Monday, January 06, 2014

To Steven Moffat, With Love




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Dear Steven Moffat,

First off, Happy New Year to you and yours! I hope you had a great celebration of the turning of the years. Goodness knows, your year-ender—a fantastic shift from Matt Smith to Peter Capaldi—was fantastic, to borrow Christopher Eccleston’s catchphrase. There’s every reason for you to celebrate 2013.

Peter Capaldi as the Doctor

My kidneys are yellow. Taken from Radio Times.

Now, to business. I am, along with million other drones, a huge fan of your reimagining of the life of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. I remember watching it for the first time when it came out, all those years ago, and I was hooked. This, I thought, was the Sherlock Holmes of the future! Here, at last, was a fine representation of the timeless detective. If I recall, the last reimagining of Holmes was back when Young Sherlock Holmes came out, and while that was a romp and a half, it was horrible.

And then the second season came along, and while it was a bit touch and go for me, there, I still watched. Up until I was left slack-jawed at the finale.

Of course I knew Sherlock Holmes was going to die. And of course I knew he was going to survive anyway. But in the original material, a fight between him and Professor Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls was alluded to. In your series, Moriarty shot himself. Leaving Holmes alive, long enough to emote to a hapless Watson.

What the hell was that.

There was no way James Moriarty was going to kill himself just to get to Sherlock Holmes. He was a criminal mastermind! A sociopath to the last minute! If you look at thing scientifically, psychopaths and sociopaths—this link will help—it should be made obvious that Moriarty was a sociopath of the highest order. And if so, then a sociopath would not so readily kill himself—not when he was, after all, winning, which Holmes himself alluded to in the first episode of your third serial.

Which brings us to my gripe.

So far, by my tally, CBS’ Elementary is, far and away, the leading representation of Sherlock Holmes today. And that’s only because Guy Pearce, Robert Downey Jr., and Jude Law haven’t come out with the third installment of their own take on the property. But the best Sherlock is Robert Downey’s, since he sounds, and looks, the part. And he has demonstrated that he can, indeed, be a boxer, which is an important aspect of Holmes. And Law’s Watson, while quite distanced from the ailing military doctor, is an engaging personality on the screen.

Jonny Lee Miller, on the other hand, is a Holmes weakened by the presence of a weak Watson in Lucy Liu; but their tandem remains true to the original material. There’s great emphasis on the cases presented on each episode, and the intellectual acumen of the tandem is represented quite well—in fact, you only need to stop thinking of Lucy Liu as a Watson, and you’ll be quite content with how the show interprets the original.

Which brings us to your show, Sherlock. You, by far, have the best choice of characters to portray Holmes and Watson. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are fantastic—there we go again with Eccleston’s catchphrase—actors. You’re a fantastic show runner. The show’s set in the UK, which means that you won’t have to wrangle the original story too much in translation.

But then, you decided to focus on the emotional relationship between Holmes and Watson.

Seriously. I watched “The Empty Hearse” last week, and the only time I was actually invested in the case was when they were showing the videos of the train carriage being emptied. I did not, for one second, even exercise my ability to think in order to figure out what the hell was happening.

You could very well have gone on to call your show the John and Marsha of the Sherlock Holmes interpretations.

See, the thing that makes Sherlock Holmes quite the character was that, despite his characteristic inability to empathize with people, he was, still, quite the detective. He does not play tricks on his friends that has no point (such as could be seen in The Hound of the Baskervilles, or even in The Sign of the Four, which you brutalized in your latest episode entitled The Sign of the Three). By putting too much emphasis on the relationship between Holmes and Watson, you started losing focus on the brilliance of Holmes—that is, in his ability to solve the most baffling of mysteries.

So all in all, you have, in your hands, a fantastic drama. But it has become a failure of a Sherlock Holmes adaptation.

Get with the program, eh?

 

Yours,

Martin Cruz

The Fat Man

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