Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Who's the god now, Who?

A nice editorial piece on reactions to the latest Dr. Who was passed along on the Twitter feed of a certain Baker Street Babe this week. Well, thought-out, well-written, and a perfect counterpoint to a brilliant Dr. Who commentary video that I bumbled into on YouTube last night called "It's time to retire Dr. Who."

Yes, yes, this is a Sherlock Holmes blog, but Dr. Who is running parallel to Holmes in some ways these days (sharing a writer, for one thing), and comparing and contrasting the two can be illuminating.

Dr. Who, for example, is one character on one show who has gone on for decades, played by different actors and written by different writers. And yet the shared delusion we try to maintain is that it's all part of one long continuity, one large entity of story.

Sherlock Holmes, on the other hand, is one character who has, for decades upon decades, been played by different actors and written by different writers, yet each incarnation inhabits its own little fictional universe in our minds and they don't have to share story arcs or lives at all.

(And Sebastian Moran seems to be completely different in every one of them.)

We have a Rathbone generation of Sherlockians, a Brett generation of Sherlockians, and now a Cumberbatch generation of Sherlockians, all of whom can happily reside in their own fandom if they like, without considering the others at all.

Dr. Who fans aren't so lucky. Whichever Doctor they are fans of is supposed to be the same Doctor as the ones they aren't fans of. Sure, the switch from David Burke to Edward Hardwicke mid-stream in the Jeremy Brett days went well enough, but can you image the reaction if Granada had taken their Victorian Baker Street set and suddenly moved Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in, to take over that same series? And then two years later, Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu took over from them?

There will always be those "my fandom, right or wrong" fans that stay brand loyal through all of the hard turns. Their very lifestyle is based around the fandom and ignoring the latest incarnation is almost like holding one's breath. And no one can argue with the angelic virtue of acceptance that makes for a handy stick to beat "the haters" with. Hating is bad, right? It's all good, right?

And there will always be the "yeah, it will never be as good as it was then" fans at the other end of the spectrum. Their nostalgia for a particular story experience at a particular time in their lives is their first love, a love that outshines all others. And true love remains true, in the face of all rivals, doesn't it? Can't argue with that.

Most of us mix and match and lie somewhere in between. And with Sherlock Holmes, we can wander in between worlds and pretty much ignore the ones we don't care for. (Unless, of course, we're drawn to its sheer wrongness like a moth to a hot light bulb. Ouch!) Dr. Who fans are not quite so lucky. The good, the bad, and the boring all comprise one long-televised being. At least until you step back far enough . . . .

If you get enough distance, all the Sherlock Holmeses can form into one great image, like those big pictures whose colors are based on gathered tiny pictures. He's not just one shape-shifting character zipping through time, space, and a few dimensions . . . Sherlock Holmes is a pan-dimensional being existing in multiple timelines at once. Stephen Moffat famously said, "the Doctor is like an angel aspiring to be human, and Sherlock is a man aspiring to be a god," but in the greater view of things, the Doctor is single being who became many over time, while Sherlock Holmes is a legion of beings who somehow form a single entity in our minds.

Not that I'm in any was biased . . . .

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