Lately I've taken an interest in Sherlock fan fiction.
What fascinates me about Sherlock fan fiction is the exploration of beloved characters by people who have found those characters worth study and exploration. Regardless of their level of writing ability or the cleverness of anyone's particular imagination, they're spending much valuable time and much effort upon working with the recognizable personalities of Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson for the love of those characters. Not because some network handed them a prime-time slot and a couple of name actors. Not because they're getting a paycheck for their work. Just out of the pure love of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and a desire to share that love with their fellow Sherlockians.
There are those folks out there that take a completely self-interested position and go "What are those stories doing for me?" If a given sort of fan fiction doesn't trip their triggers, they'll throw out an off-hand comment of disdain and move on. And that's their right.
Some might equate my disdain for CBS's Elementary to those folks. "I don't like this version of Sherlock Holmes, you don't like that one, same thing. We can agree to disagree."
But here's the thing fan fiction, while out there for everyone to access, isn't being presented to non-Sherlockians as "Sherlock Holmes." One has to be fan enough to seek it out to find it, and fan enough to know one's tastes enough to sample this or that and find out what suits you. You're never going to run into a clerk in a store who sees you're buying a Sherlock Holmes book and goes, "It was always weird to me that Holmes, Watson, and Lestrade had three-ways after they finished performing in their rock band . . . what was its name? Oh, yeah, Two Hundred and Twenty-One Bees!" No one develops their entire perception of Sherlock Holmes based upon a given alternate universe fanfic with a touch of kink.
But here we have CBS's Elementary, a tale told at a level below that of fanfic, because the writers don't seem to exhibit much love of Sherlock Holmes or Dr. Watson at all. Sure, they love playing with their Jonny Lee Miller addict character, and their Lucy Liu whatever-she-is character, but after three full seasons I think we can safely say that those are not anywhere close to the Sherlock Holmes or John Watson characters that fans have loved for over a century. There is no love of Sherlock Holmes here. Just use of the name. And for three years, from fall to spring, this concoction has been foisted upon television audiences in America and elsewhere, numbering well over six million every week, as the Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Those people who are going to watch some network TV show every night no matter what's on and absorb a bit of what's there. This is the Holmes they get.
Walk up to a clerk in a store with a copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes today and you're liable to get a "Why do you want to read about that junkie and his heroin problem?"
And that, in a nutshell, has always been why I truly hate CBS's Elementary. Because it's not just a fraud . . . television is full of artfully-contrived, gloriously ridiculous frauds. But because it's a fraud that takes something good, something inspirational, something that has caused generations of writers, scholars, and artists to do wonderful work as an expression of their joy at encountering a legend, and turns it into something that does none of that. And is such a lukewarm attempt, even at what it does do.
The legend that is Sherlock Holmes is big enough to withstand a Mr. Elementary for a few years. And documentarians will be happy to include Jonny Lee Miller in their list of people who portrayed a character named "Sherlock Holmes" in the decades ahead. And some people will still be inspired to create new stories in all sorts of mediums with that original, inspiring character. But now? Here and now, as we have to sit through a summer cliffhanger of "How will Mr. Elementary quite being a loser long enough to have a TV show about him next year?" (The answer being, "Oh, yes, he was never that far above being a loser for three seasons now. Loser Sherlock will carry on.")
But it's such a waste. Such a waste.
No wonder so many fans would rather pour over the latest set photos of Benedict Cumberbatch or hear Mark Gatiss reiterate a line or two slightly differently in yet another interview while waiting for Sherlock to come back, rather than watch this thing.
Lately I've taken an interest in Sherlock fan fiction, even after watching seventy-two episodes of Mr. Elementary's nominal drama. Or because of it. In any case, summer is here at last, and a hiatus has never been more welcome.