Monday, March 2, 2020

One author, sixty stories, good enough!

There are many cautionary tales about getting what you want not always being what's best for you. And never has that been more clear than with the thing that most Sherlockians would really, really like to have: One more new tale in our Canon from the original source, with some prime Sherlock Holmes in it. But for over ninety years now, our core Sherlock Holmes Canon is limited to sixty stories. We can reboot, adapt, mutate, headcanon, and generally pastiche all we want, that Canon stays firm. No surprises. Nothing we haven't already dealt with.

That became a very comforting thought with this week's season finale of that classic of British television, Doctor Who,  last night. Without getting into specifics or spoilers, the current creators pretty much completely turned over the apple cart. After six decades of folks trying to write new Doctor Who scripts that shouldn't come as too much of a surprise. Eventually, a new generation is eventually going to attempt to boldly color outside the lines -- it's been happening in comic books for years with favorite characters like Batman or Spiderman, and especially with lesser characters like Aquaman, who has had and lost the same wife and child what seems like a dozen times. (They don't die all that much, he just gets rebooted back to bachelorhood.)

When Canon is not limited, as in the work of a single author, the life story of a character becomes multiple life stories as they live far past retirement age. Doctor Who got to regenerate an entirely new body, which helped some, but apparently not enough. Sherlock Holmes? The original Sherlock Holmes? He started up in the 1880s and retired in 1903. 'Nuff said.  True, we've seen versions of him in World War 2, using a cell phone, or in the 22nd Century, but they're versions. Nobody is trying to tell us it's really and truly the same guy from those original sixty, only this, this, and now THIS!

And while Sherlock Holmes is proof from revolving creators trying to keep the same franchise alive, that boxed-in Canon gives us one other great benefit: Every creator after Doyle gets to use that sixty-story-box as their launching pad. Whether they're trying to add an untold tale to Holmes as we knew him or create some new alien version of Holmes on a planet full of sentient candy canes, they've got those same raw materials to draw inspiration from as desired.

If we were to get our hands on a genie-lamp or monkey's paw and actually get an up-to-par Sherlock Holmes novel or new set of stories from Conan Doyle himself, we would survive, of course. But in working to come up with Fresh Sherlock, who knows what ACD would have to pull? Remember The Valley of Fear? "Hey, Moriarty's back, and Watson now knows about him before he knew about him in that other story!" That was just after a ten-year gap when Doyle was giving the fans their wish. Who knows what that guy would pull after a ninety-year gap! (There's your monkey's paw twist.)

Practicing gratitude is probably a better practice than practicing your wishes. Also, practicing love of Sherlock Holmes rather than . . . well, I'm not going there, but I wish the folks at BBC's Doctor Who good luck with all those apples rolling around.

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