The joy of relishing a cracking good series or movie or book and becoming a super fan is exceeded only by having a friend or family member join the fandom with as much enthusiasm!
We saw the latest Sherlock TV series again this month after some years. #sherlock But seeing it with my daughter was like a journey of re- discovery as we saw the old tropes and jokes and plot twists from her eyes and we remembered why we had loved it so much. Every note of the tune that plays when the ‘games afoot’, every time Watson gets befuddled and annoyed, ever time Hudson comes in with tea and a yoo-hoo and every single time Sherlock calls Greg by some other name was something to look out for and delight in once again.
Not in sir Arthur Conan Doyle wildest dreams could he have imagined that the stories he wrote in the late 1880s would be not only alive in 2018 but in this awesome updated avatar full of smartphones and blogs and jokes about ‘no we are not together.’
As every Sherlock fan knows, the original stories of the incredibly clever detective were inspired by a Scottish surgeon Joseph Bell. In his childhood, his mother would always entertain him with fabulous stories which seemed to him more vivid and enchanting than his actual life– which included an alcoholic father and much bullying in school.
As a medical student he was chosen by Joseph Bell to be his assistant and thus had the opportunity to observe his methods of deduction and diagnosis very closely. He was thus the real life Watson to his Sherlock inspiration (who he initially wanted to name Sherringford but fortunately did not!!) (Fans –I am sure you get the reference to that name in the new series! )
Doyle was also a spiritualist and despite having been raised Catholic he broke away from it soon after becoming a doctor. In fact it was in order to concentrate on spiritualism that he decided to kill Sherlock after 6 years of writing about him.
Even in the days of the original writing 150 years ago without any Twitter and shippers and fan clubs, the readers had protested so vehemently at the death of Sherlock at the Reichenbach falls that they wrote a deluge of letters to the newspapers. The publishers then put tremendous pressure on Doyle thus forcing him to write a sequel where Sherlock is seen to have miraculously survived the fall.
In fact the fictional address 221B, Baker Street receives so much post from fans that the post office has actually designated a separate service for it and there is a blue plaque although the specific flat does not even exist!
In the 1980s we saw the first televised version on Indian TV with the inimitable Jeremy Brett, which stayed true to the original with hansom cabs, tall hats, London fog and all. In those days before any way of recording and re- seeing shows, we waited with anticipation every week while it was being aired and delighted in the details from the books come alive. Jeremy played him to perfection with the disdain, the pipe, the drugs, the expression of a man with way beyond average intelligence barely tolerating the dumb masses and the unbearable dull routine of daily existence.
We thought then that he was the world’s best Sherlock possible.
Until of course Benedict Cumberbatch came along some years ago and swept us off our feet with a pitch perfect balance between detached brilliance yet the capacity for showing glimpses of a man capable of a deep (though imperfect but eventually redeeming) friendship. Of course Steven Moffatt and Mike Gatiss get as much credit for the character development and for the perfect casting of Watson and some brilliant ( though flawed) episodes and scenes.( spoilers ahead).
Not just ordinary people but literary giants like Oscar Wilde, Agatha Christie and PG Wodehouse were fans (with some people suggesting that Bertie and Jeeves were themselves a spin off)
And for those of you who are Douglas Adams/ Dirk gently fans, everything IS connected.
Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry did a brilliant turn as Wooster and Jeeves in a TV series.
Stephen Fry later played Mycroft in a Sherlock film and Hugh Laurie went on to play House. For those who notice. (Obviously! Keep up will you?) #obviously House and Wilson are a thinly veiled Holmes and Watson. (Holmes-Homes-House). And although House M.D. is a US TV series, Hugh Laurie is as British as they come.
Is it any wonder that House was spectacularly popular? It is basically a hospital based spin off of Sherlock. With Cuddy possibly as Mycroft and the three ducklings being Lestrade, Hudson and Molly Hooper.
Perhaps Doctor Who with Peter Capaldi has similar shades, given his brilliance and erratic behaviour, inevitable boredom, Clara as Watson and Missy as Moriarty. Maybe its a formula that just works across universes.
The latest Dirk Gently season has a Sheriff Sherlock Hobbes, who is bored in the dull ‘Bergsberg’ and instantly delights in the concept that everything is connected and proceeds to join them on the search for the boy. The games afoot.
Since then may spinoffs have been written and some have done really well. The Beekeepers Apprentice by Laurie B King is a cracking good beginning of a series which starts off after Sherlock has retired to the countryside. It has an amazing character of a young girl who is the apprentice and who eventually gets Sherlock out of retirement. For inexplicably idiotic reasons, Hollywood took that story and made it into a film with a young boy and older Sherlock, thereby missing the entire ethos of the story by a few galaxies and also reminding us that Hollywood is no place for women !
Some of the other spin offs I have enjoyed are the Mandala of Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock goes to Japan. Giles Brandeth has also written a series that I haven’t read so far, but hopefully will not disappoint.
Then there were the Sherlock films with everyone’s favourite bad boy Robert Downey Jr plying the great detective with a touch of flamboyance and a wild sense of humour. Casting Jude Law as Watson also gave much potential for on screen bromance/ gay sexual tensions between and of course Stephen Fry as Mycroft was a brilliant touch.
The only grouse I have against the re-boot is that it is still so white. Sally Donovan is coloured but literally no one else is! There was ample potential for Mrs Hudson or Molly to be of Indian origin (A landlady and a doctor in UK—I mean come on!) and Watson or Lestrade or even Mary to be Caribbean or Asian. The US TV series does have a female Watson, so maybe there is hope.
After my renewed interest in Sherlock I was browsing a few fan sites recently. Although I knew of the ‘Superwholock’ fandom from my daughters, I had no idea of the sheer passion, wild imagination, madness, obsession and the range of involvement of the fandom and the ‘shippers’. They have Pinterest pages, wiki sites, fanfiction, deathfic, Johnlock fic, paintings, podcasts, YouTube readings, YouTube videos…it’s all a bit overwhelming! And this is without counting the transgender JohnLock fiction.#johnlockfic
The obsession of the fans even leads to situations where they want leading psychiatrists to diagnose whether Sherlock had Asperger’s and if he really is a high functioning sociopath. Only to be told ( to their utter horror!) by the bewildered specialist that “well….who knows? I mean Sherlock isn’t real is he??”
As I got sucked into a veritable hurricane of words on the fan site, I eventually ended up reading this fanfic story that every site said was a rite of passage if you were a true fan.So I thought ok, cool let me check it out in my lunch break, should be fun. Well, I was weeping within 2 minutes into it and eventually so traumatized by the end that I had to go back and read it twice to get it out of my system. (Ok, ok I confess….maybe it was 12 times…. but that was a week ago and it’s still there I my head).
“He’s slyly inserted himself into all my memories as if he had been there all along. He’s at school with me, at home, in the park….”
The rest of the day and all the problems seemed ridiculously trivial in comparison. Sigh…So you have been warned but if you think you are brave enough or crazy enough to be a true fan, you don’t have a choice. Here it is. https://archiveofourown.org/works/210785
And if that doesn’t destroy you, here is a video
Have a nice life.