Sherlock Holmes and the Abominable Special

I LOVE “Sherlock”. I’ve loved every episode but “The Blind Banker”, which was a bit dull. So it should tell you something when I say that the Victorian special was very, very bad.

I’m going to spoil everything, and you’ll thank me for it later.

First off, there were a lot of inception style “It was a vision from modern Sherlock/No it was imagined by Victorian Sherlock” elements. They weren’t great, but they were fine. No, the problem was the Victorian story.

I’ll just summarize: Apparently women’s suffragists who go around on suicide missions and killing men and crap are apparently the good guys in a war on sexist men. No, I am not exaggerating. It is called a war, and they are called the good guys, by Holmes and Mycroft.

The reactions of Holmes, Watson, et al were wildly anachronistic. When Watson sees a woman dressed as a man, instead of pulling her aside and saying, “Lady, there is no need to hide from me. I can see you are in dire straights to wear such a disguise. I may be able to help”, as the canon Watson, ever the gentleman, would have done, he instead quips “It must be tough for a woman in a men’s world”, and then walks away.

When Holmes and Mycroft figure out that radical suffragettes have started a militant organization intent on seizing equality through force, instead of turning them into the police or trying to lay a trap to prove that they’ve broken the law, he announces that really they’re the good guys and men need to be taken down a peg. Hail Sherlock, the 19th century feminist.

“Sherlock” has always balanced on the cutting edge between fine Sherlockian adventure and outrageous message fiction. I always thought it  kept on the right side of the line, and never thought Moffat let his message affect his story – the mark of a good writer. Whedon is mostly the same way; I disagree with basically everything he believes, but for the most part he is too honest a writer to let his views ruin his story.

Moffat galloped towards the line on horseback, at full speed, and leaped over it, then kept galloping. This was full-blown feminist propaganda. Characters were ruined, the story was ruined, and great performances, some great dialogue at parts, and great production values were all ruined sop Moffat could make the point that men in the 19th century were so sexist that secret underground female assassin leagues were needed to educate the menfolk in feminism. Or something.

Anyway, remember, the people who don’t want women to vote are the bad guys, whereas the women who will kill men because they can’t vote are the good guys.

Blech. What a mess. So much to love there, ruined by such a bad plot. Ah well. About time for a stinker. I only wish such a great concept wasn’t wasted.

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20 Responses to Sherlock Holmes and the Abominable Special

  1. Syllabus says:

    That’s the thing. Had the men they were killing been full-blown serial rapists, murderers, or molesters, I would have been much more sympathetic towards the concept, even with it being such warmed-over pablum. But there was none of that. It was just “he told me he loved me, wooed me, and then left me in America.” That’s it. He jilted her. And for that I’m supposed to buy that she’s not only sympathetic, but justified in a way that means all the primary characters agreeing that you were right and that the other guy deserved to be fucking killed. Shamefully bad. I literally said “Oh fuck you” at the television during the denouement.

    And of course this is a total volte face from the canon Holmes, who is really quite distrustful of women in general. If you don’t like that bit of the character, you can write into the show people criticizing him for it, but to simply remove it lock, stock, and barrel from the character is lazy and unforgivably stupid virtue signalling.

    The whole “you just think I’m invisible” maid thing? Suuuuuch bullshit. You’re an employee. You don’t have a right to be noticed because you’ve got lady parts, and you don’t have a right to be treated with kid gloves if you’re a shit maid if you’ve got lady parts. Such utter bullshit.

    • Not only was the maid thing bullshit, why was Watson treating her like shit anyway? How was that, in any way, in character?

      Conan Doyle could write good female characters – he had done it before. Adler is the most famous, but there were others. Yet Moffat had to STILL go out of his way to piss on Conan Doyle’s way and announce that the master had been doing it wrong the whole time.


    • By the way – I too very nearly walked away.

      So disappointing. I had very high hopes.

  2. Zippy says:

    So murdering people is not merely permissible but salutary, as long as the reason you are murdering people is to thereby gain permission to make a personal ritual act of devotion to the god liberalism.

  3. Galloglasses says:

    Personally I was never much a fan of Sherlockian fiction to begin with, nothing against it, just not my particular cup. That said I did sit through the modern miniseries and the recent movies and indeed found them mostly enjoyable, even if I found some of the messages, both covert and overt, to be sickening and out of place, I am glad I missed this special if its as bad as you say. I cannot imagine Watson, a war hero in certain incarnations and therefore, a patriot and man of action when the time calls for it, would ever look upon domestic terrorism in his homeland with anything other than the coldest of fury and vilest contempt. Sherlock, being more apathetic, I can imagine being more detached but certainly not supportive of such nonsense, especially not in 19th century London when Anarchist bomb throwers are still very much an image still in the public imagination. These feminists acting like that at the time would have put back female suffrage by decades if not more by their radical actions. It would have made for an interesting doctor who plot, stopping radical feminists from ruining feminism. But with Moffat at the helm it would never have come to be.

    • Canon Sherlock would have, I imagine, been equally angry.

      • Bibliotheca Servare says:

        Agreed. Sherlock may have needed cocain to help him endure the times between cases/adventures/interesting intellectual puzzles, but hew was nothing if not a fierce patriot. He’d have died before he permitted such monstrous individuals to continue their despicable, murderous campaig. Umm…in my opinion, that is. *sheepishly steps down from soapbox*

  4. Dikaios Rik says:

    I was actually quite excited for the 19th century setting, but when Mary started that “but I wanna come along” behaviour, I felt nothing but dread for the rest of the story. And as it turned out, it really did crash and burn.

    The fellas at 8chan /tv/ don’t seem too enthusiastic either:

    • Going all the way down to the final line. What the fuck was the point of the whole “Mary will drive me home” bit? To emasculate Watson? Because that’s all it accomplished.

      • Dikaios Rik says:

        Oh yes, that line and the smirk. The BBC really does hate masculinity, and they’ve given up on pretending to hide it.

        It’s also just pathetic how Moffat is openly gluing the Sue part onto Mary’s name (hey look, how convenient):
        1. She’s a former secret agent and a snapshot with a pistol.
        2. She’s able to hack into MI5 databases on a smartphone in less than 5 minutes. I can’t go two sentences without making an error or autocorrect deciding my spelling is bad.
        3. 19th-century Mary Sue is able to beat Sherlock Holmes by finding the Feminist KKK out of nowhere. I’m alright with deus ex machina when appropriate, but this was just bad.

        The only flaw about her is myopia. Pssssh.

      • Do you know why I thought the reveal of Mary in “His Last Vow” worked?

        The first thing Sherlock does when he figures her out is beat her.

        And SHERLOCK AND JOHN, the ostensible main characters, are the two who resolve the plot – as it should be.

        Turning Mary into this is a horrible, potentially show-ruining idea.

  5. Krul says:

    Man, I was laughing. That special was a true, yet unintentional, reductio ad absurdum of the feminist/”white knight” themes in pop culture. If it were intentional, it would have been a brilliant work of social satire.

    I mean that scene in the morgue with the girl passing herself off as a man while wearing a false mustache was straight out of Blackadder:

    “Let me put it another way, Bob. You are a girl. And you’re a girl with as much talent for disguise as a giraffe in dark glasses trying to get into a “Polar bears only” golf club!”

    (Blackadder is now officially cleverer than Sherlock Holmes. How do you like that?)

    And let’s not forget how bad the writing was in places. “A shotgun wedding” *groan*

    • Her costume really was the worst thing ever, right?

      • I actually thought that bit worked, and I can explain why:

        As they went on their way to the morgue I was wondering how they were going to deal with the fact that Molly’s 19th century counterpart was a man (Lestrade refers to her as ‘he’) when all the other alternates were played by the same actor. Then she came out, and it seemed that the answer was: dress Lousie Brealey as a man and have everyone treat her as a man. So I went along with it and assumed that Louise Brealey was playing a man and the fact that I could tell it was Molly was intentional.

        As a result, it genuinely surprised me that it was meant to be a woman dressed as a man in-universe as well as out of it.

      • …But it was still a terrible costume.

        I don’t buy it. How is Watson the only one who noticed? No way.

      • Syllabus says:

        How is Watson the only one who noticed? No way.

        Because he’s a sensitive proto-feminist, don’tcha know. Except for when the plot needs him not to be, and then he isn’t.

  6. Res says:

    “The reactions of Holmes, Watson, et al were wildly anachronistic.” – Reminiscent of HeForShe as well, perhaps? Really, though, none of these impulses seem to make for a decent programme, at a certain point are they just ripping off Conon Doyle’s story and whatever virtues that may have to give a semblance of acceptability (it seems telling that even when it had pop cultural influence, none of the usual reactions to characters such as Sherlock Holmes showed up – it’s like everyone who watched it was anaesthetised) to something fairly dismal and lacking in clear purpose.

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