Saturday, January 2, 2016

The fatal flaw in "Abominable Bride."

Massive Sherlock Christmas Special spoiler ahead.

Having slept on last night's episode of Sherlock, letting the brain digest the whole thing, I awoke with the conviction that there was only one flaw with "The Abominable Bride."

Just one.

I mean, sure, it was a bit of a lark. But we had a bit of a lark or two last season, which was met with mixed fan reaction. And the promos had prepared us for a Sherlock and John set in Victorian times. An alternate universe version. We were totally ready for that. AUs are common these days.

But here's the big problem I found with the way it was handled: I think what we saw last night was a writer too used to doing Doctor Who, a fantasy series where you can get away with any outlandishness, trying to bring a fantastic mechanic to what was, at least to some degree, a more "real world" series.

Truly, the episode might have as well been the "never going to do it" Dr. Who crossover.

Sherlock's "mind palace" gimmick got pushed to what I thought was it's furthest limit in "His Last Vow" in season three. Boy, was I wrong. Using it as the "it was all a dream" way for a modern Sherlock to solve a Victorian Sherlock case . . . too far. Too damned far.

And to even pretend that some magical drug concoction helped make that dream possible?

While I've never been a fan of the "Sherlock Holmes, drug addict detective" route, when it is done, drug addiction is a topic to be taken seriously, not used as a part of a fantasy lark episode. And for those magic drugs to make this magic-mind-palace Sherlock come up with Watson publishing short stories in The Strand Magazine at a time when serialized novels were the thing was pretty much the equivalent of Victorian Sherlock dreaming up an accurate replica of a Lear jet (or whatever brand that private plane was -- sorry, out of my price range).

Had they left out all the modern-day attempts to tie the episode in to the current storyline, I think I would have been completely satisfied with "The Abominable Bride." I was enjoying the Victorian romp for what it was, until the attempt to "it was all a dream" shoehorn it into the series continuity happened.

If only the creators had followed the gist of Holmes's "It is never twins!" comment. It should never be "all just a dream" either.


  1. Right you are. For me it's getting too much. Too much of practically everything. Sometimes less is really more.

    And you know what? For me drugged Sherlock felt like they referenced Elementary next to all the other references to various and sundry pastiches and adaptations gone before (even Laurie's Regiment of Women!). And how ironic is that??? Cheeky. And a bit bad taste after what went on before.

  2. The episode was eagerly awaited, in our house, as an 1895 mystery. We'd have thoroughly enjoyed that. No need for the cliche "it was all just a dream" trope and unfortunately it seemed to condone the use of mind-altering drugs. Truly funny in places, skilfully crafted camera work, suave artistic set design, viable 1895 plot, lots good about the acting but we groaned at the unnecessary timeline jumps. On the plus side it delivered the quality we have come to expect but it turned out to be less than it could have been if Moftiss had the faith that people can actually love a Victorian Holmes and Watson.

  3. I pretty much agree. The Victorian thing was going well and then when it got all meta and "it was a dream", that sort of spoiled it. I love this least, series 1 and 2 and aspects of 3...but they are now trying way too hard to be clever. It's kind of presumptuous and just not working well. A shame...

  4. I completely agree. I think there were - too many amazing things - but they didn't all fit together into a brilliant story. There was the Victorian setting, the reference to cocaine, the Reichenbach falls, Moriarty's extended presence -and a lot, lot more BUT it wasn't satisfying because it wasn't woven together into a beautiful, thrilling adventure that made sense...

    ...Maybe, only having the Victorian angle and doing it really, really well would have been better.

    1. my least favorite of the episodes. Just give me a straight story, no dreams need apply.

  5. Joining the chorus; loved it, but it would have been better as a strictly Victorian AU.