Get out your Pipes and Magnifying Glasses..and let’s examine a televisual, meta-textual crime scene..
It’s SHERLOCK time!
Yes..a new and secret episode..exclusive to Movie Viral 😉
Fade In: Montage of London..every cliched sign and symbol (for the Americans and the Chinese: Red buses! Red phone boxes! Black Cabs! London Eye! Union Jacks on Roofs..kinda like that JAMES BOND film, y’know..SKYFALL?).
Cue music from David Arnold, he who did brilliant work for the JAMES BOND films (Sherlock theme good but sadly very similar to Hans Zimmer’s score for the gloriously charming Robert Downey Jr Sherlock Holmes movies; and yes I know they were recorded a year apart but let’s face it..these are all never quite as good as / are simply a variation on the theme to the Jeremy Brett iteration).
Cut To: Sherlock Holmes. Sat in deep thought, listening to two panicking gentlemen, Misters Moffat and Gatiss.
Moffat is a dour looking Scotsman: wiry hair and awkward stare; he smiles awkwardly at Holmes but cannot conceal his nervous ambition to show that he is the most clever and successful person in the room.
Gatiss is softly spoken and his appearance changes before Holmes’ eyes, in the blink of an eye or twist of a smile, he can go from looking young and hip to old beyond his years; a talent worthy of Moriarty.
A log fire burns in the background, embers glowing, paper crackling..you can practically smell the atmospherics, as the two clients recount their ‘final problem’. (nb Dr Watson MIGHT be in shot but frankly nobody gives a shit whether he is there or not so please don’t worry if the actor cannie be arsed turning up or if he does turn up and phones it in wearily).
SH: You pose an interesting problem, gentlemen. Whether I even believe it is another matter.
Gatiss: You MUST. This problem is so baffling even YOU must be stumped, surely?
Moffat (smiling and winking and sneering all at once): Ah but CAN he? THAT’S what Sherlock is all about to me. Is he able to work it out? Course he is! But is the man or the boy? The human or the God? Is he..
SH: Shut up.
(Gatiss giggles, reverting to a boyhood character creation; Moffat sits and glares at Sherlock, determined to blame him for any future criticism of a Moffat work; he glances down at a pocket device and reminds himself to wipe out Sherlock’s social credibility among any writers in London).
Moffat: Can you help us or not?
SH: (monologue, deliver at speed)
Your problem is by no means as complex as you fear, gentlemen. Indeed, most simple. You complain that an entire audience appears to have become rather annoyed by your latest presentation of my exploits upon the television? And yet, ratings remained high, brand status strong, curiosities and conversations all still raging throughout the land.
A paradox, no? To be so loved and hated at once; to have created a monster beyond your control and, having been granted creative supremacy, to feel now so cast out. so utterly clueless? Am I getting warm? And I do not refer there to my splendid fire..more to the definition of the problem such that it can indeed be solved? For admitting there IS a problem is indeed HALF the battle, wot?
Gatiss: Yes! Yes! Absolutely, that’s right.
Moffat: Spot on..spot on mate..I think you really ‘get’ where we are c..
SH: Shut up.
(Gatiss giggles). (Again).
Moffat: Now I don’t need to tolerate rudeness. Just because you are all posh..
SH: Interesting. VERY interesting. You mention posh. You LOVE the word posh..you BBC types..yes. You see, that very word ‘posh’ is key to the entire mystery.
(Gatiss smiles and winks to camera and nudges Moffat)
Gatiss: Yes, that’s it! Absolutely.
(Cue surreal montage of visuals and VERRRRY slow editing, suddenly within a montage that should speed things up; throw in some violin music and vaguely sexual references to a bedroom; also tease some thought bubbles at the audience; this will completely throw them off the fact that very little is actually happening in this scene of any coherent value).
You see you began with a pure and innocent intention. You are ‘fans’ of Sherlock Holmes. You think you have a unique spin that nonetheless distills the essence of the character and most prominent plot-lines into one self contained modern update. You cast a not quite there yet but on his way to prominence consummate actor and very nice bloke in lead role. You use the landmarks of London as aesthetic asset. This is it!
(Music amps up and up and travels with increased mania as Sherlock’s own narrative unfolds; camerawork should also go completely mad at this point)
Finally..a chance to fuse the comforts of old school Britannia to the new world Americana opportunities of mass media. You begin as underdogs..your masters at the BBC..they doubt you..so you team with an independent production company..YOU are in control and if it works..and work it does, against the odds, in a quiet summer schedule of 2010..well boys, you have just created your very own product, brand, hero.
The public love it. It’s an international sensation: from Chinese people to Harrison Ford..everybody loves Sherlock! It has genuine charm, warmth, novelty and substantial logic fused to novel character beats and coherent stories. There are innovations in its format: those text messages floating onscreen: pure genius! And yet..it’s never enough, is it?
Of course, my own suspicions were ‘aroused’ in series 2 when you turned my Dear Irene ‘The Woman’ Adler from a beautiful actress who outwitted me to some awful Dominatrix (why, why, WHY?). But I let it go and gave benefit of the doubt. I was wrong to think you could somehow pull back. No. You just marched forward. MORE power! MORE ‘posh’! Come 2014, by series 3.. You need Sherlock Holmes to be the very vehicle for the life that your media luvvy friends pretend they hate yet all along are propping up themselves…that of the elites.
(Cut to uncomfortable close up of Sherlock’s face..because for some reason we are told that everyone now fancies him..which is weird..because..having been told it..it’s now sort of happened in reality..and Goth Squee fan-girls on Tumblr worldwide worship at the Cumber-shrine..)
(Moffat stands up in a panic and cold sweat)
(Gatiss smiles and giggles)
SH: Shut up!
Gatiss: No, Let him continue..please!
SH: Who? Me..or..him?
Moffat: I like that. Clever, manic, dialogue exchange. Take a note of that, would you?
Sit down. Keep listening..the problem is not yet solved!
So what DOES happen, come series 3 -4 of your beloved television show? Simple, again. Having conquered the world through Sherlock Holmes, you think: ‘why stop there?’.
Let’s take on James Bond, Jason Bourne, Dark Knight and throw those into the mix. Cue lots of British establishment /Whitehall/spy references and military imagery. Entire shots lifted, from a Bond film called SKYFALL. A robbery so brazen, gentlemen, that you did it in plain sight and nobody even dared question it, such was your Napoleonic grip on the media.
And why stop there? You also dream of being Richard Curtis perhaps? So let’s throw in some faux eccentricities..an inept Father..a quirky Housekeeper whose late husband was a big time drug dealer (he really wasn’t, you know). Oh and social realism..we MUST have that, wot?
I know! Make Sherlock an actual drug addict (I’m really not..I took recreational cocaine in an era where such practice was akin to smoking a cigarette..something you incidentally and weirdly make a VERY big deal of in your show and MORE than my suddenly becoming, from nowhere..a ‘junkie?’..God forbid that a national screen hero might SMOKE CIGARETTES?!).
Maybe even throw in a coded reference to Jimmy Savile? Yes, why not. By no means insensitive when the show is distributed through the BBC? And let’s not simply have Sherlock take down an evil television presenter..no..it MUST be somehow connected to Watson’s wife and her mission to help Watson help Sherlock help Watson.Are you keeping up?
Said wife must also be a strident feminist (even though you made feminism the villain in that ghastly Victorian episode) and unremarkable in every way. Entirely unconvincing as a ‘ruthless assassin’. But she hates the Tories no doubt and thinks ‘posh boys’ love domination.
Interesting..how you made Mrs Mary Watson the mouthpiece for everything that was going wrong with your show, gentlemen? You hated all things posh and establishment and yet you are so DESPERATE to be a part of that very system that you framed entire characters to personify that implicit agenda in its own paradoxical confusion?
And you loved women and their rights so dearly, that each and every female character was either downtrodden at one end of the spectrum or a dominatrix at the other? And bang in the middle? Either victims or lunatics or misguided villains or just very dead (yet somehow able to interact in a fictional universe whose essential message is about logic and NOT succumbing to faux sentiment or mawkish notions of ghosts and everlasting life?).
Which would all be fine, except that you were the enemies of elitism, gentlemen! Your show had an egalitarian, organic CHARM when first it launched. Your Sherlock was an underdog, triumphing against all odds. And the core appeal was never being a brand.
So you did NOT need to keep shouting at the audience ‘THIS IS SHERLOCK HOLMES AND HE IS BRILLIANT‘ or have a closing montage where I run into the sunset to solve crimes with Watson like Batman and Robin.
You did not NEED to keep meta-textually inserting references to the mythology OF the show or its parent canon. Why the bloody hell would I wear a Deer-Stalker hat IF i am the ‘modern’ (ie not simply a more logical descendant of) Sherlock Holmes? At what point would I describe myself as a ‘high functioning sociopath?’.
And so on.
In short, you became greedy..over-ambitious. The grander your ambitions and the bigger the brand: the less faithful you were to the pervasive charms that ignited the show’s potential in the first place.
You forgot that you have genius, too, aside from the Conan Doyle inspiration but best contained when fused to that canon of material. Moffat: THE greatest plot-smith who lived among those other hacks for hire. Gatiss: master of the macabre! ROYSTON VASEY! BRILLIANT! GIRL IN THE FIREPLACE!! BLINK!! And yes, series 1 and 2 of SHERLOCK!
But you lost your way. You lost that spark. Got sloppy. Smug. Happens to all the best masterminds. Even Moriarty. Even me.
People therefore turned away from liking your Sherlock show. But viewing figures and interest remained high..because the essential germs of charm can still be retrieved.
Gatiss (smiling, laughing, hair changing colour, umbrella / cigarette / a n other prop being played with for effect): But that’s..that’s BRILLIANT.
Moffat: No it isn’t. He’s just taking what everyone else has said and rearranging it.
SH: Whyever not? Worked pretty well for you.
Moffat: I like that. Take a note of that line.
SH: A line? Of cocaine?
Moffat: No..something more potently addictive to audiences..fast moving script dialogue that sounds really clever.
SH: Just don’t overuse it again..addiction is destructive. Anyway..case closed..problem solved..please resolve the financials / fee etc with my agents here..
Gatiss (softly): Agents? But I don’t understand? There are only ourselves within this room?
Precisely! You see, gentlemen, YOU two ARE still on my side and remain a GREAT asset in waiting. My appointed, anointed agents. At least until that Downey chap makes another movie. And I am entrusting YOU with my legacy, again. Take a short break..then make MORE Sherlock. LOTS more. That’s right: MORE. People like it. People WANT it. Even those that claim to HATE it.
But when I say Sherlock I MEAN Sherlock. Not some pastiche mish mash of whatever you’d LIKE to make at some point in the future, past or mix of both (sorry..that line sounded too Doctor Who..a common problem I suffer of late). Back to the LOGIC. That coherent problem solving from which character and comedy and genuine charm will come. Do that, and people will love you all over again. I promise.
The only issue is time and money: how can you possibly re-assemble that excellent team again, on budget? An impossible problem? No. If anyone can solve it..it’s not Holmes and Watson..but Moffat and Gatiss, backed up by the wonderful Cumberbatch.
(The Three men look at each other and start laughing..the house blows up and they are seen outside, still laughing as a montage shows Baker Street reassembled and this cliffhanger ignored, entirely..as we get SHERLOCK, series FIVE, via a Christmas special..sometime around 2020..Doctor Strange sequel schedule permitting ;))
THE GAME IS AFOOT!
NB: Neither Mr Gatiss nor Mr Moffat actually contributed to or endorsed this piece. It’s a satire thing. Also FICTION. Or IS it? I see the hand of MORIARTY in this.
SHERLOCK SERIES 4 is now ready to order for Home entertainment..and available for viewing on BBC I-Player for a limited period. A fifth series has not been ruled out by the key personnel involved. Series 1-3 are available for streaming on NetFlix.
A ‘writers’ room’ has been launched meantime to generate ideas for possible sequels to the Robert Downey Jr /Guy Ritchie Sherlock movies.
No actual Cumberbatches were harmed in the making of this article 😉