Mic Wright’s Remotely Furious New Year’s Special: Sherlock? Shernot
JEREMY Brett played Sherlock Holmes. Robert Downey Jnr. played an action hero using the name Sherlock Holmes. That’s where we’ve got with the Stephen Moffat/Mark Gatiss fan fiction-take Sherlock. While the first series of their gripping adventure series was closely yoked to Conan Doyle’s original tales, the stories started to diverge in Series 2. The final episode of that season, The Reichenbach Fall, left viewers with a tantalising cliffhanger – how did Sherlock ‘kill’ himself but survive? – but nothing like the shock that Conan Doyle inflicted on readers as he attempted to permanently end the clash of minds and bodies between Holmes and Moriarty.
Named in honour of the story Conan Doyle used to explain Sherlock Holmes’ survival following the Reichenbach Falls ‘death’, The Empty Hearse, New Year’s Day’s Series 3 premiere, was one long nodding and winking session at fans. It was studded with interludes playing out fan theories on how Sherlock survived his leap and a fair bit of fan service including a fantasy with Sherlock kissing Molly Hooper and, more egregiously, a potential kiss between Moriarty and Sherlock played for laughs.
The latter kiss partially explains the shocking rudeness of Caitlin Moran at the Sherlock Series 3 premiere where she elbowed the stars into reading out some slash fiction, holding up the author to mockery. Even ignoring the low-level homophobia that runs through Sherlock’s gay jokes – how unimaginably horrible for John and Sherlock to seem like they might be gay!!!! – the Moriarty/Sherlock pairing, proposed by an excitable goth fan of Holmes, was an obvious jibe at fan fiction and the Sherlock fandom by the writers and producers who have been some what sniffy about that community.
The entire episode felt like an exercise in trolling. The plot – Holmes and Watson must reunite to uncover a secret terror network at the behest of Holmes’ brother Mycroft – seemed subservient to constant false premises, twists, time jumps and nudge-nudge-wink-wink moments directed straight through the fourth wall. When Anderson, now a conspiracy theorist obsessed with working out how Sherlock could have survived, hears how Holmes actually did it he comments that he is “a bit disappointed really”. Sherlock’s reply: “Everyone’s a critic.” Alright Moffat, we get it – you’re so clever and we’re so lucky to have you.
As time goes on, despite the character names and episodes titled as a homage to the original Sherlock Holmes stories, Sherlock is becoming simply a very smart crime drama with some excellent writing and fine performances from Cumberbatch, Freeman, Gatiss and the wonderful Louise Brealey as Molly Hooper. It’s not that I don’t like Sherlock, nor that I think Moffat and Gatiss aren’t great writers, it’s just that the show feels more and more like fan fiction itself, wearing the Sherlock Holmes mythos as awkwardly as Watson wears his awful bin man’s coat or Sherlock stuck the deerstalker on at the end of this week’s episode.