For goodness sakes, it’s escapism, and good escapism at that, if nothing else, now and again it made me think “Meh!”.
By Phil Jones @PhilLlwynog
“If it should ever strike you that I am getting a little overconfident in my powers, or giving less pains to a case than it deserves, kindly whisper… “
Not a quote from my arrogant alter ego, but a quote from episode one, “The Six Thatchers”, from this much loved and equally maligned new series of Sherlock, now airing on the lefty BBC.
So, what word does our intrepid, “Thatcher hating” hero, Sherlock want Mrs. Hudson to whisper to him if he get’s a little too big for his leather boots? Norbury? Why on earth Norbury?
In ‘The Six Thatchers” the quiet ‘mivvi’ loving secret service secretary that Sherlock and most of the audience had not reckoned with ended up being the killer in the London Aquarium. In an original Arthur Conan Doyle story titled “The Adventure of the Yellow Face,” Sherlock rushes too quickly to a conclusion and ends up being wrong. It’s a rare slip. He misses the solution, which lies in the town of Norbury, south-west of London. The name of the secretary? Vivian Norbury.
There are two main schools of thought when it comes to this kind of script. It’s either, “wow, what great attention to detail, how clever is that?” Or, it’s seen as “so pretentious”; as Mr. O’Sullivan told us on Radio Five live last night.
How about Sherlock spouting large chunks of the great bald bards work in the latest episode “The Lying Detective”. Sherlock recites nearly the entirety of a famous speech from Shakespeare’s Henry V which starts with “Once more unto the breach, dear friends!” Sherlock ends this rant with his famous catchphrase “the game’s afoot!” But why? Pretentious tosh I hear you cry, but here’s another perspective. While this marks the first time Cumberbatch-Sherlock has uttered this phrase (usually saying “the game is on!”), this phrase was actually appropriated by Conan Doyle from Shakespeare in the first place because “the game’s afoot” was originally part of that Henry V speech. In a similar appropriation, Sherlock Holmes says, “There is nothing new under the sun” in A Study in Scarlet, which he kind of stole from the King James Bible.
Meanwhile, Sherlock Holmes first ripped off the “the game’s afoot!” from Shakespeare in the story “The Red-Headed League.” Weirdly, with its preoccupation with red hair, that story seems to be vaguely referenced by the fact that this episode reveals Watson’s “mistress” had a fake red wig. As did the girl on the bus, that Watson seems to fall for.
As Charlie Brooker discussed the word “meh!” on the excellent 2016 Screen Wipe a week or two ago, it sums up my feelings on ‘Sherlock’.
“Everywhere you’d look on the Internet, there is was ‘Meh!’ A big bored shrug. We moaned that everything was sort of mediocre and bland. Not anymore, no! Everything’s either sh** or brilliant, and there’s no in between and everyone’s furious. Stick your head into the Internet now and it’s like a fuc**** screaming convention, black ants versus red ants, it’s as if everyone’s been radicalised…”
He was talking about Brexit of course, but it does seem to sum up views about Sherlock, and the very dark, black and white society we have become.
I have presented two examples of the detail and depth behind these thought provoking and extremely well researched scripts. For goodness sakes, it’s escapism, and good escapism at that, if nothing else, now and again it made me think “Meh!”. If Sherlock encourages the young, to voluntarily, analyse dissect and explore these concepts and ideas, surely that’s a good thing right? For god’s sakes schools have being forcing it’s customers to dissect the plays of Shakespeare and the like for centuries. How about this for a modern concept, kids actually dissecting a TV script for fun. Now that is clever, there’s your twist everybody, young people actually interested in dialogue and text. Now that’s radical. Take a bow Mr Gatiss and Mr Moffat, you have a new fan.