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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

omg: a modern Sherlock Holmes from Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss? I’m so there

Guardian, you had me at your headline:

Sherlock Holmes is back… sending texts and using nicotine patches

I had a similar idea years ago — I wanted to put Sherlock Holmes in New York’s East Village in the early 1990s, with bike messengers as the Baker Street Irregulars and faxes instead of telegrams — and I never did anything with it, because, well, it would have been fan fiction, and Fan Fiction Is Bad, Lowly, And The Domain Of Frustrated Fangirls. But between all the “Jane Austen solves mysteries” novels and how the word reboot has had to be redefined to describe TV and cinema appropriations of existing characters in the interim 20 years, I’m really sorry I didn’t run with that idea. It’s obvious now that the only difference between “mainstream popular entertainment” and “fan fiction” — apart from the quality issues; most fan fiction is indeed dreadful and unreadable — is whether a fan fiction writer has the access to get his fan fiction published or produced.

Such as Steven Moffat:

Coming to BBC1 next Sunday, Sherlock is a re-imagining of the Conan Doyle stories, with Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role and Martin Freeman as his Watson. The three 90-minute episodes were commissioned on the strength of a pilot that was never shown and have already been sold around the world. Resembling a cross between Withnail and I and The Bourne Ultimatum, there is also a hint of Doctor Who about the drama; hardly surprising, since it has been written and created by Doctor Who writers Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat.

Not that I’m complaining, mind, about Moffat and his access. This sounds like goody cheeky geeky fun:

The bare forearm of Sherlock Holmes stretches up ominously: his fist is clenched, his sinews taut, but there is no illicit substance on view, no tourniquet; instead, beige nicotine patches line his pale skin. For this is a modern Holmes, inside a modern 221b Baker Street.

“This, Watson, is a three-patch problem,” the great consulting detective announces from his armchair; not the knotty “three-pipe problem” of Arthur Conan Doyle’s original.

and I plan to endeavor to watch this via methods best left unelaborated upon. And should there be anything worth saying, I’ll have something to say about it.

Love this bit:

For Gatiss, 43, the “lightbulb moment” came when he was speaking to the Sherlock Holmes Society of London and discussing the fact that the original Watson was invalided home after serving in Afghanistan. “It is the same war now, I thought. The same unwinnable war.”

It makes me hope that there will be good dramatic reasons for a retelling of Holmes, even if it’s a slap in the face of “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

Also: Benedict Cumberbatch sounds like a J.K. Rowling character. He’s the guy who designs wizard robes. Has a little shop in Diagon Alley. Does custom work for Gilderoy Lockhart. Right?

(Thanks to many readers for the heads-up.)

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  • Overflight

    First Moffat makes Jekyll now Sherlock. Could this be the beginning of a series of modern re-imaginings of classic novels? I am so there.

    Now for the inevitable guessing of which novel will follow. Hawkins, i.e. Treasure Island set in modern times with Long John Silver as a Somalian pirate with a tragic backstory? Nemo, in which a descendant of the titular captain fights against polluters, pirates and other sea based villains from his high tech sub? Crusoe, where…oh wait, there’s a series by that name already. Robinson, a compelling drama in the vein of Cast Away? The possibilities are endless.

    (I came up with these from the top of my head and for the life of me can’t fathom why all of them involve the sea. Weird.)

  • Lisa

    can’t wait for your review – it’s the only thing on tv to watch this summer

    you guys get Mad Men – we get this

  • Heather

    Looks great and I’m glad they incorporated their first meeting as most adaptations don’t mention it. I think everyone’s written a SH fanfic at onetime or another..strangely most of them watch DW as well.

    Cumberbatch(great name)looks good and just slightly unconventionally handsome to work and as a fan of MF, it’s good to see him again though playing his everyman role again.

    “you guys get Mad Men – we get this”

    Given that I’m not a fan of MM, I’d gladly trade.

  • If Freeman is in it I’ll watch it. He was great in The Office and Hitchhikers Guide.

  • PJK

    For a trailer to Sherlock see => http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cSQq_bC5kIw

  • I_Sell_Books


  • I_Sell_Books

    You have seen The League of Gentlemen, of which Mark Gatiss is a member, right? And his novels aren’t bad, either.

  • Barb

    I like both actors so, hopefully, this will be interesting though I wish it wasn’t modernized.

  • Cathy

    PBS has been advertising this in Masterpiece, apparently for the fall though I haven’t seen it on their schedule yet.

  • Lisa

    Someone asked Moffat this on twitter

    @steven_moffat Isnt Sherlock Holmes–Doctor Who without all the cool powers?

    and he replied

    Some would say it’s the other way round. But in fact it’s BOTH WAYS ROUND!!!!

  • Mark

    … a cross between Withnail and I and The Bourne Ultimatum …

    Sign me up.

  • Lisa

    He later elaborated by saying this

    Moffat also described the differences between the characters of the Doctor and Holmes, calling the pair “opposites”.

    “I think the Doctor is more human,” he said. “I think he’s more playful, and more ordinary and more distractible. They are sort of opposite. The Doctor is an alien, a remote outsider, who aspires to be one of us. He likes playing around with us. And Sherlock Holmes aspires to be a Time Lord.

  • MaryAnn

    You have seen The League of Gentlemen, of which Mark Gatiss is a member, right?

    I have the complete box set, and I’ve watched a bit of it, but I wasn’t impressed. I keep meaning to find time to give it another shot.

  • Paul

    “It’s obvious now that the only difference between “mainstream popular entertainment” and “fan fiction” — apart from the quality issues; most fan fiction is indeed dreadful and unreadable — is whether a fan fiction writer has the access to get his fan fiction published or produced.”

    Yes, that second point is one difference.

    Another issue is that the copyright has probably run out on books by Austen, Doyle, Dickens, etc.

    As for the quality of fiction vs. fan fiction, I submit that the quality difference is partly an illusion created by how fan fiction is put on websites without much in the way of vetting or editing, while normal fiction includes a lot of crap that never makes it past the slush readers that suffer through it for us.

  • Lisa

    I’ve never seen a full episode of the League of Gentlemen but I really liked the film – very Pirandello. Also Michael Sheen was in it, always a good thing.

  • Jan Willem

    Do give The League of Gentlemen another shot, MaryAnn, I’m sure it’ll grow on you. In a previous life I subtitled all three series for Dutch telly, which was a blast. The three writer/actors played practically ALL roles and there’s a buckload of (horror) film references scattered throughout to boot. Mark Gatiss’s inept vet in the first series is a standout.

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