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 . . . .

1 comment:

  1. Not to be too off track but over '221 B' I've always preferred the ending lines from 'The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes' (starting with 'My task is done.' and winding up with ' "Come, Watson, the game's afoot!" ') Back on track - how does that OTHER show stack up to the 221B Test, part one?