Saturday, September 19, 2015

Those two guys we see as being like Sherlock.

I'm rather old, a statement that neither my wife nor mother likes to hear me make as it implicates them a bit as well, I suspect. But considering the Mr. Spock/Sherlock Holmes ties that were once such a big thing in an age I once lived in, I feel rather old just now.

Why am I considering the connections/similarities that tie Sherlock Holmes and Mr. Spock?

Because Mr. Spock, once the darling of the television science fiction fans of the world, has, over the decades, given up that crown to a certain other fellow. A fellow who both came before him and after him. A fellow who has seen more of space and the future than any starship crewman Spock ever met. And a fellow, who, like Mr. Spock seems very much in the same category of chap as Sherlock Holmes.

And yet, we never see Mr. Spock and that fellow, the Doctor, as anything like each other.

Dr. Who is back on television yet again, with Stephen Moffat writing the opening episodes as he has with that other BBC show Sherlock upon occasion. But that common writer isn't all that ties the two characters, and what those ties say about Sherlock Holmes is important.

In the 1960s and 70s, Star Trek gave us the cold Vulcan logic of Mr. Spock, a man from another planet whose mind seemed to work like the up-and-coming computational devices. Emotion was held at bay so only the most accurate logical conclusions could be reached. "Like Sherlock Holmes!" we said, and indeed he was. But just a part of Sherlock Holmes, really.

The other part of Sherlock Holmes, the dramatic, given-to-extremes producer of order from chaos is very much like Dr. Who. He forever has his Watsons (called "companions" in Who-speak), unlike Spock who often rose to equal partner but was more often Captain Kirk's Watson in a sort of Bizarro Sherlock-and-John sort of way. I would venture to say that Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Who actually have more in common than Sherlock and Spock, despite the rhyming names.

In fact, I think this is quite apparent in the great flaw in the movie Star Trek: Into Darkness where we saw Mr. Spock pitted against a "Sherlock Holmes" -- Benedict Cumberbatch -- playing a superior form of humanity named Khan Noonien Singh. Khan, of course, was not a consulting detective but a power-mad conqueror. I would propose, however, that he . . . as a specimen of a true superior human, in mental, physical, and whatever other category one would care to name . . . was an excellent stand-in for Sherlock Holmes in a duel of wits with Mr. Spock.

And the great flaw with that movie? That Mr. Spock won.

Even with a bit of cheat-y, future-self advice, the notion of Spock outwitting Khan with sheer cleverness always seemed a bit questionable. Spock, as we constantly see in his dealings with Kirk, his girlfriend, and the loss of his mother and planet, is an incomplete and traumatized personality. Khan, however, is firing on all cylinders, including some we former-model humans have a hard time even contemplating. Khan has travelled forward through time and, dropped into a world he could never have anticipated, adapts, succeeds, and works the tech like nobody else . . . reminding one more of a certain Doctor whose name isn't McCoy or Watson. All the while looking a lot like a meaner Sherlock Holmes.

One's view of Sherlock Holmes can be a very personal thing. Sometimes a particular actor just feels right, while others can feel so, so wrong. And it's in that feeling that I find something in Dr. Who that always reminds me of a less-precise (one might even say "sloppy") Sherlock Holmes. His methods are not as always as clear of explainable, but his successes are as reliable and his dramatic flair in delivering them, very much akin.

And as we wait for yet another season of Sherlock, a new season of Dr. Who starting up is not a bad fill-in, at least for this Sherlockian.

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