Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Leaving the Source...

I love the BBC production of Sherlock.  The acting is solid and the editing phenomenal.  It is the modernized version of Sherlock Holmes that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle deserves.  Clever adaptation of the stories and wordplay on the original titles, and so it concerns me more than a little that the series is going down the path of leaving the source material.

I've written about this before.  House, another series inspired by the great detective, left the character that had been crafted to be Holmes and lost fans and ratings.  The Mentalist forgot that Red John was supposed to be a backstory and made the series all about the quest for an unbelievable super serial killer.  By the time they killed off Red John, I doubt even a series reboot with virtually all new cast will save the show.  The same is true for other series.  Bones' consistent refusal to let go of another super serial killer Pellant and overuse of character backstory with adopted daughters, the sudden appearance of institutionalized brothers and a stolen wealth that apparently had no protection or criminal recourse what so ever consistently damages what was once an okay show.

But I digress.  I want to make a point that leaving the source is seldom if ever a good idea.


It is pretty clear that there will be at least two more seasons of Sherlock if the show's creator is to be believed.  It all boils down to schedule since both Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Watson (Martin Freeman) and creator/producer Steven Moffat (Sherlock and Doctor Who) have pretty hectic schedules even to do the three episode series.  But more and more, season three, the most recent, began to drift from the source material and more and more towards another Holmes inspired show Elementary.

The first two seasons were clever modernizations of and loosely adapted plots of original stories.  Season three not so much.  Still a clever word play on titles like "The Adventure of the Empty House" which becomes "The Empty Hearse" in the series; The Sign of Four which becomes "The Sign of Three"; and "His Last Bow" which becomes "His Last Vow." All three shows stray far afield from the namesakes.  I am willing to give the series creators some latitude for John and Mary Watson's wedding as clever and entertaining, even though the murder mystery was to say the least a bit of a stretch and really, as near as I can recall, has no inspiration from any of the stories.

The last episode of season three strays even farther.  "His Last Vow" comes off as sort of a cross of "His Last Bow," what was essentially a World War I propaganda spy story with the addition of blackmail which I suppose might be very loosely inspired by perhaps "A Scandal in Bohemia."  That is not the issue.  It is poorly plotted.  Mary Watson suddenly becoming a super assassin is just plain silly. I know.  I know.  There were clues early on in the first episode of season three, but to leave the character that far from the source borders on the ridiculous.

Then there is the whole thing that Watson is attracted to dangerous people like Sherlock and Mary.  The entire point of the original Watson was not just that he was Holmes' biographer but offered Holmes a human side.  To make the new Watson some kind of danger groupie is really kind of far off the mark. There is also the idea that there is nothing Holmes would not do to protect Watson.  It is doubtful that he would miss the keys that Mary is not what she seems to be and just as unlikely that he would let Watson continue in said relationship before he marries her.

The villain in the episode, Magnussen, is the prince of blackmail.  The problem is he has all the information memorized so no one can get at the secrets he knows. The plotting problem is that a blackmailer that has nothing he can lay his hands on as proof to the secrets is really not much of a threat as a blackmailer.  There nothing to publish.  Nothing to prove what he says it true - knowledgeable, yes; the prince of blackmail, no.  All it takes is one person to call his bluff and the entire "I know your secrets" kingdom collapses on a lack of proof.  Given the number of power brokers Magnussen has apparently challenged, it is highly unlikely his "memory without proof" blackmail would stand for long.  It just does not make logical sense.

Next is the murder.  Holmes has admitted that he is a "highly functioning sociopath." The fact that he cares about Watson and even Mycroft and Mary, makes the idea that he has no moral compunctions and would leave John Watson to his fates by murdering Magnussen also stretches the credulity.  Holmes is a sociopath, not a psychopath.  The murder by someone who has again and again valued the use of his mind to solve problems is out of character.  With the problem of the lack of evidence in the possession of our blackmailer, Watson is in little danger.  The entire scene of Magnussen flicking Watson's face was both unbelievable and illogical.  Watson has demonstrated in a number of episodes his abilities to protect himself and his willingness to kill if needed. He would not likely stand there while someone threatened his wife, belittled his friend and embarrassed him.

Last, but not least, is the return of Moriarty.  We watched Moriarty shoot himself.  Now we do know that Moffat loves a good red herring, and we can only hope that the reappearance of Moriarity is one involving his criminal organization.  The alternative would be the creation of another super villain like Pellant and Red John which is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Dear Mr. Moffat, please return to the source.  Doyle would be proud. The fans of Sherlock will forgive you. You won't become the British version of Elementary.  You have 56 stories and four novels to pick from.  The actual adaptation of The Sign of Four.  In other words, while you may be planning seasons 4 and 5, the source is the best place to start.

Newly edited.  Thanks Abby for poking my memory.*