Saturday, July 5, 2014

The British government does a Mycroft.

Sherlock Holmes's motivations for going the places he did during his Great Hiatus from the London detective business during the early 1890s have always been ripe for speculation among Sherlockians. I myself have lately keyed in on his old friend Victor Trevor, but once source that never fails to come up is his brother Mycroft, the man who was the British government. Sherlockians, including those behind the BBC Sherlock series, just love sending Sherlock on secret missions for the Crown at brother Mycroft's direction.

So when the news came out a couple of days ago that the British government was sending Sherlock Holmes to North Korea with a specific purpose in mind, it just didn't seem all that odd to the Sherlockian mind.

Sure, the basic facts of the matter are just that a government expense spreadsheet had a line item about paying for the rights to show BBC Sherlock at the Pyongyang International Film Festival in North Korea, but headlines like The Telegraph's "Sherlock Holmes sent to 'encourage change' in North Korea" accompanied by photos of Kim Jong Un seeming to watching Benedict Cumberbatch with delight are practically playing that grand Game that used to be just the territory of Sherlockians. (Who knows? With so many Sherlock fans out there, maybe the Telegraph's headline writers do contain a Game-playing Sherlockian or two.)

The government's purpose in sending the film is indeed listed as "Encouraging change," and even though the column for "Human Rights element" is marked with a "No," I suspect they got that last bit wrong. For while depriving North Koreans of BBC Sherlock might not be up there with imprisonments and executions, well, there might be one or two Sherlock Holmes fans in North Korea that heard about the show through the grapevine and is feeling a bit tortured by its absence. (Yes, it's a stretch, but we're Sherlockians. We're supposed to stretch for Sherlock.)

I also have to suspect that North Korean officials have already seen CBS's Elementary, for in May they made the statement to the press, "the U.S. is a living hell." So sending BBC Sherlock might be a major humanitarian effort in that case as well. (Insert evil grin upon blogger's face here.)

But in the end, it all comes back to feeling a lot like the hand of Mycroft Holmes, once more sending his baby brother on a mission . . . and one more mission that it seems like he could succeed at as well. For Sherlock Holmes has changed the world of a lot of people I know in a lot of countries. Why not North Korea as well?

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