Thursday, January 5, 2017

I'm with Gatiss.

While I might quibble with a point or two of Mark Gatiss's plotting and am not going to put his poetry up against the classics, the man knows his stuff, and I rather enjoyed his latest work in The Guardian, entitled "To an undiscerning critic . . . . from Mark Gatiss."

His poetic response to a familiar criticism of BBC's Sherlock, that it turns Holmes into James Bond, was as simple as John H. Watson's response to Sherlock Holmes when accused of putting romance into his criminal accounts: "But the romance was there. I could not tamper with the facts."

Turn Sherlock Holmes into James Bond?

Oh, but Sherlock Holmes was already James Bond. As James Bond-y as Victorian England would allow.

In only his second adventure, he's confronting a villain with an exotic assassin sidekick . . . a James Bond staple . . . and climaxing the story with an exciting river chase.

In his third adventure, he's in His Majesty's secret service. Not the British "his majesty" and not a capitalized "Secret Service," but employing his own agents, using smoke bombs, and doing more drama than detection.

Put Sherlock Holmes in a spy movie? Had Conan Doyle been writing TV scripts instead of short stories, what would "His Last Bow" have been? Sherlock Holmes actually was a spy in that one.

The man chased hellhounds across Dartmoor, threw criminal masterminds off waterfalls, and laid traps for snipers.

The original article that Gatiss argued against compared Sherlock Holmes to Miss Marple, and therein I think we find some of the writer's issue: He wants wise old man Sherlock, that weird trope that developed over the last century when as we never saw Holmes and Watson as young as they were in A Study in Scarlet or the earlier tales. Young enough men to do things like flee the scene of the murder they witnessed during their Appledore Towers burglary and escape capture by running two miles across Hampstead Heath. Not really Miss Marple stuff.

Sherlock Holmes was no nice little old lady who relied solely on his wits to solve friendly murders in his hometown. He dealt with international affairs, foreign killers, everything Victorian England had to throw at him. Had there been helicopters and private jet aircraft in that age, he would have been ferried about on some adventures via those, just surely as Moriarty chased him in that private train. (The man was a super-villain after all.)

The stories have always been called The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Not The Sherlock Holmes Mysteries. Taking Sherlock Holmes out of Victorian London, with its slower pace and lack of things like tech-ed out swimming pools and tunnels through shark aquariums, might make him seem like James Bond to some, just as last season's wedding episode might have made him seem like he was suddenly on a sitcom like Friends to others.

But would the plodding procedurals of CBS's Elementary be closer to the mark than BBC Sherlock's seeming cinematic extravagances?

If so, well your view is your view, but me? I'm with Gatiss.

And "Holmes. Sherlock Holmes."

There's a reason Sherlockians have theorized that Mycroft was the original "M" for years.

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