Outside the Government: A Scandal in Belgravia
It’s January 1st, 2012. Coldplay are at nuber one with “Paradise,” with Flo Rida, Rihanna, Ed Sheeran, and LMFAO also charting. Since Christmas, Samo aand Tokelau switched sides of the International Date Line, and Harry Burkhart committed two million dollars worth of damage in an arson spree in Los Angeles.
While on television, Sherlock returns with A Scandal in Belgravia. This is, quite simply, a phenomenal piece of television. It belongs on lists alongside The West Wing’s “Two Cathedrals” and Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s “The Body.” It’s smart and ambitious, and everything it tries comes off nearly perfectly. It calmly and definitively sums up what this take on Sherlock Holmes can do, and why it’s valuable and interesting – a marvelous case of a show being its own best advertising. Even more than its barnstorming premiere, this is an episode you can show people to hook them on the show.
With so much talent on display here, it seems silly to credit it all to Moffat. But in the end, this episode works because its script provides such a strong foundation. First and foremost, A Scandal in Belgravia consists of Moffat luxuriating in the structure of writing. Moffat has always been an intensely structural writer – as a farceur has to be, really. But more than that, Moffat has always been unafraid of foregrounding the structure, writing television in which part of the pleasure is watching the story unfold in the peculiar shape he’s put it into.
But in the past, Moffat has relied on structural cleverness to create big, landmark episodes of series like Coupling and Press Gang where the budget didn’t give any other ways to go big. With A Scandal in Belgravia, on the other hand, he finds himself at a seeming summit of his career, with opportunities unlike any he’d had before. The ninety minute format gave him space to work that he’d never had before – he didn’t even have the obligation of a cliffhanger at the forty-five minute mark to work to. In Cumberbatch and Freeman he had as solid a cast as exists. With Sherlock as a bona fide hit, there was the budget to do, if not whatever he wanted, at least more or less anything that might be required of an action-adventure plot. He’s got a top notch director.
The last time Moffat faced a situation like this he produced The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, but there, at least, he still had the advantage of low expectations. Here there’s no shield – Moffat’s only options are to show that he’s as brilliant as claimed or to disappoint. He didn’t disappoint.
In many ways this comes from Sherlock’s structure, which is almost tailor made for Moffat to succeed with. The show is, by its nature, built around moments of dazzling exposition, that being, in a real sense, the entire point of Sherlock Holmes as a character. These are also the sorts of scenes Moffat excels at – he’s always been extremely good at using exposition scenes for characterization and comedy. And, of course, he has Benedict Cumberbatch, a ruthlessly methodical actor who’s capable of mapping extraordinarily nuanced paths through Moffat’s dialogue.
All of which is to say that the episode is really structured around its finale, and three specific plot beats. The first is the revelation from Mycroft that Sherlock has been flitting around the edges of the plane plot all episode, which is both well-constructed (using the establishing montage at the outset to throw in a bunch of key details) and, more to the point, feels as though it’s wrapped up the episode. There’s enough Aristotelean unity in that to feel like things have resolved, which gives Irene’s seeming victory structural weight.
This, in turn, makes the subsequent revelation of Irene’s password all the more triumphant – especially because it’s such a well-structured reveal that manages to be as clever as it is obvious. With the plot feeling as though it’s resolved the bulk of its hanging threads, it feels like a proper reversal. What’s key is the elegance of the actual solution – we’ve seen the “I AM _ _ _ _ LOCKED” screen enough times, but by filling in wrong answers we’re subtly been led away from reading the blanks as part of the phrase. Between that and the fact that the entire reveal is, in reality, just a pun, the climax lands magnificently.
Which is, in practice, all setup for the final reveal, in which Moffat opts to actively reject the standard narrative structure of this sort of thing, in which Irene gets fridged at the end. The script sets this up carefully, starting by establishing her death in dialogue between John and Mycroft, then revealing that Sherlock already knows about it (which only further hammers it home), and then finally cutting to her execution. There’s a sort of steady worsening of the situation that happens here, with each development in the resolution making it less satisfying and more exploitative, all building to the false fade-to-black, which finds one more bit of the script to pay off with the “ah” text message sound signifying the final twist away from being a story about a tragic femme fatale and towards being a story about the sort of romance a character like Sherlock can have.
Which brings us around to the actual point of this episode. It will (and has) not escaped notice that Sherlock and Irene’s relationship is not entirely unlike the relationship between the Doctor and River, not least because of Moffat’s comments in interviews in which he describes them as “psychopaths.” But where that always felt like a slightly awkward approach in Doctor Who (Moffat is surely the first person to suggest that the Doctor is a psychopath, or that he could only ever love one), it’s a sound fit for a show whose first episode openly proclaimed the main character to be a “high functioning sociopath.” Sherlock has always in part been about the fact that its main character is as broken as he is extraordinary.
But within this, the point has always been to do something other than angst over Sherlock’s frailties. Sherlock, and for that matter Moffat, has never been inclined towards deconstruction. And so instead of a dour piece about how Sherlock’s genius means he will be forever alone or some other suitably emo shit, we get a story that is interested in trying to figure out what sort of romantic partner Sherlock could ever have.
On top of this, of course, is the original text. “A Scandal in Bohemia,” which has the odd double role of introducing the only character anybody ever romantically pairs Sherlock Holmes with and flagrantly not actually being about Sherlock Holmes in love. What “A Scandal in Bohemia” is about, however, is the differences between men and women – a point highlighted at the end of the story, when Watson reflects on how Holmes “used to make merry over the cleverness of women, but I have not heard him do it of late.” Further, Holmes’s monicker for Adler, “the woman,” is described with the emphasis on the definite article, highlighting the way in which the story intends to present Adler as an exemplar of her gender. (This is hammered home in the first paragraph.)
But Adler is something of a cipher throughout the story, since Watson never actually meets her. In essence all we actually see is her making her way through a series of romantic relationships that she uses to protect her life, and given that the story refers to her as “the late Irene Adler” at one point, suggesting that her protection may have run out. All we get of her is Holmes’s general comments on how women work (which are all borne out) and the description of her victory as stemming from “a woman’s wit,” but that victory is ultimately hollow, and her wit remains wholly subjugated to men. It is not a story devoid of value, but it’s also far from straightforward.
So with Adler being largely without characterization, Moffat had considerable leeway in how to approach this story. His approach – making her a dominatrix – is savvier than it first appears. Within the confines of what was pitched to the BBC as a “sexy” version of Sherlock Holmes, it’s obvious to point of being inevitable. There’s no way for the character not to intersect with the femme fatale archetype, and the dominatrix leans into it nicely. It’s a profession that allows Adler to not just serve as a femme fatale, but to be a hyper-competent femme fatale who does not merely incidentally serve in that role, but who is conscious and self-aware.
On top of that, Moffat writes a good dominatrix. She’s over the top, but between Lara Pulver’s acting and a wealth of little touches, she feels, if not like a real person as such, at least as rounded and realized as Sherlock and John, which counts for a lot. Perhaps more to the point, Moffat writes her as a character who is genuinely dominant – that is, as someone who is capable of controlling social interactions and getting people to do what she wants. It would be easy for such a character to become overbearing, but there’s an intriguing understatement to her dominance. Her big nude scene, where she takes control simply by not wearing any clothes and throwing everyone for a loop, is a case in point. For all its self-conscious eroticism, there’s a remarkable subtlety to the scene.
But the central cleverness isn’t simply creating an unusually nuanced dominatrix/femme fatale. It’s also in setting this up as a viable romance for Sherlock Holmes, and, as we’ve already discussed, successfully sustaining that romance in a way that doesn’t take away from either character. Nobody has to “settle down” or sacrifice parts of their identity. The implication is fairly clear that Irene and Sherlock will meet again, whether in a televised story or not.
And it is here that the observations about structure finally come into focus. Because the reason this works is, in effect, that Moffat is able to build an entire relationship out of exposition and cleverness. Because Sherlock and Irene are both ultimately constructed as hyper-competent characters in a detective serial as opposed to people who are prone to, say, discussing or acknowledging their feelings, their relationship exists entirely in this realm. It’s all puzzles, explanations, and adventures. Which is why the hyper-structured approach of this episode works so well: because ultimately, Moffat is telling a love story in which the romance itself is pure structure.
Moffat finds, in other words, an intersection between a couple of things he’s good at and commences to build something at that intersection. But it’s striking just how weird the intersection is. Love stories and puzzle boxes are not really the same thing at all, and although Moffat has written loads of both, including the Doctor/River romance, he’s never really stripped it down to this bare a level before. The Doctor and River’s relationship was a puzzle, but the content of their relationship was mad adventures. But Sherlock and Irene are puzzle all the way down.
It helps tremendously, however, that the world around them is so crisp by this point. Sherlock and John are a well-honed double act capable of anchoring any scene, but Sherlock had that sorted out by the end of its first episode. What’s impressive at this point is the way they’ve learned to trust in Rupert Graves, Una Stubbs, and Louise Brealey, all of whom also get absolutely top drawer stuff. In an episode that borders on being lopsided given how good the Sherlock/Irene stuff is, having things like the wonderful beat of Mrs. Hudson hiding the phone or the scene of Sherlock cruelly deducing the nature of Molly’s gift before realizing who it’s for are both hugely important things that make it easy to be thrilled that the show is back, as opposed to just being happy that Benedict Cumberbatch is. And, of course, there’s Paul McGuigan, who directs this with a stunning array of interesting and vibrant camera angles that makes it feel fresh and dynamic.
When this aired, it felt brilliant in a way that, in one sense, nothing Moffat had written since Blink did. He’d written top notch scripts, certainly, and I’m not going to suggest that this is my favorite, because it’s not. But he’d not written a puzzle box this immaculately constructed in years, and certainly not one with the sweep and scale of this. To do that while also finding a genuinely new and fresh way to do a love story in an action-adventure story is remarkable. And there is, throughout A Scandal in Belgravia, a sense that Moffat knows just how good this is. He’s on his top form, working in beautiful little bits of snark like the deft implication of who it is Adler has photographs of. And, of course, there’s his underlying insistence on reworking how women in stories like this get to work – his cheeky decision to keep Irene alive really is such a brash rejection of how these things are usually done. He’s writing like a man who knows that his career is unlikely to have a better phase than this.
Which is notable in its own right. This is around the period where a critical line against Moffat really started to crystallize – indeed, I think you can make the argument that Jane Clare Jones’s article about this story in the Guardian two days after it aired was a tipping point in the “Moffat is sexist” line of argument. My issues with this argument in the general are well-documented and don’t need to be reiterated here, but there is a sense of the tide of outspoken opinion (distinct from public opinion) turning here – just nine months after this, Moffat would opt to depart Twitter in part due to the degree of vitriol being directed at him there. And yet for all of this, notably, the sense of confidence and swagger in his writing never wavered. Much of why A Scandal in Belgravia works as well as it does is the fact that it’s willing to aim high and trust that the talent of everyone involved will carry the production over the line. That hasn’t always worked, and it won’t always work. But when it does, as with this, it’s electrifying.
And perhaps more than anything, then, it’s worth noting that there’s a reason why Steven Moffat’s career crescendos here, and why he found himself in the position of writing and overseeing two of the BBC’s biggest hits. He’s very, very good at writing television. And on his best days, he’s practically untouchable. This is a case in point.
September 24, 2014 @ 12:47 am
Moffat finds, in other words, an intersection between a couple of things he’s good at and commences to build something at that intersection. But it’s striking just how weird the intersection is. Love stories and puzzle boxes are not really the same thing at all, and although Moffat has written loads of both, including the Doctor/River romance, he’s never really stripped it down to this bare a level before.
I believe Russell T Davies said in his Writer's Tale that he felt Moffat was an incredibly romantic writer, and this is for me the secret of his success and his protege, Stephen Thompson, is an example of what happens when that is missing. For all the complaints people make of Thompson, he is an incredibly elegant plotter,* but what he misses is emotion. All three of his Doctor Who stories are puzzle boxes asking the audience to work out what's going on along with the protagonist (most cleverly, he has the Doctor acting like an actual doctor in The Curse of the Black Spot by continually diagnosing the problem based upon the facts before him and then altering that when he comes across a new symptom). But in all three of his Doctor Who scripts lack Moffat's romance: the puzzle box is all, and any human element is subservient to the plot. In this respect he can come across as the 21st century writer most like a 20th century Doctor Who writer.
Moffat, for all that some may complain that his interests are too heteronormative (not that I necessarily agree), has the ability to blend his puzzle boxes with real human emotions, and indeed, to suggest that the greatest puzzle boxes are other people** and then mirror that in the structure of the screenplay itself.
As you say, he is at the height of his powers with A Scandal In Belgravia, a television writer on par with the heights of those the UK have produced in the past.
*Before anyone complains, the disappearing Botswain in Curse was not Thompson's fault: the scene was written and filmed, and then removed when the episode proved too long. Indeed, I think that until Time Heist, Thompson has been poorly served by his directors in Doctor Who, who seem to miss the point (the three salvage brothers in Journey To The Centre of the TARDIS are written as archetypal comedy characters such as Steptoe and Son or Del Boy, Rodney and Grandad, and then miscast and asked to act far too naturalistically, with the director compounding the error in his shooting of some scenes) or make poor editing choices.
**Moffat seems to be very aware of his leaning on this theme by addressing it directly through the Doctor's attitude to Clara in series 7. She is a puzzle box to be solved to him, while forgetting until reunited with River's ghost at the end of the season that no, she is a human being with her own autonomy. Of course, Moffat fails to see the wood for the trees, and by viewing Clara through the Doctor's eyes, there is the criticism that Clara comes over as too much of a cypher.
I'd dearly love to know how much Moffat rewrites in Sherlock: I find it interesting that Moffat is getting so many co-writer credits since the beginning of this year (both in Sherlock and Who).
September 24, 2014 @ 1:12 am
Reading this has crystalised something I've been feelling subconsciously ever since the 8th Series of Doctor Who started – how closer the character of the Doctor is now to that of Sherlock. Whether it's the direction, Moffat's script editing, or Capaldi's performance (or simply coincidence), I find PC's Doctor alternately veering close to, then away from, Cumberbatch's Sherlock. The moments of Capaldi's performance I feel most comfortable with are his socially-aloof, all-knowing, detached moments, whereas I find the times when he gets it wrong, loses his temper, and generally behaves like an arse, less likeable. The physical similarities between Cumberbatch and Capaldi (apart from age)( probably help as well.
September 24, 2014 @ 1:12 am
Now that was interesting. Moffat has in my view been greatly underrated in recent years, mainly due to the circumstances around the two split seasons of Who and being buried under the Fiftieth Anniversary, and it's great to get back to something so archetypally classic. When I watched 'Scandal in Belgravia' the first time it was instantly a stone cold classic. (See, in addition to Phil's recommendations, the season 4 finale of MAS*H, amongst many other things.) No following episode has come anywhere near to being as good or concise as 'Belgravia'. Only the first episode is close in the preceding shows.
Since it was so good, there's not much to say, except that the post for the next episode will be far more interesting since 'Hounds of Baskerville' was lauded to the heavens, despite my thinking it was mostly rubbish and one of the worst examples of self-indulgent writing in 'Doctor Who' or 'Sherlock'. Oh, Gatiss, you have your talents but discipline is not one of your virtues… And then Thompson strikes again.
Thanks for the great post!
September 24, 2014 @ 1:14 am
Also, all round good casting in 'Belgravia'. Forgot to add that the getout from the previous episode's cliffhanger was pretty weak, but probably inevitably so.
September 24, 2014 @ 1:32 am
On rewrites, I imagine he's revelling in the comparative leisure he has now in the wake of finishing the 50th!
September 24, 2014 @ 1:34 am
I agree. It's also struck me that Capaldi's Doctor would be a much better fit than Smith's for the Sherlockesque 'Doctor Vision' deduction effect used in The Eleventh Hour but subsequently dropped.
September 24, 2014 @ 2:09 am
I wouldn't say The Reichenbach Fall is a case of Thompson striking again. Depending on how charitable you want to be it's either a case of Thompson massively upping his game and suddenly writing as well as Steven Moffat or a case of Thompson being entirely rewritten by Steven Moffat. Either way, it's a great episode.
September 24, 2014 @ 2:24 am
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September 24, 2014 @ 2:24 am
I did overstate it, yes, and thank you for the correction. However, 'The Reichenbach Fall' does lack an awful lot of the heart that I associate with the other two writers, and that leads me to think that it's more a case of Thompson upping his game. It's pretty good as an episode but maybe not as a 'Sherlock'.
September 24, 2014 @ 2:33 am
Was the Guardian article the one that claimed Irene came out worse in Belgravia than she did in Bohemia, illustrating this with careful cherry-picking and making allowances for Sir Arthur being a man of his time?
September 24, 2014 @ 3:34 am
"introducing the only character anybody ever romantically pairs Sherlock Holmes with"
The only female character, perhaps.
September 24, 2014 @ 3:43 am
The article is available at this link.
I'm wary of commenting on this, particularly as I know of several regular commenters here I would much rather field this question. But the strapline stating that Adler "was sexual, not intellectual" when she was clearly both is immediately worrisome. And the sentence "However, even this ambiguous portrait of female power proved too much for Moffat to stomach." was, for me, the tipping point between presenting a valid critical perspective and launching an uncivil personal attack.
Also, I last read Doyle's A Scandal in Bohemia a few months ago – and my recollection of the plot tallies much closer to Phil's description than that presented in this article. But again, I'd rather someone with more knowledge of Sherlock Holmes take that one on.
September 24, 2014 @ 3:47 am
Oops. Messed up that bit about the strapline. It actually states that Adler's power "was sexual, not intellectual". But I would still claim that in the episode it is emphatically presented as both.
September 24, 2014 @ 5:45 am
That Guardian article does seem to set out to attack Moffatt by ignoring several key things within Scandal in Belgravia.
Firstly, it says: "Doctor Who has never just been about a dashing alien who happens to be wicked smart. The Doctor cares about stuff, and uses his considerable noodle to fight injustice, tyranny and exploitation. By contrast, Holmes is in it for no reason other than Reason. An insufficiently stimulating case will be summarily dismissed as "boring".'
In fact, this episode of Sherlock goes out of its way to show that Sherlock does indeed care about things. After an extended conversation with Mycroft in a morgue about the futility of caring about people, we're shown Sherlock getting furious about the CIA man who's beaten up Mrs. Hudson, and treats him to several trips out of the window. Apart from being quite funny, the scene seems to exist purely to show us what Sherlock will feel something about.
The Guardian also has an issue with Irene Adler being outwitted by Sherlock when he guesses her missing phone code: "her scheme is ultimately undone by her great big girly crush on Sherlock, an irresistible brain-rot that leads her to trash the security she has fought for from the start of the show ".
Well, this seems to ignore that it was Sherlock's own falling for Irene that led him to show off and compromise British and US security and reveal the plan with the doomed airline.
September 24, 2014 @ 6:08 am
I particularly like the exchange between Irene and John, in which they compare their feelings for Sherlock (reluctantly in John's case). John protests that he's not gay, and Irene retorts that she is, "and yet look at us both." It's a far more fluid depiction of attraction and sexuality than is usually seen on TV.
Some have said that any kind of romantic relationship between Sherlock and Irene is doomed because he is asexual and she is gay. More likely it would be doomed because they're both Doms.
September 24, 2014 @ 6:18 am
"Sherlock Holmes" and "John Watson" both contain most of the letters necessary, but only when put together can you make "SLASH" with them.
September 24, 2014 @ 6:24 am
So many quotable moments in this episode. So much character, I love it.
I'm an Elementary fan as well, so I've thought a lot about which version of Irene I like more. It really comes down to each series being its own thing, with Sherlock being more of a superhero series and Elementary being a cyberpunk police procedural, so of course each is going to have its own take on The Woman. In Sherlock, she's a fairly clear Catwoman analogue, whereas in Elementary, she's more of a cypher in identity, in action, even in choice of hobby. More in keeping with the disguise motif of the original character(?), at least.
I like Moriarty's ringtone.
September 24, 2014 @ 6:35 am
Manly Wade Wellman pairs Holmes romantically with Mrs. Hudson (!) in Sherlock Holmes' War of the Worlds.
It's an interesting, though not very good, book, by the way. It's not a mystery in any sense; rather, it's what the title says — it's what Sherlock Holmes did during the Martian Invasion.
All other romantic pairings that I can think of come from outside the Canon — Mary Russell, the woman in Sherlock In Love, Gillian in the Faction Paradox novel Erasing Sherlock, etc.
September 24, 2014 @ 6:37 am
And I'm glad it was. When the Doctor vision kicked in, my first thought was "Man, it's gonna be a long season if THIS happens every episode."
The comparisons here between Capaldi's Doctor and Cumberbatch's Sherlock are interesting to me because from the start, I have seen parallels between this Doctor and Tony Shalhoub's Monk, another brilliant but troubled detective. The current Doctor is brilliant but mentally unstable and oblivious to social cues, he rather distinctively wears a shirt with the top button done up but with no tie, and his relationship with Clara seems to resemble Monk's relationships with Sharona and Natalie more than they do any prior Doctor-companion relationship. Clara even expressly (if jokingly) describes herself as "his carer."
September 24, 2014 @ 6:40 am
I'm sure I'll talk about this more in depth next week, but I HATED Reichenbach Falls so much that I really hope it was all Thompson, because I'd be very disappointed in Moffatt to know he played a big role in writing that mess.
September 24, 2014 @ 8:10 am
I tended to work from the position that this Sherlock assumes the worst of everyone whereas the Doctor assumes the best of everyone, and both of them are continually surprised.
But, like the Doctor, when Sherlock chooses to care for someone, then he will stop at nothing.
September 24, 2014 @ 8:31 am
@Bennett “Also, I last read Doyle's A Scandal in Bohemia a few months ago – and my recollection of the plot tallies much closer to Phil's description than that presented in this article. But again, I'd rather someone with more knowledge of Sherlock Holmes take that one on.”
Our host actually did a very good expansion on this over on Tumblr. I won’t link to it directly because I’m not sure how separate he likes to keep things, but if you follow him on there it’s from April the 27th this year.
September 24, 2014 @ 10:53 am
Just as an exceptionally minor point – wearing a shirt with the top button done up isn't particular interesting in 2014 as it's been a mainstream trend for the last few years – indeed it's so mainstream that it makes the Doctor's current outfit very mundane in a strange way that I am not sure they were going for.
September 24, 2014 @ 11:06 am
I think there's a problem in using that Moriarty more than once and so much in one episode. He's very much best as a 'hit and run' shock element. Still, let's wait and see.
Can't wait for the eventual 'Pandorica Opens' and 'Big Bang' post finally.
September 24, 2014 @ 11:20 am
This time, she's gay and he's an alien….
September 24, 2014 @ 11:21 am
One of the lines I did enjoy in "Time Heist" was something like "What do you think of the new outfit? I was going for minimalism, but I think I ended up with magician."
September 24, 2014 @ 11:45 am
It's an homage (acknowledged by Capaldi in interview) to Man Who Fell to Earth/Thin White Duke Era era Bowie.
September 24, 2014 @ 12:26 pm
I just posted a blog entry the other day about that very album — in fact, I thought for a split second you'd linked to it, before realizing what was going on. I can't believe I didn't notice the resemblance. I'll blame the round things on the wall.
I don't think there's a cooler or more appropriate choice of homage he could have made. Though it does make me sort of hope the next Doctor dresses in homage to Prince.
September 24, 2014 @ 1:12 pm
I think we've already had our Doctor who dressed like Prince: Prince. The Doctor
September 24, 2014 @ 1:37 pm
Damn it. OK, Janelle Monae. In fact, let's just have Janelle Monae as the Doctor.
September 24, 2014 @ 2:25 pm
I still absolutely loathe this series' Moriarty, though. Also, the plane scheme makes absolutely no sense (as well as possibly being extrapolated from one of those heinous "9/11 truther" theories).
September 24, 2014 @ 2:26 pm
Wait, "Hounds of Baskerville" was popular? I didn't really follow the critical reaction of the time, but it's easily my least favorite of the second season, and possibly my least favorite of the entire show. It's only real competition, IMO, is "The Blind Banker." I'd say that this indicates that the show has problems with its middle episodes, but season 3 upends all that with "The Sign of Three," which is my favorite episodes of the show.
September 24, 2014 @ 5:37 pm
No mention of Doctor Who and Star Trek references in this episode? (There's more Trek coming in the next two episodes also.)
September 24, 2014 @ 9:59 pm
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September 24, 2014 @ 10:27 pm
I remember Hounds going down remarkably well critically, and it propelling Gatiss up to the heights of next potential Doctor Who showrunner, which has thankfully gone away since. It was absolutely baffling!
He and Moffat gushed over it on the DVD commentary too. I just don't get it. Again, baffling! And the middle episode of Season 3 was the only one I did genuinely like too, in a complete upending of the natural order of 'Sherlock'. Fascinating. Still, none of this is relevant to 'Belgravia'!
September 24, 2014 @ 11:59 pm
My head canon with The Man Who Fell to Earth is that Bowie's playing a Timelord. I mean check it out. Odd sense of style, British accent, companionship with young earth girl, time slips and chronological glitches, unexplained access to large sums of money, inability to cope with alcohol, builds a space vehicle with round things on the walls. It all adds up.
September 25, 2014 @ 11:08 pm
Not much to say apart from love this episode and thanks for a great essay Phil! Yeah, absolutely stunning episode.
July 4, 2017 @ 11:52 pm
‘I think you can make the argument that Jane Clare Jones’s article about this story in the Guardian two days after it aired was a tipping point in the “Moffat is sexist” line of argument’
says a man who happily smeared Doctor Who producer John Wiles as a misogynist on the basis of a story in which he had no creative involvement.
July 5, 2017 @ 12:49 am
Did you really come all the way from GallifreyBase to dig up a three year old post and make a completely non-sequitur comment on it?
Last Of The Jagaroth
October 29, 2017 @ 6:53 pm
You describe this as ‘a phenomenal piece of television’; I call it ‘a 90 minute summary of everything wrong with Moffat’s writing on Sherlock’.
Moffat entirely misses the point of the story. Scandal was originally effective because Sherlock worked for a villain, and had to learn that his prejudice towards Adler prevented him outsmarting her. Moffat’s Sherlock is made into someone trying to stop Adler from stealing secret intelligence, meaning the ambiguity of the original is sacrificed at the cost of Sherlock being an all-perfect hero. In turn, he is prevented from failing or learning anything, and as a result from having an interesting role in the story.
Adler is abysmally recast as well. Instead of outsmarting the prejudiced Sherlock, she loses to him, having been made too stupid to even work out a plan on her own without Moriarty acting as an informant to her. To make matters worse, she falls for Sherlock and has to be saved by him, further undoing the protofeminist subtlety of the original story.
In effect, Moffat doesn’t understand the story is about a character we’ve generally been expected to like doing something wrong and having to learn from it, which is impressive given that’s a fairly simple but effective conceit of drama.
I’m fairly sure you don’t care about or agree with any of these problems given your constant defense of Moffat as feminist, but I feel like it needed to be said given no one in the comments has pointed these glaring flaws of Scandal In Belgravia out.
November 2, 2017 @ 9:42 pm
Have to say I agree with a lot of this, Last of the Jagaroth. The Sherlock stories are very glossy and well-made, but I think it’s perfectly reasonable to point out the deep flaws in character writing. I’ve watched Scandal several times, but I really don’t get a feminist vibe from it. It may be judged as better overall than the original story it was based on – fair enough – but given that story was written in 1891, I don’t think we’ve got much to boast about there!
It’s a shame if we get to a point where criticism is seen as attack – no TV show is perfect and criticism is a necessary part of finding ways to improve matters.