Folding some laundry with my personal playlist on shuffle tonight, and up came "How It Was Done," the background music for the fake-out version of how Sherlock survived the fall off that rooftop. Very much the perfectly timed caper that answers the question in perfect detail down to a healthy kiss for Molly. The question never got an actual answer, as the writers had been served an impossible task: Coming up with something that both worked and hadn't been already invented by some fan.
Considering the rise and fall of that iconic series in Sherlockian history, one always has to wonder "How did it all go so wrong?" I mean, not for me personally . . . I was too busy trying to figure out what was going wrong with CBS's Elementary to get expectations about its older sibling. But, you know, everybody that had expectations. And here is what I decided was Sherlock's single greatest mistake:
It gave its viewers time to think.
I mean, c'mon, the BBC can accomplish a lot with short-run television, but three episodes every two years? That's a helluva lot of time to think.
While the cast and crew was enjoying all that time off, the fans were creating their own version of the show. Thousands, actually. BBC Sherlock became a hivemind creation of a whole lot of people who weren't being paid to write three scripts every two years. People who were writing a whole lot more.
As much as we deride American television's long term practice of pounding out an hour a week from September to May, you know what that didn't do?
It didn't give the fans time to think. You can't come up with an entire novel's worth of headcanon in the week between episodes. But in two freakin' years? I'd love to see what the parallel universe where Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu's characters gave their fans two years to play between three episode seasons, with the limited content of those three episodes. (As well as what Stephan Moffat and Mark Gatiss would have done to those characters . . . we'd still get Eurus, I bet.)
One can pick at details of BBC Sherlock's run all day (or all two years) long. But in the end, so much of what caused the Great Displeasure was just that they took their hands off the wheel for long periods of time and let the fans steer, even if it wasn't "Canon" proper, even if it didn't have actors or screen time. Something got created between seasons that took on a life of its own.
There are so many movies that I have enjoyed thoroughly while seated in the theater, then got to the parking lot and suddenly realized, "Oh, wait! That was crap!" But it was only because the film-maker gave me no time to think. One of the worst movies I ever saw gave me so much time to think that I wrote a better ending in my head than the one I eventually got.
And that is not something a creator should ever do. Probably Sherlock's biggest mistake, too.