Tag Archives: Sherlock

Matt watches the Christmas specials #8: The Snowmen (Spoiler-free)

28 Dec

Doctor Who - The Snowmen

Title: The Snowmen
Written by: Steven Moffat
Year: 2012

It’s 1892! It’s Oswin! No, wait… It’s Clara! …or is it Oswin? The Snowmen! Are you thinking about them? Well… stop! Winter is coming. Sherlock Holmes! It’s smaller on the outside! Doctor Who? Dangerous question…

There’s so much new stuff in The Snowmen that I’m just going to say it right now: there’s a cool new title sequence and theme, a fabulous new TARDIS and – of course – a new companion… Phew! Now I can get on to the actual story…

The Doctor, The SnowmenThe Doctor’s lost his mojo after the departure of the Ponds. But on the horizon is an impending invasion-by-ice, spearheaded by one Dr. Simeon (Richard E. Grant).

Simeon is working with the story’s big bad – a giant snowglobe containing telepathic snow, voiced excellently by Sir Ian McKellen – to bring about Humanity’s last Winter. On hand are the Veiled Detective (Madame Vastra, played by Neve McIntosh) and her plucky companion (Jenny, played by Catrin Stewart), but they may not be enough to stop him. Can they convince the Doctor, who has become a recluse, to help them?

timthumb (4)Right from the off it should be said that Grant; master of the stone-face and mouth-curling sneer, fits perfectly into the role of a Who villain, though (considering his acting talent) feels relatively underused throughout. It’s a pity to see the stellar Withnail & I actor go to waste, and reminds this reviewer of a certain Bill Bailey suffering a similar fate last year. The titular monsters of the story are actually far less central to the plot than you’d think, but still manage to make some menacing appearances.

Not to worry though, because this is balanced out by the bigger story that’s taking place; the introduction of new companion, Clara. Or is it Oswin? The new companion to be, Clara (Jenna Louise Coleman), is leading a double life: One as a barmaid and another as a governess, who shares many characteristics with Mary Poppins (Surely not a coincidence!). As the latter she also gets to tell some inspired and “true” bedtime stories. (I thought the one about fish was particularly good!)

Coleman gets to show her acting prowess throughout and is clearly set for great things aboard the TARDIS. She steps into Doctor Who with a confidence and talent that I’ve not seen since Billie Piper first graced our screens in Rose. There’s no pretence about whether or not she’s ever going to be the Doctor’s new friend – Clara simply seizes the initiative, quite triumphantly I might add, and makes the decision for us.

Clara and The Doctor

Matt Smith and Coleman have a wonderful chemistry onscreen and the scenes they share are a joy to watch. Both give energetic performances and seem to have a natural rhythm for each other that I look forward to seeing more of.

Smith is on top form, as usual, but one can’t help thinking that the Doctor’s moody phase of thinking “the universe doesn’t care” could have been used a bit more effectively. While Smith delivers the scenes in which he’s playing a more miserable Doctor excellently, the idea that the Time Lord has given up never really hits home.

Victorian London itself looks splendid in this story, and is reminiscent of Fourth Doctor story The Talons of Weng Chiang. Suitably, as in Talons, the Doctor also dons the deerstalker and inverness cape once more to impersonate the fictional Sherlock Holmes in a hilarious sequence of not-quite-deductions.

Vastra, Strax and Jenny

Making a return for the first time since A Good Man Goes To War are Vastra, Jenny and Strax. (Or, the Silurian, the Victorian and the Sontaran Nurse.) Vastra and Jenny are just as brilliant here as they were before, and the notion of their marriage is dealt with just as it should be; as a matter of fact. I think this is good as a.) it’s currently an issue in politics and b.) because it makes you wonder why it’s such an issue in politics.

In a brilliant tip of the hat by Moffat, it’s implied that the pair’s antics around London inspired Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, and I thought the scene where Clara has to answer all of Vastra’s questions with one word was very cleverly written too.

Strax, on the other hand, takes over comic relief duty for this episode and does it rather well too. I’d like to see more of these three – and judging by the “coming soon” trailer for the rest of the series it looks like that’s definitely on the cards!

Doctor and Clara on the cloud

Favourite Moment: The Doctor, after thinking he’s sent Clara back to where she followed him from, retreats up into his home above the clouds – disappearing up an invisibly hidden ladder. Clara follows him and climbs the ladder, to discover a winding staircase that goes all the way up. When she gets to the top, we see the TARDIS and after she knocks, the Doctor pokes his head out. Scared, Clara hides, then runs back down before he sees her… Who says this episode wasn’t very Christmassy? Christmas stories are all about magic and wonder, and that did it for me! 

Although, like last year’s special, it’s very light on story, The Snowmen is still a great piece of television. The whole thing is very character driven, which works because it’s a companion introduction episode, not just a Christmas one. There are plenty of references to past stories that will bring a smile to fans that catch them, and yet it’s also the bold beginning of a new era for Doctor Who as well.

The Snowmen is an enchanting visit to Victorian London, managing to feel like Christmas without even mentioning it very much. A brilliant introduction to new companion Clara and a triumph in storytelling. Roll on 2013 and the rest of Series Seven!

8/10

Thanks for reading! What did you think of this year’s Christmas special? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section, below. For more reviews, click here.

The Sherlock Drinking Game

21 Jul

It’s the Sherlock drinking game! Created by me (GravityShmavity) and my friends. (Best played with whiskey/Coke, vodka/Coke or just beer.)

The six main rules are as follows:

  1. Drink when Sherlock’s name is spoken. (Damn you Mycroft.)
  2. Drink when John Watson’s name is spoken. (Damn you Mycroft!)
  3. Drink when Martin Freeman does his look-up-slightly-to-the-right-or-left-to-show-frustration-at-Sherlock look. (This look. Which happens a lot.)
  4. Drink whenever Sherlock makes a deduction. (We define this as anything that warrants one of the show’s signature “deduction sequences”.)
  5. Down your drink when Sherlock and John get into a cab.
  6. Down your drink whenever somebody dies or a dead body appears on screen (except in the beginning scenes in A Study in Pink, where all the first deaths count as the same).

The following rules can be selectively added (not necessarily all at once!), for the more serious contenders:

  • One finger when Mycroft’s name is spoken.
  • One finger whenever Mrs. Hudson knocks on the flat door, says “poop poop” or calls Sherlock and John “boys”.
  • One finger whenever Sherlock places the tips of all his fingers together in a thinking pose.
  • One finger whenever Sgt. Donovan calls Sherlock ”freak”.
  • One finger whenever Sherlock says something to Anderson.
  • One finger whenever John pulls out his gun.
  • Down your drink whenever Moriarty shouts.

Combine a good drink and some enthusiastic partners and this game will make you feel like poor Sherlock after his encounter with Irene Adler… Chin chin!

Sherlock: The Fall [SPOILERS]

17 Jan

Sherlock and Molly - the one who "doesn't count."So if you watched last night’s episode of Sherlock you may be wondering just how what you saw before your eyes could possibly have happened. If you didn’t watch it. STOP READING.

[SPOILERS AHEAD]

“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.”

Sherlock plays his last symphony?Spoiler denoting aside, Sherlock Holmes jumped off a rooftop last night and died in a draw-droppingly good episode of Sherlock written by Steve Thompson. There. If you read on anyway, despite the warnings, at least now you know straight away rather than slowly ruining the end for yourself over the course of a few paragraphs. On to business.

Sherlock Holmes jumped off a rooftop last night, and somehow survived. So just how did he do it?

My theory, and from what I have gathered others too, is that some kind of sleight-of-hand has occurred. But at which point? What do we know?

  • Sherlock specifically instructed John on where to stand. In fact, he was adamant and protested when John tried to move closer.
  • John saw Sherlock step off the rooftop and fall through the air. John watches with his own eyes as Sherlock plummets toward the ground.
  • However, John could not see the final impact. It was just out of his view. He had to turn a corner to see the body at ground level.
  • A body resembling Sherlock, that is dead (or fake), hit the pavement, bled and was seen by John and others. Dead, that is, from the fall, or prior to the incident.
  • Before John first came to the hospital (specifically the lab) and before Sherlock met Moriarty on the rooftop, Sherlock spoke to Molly and said “I need you”. Molly stated she “didn’t count” to Sherlock earlier in the episode. Moriarty, despite having used her in the previous series, is also likely to have overlooked her like Sherlock often does. Thus, Molly was not one of three people Moriarty’s people were watching.
  • Molly is an autopsy technician and works in the morgue. She has access to plenty of dead bodies and it is also possible, being that she handles bodies for the local police, that she could falsify an autopsy of a body.
  • At the time of Sherlock’s fall, a truck full of rubbish bags was parked on the roadside by the impact point which then pulled away. Again, could this be more than a coincidence?
  • As John moved to get close to the body, a passing cyclist knocked him over. Was this orchestrated? Surely the rider could see John in front of him long before he hit him.
  • When near the body, a distressed John was restrained by the crowd. Did John get a proper look at Sherlock’s “corpse”? He was clearly in shock and may not have been in his most observant state.
  • The body was then taken away by paramedics and Sherlock was later pronounced dead (off screen). We do not know by whom Holmes was pronounced dead, though it is not a huge leap in logic to assume that Molly (who conducts autopsies for Lestrade’s police force) would have conducted the autopsy, considering Lestrade’s team were the investigators in Sherlock’s supposed crime-fixing spree.

Now let us eliminate the impossible:

  • Sherlock somehow survived falling from a tall building and impacting on the pavement. Impossible. Nobody could survive that fall, especially with the added hard surface of the pavement below and no cushioning effect.
  • It was Sherlock’s body on the pavement, Sherlock is dead. Impossible, due to the above statement. We see Sherlock alive and brooding in the last scene, therefore he cannot have died.
  • It was not Sherlock who stepped off of the roof. Impossible. We know it is Sherlock, because he speaks to John on the phone and John sees him step off. If it were a cadaver then no phone call could have taken place – “Dead men tell no tales.”

What do we gain from this elimination? One fact: It was Sherlock who stepped off the building but not Sherlock who hit the pavement.

Conclusion: Somehow Sherlock A.) landed on something aside from the pavement that cushioned his fall and B.) managed to arrange for a body with his likeness to hit the pavement in almost the same instant.

And here, friends, the speculation begins:

SherlockHow did he do it? Did he ask Molly to synchronise the fall of another body that looks like him with his own, masking his escape and creating the illusion that it is him? If so, how did he make another body look like him? We know Moriarty made the kidnapped children scared of Sherlock earlier in the episode – is there a Sherlock mask or duplicate who was neatly disposed of (until Sherlock tracked it down) that the great detective found and used? Has some plastic surgery taken place on a cadaver of Molly’s? If so then how are the alterations not visible and how did they do such a perfect job? What is the significance of “IOU”? It is seen throughout, but never really explained – though it could just be meant in the normal sense, Sherlock doesn’t seem to think so. This is evidenced by the fact he’s repeating it over and over again when he thinks nobody is watching – except Molly. He later says to Molly “I need you”. Is he saying “You” or “U”? Food for thought.

Personally, this is what I think: Sherlock fell into the truck with the rubbish bags. At the same time, another body had been dropped (perhaps from a window out of John’s view) to coincide with Sherlock’s landing to mask it. Then the truck drove away, unnoticed in the commotion and panic caused by the alleged dead body of  the detective falling from the sky; just the effect any other suicide jumper’s body would have on a group of people. Finally John, who is already in shock before being knocked over by the cyclist and dazed further, assumes Sherlock to be dead after seeing the body and taking his pulse – despite the fact he has only seen Sherlock fall but not actually hit the concrete.

It’s just a theory, but that’s the fun of speculation. All we can do now is wait… for the return of Sherlock Holmes. Lets hope we don’t have to wait too long!

If you have any theories of your own, or any holes to poke in my own I would love to hear from you in the comments section below. Thanks for reading!

Sherlock: Love, Fear and Death – The Final Problem

12 Jan

The Final ProblemSo far in series 2 of Sherlock we’ve seen the great detective engage in a battle of wits with a fiery dominatrix and struggle as his body betrays him with fear of red-eyed hounds – but how will he (or whoever is left behind) confront the problem of death?

Sherlock and JohnWe certainly know that Sherlock can feel. More importantly, we know who he can feel for: John Watson. A certain bromance (that the actors assure us platonic, not romantic) has developed between our two heroes and one would certainly be devastated if the other were to kick the bucket, so to speak. We already know John Watson would die (or kill) for Sherlock (as evidenced in A Study in Pink and The Great Game) and, judging from his reaction to the CIA agent’s threat to kill John in A Scandal in Belgravia and his own statement claiming John is his only friend (in The Hound of Baskerville), we can presume Sherlock cares for John just as much.

MoriartyWatson, in the original story, doesn’t seem wracked with guilt upon finding out the truth – handily put to paper in a final letter to him from Holmes that explains all – and instead simply laments the loss of his friend. I wonder what form this moment will come in, and whether it will happen at all. In the original story, Moriarty lures Watson away from Holmes’ side by paying off a messenger to call the Doctor away to a patient in urgent need (whose condition is non-existent). While Holmes immediately realises this is a ploy, he lets Watson leave his side so as to bring an end to things (that has grown increasingly inevitable) – and spare Watson from the confrontation. Will John blame himself for Sherlock’s death? Watson has been, this series, repeatedly been depicted as Sherlock’s one weakness. Moriarty seemed to have already picked up on this in The Great Game – hence taking him as the final hostage – and I think he will re-use the strategy. Will Sherlock sacrifice himself to save John? Only time will tell. I will also be interested to see how John reacts to Sherlock’s supposed “death”. How will the Baker St. family (John, Mrs. Hudson and to an extent Mycroft, Lestrade and Molly) grieve for Sherlock? 

Having only just watched the (greatly inferior) Hollywood cousin of Sherlock yesterday, starring Robert Downy, Jr. and Jude Law, I can honestly say I truly am looking forward to the Moffat/Gatiss rendition of The Final Problem. While packed with action and a few laughs, the Downy Jr. Holmes is just not how I imagine the character – he’s too physical. I find Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, however, is pitch perfect. The movie had its moments, so (judging on the series so far) the TV show’s version is likely to be a thing of glory.

What I am most excited about though, of course, is the final confrontation between Holmes and Moriarty before the fall. There is just something so magnificently epic about two arch-enemies, who are perfectly matched in every respect, locked in a final struggle as they plummet into the roaring falls below them.

Personally, I’m counting the hours ’til Sunday!

“A personal contest between the two men ended, as it could hardly fail to end in such a situation, in their reeling over, locked in each other’s arms. Any attempt at recovering the bodies was absolutely hopeless, and there, deep down in that dreadful cauldron of swirling water and seething foam, will lie for all time the most dangerous criminal and the foremost champion of the law of their generation.”

Sherlock: A scandal in sexism?

4 Jan

The Woman - Irene Adler

UPDATE: The idea for this post came from a brilliantly argued piece I read here.

Originally, this post was meant to be a review of Sherlock Series 2, Episode 1. However, something far more interesting has come up. I submit to you, dear reader, is there a sexist undercurrent in the 2012 series opener of Sherlock?

Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes“To Sherlock Holmes she is always the woman. I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind. He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has ever seen, but as a lover he would have placed himself in a false position. He never spoke of softer passions, save with a give and a sneer… And yet there was but one woman to him, and that woman was Irene Adler, of dubious and questionable memory.”

When Irene Adler (Lara Pulver, who you may have seen in Spooks) and Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) first meet, we are presented with a sight that baffles even the world’s greatest detective himself: Adler emerges completely naked. Having been prepared for his arrival, knowing exactly who he is and why he has come, Adler turns Sherlock’s deduction technique against him and gives him nothing from which to deduce. For the first time in the show’s history, Sherlock can’t seem to glean anything from observation. Interestingly, to justify her choice, Adler comments that any disguise will always end up being a self portrait – and so it is better to wear no disguise at all. Right at the beginning of their relationship, Adler already displays her cunning. Worth noting, is that in the original story, the two characters never meet under anything but pretence – both approach and fool each other while in disguise, but they never talk openly and on even footing. It’s this kind of game that the two engage in for the rest of the episode: with Adler winning over and over right until the end. And that’s the interesting part: Steven Moffat changed the end.

For those who haven’t read the book, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (in which A Scandal in Bohemia is the first story), Irene Adler actually wins in the original story. Faced with a cunning plan by Holmes, she sees through his ruse and flies the coop, so to speak, never to be seen again save to deliver a note in person under (the aforementioned) disguise. So why did he change the ending? Surely, changing the end result of the plot strips the character Irene Adler of what makes her unique in the original story and earns her Holmes’ respect? Perhaps. But you have to remember something: the original story doesn’t actually continue after their first confrontation and, in that encounter, Adler does (in fact) win.

After obtaining the “camera phone”, Sherlock confidently strides around her apartment but fails to observe her retrieving the drug from her drawers which ultimately leads to his humiliating defeat. Stunned into submission and unable to speak he is taken through the steps of the boomerang thrower’s death by the brilliant Adler who has also deduced its true cause. She is, in cunning and brains, more than a match for him. We are then treated to a mesmerising scene in which Holmes can do nothing but fall into bed and clumsily stumble around upon waking – like someone who fell asleep and missed the party. Round 1 goes to Miss Adler, who has even returned his coat and changed the text tone on his phone as a final boast.

SherlockAdler continues to play games with Sherlock for the rest of the story, until he finally (at the episodes climax) turns the tables on her. What I believe happens in this scene may be different to what many assumed to be the case. Remember that while updated, and modernised, these stories echo the hearts of the originals they are pastiches of. I do not believe that Adler’s eventual defeat exposes her love for Sherlock. Rather, I believe that it is a moment of epiphany for Sherlock, in which, after struggling with his new feelings for the entire story, he finally understands.

Sherlock realises he does in fact not feel love for her, but instead a mutual admiration – they are mesmerized by each other and while Adler can accept that, it is a concept entirely new to Sherlock: to revere someone else in the way he reveres himself. In their very first encounter, Adler notes that Sherlock is wearing a clerical collar and says he “believe[s] in a higher power”, citing it as himself. She is not wrong. Sherlock Holmes is, of all literary characters, the man most sure of himself. This is partly justified, but also – as proved in the original story – a fatal flaw (and one that in A Scandal In Belgravia Adler takes great advantage of). Adler loses out because she no longer holds the advantage she had, which was Sherlock’s lack of understanding of his own feelings for her. Realising she has gambled and lost, Adler is forced to beg for her life – something just as demeaning as the beating Sherlock received at her hands that led to him helplessly jerking on the floor as he floated into temporary paralysis – both characters get their moment of triumph over the other.

To those who say Moriarty’s help in the scheme undermines Adler’s brilliance, I say this: Did Moriarty drug Sherlock? Did Moriarty booby trap that safe? Did Moriarty tell Adler to store secrets for protection on her phone? No, no and no once more. Moriarty may have given her hints on how to play the Holmes brothers, but Adler contacted him and gained the upper hand through her own intellect. Surely it is more sexist to take that away from her and give credit to the men?

Is Sherlock’s claim that the final proof of love’s weakness has been delivered true? I don’t think so. Going back (again) to the first discussion he and Adler have in the episode, specifically Adler’s aforementioned remark that no matter what disguise one puts on, it always ends up being a self-portrait. Sherlock states, in front of the “ice man” brother Mycroft that sentiment (or love) is a weakness. But is this still part of his disguise? Pretending to hold in disdain something that he is actually just scared of? “Sentiment is a chemical defect of the losing side” is perhaps not a statement Sherlock can entirely justify, given his actions in the final scenes. Saving Adler but not being sad that he will not see her again is not a display of love, but rather coming to terms with the reality that he has found another human being he can see as an equal. If anything, his actions betray his real disposition toward Adler that he has hidden from both John Watson and his brother Mycroft: a secret that only he and Adler share. I don’t think that Sherlock is willing to let anybody else see the chink in his armour that has been exposed except the one person (besides perhaps good old Jim) who understands it (and him): Irene Adler… the woman.

Sally Sparrow: the woman who beat the weeping angels and saved the Doctor.

Just a final point – I don’t think Steven Moffat is a sexist writer. Can we really say that the man who gave us brilliant, tenacious, strong female characters like Nancy (The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances), Madame De Pompadour (The Girl in The Fireplace – granted she isn’t his invention but she is characterised by him excellently), Sally Sparrow (Blink), River Song (you know who she is), Amy Pond and Madame Vastra and Jenny (A Good Man Goes To War) is a sexist? Really? To cast aside those characters as female “tropes” is a great disservice to Moffat’s quality of writing and the quality of the actors who portrayed them.

I hugely enjoyed A Scandal in Belgravia. It was drama at it’s best: gripping, intelligent and oozing with style. Roll on Sherlock series 2!

“And that was how a great scandal threatened to affect the kingdom of Bohemia, and how the best plans of Mr. Sherlock Holmes were beaten by a woman’s wit. He used to make merry over the cleverness of women, but I have not heard him do it of late. And when he speaks of Irene Adler, or when he refers to her photograph, it is always under the honourable title of the woman.”
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