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Elizabeth Sandifer

Elizabeth Sandifer created Eruditorum Press. She’s not really sure why she did that, and she apologizes for the inconvenience. She currently writes Last War in Albion, a history of the magical war between Alan Moore and Grant Morrison. She used to write TARDIS Eruditorum, a history of Britain told through the lens of a ropey sci-fi series. She also wrote Neoreaction a Basilisk, writes comics these days, and has ADHD so will probably just randomly write some other shit sooner or later. Support Elizabeth on Patreon.


  1. Sleepyscholar
    March 25, 2019 @ 10:10 am

    Obama imposes sanctions against Russian intelligence agencies for interfering with the election”
    Mumble mumble… stable door … mumble mumble … horse bolted.

    As for this episode and the fridging of Mary, I’m with you 100%. At risk of being banned from the site (and I realise that my excuse that this opinion comes out of respect not disrespect counts for nothing), I will say that what had occurred to me as a more interesting means of making John a ‘widower’, if that was deemed somehow essential, would be to have Mary transition. Plenty of opportunity for ‘capital-A acting’ there, and no need to get rid of a character who is, as you point out, fun to be with. Of course, the question of whether Moffatt & Gatiss could pull off such a development is a large one.


    • Angus
      March 25, 2019 @ 6:33 pm

      Yeah no that’s horrible. You’re positioning transitioning as the same as death so it ends up being just a different type of fridging. The exact same issues would occur, only the show would now be irredeemably transphobic.


      • Sleepyscholar
        March 26, 2019 @ 6:33 am

        Yes, and that was why I expressed anxiety. But my point was precisely that I was not positioning it as death, but as a positive subversion of the original text. Not only does Mary live, but she continues to be rather more than merely a plot motivator for the main characters (which is what fridging is all about, and what made her death particularly egregious).

        However, the question of whether the Sherlock team could pull it off in a way that didn’t appear transphobic is a big if. I was just thinking that a positive portrayal of transitioning would be a good thing (how often does this happen in a drama that isn’t about transitioning? How often does it happen full stop?) but I will concede that like most ‘fan ideas’ it wouldn’t survive contact with reality: especially as to be done properly it would effectively hijack the whole show (but then, given how the series panned out, would that necessarily have been so bad?)


        • Devin
          March 30, 2019 @ 9:17 pm

          I think if you’re looking to create a “rare, positive portrayal,” maybe load the dice so they stay married. Hell, if you want to work in a chance for Martin Freeman to show off his Acting, there you go, right?

          I will say this: in that scenario, there is indeed a good opportunity to give Sherlock a line about deadnames and widowers as a wink to Conan Doyle. That’d be a good bit, and well in line with the spirit of BBC Sherlock, yes.


    • Emily
      March 26, 2019 @ 3:18 pm

      I’m not quite sure how you read an article pointing out how Mary was interesting because she was a middle-aged woman who was also a spy, and concluded “yeah, but wouldn’t it be more interesting if they were a man?”


      • Sleepyscholar
        March 27, 2019 @ 12:18 am

        Me neither.


  2. Przemek
    March 25, 2019 @ 12:27 pm

    You’re completely right that the fridging of Mary derailed the whole season and, arguably, the whole show. Narratives focused on white male grief are beyond tired at this point… and yet Moffat and Gatiss go for it. I’m still baffled by that decision. Was there a scheduling conflict? Did Amanda Abbington want out?

    Honestly, killing characters off is the most boring thing you can do with them. For all the drama it creates, it destroys so much more.

    “Where Series 3 of Sherlock had been a strong omen of where Doctor Who would be going, Series 4 is not particularly indicative of Series 10.”

    But it’s unfortunately very indicative of Series 11. Because Chris fucking Chibnall decided to center his first DW series with the first female Doctor ever around the same tired “white male grief” narrative, complete with fridging the cool female character in the first episode.


    • Bedlinog
      March 25, 2019 @ 12:59 pm

      It seems that Gatiss and Moffat plotted out Series 3 & 4 at the same time, perhaps in order to get Cumberbatch, Freeman and Scott on board. It’s possible Mary was introduced, in the knowledge she’d get a bullet at some point.
      MOFFAT (in 2014): We had just got out of the rain and because we don’t have the lovely big trailers that Benedict and Martin have, we had to go sit in the accountancy department and we just talked about what we could do. We just started having what I think are the best set of ideas we’ve ever had. I think they’re just wild. And when I say ideas, it’s what stories we’ll tackle, what big twists there will be, what gut punches there will be, and what surprises there will be, and I think it’s really exciting.


      • TomeDeaf
        March 25, 2019 @ 1:38 pm

        I believe the story was that it was Series 4 and 5 they plotted out together – and presumably amended later.


    • Dan L
      March 25, 2019 @ 3:06 pm

      “Did Amanda Abbington want out?”

      Even if she did, of all the characters on the show, Mary would have been the easiest to write out without killing. She’s an assassin! There are 1001 possible reasons she might have to disappear. And then rather than having Watson grieving, we’d have had him knowing she’s out there somewhere, either unable to contacf her or making do with occasional sporadic messages, which would have been much more interesting.

      Or how about killing Watson off instead and having Mary take over his unofficial role as Holmes’s sidekick? THAT would have shaken up the dynamic! And I bet Mary would have taken a lot less shit from Sherlock than John did. And John seems much more likely to take a bullet for Sherlock than Mary.

      Speaking of which, so annoyed at the clichéd way she was bumped off. Literally taking a bullet for Sherlock? Ugh, how unoriginal and probably impossible.


      • TomeDeaf
        March 25, 2019 @ 4:57 pm

        Re: Przemek’s question about whether Amanda Abbington wanted out or not, it sounds as if her marriage with Freeman was breaking up behind the scenes on Season 4 so it may be she was written out at the pair’s request because they couldn’t stand working together anymore, I don’t know. As you say, though, could’ve been done in a more original way, jeez….


  3. MattM
    March 25, 2019 @ 1:59 pm

    Also worthy of note is that Sherlock does the same ‘have cake and eat it’ with Mary’s death as they do with Moriarty. Both are dead, both keep popping up in every single episode!!


  4. fourthings
    March 25, 2019 @ 3:52 pm

    Small thing (before I forget)–Clean Bandit is the band, “Rockabye” is the track name.


  5. Leslie L
    March 25, 2019 @ 4:20 pm

    I was so upset that they went with this decision.

    The cynical part of me had the idea that maybe they just didn’t know where to take Mary.

    They had a Brillient idea with John emotionally cheating on her, that despite everything they were heading to break up.

    I love Moffat, and most of his stuff, and as a fan, in hindsight, they should have waited another year, they really should have.

    For goodness sakes, if they were going to kill her, why couldn’t it be that she died a good death?


  6. Douglas Muir
    March 25, 2019 @ 10:07 pm

    Abbington’s marriage with Freeman was indeed breaking up behind the scenes between Seasons Three and Four. The specific date of the breakup is given as February 2016; “The Six Thatchers” would have filmed just a few months later.

    Abbington has given a number of interviews since then. On one hand, she hasn’t said that she asked to be written out. On the other hand, she hasn’t ruled it out either. She declared herself “very satisfied” with the way things worked out: “It was a good run, and I love the fact that they killed her off… Because she had to die anyway, because they killed her in the books, and I quite liked the dramatic-ness of it. It was good. It was quite Bond-esque, and it felt quite dark and mysterious, and she takes a bullet, she’s like a hero.”

    As with most celebrity couples, the details of the Freeman / Abbington breakup have been very heavily curated. But Moffat and Gatiss must have known about it. Did she ask to be written out? Or, did one of the two offer it, and she took the opportunity? Was Moffat doing a favor for a friend, trying to defuse a difficult situation? Or was Mary’s death always going to happen and it’s just a weird coincidence?

    We may never know for sure, until and unless someone talks. Meanwhile, I suppose the “connected to her breakup with Freeman” theory will seem weaker or stronger depending on how likely you think it is that Moffat and Gatiss would have fridged the Mary character anyway.

    Doug M.


    • Set Spade
      March 25, 2019 @ 11:22 pm

      On the likelihood of them fridging her anyway… there’s a relevant bit in the audiocommentary for The Empty Hearse where Moffat points out how it was never actually specified in the original story that she dies and, being Moffat, proceeds to the conclusion that, and I quote, “It could be a divorce; could she have just buggered off?”

      Gatiss seemingly agrees with him that her death is not a rock-solid canonical fact.


      • Sleepyscholar
        March 26, 2019 @ 7:32 am

        Well, a divorce was much less likely in Victorian times, but now you mention it, that would have been way better for a modern version.


  7. taiey
    March 26, 2019 @ 8:54 am

    I really liked series 3 of Sherlock, but then I heard Mary had died and decided to not bother watching the fourth. Kinda half wonder if Abbington decided the role wasn’t worth the vitriol.

    “Television is full of asshole geniuses and good men who go through emotional ringers. Middle-aged women who are crack soldiers and intelligence operatives, however?” Honestly? My first thought was River Song. 🙂
    She’s not quite that though, and obviously cheating, so let’s go with Elizabeth Jennings, and Melinda May.


  8. mx_mond
    March 26, 2019 @ 10:31 am

    “Middle-aged women who are crack soldiers and intelligence operatives, however? I’m sure someone will suggest one in comments, but there is no sense in which this is a cliche.”

    The closest that comes to my mind is Eve Polastri, and she’s still very different from Mary. Still, I think the comparison is a credit to Moffat and Gatiss.

    And incidentally, I feel like “Killing Eve” would make for a perfect Whitaker Eruditorum entry, since it’s a women-focused TV phenomenon that, notably, allows its characters to be imperfect and complex in a way that the Thirteenth Doctor cannot.


    • TheWrittenTevs
      March 27, 2019 @ 10:03 am

      I think the Whitaker era has a lot of potential for “Pop Between Realities, Home In Time For Tea” entries as there’s a lot of texts at the moment which could be used as cracked mirror versions of what the Whitaker era could’ve been, in much the same way that the Saward era is a goldmine of entries going “This isn’t quite working, but what were alternatives?”

      Imagine a massive entry that discussed “Killing Eve” alongside “The Last Jedi”, “Captain Marvel” and “Fleabag”, looking at the current trend of mainstream entertainment which (to various extents) foreground female characters and narratives. Maybe an essay on “The Good Place” which takes a lot of the tropes and concerns of the Whitaker era but does it with some of the actual imagination you’d have expected Who to have. Or an essay on “Sorry to Bother You” that comes immediately before “Kerblam!” It’d be a delight.


      • TomeDeaf
        March 27, 2019 @ 11:47 am

        Our host didn’t take to The Good Place, sadly.


      • Przemek
        March 28, 2019 @ 8:51 am

        Jodie Whittaker

        August 28th, 2019: We’re Falling Through Space, You and Me (Star Trek: Discovery)
        September 3rd, 2019: I Won’t Remember This, Will I? (Chris Chibnall’s S11 Episodes)


    • Bedlinog
      March 27, 2019 @ 9:00 pm

      I’d be quite happy if the Eruditorum just did the Chibnall era as a cursory pop between the works of Phoebe Waller-Bridge.


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    June 24, 2019 @ 3:08 am

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