What I Had Hoped to Get from ‘Sherlock’

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{All images courtesy BBC One.}

Note: this article was also published on Tea & Fiction.

So, Sherlock series 4 has come and gone, and I’ve already expounded greatly (to the tune of over 4,000 words) how much “The Final Problem” was a horrible way to end the show, if indeed it is the last episode of the series. In said review, I wrote about my expectations for the show, and how that may have been a problem going in. It got me thinking of all the little things I had hoped to get out of series 4 (and even series 3 for some of these) and that I hope we get to, should the series ever make a comeback. Some are silly, and some are legitimate things I wished the show would explore.

As a fan of both Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman beyond Sherlock, I’ve had the opportunity to hear both of them sing (i.e., Cumberbatch sang in August Osage County, and Freeman in Saving Santa), and while they aren’t exactly Tony award winners (Freeman especially), they can at least carry a tune in a bucket. So, why haven’t we had a musical episode? If we have to maintain ‘realism’ (which, considering the James Bondness of series 4, I will have problems if THAT’S the only reason why), have it where Sherlock has to take the place of an actor in a stage musical. (Maybe even where we see that when Sherlock actually TRIES to act, he’s horrible at it? And dear God, the idea of what Martin would do if John had to be on stage as well: I keep thinking of that tag scene from “The Puppet Show” from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.)

In fact, I wish the show would’ve let both Freeman and Cumberbatch show off their comedic chops more often. Yes, the show is a drama and we should take it seriously, but all the best dramas are interspersed with comedy, and both Freeman and Cumberbatch have great comedic timing. Which leads into another silly one: we finally got a canon ‘The game’s afoot’ (one legitimate one in “The Abominable Bride”, and one of Sherlock quoting the source in “The Lying Detective”): couldn’t we have gotten John to say “No shit, Sherlock” even once?

Also, there’s been much talk about Cumberbatch’s hotness: we see him in plenty of tight shirts, and even got the infamous sheet scene in “Scandal” where we get to see him shirtless. Can’t those of us who are enamored of Martin Freeman get something similar? (And boy howdy, do we want to see that damn scar in John Watson’s shoulder!) And hell – add in silver fox Rupert Graves and the ginger hotness of Mark Gatiss while we’re at it. (Isn’t there canon about Holmes and Watson going to a Turkish bath?)

The hottest trio on PBS.

For my final silly item, we’ve now seen on screen Cumberbatch’s American accent in Doctor Strange, Martin Freeman’s in StartUp, and Rupert Graves’ in The Family, I would’ve loved to see a scene where they all have to be in their American accents. (Actually, if there was a way to get the three of them to redo the drugs bust scene in “A Study in Pink” but with their American accents, I would love it – maybe for Red Nose Day?)

On a more serious note, one of the many issues I had with series 4 was that instead of developing the characters we already had, we get this paper-thin super brilliant sister Eurus, with character traits that changed depending on which episode you’re watching.

For more minor characters, I would’ve loved more about Anthea, Mycroft’s assistant. Moffat wanted a River Song assassin expy in his other show? Could’ve easily been done with her. There’s a lovely series of Mystrade stories out there where Anthea is actually Mycroft’s bodyguard and hired assassin, the one person he knows that will take him out should he ever be in a situation where he can’t get out and the safety of England is at stake. To have her be a sort of Emma Peel character, ready to out James Bond the lot of them, would’ve been awesome.

Additionally, I would’ve loved to see – at least once – Mrs. Turner and the married ones (and I love the headcanon that they be played by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost). Which – speaking of fun cameos / actors, how about seeing the SuperWhoLock fandom go wild and get Mark Sheppard cast somewhere. (As a villain, preferably.)

If we needed more of how Sherlock got to be how he is, how about the backstory of how he and Lestrade met (teased at in “The Six Thatchers”)? Or why Mike Stamford was friendly enough to know that Sherlock needed a flatmate? Angelo was obviously a much bigger influence in Sherlock’s life as well. Maybe more as to why Donovan is so hateful towards Sherlock? (What specifically did he deduce about her, outside of the relationship with Anderson? I hate that Anderson got a forgiveness story, but we never see Donovan’s. I know that was partially due to the unavailability of Vinette Robinson, but surely they could’ve found a way.)

More Lestrade, please!

Could we have had Victor actually survive childhood and even come across them in present time? While it’s pretty obvious from series 4 that Moffat and Gatiss weren’t coding Sherlock as gay, had they gone that route, it would’ve been grand to go with the fanon that Victor (and I am 100% behind the headcanon of Idris Elba playing adult Victor) was Sherlock’s first boyfriend. (With how jealous John got of Irene and Janine, he would’ve blown his top at the idea of this Victor.)

Or hell: genderswap Victor over to a Victoria, and still make her ‘just’ a friend to Sherlock. As I went on in my review of “The Final Problem”, much of the criticism of those of us who see John and Sherlock as ‘more than friends’ is the idea we can’t see two men emotionally close without being seen in a sexual manner. Well, what about seeing men and women be emotionally close without being seen in a sexual manner? I mean, this isn’t When Harry Met Sally: men and women can be just friends and still be very close. And yet we don’t really see that at all in Sherlock.

Speaking of genderswapping characters as well as ones I wish we would’ve seen more of, I can’t go without mentioning my now near-obsession of wanting to meet Harry Watson on screen. (Headcanon of her being played by either Catherine Tate or Kate McKinnon.) The very fact that they genderswapped her and made her lesbian makes her a potentially potent force for the series for female characters and for LGBT representation on screen, both of which are horrendously bad throughout the four series.

This leads into my now ongoing complaint from series 3 and 4 that we hardly know anything about this version of John Watson. We got all this glorious backstory for Sherlock – but what about John?

Who is John Watson?

Despite starting out from his POV and having the first two series be his point of view, we barely know a thing about him. Hell – we didn’t even get to see his bedroom in 221B. Why did he join the army? (“His Last Vow” makes a point that he was a doctor that went to war, rather than the fanon that he joined the army to help pay for his schooling to be a doctor.) And what about his parents? Are they even alive? (Still trying to figure out who the hell were all the people attending the wedding: “A Study in Pink” made pointed note that John had very few family members he felt he could turn to after being invalidated.)

If you’re going to use alcoholism as a plot device, it’d be nice to have an actual attempt to address it as the problem it is. In one of the many interviews with Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss about the show, one of them said there was an ongoing theme to John and drinking. Admittedly, there is definite subtext. But it’s all over the place. John has issues with Harry’s alcoholism in “Study”, he has a drink in hand when approaching Sherlock about Irene being alive in “Scandal”, and then we see that he gets drunk stupidly easy in “The Sign of Three”, but then we see that he uses it as a crutch in “The Lying Detective” with it hinted that he is a violent drunk (he has someone else take care of the baby, after all). Many a fan (myself included) have headcanoned that – since alcoholism is typically genetic – one of John’s parents was not only a drunk, but an abusive one to boot, with John teetering awfully close to it himself. I would love to see his father be played by David Burke (one of the two Watsons in the Granada Holmes), with the inside joke that John doesn’t want to turn into his father.

All of that would’ve been a great way to tie in Harry – especially during series 4. After all, in “Study”, we’re told that there are two reasons John may not have gone to Harry: either Harry’s drinking or the fact that she left her wife. John is shown drinking and cheating on his wife (even if just by text). I would’ve loved to see that the whole ‘lady texting him’ thing been tied into some sort of case that brought in Harry (either as a client or maybe a suspect) which then brings out that John really doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on in his criticism.

Also, many fan fics went with the idea that post Reichenbach, John actually gets an offer to turn his blog into a book – or series of books, making him a writer more in line with canon Watson. Many of them have him do this as penance for his survivor’s guilt of Sherlock’s suicide, and many had him do this as a way to clear Sherlock’s name. But no matter what, in every version I read, by turning his writing into a book, he becomes more than just the sidekick: he becomes a true partner.

We got Victorian Baker Street – how about a musical one?

Finally, I really wish that the people behind the production actually had a decent idea as to how to do transmedia. Transmedia, if you’re unaware of the term, is – per Wikipedia – “the technique of telling a single story or story experience across multiple platforms and formats using current digital technologies.” In other words, delivering content across different platforms. One of the better attempts at this was the marketing for The Blair Witch Project, and a whole article could be devoted just to this aspect of Sherlock and what worked and what didn’t.

And they tried. Sort of. The had the blogs (not just John’s blog, but Sherlock’s The Science of Deduction and Molly’s blog), Connie Prince’s ‘official’ website, Irene Adler’s Twitter, Sherlock: The Casebook (which is hilarious with the Post-it notes between John and Sherlock), the Sherlock: The Network game/app, the Sherlock Live Twitter event for series 4, and then technically the promotion of the empty hearse going through London promoting “The Empty Hearse”, as well as the ‘history’ that was on display at last year’s Sherlocked con put on by Hartswood Films. (If I missed anything, feel free to comment away.)

But the problem is that none of these really fit in well with the show itself. Well, maybe Sherlock’s website, Molly’s blog, and Connie Prince’s website during series 2, but that’s only because they stopped fairly quickly. John’s blog is all over the place with dates and times compared to the show, and the updates during series 3 didn’t happenĀ as if it was a real blog, but in batches after the airing of the episode that referenced said blog post. The mobile game, while taking place after Sherlock returns, has John and Sherlock doing fine with each other and no mention of Mary, despite how series 3 opens. And don’t get me started on the hilarious errors that fans pointed out in the materials at Sherlocked. (Although good on them for using actual pictures of Martin and Ben for the ‘when they were younger’ part.)

Ah, series 2. How I miss you.

Admittedly, part of the problem must come from them not wanting to spoil the episode(s) in question, but if Lost was able to do a fairly decent transmedia planning, surely Sherlock could’ve managed a way to get these not only to work with each other, but the show overall. Have the blog update in between episodes with cases that are minor references in the next episode but don’t contribute to the overall story of that episode.

Also, with Sherlock becoming famous in-universe, surely there would be in-universe media to match: imagine Sherlock creating a Tumblr, and having it be in real life. Or have novel versions of the Sherlock cases, as ‘written’ by John Watson. (Tie-in novels haven’t gone away, after all.) Or a ‘guide to New Scotland Yard’ via Lestrade, the same way we had the character of Michael Garibaldi ‘write’ Babylon 5‘s Security Manual.

Rumors of a series 5 are already circulating, but “The Final Problem” got a lot of backlash from fans and critics alike. The team is going to have to do a lot to win back the trust of a lot of fans who felt this last series went too far off from what made the series great. Maybe they can look at what fans had hoped to get, and bring the series to a better place.

Be sure to check out all my Sherlock articles here.