Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Sherlock Holmes rocket.

Okay, so here's a weird, bored Sherlockian thing to do. Take the names of the characters from some movie you just fell totally in love with and start plugging them into the Moonfind search of the Holmes Canon. You might think, if the movie in question was of the science-fictional genre, that weird alien names are not going to pop up in the Canon. And they probably aren't.

If you're lucky, the one Earthman character might have a first and a last name that both appear in the cases of Sherlock Holmes. And then you get to a word/name that doesn't seem all that Victorian, but is there all the same: Rocket.

The word "rocket" just does not belong in the Victorian world of Sherlock Holmes, because usually when we think of a rocket, we think of the kind that has people riding on it. And even if your first thought is "bottle rocket" or "model rocket," well, they're just not Victorian somehow. They aren't even steam-punky, with their paper and gunpowder simplicity.

Never mind that the first battle fought with rockets is said to have occurred in 1232, and we know for sure they were around by the 1400s. Or that the first fellow to propose rocket-powered space flight did so in 1903. Sherlock Holmes and rockets? Maybe in the 22nd century, in a cartoon!

But as that darned Moonfind search will tell you, against all gut feelings about rockets, Sherlock Holmes had a rocket in his pocket, "an ordinary plumber's smoke rocket, fitted with a cap at either end to make it self-lighting." Not sure how original that device was with Holmes, but here's the thing: Sherlock Holmes was a.) a chemist, and b.) a guy who liked to screw around with hair trigger revolvers, and c.) somebody who was always trying out new things.

Now, I'm not going to say Sherlock Holmes had any reason to try to build a rocket to fly to the moon -- we all know his feelings about local astronomy. But would it have been at all unlike him to try to create a few small rocket-powered devices for his own use?

Well, we might want to leave rocket-boots to the Robert Downey, Jr. incarnation of the character, but something like a rocket-powered grappling hook? Could be. Sherlock did have that smoke grenade awfully handy when the Adler business came up. Perhaps he had a few Bond-like rocket tricks up his Victorian sleeve, as well.

Still, throwing a rocket-powered bicycle into "Solitary Cyclist" does seem more Downey that Brett, so that might just be outside the needs of the cause that drove all of Sherlock Holmes's early work, the cause of detection. And yet . . . Sherlock Holmes, Rocket Detective, does not sound all that . . . nawwww!

Rockets and Sherlock Holmes. I think it'll take a skilled creator to get me into that adaptation. (And if that Asylum films Sherlock Holmes already did try it, well, no wonder I don't remember!)


  1. The most popular film plot in my discussion of Silent Film Sherlock Holmes movies was that of "Torpedo Pirates" (1918). Mr. P. Nutt invented a rather wonderful flying torpedo, which was worth millions when it flew, but his happiness was marred by his daughter's crush on his helping hand. The president of The Midnight Thieves' Association craved the torpedo, so he sent Vampa, a well set-up young women, to find a man who looked like Sherlock Holmes. They found him in a trash-can pulling a Hoover out of the garbage. When the inventor learned the eyes of the spies were upon him, he hastened to the detective agency and besought the trash-can dweller to take the case. Father returned - they always do - delighted at his date with Vampa. She arrived with a copyrighted scheme of her own to make the old duffer jealous. She winked her pretty eyes at the helping hand, who could not withstand the temptation. The scheme worked fine, the inventor became crazy jealous. ‘You tub of lard - I could kill you - here!’, shouted the frenzied P. Nutt, slapping him on the wrist. His rough words had an awful effect on Fatty, who resorted to tears. Suddenly a tremendous noise was heard, a storm came up - big ocean waves resounded their morbid chantings - the family was eating soup. Camouflaged by his tempestuous ordeal, the gang was making away with the torpedo, when Detective Snitch smelt trouble and dashing up into the private chamber he kicked the crooks in the hallway and flew out on the marvelous torpedo. He was nearing France and the gas was giving way, when he was rescued by the inventor and the family. Walter Stevens played the high flying Holmes. I'd love to remake this one!!!

  2. It's truly worth noting, that the word "rocket" is synonymous with the word "flare", so it might have meant something very different from an "actual" rocket. Although, I realise, this article is not too serious, and so the facts are not too important in the end; nevertheless, I must admit - it'd be nice to read about and see a real, plumber and Holmes accurate, ye old English flare somewhere.