Archive for January 2012

Thoughts on Moffat’s Sherlock (BBC)

It’s interesting, the way this new, more modern version of Sherlock is evolving.  Steven Moffat and his mad crew are putting together something that, not only does a very interesting job of translating the original material, but it modernizes the stories in a different way as well.  It’s become a story of enablement, a story as much as, or maybe even more so, about the people who surround Sherlock, who compensate and open the doors for his many quirks (this is also reflected, by the way In Guy Richie’s Holmes, which I like equally well, but Moffat is going deeper).  The shining moment is always Sherlock’s, but he doesn’t get there without the support structure that he has somehow managed to gather (in spite of himself).

In sharp contrast to this, Moffet has given us his version of Mycroft Holmes, which throws both brothers into sharp relief.  Mycroft is what Sherlock might have become without that support structure.  Mycroft is always shown as being a solitary being.  We see him on Christmas Eve, alone in front of a fire in a somewhat dark and cavernous space, in contrast to the dysfunctionally cozy gathering at 221B.  We see him again, when he receives the call from Moriarity revealing that the game is up.  From his reaction, the news is devastating, but he is completely alone, the only warm body in a large and empty room.  The spaces he inhabits, that Moffet *chooses* to show him in are all places designed to be inhabited by lots of people, but are singularly empty, even of passersby.  Sherlock, however, almost invariably, is surrounded by people.  Moffet may draw the camera tight, but we can still see or feel them there, John Watson looking through the door in the background, the out of focus voices from the hallway.  When Adler’s impending death is revealed to Sherlock, he is surrounded by friends, and when Mycroft calls Watson to tell him that it may be a “danger night” (a presumed reference to Sherlock’s smoking addiction and the possibility of a relapse) after Sherlock identifies Adler’s body, the depth of that support structure is revealed.  Mycroft’s affection for his younger brother, that fact that he keeps tabs on and supports him through Watson suggests that Mycroft himself sees the value in the people who surround Sherlock.  He himself has bought into the “enabling” role the same way that Watson, Molly, Ms. Hudson and the rest of the crew have.

Now, it’s nice to think about the ebb and flow of a project, how things “take on a life of their own” as it were.  But the constrained nature of the series (3 episodes, 1.5 hrs each just over a year ago, with another 3 now, and so on) means that everything in here is planned.  Happy accidents are going to be few, relationship arcs will be mapped outbeforehand and the meaning (I love BBC productions because SO MANY of their directors really grok the idea of building symbolism into the background) is deliberate.  So I am curious to hear all of what Moffat is saying about this relationship between the Holmes brothers, and whether one way of life is, in fact, superior to the other.