Sherlock is one of my favourite versions of Sherlock Holmes, right up there with Jeremy Brett’s Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in the 1980s, Robert Downey Jr.’s film version, and the version in Young Sherlock Holmes. Sure, the long wait between seasons is annoying, but fans are nothing but persistent. Look how long Star Trek or Firefly fans waited for new material. Also, new RDJ’s version movie coming. Finally!
I have been a Sherlock Holmes fan for years. While I haven’t read all of his stories, I have read a good deal and I’ve seen all of Jeremy Brett’s episodes and movies, some of which adapt stories I haven’t read yet. I started watching Sherlock during the hiatus between seasons 1 and 2 and haven’t stopped watching since. Benedict Cumberbatch and Brett are tied for my favourite version of Holmes, so much so that I can’t choose which series I like more. Thus both are tied as one of my favourite TV series. Top 3, easy. The film version I really want to see is The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, but RDJ’s versions and Young Sherlock Holmes are my favourites.
And before we go on, yes I do support Johnlock and TJLC and this special is part of the reason.
WARNING: MINOR SPOILERS FOR THE SHERLOCK 2016 NEW YEARS SPECIAL
In contrast to the rest of the series, this special takes place in the classic Victorian Era with a newly married Watson still hanging out in Baker Street with Holmes. Inspector Lestrade comes to them with, in addition to massive sideburns, the case of a bride who committed suicide and came back to murder her husband. She’s since come back to kill other men over the course of several months and it’s up to Holmes and Watson to solve the case. As the mystery goes on, it becomes clear that this story has more to do with the actual series than we were originally lead to believe and Sherlock doesn’t have one mystery to solve, but two which could spell his end.
God, there are so many spoilers with this. I really want to go into more, but I can’t!
So in the book canon this supposedly takes place sometime after ‘The Final Problem’ and ‘The Empty House’ with the change that Mary is still alive, as in the books she supposedly died in between the two stories. I don’t mind because it allows Amanda Abbington to join the rest of her cast mates and Mary’s just kinda awesome. For those who aren’t aware, co-showrunners/ writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are massive Sherlock Holmes fans and have incorporated as many details from the books as they possibly could: from the obvious VR bullet holes, even if you can’t really see it, an empty picture frame, Mycroft’s obesity, etc. At the same time, tying elements from the series proper. An example being that Watson originally was clean shaven like in the series, but grew the moustache every other version of him has because that’s how the illustrator of his books draws him. Everything in this special is so detailed. The costumes are spot on, the atmosphere and sets. It’s great. As a fan of the Victorian era, and Sherlock Holmes, I love it!
The cast is great as usual, Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman have proven they can do Victorian Holmes and Watson just as well as the Modern Day versions. Mary has little to do other than show up and work behind the scenes, but as that’s kinda what women’s roles were in media at the time, and also because of the circumstances of the reason for the Victorian episode, it doesn’t bother me as much as it probably should. The supporting cast is also good, Vinette Robinson’s Donovan is notably absent from the special, which I suppose makes sense from a historical perspective, but it’s a bit annoying that she keeps getting left out of recent episodes while Andersen seems to get more screen time and depth. Then again, I never really liked Donovan. And, hey, they worked in Molly and Mary when the only female character they really needed was Mrs. Hudson. Kudos. The villain was fun. Not the Bride, she was okay. I mean the actual villain, which is pretty obvious, but for the sake of spoilers, I’m gonna keep my mouth shut.
At first glance, the story is crazy and all over the place and doesn’t really make sense. It’s only at the end and you remember what was really going on that you realise it wasn’t supposed to make sense. I thought that was pretty cool. I probably wouldn’t like it if this was done again, but I liked it being done here and the way it was used to explore Sherlock’s thoughts. I’ve probably said too much so I’ll shut up here due to spoilers. As I’ve said before in my Doctor Who reviews, there’s really only one bad, and again by “bad” I mean boring, episode of Sherlock and it’s the second episode of the first season. You’ll be fine.
Now I mentioned earlier that this special is part of the reason that I support Johnlock and TJLC. For those unaware, Johnlock is the ship of Sherlock and John and TJLC stands for ‘The JohnLock Conspiracy’, which is the theory that everything in Sherlock is building up to John and Sherlock ending up in a relationship. There are many reasons to support this theory: the BBC did this massive study on LGB in their media around the time the original pilot was made, the original pilot was much more overt with their potential relationship than the series because it was shorter and they didn’t know they’d be getting a full series, Mark Gattis himself is gay, Steven Moffat has already implemented a gay version of Holmes and Watson in Doctor Who, in the form of fan favourites Madame Vastra and Jenny, and both Gattis and Moffat’s favourite Sherlock Holmes film is The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, whose original ending was supposed to have Holmes be gay, but standards and practices at the time wouldn’t allow it. You can find out more in the web show here with links to other sources that supports it.
While I can’t go into exactly what happened in the special, I will say this for Sherlock fans: This special is the gayest thing since the original pilot. Take that as you will.
Also, this came out in theatres and I saw it there. It was great! It had a special at the beginning where Moffat went through the Victorian 221b Baker Street to point out all the little details that many people wouldn’t notice and being so excited about it. A particular favourite line was about the people who look for these details from the books: “We know who you are. We have your addresses.”
I enjoyed the hell out of this special and look forward to the new season starting this Christmas. If you don’t like Sherlock, this isn’t going to endear you to it, and it can be a bit confusing so it benefits from multiple rewatches. However, due to the way it’s set up, it’s also decently easy to understand if you think about it .
(Photo via BBC)