Tag Archives: Arthur Conan Doyle

BBC’s Sherlock – A.K.A. Emotional Trauma in Less than 10 Episodes

Oh, Dear Readers, this is my favorite television program.  This is a tragedy.  Why is this a tragedy you ask?  There are only six episodes.  What?  Surely you mean six seasons, right?  No, I do, indeed, mean six episodes.  Each season is three episodes and each episode is two hours long (with commercials).  The real tragedy is the length of the hiatus between seasons…I don’t even want to think about it, but for you I will.  The first season aired in 2010.  The third season will air the end of 2013 or the beginning of 2014…does that give you a clue?  So with all of these egregious insults to the fans, why is it that this is still my favorite show on television? It is just that stinking good.

This is a show about Sherlock Holmes (you’re shocked, I’m sure), and I have been a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective since…well, I can’t remember when I read the first stories.  I do remember that I borrowed the book from my cousin in my early teenage years, and I never returned it.  I still have it on my bookshelf today. (Really truly sorry.)  It has been read well.  It isn’t a book that is there for decoration only (Apparently this is a thing people do, buy books to look at them and not to read…why?  It’s a book!  Read it!).  I don’t have books that are for decoration only.

I almost didn’t watch this when Netflix recommended it.  The BBC had created a modernized Sherlock Holmes.  I was a little worried about a modern Sherlock.  Holmes just seemed so at home in 1895, that it was hard to imagine him in our modern era.  I didn’t want them to do something silly like…move him to New York. (Sorry,Elementary, I bear you no ill will.  I swear!  I am a big Johnny Lee Miller fan, but, for me, Holmes just belongs in London.)  Two things persuaded me to give it a shot.

First, co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss write for Doctor Who.  (Yes, I am a Whovian.  It will get its own post, but it is very hard to explain and still sound…sane.)  By this point, I’d become addicted to Doctor Who and I finally understood the cries of “MOFFAATTT!!!” that explode across the internet when certain episodes are mentioned.  Anyway, who doesn’t like to suffer more emotional trauma at the hands of a writer who has already proven that the scariest villains are the ones who “kill you kindly”?  I did not understand what a danger Mark Gatiss would become…I have since learned my lesson.  Always beware (but watch immediately), when these two are in cahoots!  Steven Thompson came out of left field and clobbered me, I had no idea.  Apparently, I am a glutton for punishment.

Empire Awards 2008 - Martin Freeman

Empire Awards 2008 – Martin Freeman (Photo credit: claire_h)

Secondly, Bilbo Baggins plays John Watson…I mean Martin Freeman, who plays Bilbo Baggins, plays John Watson.  (Yes, I am also a Tolkien fan.  I could go on and on about The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion…Good grief, just to attend one of his lectures…) Martin Freeman did such an excellent job of embodying a favorite character who I have visited regularly from somewhere around the age of 12 through….well, 36 in The Hobbit, that I would have been willing to watch him act out the phone book.

I began the first episode A Study in Pink on a Saturday morning.  I watched the last episode The Reichenbach Fall later that night.  Here’s what I discovered.  The writers are brilliant.  The actors take these brilliant writers and bring the characters to life.  The jerks make you love the characters and then…yep, trauma. (I mean all of you, actors, writers, photography people and don’t forget the music…you’re all to blame!)  The rest of the crew make everything look so striking and lovely and…well, long before the end credits rolled on A Study in Pink I was hooked.  There are all these details you need to pay attention to.  You can’t be doing other things while you watch, because this is a show for thinkers.  Sunday, I called a friend and I ensnared her too.  There was no way I was going to suffer alone. (You’re welcome, you know who you are.)  Right, I think you’ve caught on to the fact that I watched the entirety of the show twice in two days now.  Still not bored.

So the brilliant writers, Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss and Steve Thompson, they manage to write a script that stays very close to the Doyle, tone and spirit, while still being very fresh and modern.  If you love the original “canon” you will not be disappointed.  Mark Gatiss (otherwise known to Sherlokians the world over as Godtiss) is an enormous fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, and it shines through.  Even if you can quote lines from Doyle, you’ll enjoy Sherlock without becoming bored.  It picks up just enough details, or maybe it is that the right details are chosen from those beloved stories, like the scratched message by the victim in A Study in Scarlet, to warm the hearts of those who love them.   They do love to torture the audience with cliffhangers.  Season One ends with The Great Game in which Sherlock and Moriarty meet face to face for the first time.  Season Two ends with The Reichenbach Fall which parallels Doyle’s story brilliantly.   (Andrew Scott, is an amazing James Moriarty; canny, clever and more than a little bit insane.  “Honey, you should see me in a crown.”)

However, A script will only get you so far.  In order to bring a show to the kind of popularity that Sherlock enjoys, you need so much more.  The facial expressions…good grief. Martin Freeman’s John Watson is unbelievably good.  The delivery of the dialogue is perfect, but John Watson’s silences speak louder than his words in many scenes, and it is fitting for a taciturn former Army doctor.  John defies everyone’s advice when he befriends Sherlock, and you can almost see the “screw you, I do what I want” written on his face during these scenes.

Chinatown, London. Benedict Cumberbatch during...

Sherlock Holmes is played by Benedict Cumberbatch.  He really brought Sherlock to life for me.  I read the books without thinking too much about what makes him who we see when he meets Dr. Watson.  I’m reading them again with a different eye now.  Mr. Cumberbatch makes Sherlock, a self-proclaimed “high functioning sociopath”, human.  Given, he’s a human who is awkward, lacking in any kind of social niceties (unless he’s faking it to get information), and who really has no idea how to relate to people, but he is very human, nonetheless.  In the original Doyle, Holmes was always at the cutting edge of technology and science.  Our Sherlock is no different, his designer clothes, constant texting and use of Google at crime scenes is something that is something that is easily imaginable for Doyle’s Holmes.  You catch guarded glimpses into a man who has been damaged.  For a man as seemingly cold as Sherlock is to tug at the heartstrings takes an amazing actor, and Benedict Cumberbatch certainly delivers.

Seriously, I could rave about the brilliance of the acting in this show for pages, and I’m not even touching on performances by Rupert Graves, Louise Brealey, Una Tubbs, Lara Pulver, Andrew Scott, and Mark Gatiss himself right now.  The cinematography is just fantastic, and the music!   If I tried to say everything I want to about this show in a single post, I’d still be writing by the time Season Three airs, which feels like half past never, although they promise the end of this year or the beginning of next….I got sidetracked.  Sorry.  I’m getting impatient.  Okay, fine, maybe it is just that both the main characters are played by amazing actors who have catapulted into hugely successful careers on the big screen…Star Trek: Into Darkness, The Hobbit are just two of the multitude of projects these two have taken on.  Here are a few others, and I know I haven’t even gotten half of what Mr. Cumberbatch has been working on.  The World’s End ,The Fifth Estate, and August: Osage County don’t even scratch the surface.  It isn’t like they’re busy or anything.  Maybe they all just like to torture the fans.  I’ll tell you this much, I’m sure none of them will ever tell you which it is.

Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty at the Reichenbac...

Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. From Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Final Problem. Original caption in Strand Magazine was “The Death of Sherlock Holmes” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

About the fans though…The “fandom” it is one of the oldest and most eccentric out there.  The Sherlockians are enthusiastic, incredibly knowledgeable, and just don’t go away.  They even warrant their own entry in Urban Dictionary.  Fans of the show, obsessively pick over every detail of each episode (there’s nothing else for them to do while they wait for the next to air).   They create elaborate theories, and can find clues and hidden meanings behind all sorts of things.  Then they begin to get bored…you really shouldn’t let these fans get bored.  They create things…fanfics, memes, videos…then they start to get ridiculous.

There’s an additional convert to the fandom just this week, and I am perfectly willing to recruit more, any takers?  Did I mention not to let this fandom get bored?  We’ve all gone a little nuts waiting for the next episode to air.  As Lewis Carroll says:

“Have I gone mad?”

“I’m afraid so.  You’re entirely bonkers.  But I’ll tell you a secret.  All the best people are.”

‘Til Next Time,

Jessica

Is anyone already there with me?

What’s your favorite television show?

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Fragile Things: Short Fictions and Wonders

photo (78)I bought Fragile Things several months ago and it sat in my to-read pile for a while.  Then I pulled it out and started to slide slowly down into the short stories and poems in this collection.  This is the book that I decided, with your help (Thank you SO much!), to have Mr. Gaiman sign for me.  When I chose this I hadn’t finished reading it.  I’d maybe gotten halfway through when I left it on a plane….yep, I left the sucker on the plane on my way back from Houston.  What’s a girl to do?  Well, this girl will take ANY excuse to go to the bookstore, so I bought another copy.  Fortunately, I had time to read it before the signing, and was exceptionally sure that Fragile Things was the representation of his writing that I needed him to sign.

I know it is already a bit battered (multiple plane rides, states, and bags will do that to you…I mean to a book, right, a book.)  There was a moment of embarrassment over the state of the book that I was asking him to sign for me, but I thought about how I would feel if I were an author. (This not an atypical occurrence for me.)  Worn means read.  Thumbed through, sections underlined, notes in the margin…loved.  Some books are like The Velveteen Rabbit, the love you show them is reflected on the outside.  Now, I can’t say that I know Neil Gaiman, but he seems like the type of guy to understand that.

I can usually skip the introductions, but I really enjoyed the insight the introduction gives the pieces in Fragile Things .  Mr. Gaiman, in his short stories especially, does not only a supremely decent job of creeping me out but also of surprising me.  They are dark, humorous and…twisty.  The poetry though…I do so love a good poem, and this was my first exposure to any written by Neil Gaiman.  The poems in this collection are filled with grace and beauty and a darkness that slowly encompasses you, rather like someone dimming the lights slowly instead of plunging you into the dark all at once.  The flow and the imagery are just gorgeous.

My mother is a true connoisseur of poetry.  If you give her the choice between a novel and a collection of poetry, she’ll pick the poems every time.  She even co-opted my Norton’s Anthology of Poetry from college. (She said she should get to read it too.  She did pay for it after all.  She has a point.  Now, ahem years later, she still has it.)  My Grandma Joye, her mother, wrote poetry, maybe that’s where this love comes from.  Compared to her, I dabble a bit, but I do know what I like.  I like what is in Fragile Things.  I read my Mom a couple of them.  (Isn’t poetry so much better when you read it aloud?)  She thought they were beautiful.  My nephew thought they were weird and creepy, he’s 12….he’s not wrong either.

When I was at the book signing for The Ocean at the End of the Lane someone asked me which story was my favorite.  I really hate that question.  TheOceanattheEndoftheLane_Hardcover_1359996597It is like choosing a favorite child or something.  Me, I’m the person that every third song on the radio is a favorite song, and there are too many books that I love…all for different reasons.  Who can choose a favorite?  Actually, I read a quote from Neil Gaiman that I find to be absolutely true,

“Picking five favorite books is like picking the five body parts you’d most like not to lose.”

Some of the pieces in this collection, like A Study in Emerald, I’d read before online on Neil Gaiman’s website.  It is a Sherlock Holmes meets H.P. Lovecraft kind of piece.  What?  Yes, you totally read that right.  Even though I’d already read this online, it was definitely worth a re-read, and it was even more intriguing the second time around because I’d recently read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet and watched the BBC Sherlock episode A Study in Pink…well, I watched it a few times. (There are only six episodes!  This deserves a post all its own, and I promise it will get one…you just have to wait a bit.)  A Study in Emerald definitely had its surprising, creepy, and surprisingly creepy moments, let me assure you.

So, Other People is about a guy that goes to hell and the demon he meets there.  I found it to be absolutely fascinating and thought provoking. October in the Chair is a story inside of another story….just read it.  Instructions is fantastic, and I love the reassurance (or warning?) that is included:

“From the back garden you will be able to see the wild wood.

The deep well you walk past leads down to Winters’ realm;

there is another land at the bottom of it.

If you turn around here,

you can walk back, safely;

you will lose no face.  I will think no less of you.”

How to Talk to Girls at Parties is told from the perspective of a sixteen year old boy who gets dragged to a party that isn’t what either of them think it is.  Every time I read it, I really want to know what happens to upset Vic that way, don’t you?

photo (77)Then there’s the piece that closes the collection, The Monarch of the Glen, that stars Shadow from American Gods.  It was good to see Shadow again.  I didn’t realize until the opening paragraphs that I’d missed him.  Really good characters are like that, you need to visit them every now and again.

I could go on and on about the pieces in this collection.  There are so many things to say! Strange Little Girls, Keepsakes and Treasures, Sunbird (oh, you have to read this one!) and so many others that I didn’t want to leave out and couldn’t find space to describe.  Just read it, and you’ll understand.

Some short stories or short story collections I read and I feel cheated out of a novel.  I’m left wanting more, as if this is only enough to whet my appetite…an appetizer instead of a meal.  Fragile Things is a meal in itself…at least three courses, maybe four, and I certainly didn’t close the cover feeling unsatisfied…maybe a bit disturbed and unsettled.  However, if we wanted puppy dogs and sunshine…of the normal sort, we wouldn’t be reading Mr. Gaiman, now would we?  I’m sure that Neil Gaiman could happily write about puppy dogs and sunshine but the sunshine would be a winter sun, cold and wan, and the puppy….well that wouldn’t be a normal puppy at all.  The last time, it was a Hell-hound trapped in the body/attitude of a little dog … who knows what he’d think of next, and that’s why we love him.

This week’s “first lines” is a little bit different.  I picked two  Feeders and Eaters and Going Wodwo for a bit of a sneak peek.

FIRST LINE:

Feeders and Eaters

“This is a true story, pretty much.  As far as that goes, and whatever good it does anybody.”

Going Wodwo

“Shedding my shirt, my book, my coat, my life

Leaving them, empty husks and fallen leaves

Going in search of food and for a spring

Of sweet water.”

‘Til Next Time,

Jessica