt to new ideas . . . though like the Flash compared to the glacial pace of some others.) The latest Mary Morstan Mystery, however, shows an ever-growing talent and level of skill, as well as a great love of the Sherlockian Canon, and I will definitely be following all of the good Mr. Foad's productions from here on out.

It may have even changed my bias against Sherlock Holmes stories without a character named "Sherlock Holmes." After all, in its mere nine minutes of running time, the first part of "The Mary Morstan Mysteries: 'Rings of Change'" showed more Sherlock Holmes goodness than an entire season of CBS's Elementary. Which is really quite a shame, when one considers the comparative resources of the two production companies involved.

Sherlockiana will always have it's lovely little surprises, and this latest Mary Morstan Mystery is certainly one of them.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The 221B Test, part two.

After putting Sherlock to my new "221B Test" earlier this week, I was very eager to try it out on yet another modern contender for the deerstalker of greatness. It's been a busy few days, so that didn't happen as quickly as I would have liked, and when I got around to it . . . well, the 221B Test completely failed.

I don't mean, the entertainment being tested failed the test. I mean that the test completely didn't even seem to apply to the subject at hand. I mean, I might as well have tried applying 221B to that wonderful CBS comedic triumph, 2 Broke Girls. And like many a crushed experimenter, I sank into dark despair, pulled out my papyrus and foofy feather quill pen and began to indulge in that art of the melancholy heart.

And so, a poem. I call it . . . .

Whatever The Hell That NYC Street Address Is

Here dwell together still, two men . . . oh. Nope!
One lived too hard, one had a patient die.
How so contrived they seem -- where's the remote?
This must be Starrett's world gone all awry.

What? The game seems done with funhouse mirrors . . .
We tuned too late to catch Criminal Minds! Boo!
England? Where's England? Maybe second year's
Will have it . . . oh, Baker Street stuff just blew.

A turtle creeps across Watson's duvet
As morning comes with one more creepy stare.
Ostrom swtiches to "Deduce, You Say."
The ghostly Alistair fades into thin air.

Here still, with no Reichenbach to survive
And their DVD will soon be $18.95.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The 221B Test, part one.

For decades, Vincent Starrett's poem 221B has been the closest thing Sherlockians have had to the national anthem of our Holmes nation. It captures a certain spirit, a certain love of the detective and the doctor in a way unlike any other. But we live in different times now right? What does 221B have to do with BBC's Sherlock? Or better yet, how well does Sherlock live up to the spirit of 221B? 

In fact, we could take 221B and use it as a test of sorts, to validate the bonafides of a modern Sherlock Holmes franchise, a 221B test. So let's get to it! Let's walk BBC's Sherlock through 221B, one line at a time, starting with the first. Let the testing begin . . . .

Here dwell together still two men of note
(The writer of a popular blog and a tabloid-famous detective. Martin Freeman's Watson and Benedict Cumberbatch's Holmes are definitely two men of note.)
Who never lived and so can never die:
(Well, somebody certainly seemed to prove the "can never die" part well enough this year.)
How very near they seem, yet how remote
(It's Speedy's Cafe, I think. It makes them seem like we could just go see them. And yet no one ever does.)
That age before the world went all awry.
(Since I don't really feel the world is that awry, I think this has to refer to Moriarty showing on screens all over the place. That seems pretty awry.)
But still the game’s afoot for those with ears
Attuned to catch the distant view-halloo:
(Definitely a fandom having a lot of fun playing in the show's wake.)
England is England yet, for all our fears–
(Yep, the show takes place in some serious England.)
Only those things the heart believes are true.
("I believe in Sherlock Holmes." Wow, extra point for that one, Sherlock.)
A yellow fog swirls past the window-pane
(Well, things have gotten a little better in London. But there's still non-yellow fog on Dartmoor.)
As night descends upon this fabled street:
(Night . . . hard to lose night.)
A lonely hansom splashes through the rain,
(Cabs have been a key part of Sherlock. Oh, that Jeff Hope.)
The ghostly gas lamps fail at twenty feet.
(Again, things are better in London now. Still, the CCTV cameras seem to be the modern gaslamp of street presence.)
Here, though the world explode, these two survive,
(Yeah, but they're gonna stop the world from exploding. They know about the switch.)
And it is always eighteen ninety-five.
(Not according to the calendar, but Sherlock has shown us that some things are more important to retelling the legends of Holmes than the calendar.)

All in all, I think we can safely say that Sherlock passes the 221B Test. Nothing in it really grates against the spirit of Starrett's poem, and several aspects of the show really play into the best of it. Martin Freeman's Watson is something special, a fact that was emphasized as I watched him in the FX series Fargo tonight, being as un-Watson-like as possible for a guy with the same face. One actually feels like he could have written the Canon, instead of just a blog. But I digress . . . .

Sunday, April 13, 2014

What shall the Third Hiatus bring?

The trajectory of BBC's Sherlock has been nearly as fascinating as the show itself, and why not? Thanks to the long years between episodes, we get all sorts of time to contemplate it, along with every other aspect of the show. But as we move through the opening months of the third inter-season hiatus, one has to wonder what this one will bring. Each has its own unique characteristics, to be sure.

Hiatus One began with a cliff-hanger, but nothing we worried too much about. The show was still exciting and new, was picking up fans like crazy, and still a beautiful child we were waiting to see grow up. Kind of the A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four of its run, despite the details from that latter tale showing up much later.

Hiatus Two was some full-grown Sherlock, the "Adventures and Memoirs in The Strand Magazine" period, probably the most popular phase the of the Holmes cycle. It starts with Irene and ends with Moriarty, just like those stories did. And even though it didn't totally cause us to think Holmes was dead at its end, the "how did he do it?" factor raised the bar for the second hiatus as high as it could go.

Having hit Canonical pressure point so hard in season two, not only did Hiatus Two start off with the frenzy of the Holmes Survival Theorists, it sent the fans running to the original Canon faster than anything in decades, as they looked for clues as to what the show's creators would do next. That aspect of Hiatus Two is probably the gift that will keep on giving to the cult of Sherlockiana for many years to come.

Hiatus Three, however, comes after the "Holmes returns from the dead" phase. This is The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Return of Sherlock Holmes period. Some fans think the stories have changed too much from those glory days before Reichenbach. We know The Valley of Fear and His Last Bow period is coming, as Moriarty and the East Wind are both foretold, so to speak. But we don't have that powerful cliffhanger of Sherlock Holmes's death this time, just the promise of more Sherlock to come.

Will we all be a little more jaded toward the teasers and clues this time around? Will the fandom numbers show signs of attrition? (Though how one counts such things, I'll never know.) We're definitely entering a different phase of this Sherlock-cycle. And who even knows what that great X-factor called fandom might come up with in the remaining months (and months, and moths) of Hiatus Three. There could yet be a twist or turn that no one sees coming.

Given Sherlock's schedule, however, it is a show defined by its absences as well as its presence, so we shall definitely see.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Curse of the Full Metal Hound.

Today's little blog entry is a cautionary tale for budding Sherlock Holmes fans.

As you contemplate your future as a Sherlockian, pause for a moment and consider how cool Sherlock Holmes is.

Now, consider how cool one-of-a-kind objects d'art are.

Take those thoughts one step further and consider the frame of mind you just put yourself in, going on for forty years.

Now let me show you something.

The Full Metal Hound
That, my friends, is an approximately three foot tall by three foot wide rendering of the Hound of the Baskervilles in black-painted sheet metal. Heavy enough metal that it would take quite a few more bullets to put it down than the original Hound.

Am I bragging about this little piece in my Sherlockian collection? No, I'm using it as a warning sign.

Be careful, ye mightily enthused younger friends of Sherlock Holmes, lest ye become accursed with such a beastie, haunting your life like you were born on the moor with Sir Hugo's blood in ye.

I mean, I can't just get rid of it, right? It's the Hound of the Baskervilles! But it's this big ol' chunk of metal that has to go somewhere. He wanders around the house, sometimes going out into the front yard on rare and special occasions, but mainly his shadow lurks just over my shoulder somewhere, occasionally catching my eye, perhaps waiting to give me that Sir Charles heart attack special while I'm awaiting the arrival of some artist's ex-wife, just to provide the perfect symmetry to the original tale.

So as you move through your next forty years, and some surely cool mementos of our friend Sherlock Holmes come your way, be very careful what you wish for . . . as the saying goes, you just might get it. And then you have to keep it.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Sad and lazy. It must be Thursday.

Once upon a time, in that ever-present ire of the Elementary fans toward the unappreciated critic, this blog obtained the description of "ego-driven." But come Thursday nights, those looking for a reason behind my usual typing don't have to look far: any lazy writer who feels compelled to write something vaguely related to Sherlock Holmes on a Thursday can have only one target, as non-Sherlockian and sad as it can be.

Case in point: Tonight's episode revolved around one Apollo Mercer, who died of weaponized anthrax.

Mercer . . . sound familiar?

The second mate of the good ship Gloria Scott for one. And in 1902, Mercer was the name of Sherlock Holmes's "general utility man who looks of routine business." That latter fellow would actually be an interesting character to bring to the screen. Elementary, however, gives us a pickpocket who dies of anthrax in a jail cell. Nobody reading the Sherlockian Canon this week. Maybe they at least pulled the name out of The Encyclopaedia Sherlockiana, or some other reference work, one would hope.

And things just get weirder from there. Last week, I noted that continuity seemed to be picking up on the show, as Miss Hudson got a mention or two and Clyde the turtle was back. So when this week's episode started with a "previously on" scene from last season with a character named Alistair, an actor friend who Mr. Elementary got to play his father for Joan Watson, it seemed like the trend was continuing . . . until Alistair died before ever showing up in the episode.

But we still got to see Alistair this week, as a ghost whom Mr. Elementary talks to while on the Mercer case.

Does Sherlock Holmes's famous quote, "No ghosts need apply!" pertain to those spectral folk that TV characters like to talk to when they're under mental duress? I don't know, but the whole thing seems a lot more Conan Doyle than Sherlock Holmes.

Mr. Elementary and Joan Watson later indulged in one of those conversations that requires plate-smashing for emotional emphasis. Never enjoyed that trope, but let me leave this one to Mr. Elementary's buddy Alistair.

"Sherlock Holmes. When did you become such a cliche?" Alistair's ghost pronounces later in the episode, when Mr. Elementary visits his grave.  "If this were a scene in a play, I would refuse to perform it."

By the way, Alistair's last name is "Moore" as we learn from his headstone. Dr. Moore Agar was a Canonical character. Those two facts have nothing to do with each other, but then, it's Thursday night, after all, and I'm not the only one who seems to be a bit lazy.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Darkness approaches.

Winter is coming.

The motto of the house of Stark from Game of Thrones applies to my fears regarding CBS's Elementary as we wind toward to the end of the season. Or to put it more precisely . . . .

Dougherty is coming.

Oh, it hasn't been documented yet. The Elementary episode guide on Wikipedia still has no writer credits for the final two episodes of the season. But we've been here before: about five or six episodes before the end of the season, Jason Tracey writes a particularly good episode, and I'm thinking, "This show might actually be improving!" And then the show's creator returns.

Yes, Dougherty is undoubtedly coming. And that's never a good thing.

The first time was the initial series pilot and second episode, with a Watson who was a hired babysitter for Mr. Elementary after a failed medical career.

The second time was the serial exsanguinator named Sebastian Moran, teased as "M," and not coming close to either designation. Not a high crime, but our first big sign since the pilot that the Canon of Holmes was being used as a doorstop at the Elementary offices.

The third coming of the Dougherty was the complete elimination of Irene Adler from any Elementary existence. She had already been killed before the series began, but finding out that she never truly existed at all in this world was sadder than the Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows Irene demise.

The fourth coming? Restauranteur Mycroft Holmes destroys the contents of 221B Baker Street. He also apparently slept with Joan Watson, off-screen during this episode.

Fifth time around? Jamie Moriarty lectures Joan Watson about her inferiority after painting a huge portrait of the ex-doctor. Moriarty has a little girl and she and Mr. Elementary are pen pals. She also can escape from magic bracelets. Irene Adler might have been wiped from existence in the Elementary-verse, but Moriarty might have suffered a worse fate . . . there are probably more threatening My Little Ponies at this point.

And now, Dougherty surely comes once more. Having decimated Irene, the Professor, 221B, Mycroft, and Moran, what's left? Well, Miss Hudson is probably safe in non-appearance limbo. Mary Morstan is probably too freshly on Sherlock for a Marvin Morstan to show up and sweep Joan off her feet. Rumors of Mr. Elementary's father finally showing up abound, but unless he's Grimesby Roylott or Professor Presbury, there's no danger of major anti-Canonical weirdness there.

But then, that's most weeks on Elementary. It's at the season breaks when it starts to get truly worrisome.

And the season break is coming.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The return to "real life?"

I suppose on could say that the good part about not getting to go to an event like 221B Con is the fact that I didn't have to leave 221B Con.

I've discussed the post-event crash with friends from other hobbies, and we all have it. You leave your job, your household chores, your other local duties behind to enter a world of like-minded folk at the top of their game. All the Sherlockian energies saved up, all the planning, all the focus, all brought from every direction to that one magical location. You get high on ideas, short on sleep, maybe do a little self-poisoning on alcohol and bad food, generally mess up your internal balance with all those happiness ingredients of blood chemistry, and then you remove all of that. Maybe not all at once, but not long after.

And then there's that cursed expression, "back to the real world."

That world where cosplay is replaced by corporate dress codes. That world where you're working for somebody besides Sherlock Holmes. That world where most people just don't know what the hell you're talking about when it comes to your favorite subject.

But here's the thing. 221B Con happened in Atlanta, Georgia, not Oz. Atlanta was in the real world, the last time I checked. And the you that existed there was a real person. You might have even pinched yourself while there, just to make sure. I think I did last year, once or twice.

There are those lovely, inspiring denizens of social media who seem to lead a spirited fandom-ish life 24-7, something we'd all like to pull off. They seem to have mastered that trick that I'm still working on myself, bringing the passion we have for fandom activities to things that have nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes. Cooking supper. Putting together an Excel spreadsheet. Getting yourself interested enough in whatever the business at hand is just to move the day along.

And while the post-event drop can be a jarring step-off-the-curb, the thing to always hold on to is the capacity for passion that we find in the world of Sherlock. The daily grind doesn't inspire passion the way the great detective and his doctor friend do, sure. But with as many angles as Sherlockians can go at the enjoyment of Holmes with, there must be at least one angle that can give the average current moment a little more joy.

Over the years, I've found a remarkable number of skills that I picked up in Sherlockian circles have been transferable to other areas of life. Even just approaching a total stranger with the certain knowledge that you have something in common, as is the best feature of something like 221B Con.

So, for those of you hitting the after-weekend doldrums as well as everybody who had their big Sherlockian weekend elsewhere, elsewhen, or still to come, just remember, you're still you. The trick is just figuring out how to keep that inner party going. However that works.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Crazy over Janine.

Upon further introspection upon yesterday's blog, I started to think I went too far.

Janine, the "Agatha" of BBC Sherlock, is a regular gal, right? Just going to weddings looking for someone to date, grabbing her moment as a tabloid celeb and cashing in . . . calling her "a second Irene Adler" was surely an exaggeration. A trickster? An "agent of chaos?" Oh, come on, Brad, did you even watch those episodes? 

But then I considered her further this morning.

Everybody seems to use Janine for their own purposes, yes. But we're never entirely clear on how she came into their lives to begin with. Sherlock points her toward some likely dating material at John and Mary's wedding reception, and yet she winds up in a relationship with Sherlock . . . whom she obviously knows would be a bad choice. And as I wrote yesterday, there's still that bit where she's the one person in London who doesn't seem to be afraid of Magnussen.

Janine has just too many loose ends about her. And I keep coming back to Holmes's seemingly misogynistic quote: "And yet the motives of women are so inscrutable. You remember the woman at Margate whom I suspected for the same reason. No powder on her nose - that proved to be the correct solution. How can you build on such a quicksand? Their most trivial action may mean volumes, or their most extraordinary conduct may depend upon a hairpin or a curling-tong." Janine seems, at first, to be of that level of ordinarily inscrutable that is merely based on hairpins and curling-tongs . . . but then something deeper emerges.

Why "Janine?"  Why not "Agatha" or "Aggie" or "Agamena?"

Roll the sound of "Janine" around in your head for a moment.

Janine. James. Irene. Janine.

There's an old thesis in the Sherlockian world that James Moriarty had two other brothers, also named James. We find evidence of at least one in "The Empty House." But this time, in this alternate reality of a modern Sherlock, what if one of those siblings was a sister?

Janine Moriarty.

Of course, she's the one person in London who's not afraid of Magnussen. And of course, Jim Moriarty would suddenly return once Magnussen was gone and Sherlock being sent into exile. Who else is connected to both of those men and would be quick to set a "return" into motion?

But in our modern Sherlockian world, I'm just one of a million monkeys pounding on keyboards. A quick Google search shows that Janine Moriarty theories were showing up as early as January 14th of this year.  (Congratulations introspectivenights ! You are a quick one.)

I was wondering yesterday what an Irene/Janine encounter would look like. And now I'm really wondering. And while that match-up may be yet a mystery, I'm sure of one thing. Janine Moriarty would kick Jamie Moriarty's portrait-painting ass all over London. 

But then, I've gone just a bit mad over Janine this weekend. Missing out on 221B Con will do that sort of thing to you.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Is Janine Canonical?

To Sherlock Holmes, Irene Adler was always the woman.

And then came Janine.

It was not that Sherlock felt any emotion akin to love for Janine. For the trained reasoner to admit such an intrusion into his own delicately and finely adjusted temperament would have been to . . . oh, wait, Watson was getting married, that deal was done. And in that chaos came all sorts of unlikely new associates as the detective wobbled about dealing with the potential void: ring-bearers, cloth napkins, and . . Janine.

In one respect, Janine is the BBC Sherlock incarnation of Agatha the housemaid, just as Charles Augustus Magnussen was the modern equivalent of Charles Augustus Milverton. Poor Agatha, the girl Sherlockians have spent decades sympathizing with, proposed to and then dumped by Sherlock Holmes just so he could break into a house. But Janine is so much more than Agatha.

Janine was not only Sherlock Holmes's pawn, but that of the most unexpected schemer of all as well. And she was much more than Charles Augustus Magnussen's housemaid. More telling still was the way she eventually defied her employer by going to his rivals. Here is Magnussen, one of the scariest and most powerful creatures Sherlock Holmes ever faced, and Janine casually screws him over to come up with the cost of a cottage.

I first found myself contemplating Janine today after running across still more 221B Con cosplay photos, and puzzling over how Canonical she was, given her Agatha-based pedigree. But the more I considered Janine, the more I came to a different conclusion. As much as BBC Sherlock went the distance and gave us one of the finest Irene Adlers to ever draw breathe, they took the game one step further and created a second Irene Adler and called her Janine.

"Noooo," one might protest. "Irene beat Sherlock at his own game, she was his perfect clever match, the one woman he could truly find something akin to love for."

And while Irene might have been a match for Sherlock in many ways, were Sherlock a one-shot theatrical romantic comedy, I'd pair her up with Mycroft in the end. For Sherlock Holmes? Well, there's Janine. Why?

Janine is the trickster, the agent of chaos, the unpredictable opponent you can't beat simply because she's up in the grandstand when she's supposed to be on the playing field. She isn't Sherlock's match, she's his opposite number. She's the girl the romantic comedies like to bring in to throw an ordered man's world into wild misadventure. And she's the extraordinary conduct that comes from that hairpin that vexed Sherlock Holmes so, once upon a time.

But then, maybe I read too much into a well done character who found an interesting new connection to the old detective, now young again. Still, I rather liked Janine.

Aw, man, I'm dyin' here!

And so it begins.

Yes, I knew I was really going to miss going to 221B Con in Atlanta this year, thanks to an unforeseeable combination of events. No big deal, I miss a lot of things. Symposia, Holmes Birthday weekends, various banquet-ish events . . . the mind has a way of minimizing negative things like pain in one's memory.

And then the tweets and photos started to show up in social media. And it's only Friday night.

Oh, the energy!

Oh, the fresh ideas!

Oh, the beautiful cosplay!

Nothing in the Sherlockian world was ever like 221B Con before 221B Con. Yes, there have been some wild and wonderful weekends in my Sherlockian life in places like Minneapolis, Kansas City, or even Dubuque, Iowa over the years, but nothing was ever quite the same as 221B Con. Nothing. That isn't John Bennett Shaw spinning in his grave you're hearing, that's him fighting to get out, resurrect, and get down to Atlanta. He would have loved this.

And did I really just see a picture of Playboy bunnies re-enacting the Reichenbach fall? Be still, my beating heart!

The most satisfying part for me, even at a distance, is seeing more classic Sherlockians headed that way this year. Last year, the handful of us old world Holmes fans walking into 221B Con seemed at first like a small expeditionary force landing on an undiscovered planet full of Sherlockian glamazons. Eventually we all found that "We are them, they are us, and this was Earth all along," and I look forward to others amongst our legion making that discovery as well.

At some point during the last day or so, I saw a preview for a movie called "Heaven Is Real." It didn't mention 221B Con, focussing on some kid who supposedly died, came back, and talked about his grandpa. But I know what my version of the movie would feature prominently . . . and I even saw a Winglock there last year.

Sherlockian heaven is real. But this year, I'm grounded. Heavy sigh.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Meanwhile, back in the Elementary-verse.

I almost forgot about Elementary this week. With the show entering the final run of its second season, it deserves a little attention, even if it does have little to do with Sherlock Holmes as he exists outside the CBS network.

It's a quieter show these days, with Jonny Lee Miller playing Mr. Elementary with less strident tones. The pre-credits mini-case is almost soothing, even when poking an evil-doer with a pin. It's a little more self-aware, too, wandering into Joan Watson's past, actually mentioning Miss Hudson, and revisiting those sorts of hackers one can only contact by holding a cardboard sign.

Jason Tracey, the writer of the first season's best episode ("Snow Angels") does a nice job of giving "The Many Mouths of Aaron Colville" the outre elements that are associated with the best Sherlock Holmes stories. And he actually has four different scenes of Joan Watson waking up. I think that Joan Watson waking up may, when all is said and done with this series, be her defining character moment. Unlike Nigel Bruce's wake-ups with a comic start, Lucy Liu's wake-ups have a calm "What the hell?" that lets her comfy-looking bed-nest still seem like she could just tell her partner to buzz off and slip back into slumberland.

And Clyde the turtle gets to have screen-time in many of Joan's wake-ups, wearing outfits by the unseen Miss Hudson, which is nice.

Like I said at the start, Elementary has yet to convince me that it has much to do with Sherlock Holmes outside of the CBS network, as much as its apologists may protest to the contrary. But if it must exist, episodes like "The Many Mouths of Aaron Colville" are Elementary at its most palatable. It feels like the show is getting comfortable within its own skin, and when it gets one of its better writer/director teams at the helm, it's a nice change from the painful hours of its early days.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Because everything has to do with Sherlock Holmes.

I'm used to finding connections to Sherlock Holmes in the minutiae of all sorts of fields of knowledge. The sixty stories have and incredibly wide array of references to bits and pieces of their time, and have the fun of that thing we call "Sherlockian scholarship" is following those trails out of the Canon to see where they lead.

But my new favorite pet peeve is history buffs using Sherlock Holmes to tout their favorite minor historical figures via Conan Doyle. It's like Sherlockian scholarship for people who don't believe in Sherlock Holmes. (And I don't mean "don't believe he was real." I mean "believe that he's really the cool thing worth focussing on and not some he's-popular-I-guess link to their blessed history.)

Latest example: "The Strange Connection Between Sherlock Holmes and Germs" on

"Wow, Conan Doyle probably knew about this guy who we can draw parallels to Sherlock Holmes from! Yay!"

Yeah, Conan Doyle was an educated fellow and probably had heard of a lot of people who used the scientific method. And unlike a lot of modern hoople-heads, Conan Doyle knew the scientific method to be a Good Thing. (Unless spiritualism was involved.) And it shows in Sherlock Holmes.

I guess I'm glad Holmes is so popular now, but popular enough to be used like cleavage on a YouTube video cover pic, just to get a few more pageviews?

Ah, well, enough cranky morning rant for one A.M. I suppose I'll start just reading the articles about Sherlock Holmes plays at distant local theater groups that also seem to be popping up more than ever.