Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sherlock Who?

The new Sherlock Holmes in contemporary London series from the BBC is now playing on U.S. PBS stations. The first 90 minutes was last Sunday, and there are two more episodes on Sundays to come. This series was created and written by Steven Moffat--the new head writer/showrunner for Doctor Who--and Mark Gatiss, who has written for the new Doctor Who and acted in it (he also has an acting part in Sherlock, as Mycroft Holmes.) So it's inevitable that some commonalities between Sherlock and the Doctor have occurred to people.

Moffat says in an interview (currently available to see at PBS online) that the resemblance is because Doctor Who has been copying Sherlock since the 60s. He also says that they are opposites: the Doctor is an angel trying to be human, while Sherlock is human trying to be a god.

Well, it is pretty clear that Doctor Who has replicated a lot from Sherlock Holmes (and Doctor Watson): the brilliant investigator and intrepid hero with his humanizing companion (which I noted awhile back here.) But while Moffat may be talking about how he consciously approaches the two characters, to the viewer they are extremely similar--and what's especially interesting is that this Sherlock is especially like the Doctor Who, not necessarily of Moffat first of all, but of Russell T Davis, who brought the character back for the 21st century.

Especially in the last year of Davis' reign, David Tennant's Doctor was caught out enjoying the mayhem a little too much. He relishes the adventure and the challenge, regardless of the consequences, especially to others. This is precisely what the new Sherlock team emphasize in both Holmes and Watson, but especially in Sherlock. Plus, Davis' Doctor Who very directly struggled with that identity problem of being "human" or a god. Though in a sense Tennant's Doctor did seem to decide on that third alternative, a kind of angel.

There are a lot of superficial resemblances between this Sherlock and the new Who as well: they both run a lot in a long coat (though Sherlock's is not quite as long), they both talk very fast and are so much smarter than anyone else. And Moffat has not only restored Sherlock to the young age he said is in the first Conan Doyle stories (about 30) but he's installed the youngest Doctor Who ever, in Matt Smith. The two actors even look alike, though Matt Smith is a slightly loonier looking version of Benedict Cumberbatch. Moffat also said in an interview about his approach to Who that he wanted to give the Doctor even more of a hooked-on-adventure obsession.

At this point of course I've seen only one Sherlock episode, but I did find myself wondering where the TARDIS was stashed.


otowi said...

Although I think no one can top Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes nor the original writing, I enjoyed the first episode and am sorry to here it is a short-term project. As for Dr. Who, I guess I'm an odd-on-out who particularly liked Chris Eccleston's incarnation over the other two in the new version.

matt said...

there were even plans to have Matt Smith play the role of Sherlock but he lost and later went on to play the 11th Doctor