Helicopter

My son got a remote-controlled helicopter for his birthday. I was doing dishes and turned to find it hovering at the back of my head. It almost immediately occurred to me that this was something Sherlock might do to John. It’s the kind of thing that would be introduced as comic—Mycroft got Sherlock a toy for Christmas! And Sherlock uses it to annoy John and Mrs Hudson (and possibly also to do some kind of study of mechanics or something) . . . But then later in the episode the helicopter would become necessarily useful in some way, like having a camera attached to it, or using it to deliver something . . . Or maybe whatever Sherlock was studying via helicopter will come into play as an applied science. Maybe he will have to fly an actual helicopter. That would be . . . over budget probably. But that’s how one structures these kinds of stories.

Meanwhile, I intend to keep the helicopter someplace higher than my son can reach. For now.

Mr Moffat, you have permission to steal this idea so long as you name the helicopter Pepper in my honor.

A Person Doesn’t Have to Speak Fast to Show He’s Smart

I’ve heard that complaint again. I’ve heard it often enough about Sherlock, and now I’ve heard it about Elementary, too: that the people talk too low and/or too fast to be understood.

Studies have shown that people with higher IQs do have a tendency to speak at a more rapid pace. Maybe with all that stuff in their heads, these geniuses feel pressure to get it out in a sort of gush. (I have also been told I talk very fast.)

Still, when it comes to this trend in Sherlock Holmes portrayals, I have to think they’re not only doing viewers a disservice but Holmes himself as well. He was a master actor, after all, and very aware of his audience. Though I can imagine in manic phases he probably spoke, moved, acted rapidly, I would think when taking time to explain to others—knowing they are not as quick of mind, and indeed reveling in this—Holmes would be more likely to stretch it out, build anticipation, and enjoy the moment.

Perhaps the issue is really about how to make “smart” a visual action. After all, a guy sitting around thinking and muttering to himself doesn’t much make for great television. Still, it would be nice of these programs to take pity on those watching. While I haven’t had any particular problem with either show, I’m hearing a lot of fussing about it from many quarters. The smart thing to do might be to slow it down a bit. After all, a real genius likes to be precise with his words, and and to make sure others are hearing him loud and clear.

Elementary Pre-Show

Tonight Elementary will premiere on CBS. This is the show with a modern Sherlock Holmes (played by Jonny Lee Miller) in New York. There have already been, of course, many comparisons to BBC One’s Sherlock, which is another modern Holmes (though set in his natural habitat of London). But I think, if not apples-to-oranges, this is more like red apples versus green.

CBS has secured its spot in the network hierarchy by offering procedurals with compelling central characters, and Elementary shows all the hallmarks of being exactly one of these kinds of shows. That’s the audience Elementary is going for here, a known—and large—quantity. And by all accounts, the formula has been solidly adapted, including the gender switch of Watson, who in this take is played by Lucy Liu. CBS viewers are pretty used to core male/female teams. Coming out of upfronts, Elementary had a lot of buzz around it, and around the chemistry between the leads. It’s poised to do well in its time slot, and to gather the usual strong and stable CBS audience.

As for fans of Sherlock, well, it seems to me they’ve already made the decision to dislike Elementary by dint of the fact they seem to think it treads on Sherlock‘s toes. But Elementary wasn’t made for them. It’s an entirely different sensibility, and I think it will be possible to enjoy both shows if one keeps an open mind and doesn’t expect the same things from each. Because, aside from the use of Doyle’s characters, they are not nearly the same.

I like Sherlock, and what’s more I like Sherlock Holmes. I am open to a wide range of interpretations of him. Benedict Cumberbatch has done well in the BBC role, and I think JLM can carve out his own space on CBS. (As an aside: Cumberbatch and JLM played opposite one another in Frankenstein at the National Theatre, switching between the roles of Victor Frankenstein and his Creature, so I’ve seen them do the same roles very differently—and yet be equally successful.) What Elementary especially has going for it over Sherlock is that there will be more than three episodes every 18 months or so, its regular schedule allowing for audiences to find it easily instead of wondering, “When is that show coming back?” or “Is that show ever coming back?” (Also, one hopes, Elementary is recorded at a volume viewers can hear, and perhaps JLM’s Sherlock won’t talk so fast some people need their closed captioning, a repeated fuss I’ve heard from various Sherlock viewers.)

I’m looking forward to trying Elementary tonight. After it airs, you’ll be able to find my thoughts on the show over on spooklights. (Head over there now to read why Sherlock didn’t win any Emmys). In any case, I think there’s plenty of room on the small screen for more than one Holmes. He was a man of many facets; it’s only fair he be showcased in as many different ways. There are red apples and green apples in the world. Some people only like one or the other, but some people know that each has its uses, depending on the recipe.

Once More with Feeling: Being a Fan Doesn’t Mean You Have to Be Blind (In Fact, REAL Fans Aren’t)

We’ve talked about this before, and we’ll probably do it again. You can chalk it up to my protesting too much if you like, but it’s simply that every now and then someone posts an article that is tangentially related. (In this case, should you fail to click on the link, the article is: “How Steven Moffat Ruined Doctor Who.”)

It’s no big secret that I have problems with Steven Moffat. I might feel differently if he could be bothered to act less smug and self-aggrandizing. And I’d say that’s beside the point, but it’s not really. He doesn’t allow for an open dialogue outside of his personal circle—a circle he controls. So . . . Whatever. That’s another discussion for another time.

What’s on the agenda here is the way Moffat and his supporters/fans react to criticism of him and his work. There is the smugness, and the insinuation that detractors are simply too stupid to “get it” or are otherwise jealous of Moffat’s great work and intellect. It’s not a terribly useful way to go about things, but it does close the door to discussion, which as I’ve mentioned seems to be the ultimate goal. Moffat doesn’t like to be questioned or second guessed, and he certainly doesn’t like to leave himself open to the possibility that he might not be, in fact, the smartest person in the room.

But here’s the thing. True fans of something—a television program, a person, a singer—will be the ones willing to point out when the emperor has no clothes. They do not blindly and slavishly drool over every little line of dialogue. Think of it this way: are your real friends the ones who let you walk around with spinach in your teeth, telling you all the while how great you look? Or are they the ones who’ll point out that bit of green so you can fix it before the flashbulbs go off? Do you want fans who worship you without filter, or do you want people who can think a little bit?

There is something rabid and unstable about fans who refuse to brook any conversation about where a show (or showrunner, or actor, &c.) falls down, something almost Nazi-like in their devotion as they blindly participate in follow the leader. The same can be said, of course, of those so adamantly opposed to a writer, show, what-have-you, those who seem to hate for the very sake of it or who blow their reasoning out of proportion . . . A lack of rationality and an almost religious fervor cause the ground to fall out from under any hope of finding and fixing any problems with the show in question. No one is willing to compromise.

I do think the article linked to above is well written and considered. I can certainly agree that Moffat has a terrible tendency to borrow and regurgitate from other sources, and sometimes even from his own work, to the point that it all becomes much the same. And yes, he’s made The Doctor and Sherlock Holmes—characters with rich backgrounds and history—into cute and, in many ways, far less clever versions of their originals (or even of other incarnations of the same). These are valid points worthy of discussion. Can changes be made, courses corrected? With or without Moffat? In the case of Doctor Who, there is always room for change; the very fabric of the show is woven just for that. As for Sherlock, well, Moffat holds the corner on the current BBC take, but there will always be more Holmes somewhere (Elementary preems on CBS in just a couple more weeks). And in ANY case, if Moffat would just open his door to some fresh blood and new perspectives, general opinions of him might change for the better.

I’ll admit, then, that I am not without bias on that score. I’ve been denied the opportunity to write for either of Moffat’s current programs, and not for lack of trying (nor for lack of talent or ability, at least according to some sources—and no, I don’t mean family or friends). That doesn’t make the arguments against some of his work any less valid, mind. And don’t they say you should be nice to people on the way up, and then again when you’re at the top, because what goes up . . .

2012 Thus Far

Thought it might be interesting to take a quick inventory of all that’s happened thus far this year. The good and the bad.
 

  • Scott interviewed for a new job (mid-January).
  • I made travel arrangements for my trip to London (mid-January).
  • I wrote and finished my novella “St. Peter in Chains” (January).
  • Scott was offered the job in San Francisco and accepted (early February).
  • My play “Warm Bodies” was produced and was a finalist at the Valley Repertory 3rd Annual Lab Works (late February).
  • Movers packed up our house, and after a couple nights at a hotel we flew to San Francisco and moved into temp housing (mid-March).
  • I flew to Boston for a night, then on to London for a 10-day stay, then back to Boston and home to San Fran (March-April).
  • While in London I: converted “St. Peter in Chains” into a short screenplay, saw two plays, and celebrated Easter alone.
  • I submitted the screenplay version of “St. Peter in Chains” to the Nicholl Fellowship (April).
  • An area agent and an agency in the UK asked to look at my Sherlock spec; the UK agency also asked to read “St. Peter in Chains” (April)
  • We sold our house in Massachusetts (April).
  • I found out three pieces of my flash fiction had been accepted to be published in a 2013 anthology (May).
  • The agent declined to represent me and the UK agency did not respond to my follow-up query (May).
  • Scott’s parents visited and Scott and I celebrated our 11th anniversary by staying at El Drisco, eating at a fancy restaurant, and seeing Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers play at the Red Devil Lounge. Scott also gave me a gorgeous ring (May).
  • We moved out of temp housing and into a new house in Livermore (May).
  • I flew to Washington D.C. to see “Warm Bodies” produced as part of the Source Festival, and also got a chance to meet and spend the day with one of Scott’s high school friends who until then I’d only known online (June).
  • Scripts sent to Script Pipeline and the Page Awards did not advance (June-July).
  • After repeated rejections, I self-published the novella version of “St. Peter in Chains” as an e-book; it’s had steadily increasing sales (late June).
  • Encouraged by the success of “St. Peter in Chains,” I also self-published “Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Last Line.” It has outpaced “St. Peter” by a large margin and has been especially popular in the UK (July).
  • I did not advance in the Nicholl Fellowship (early August).
  • I self-pubbed my Star Signs Operating Manual (August).
  • I found out my play “Warm Bodies” was to be published in an upcoming anthology of short plays (August).
  • I was invited to submit a full-length play to a competition that only accepts full-length plays via invitation (August).
  • I did not advance in the Austin Film Festival screenwriting competition (August).

So . . . A mixed bag. I’ve left out the fact that a small army of query letters has gone without response. I’m chipping away, you see, but I wouldn’t mind a bit more success. The year is two-thirds over. Not sure what else I can hope to accomplish. I am working on another Sherlock Holmes story, and I am hoping to submit something to that playwriting competition. I’m also hoping some other plays I’ve submitted to various venues get selected for production. And more than anything I’d like these scripts I’ve written to get some notice. That, for me, would be the big win.

Not Properly Formatted, but . . .

INT. BAKER STREET – DAY

JOHN enters to find an oversized box in the middle of the room. He glances around, goes over to pull the lid off, finds SHERLOCK inside.

JOHN
What are you doing?

SHERLOCK
It helps me concentrate.

JOHN
Lying in a box helps you concentrate.

SHERLOCK
Keeps my thoughts from spreading out. Wandering.

JOHN
(beat)
Right. So should I . . .?

SHERLOCK
Yes, thank you.

JOHN closes the box.

I’ve never been the kind of person who thinks much about the fact that I’m female. I don’t think about gender often in any case, nor do I think about race or sexuality except when these things are being presented as a topic of discussion or debate. It’s not that I’m “colorblind” (a term I dislike) or “anti-feminist” or anything; these just aren’t things that occur to me for whatever reason. They aren’t the kinds of things that spring to my mind. By which I mean, when I read about a woman producer or screenwriter, I don’t automatically think, “A woman! Hooray!” I think more like, “Good for her,” without any emphasis on the “her” bit. (Or, if it’s bad news, I don’t think, “They booted her for being a woman, for not being part of the men’s club.” I just think: “Huh.”)

It’s late as I type this, so I’m not even sure I’m making sense. But the bottom line is that I don’t make a big deal out of the fact that I’m a woman screenwriter/playwright, not even in my own head. Being female is a part of everyday life for me after all; I’m kind of used to it. I did work for a female producer—a gaggle of them, though my boss was one in particular—and she liked to make a big deal out of women in the entertainment industry. “Alpha males” and all that kind of talk. But whatever. I’m one of those women who tends to get on better with guys anyway, not in a I-love-football! kind of way so much as just finding them easier to deal with.

BUT. For once I’m going to play the gender card and just say I think Sherlock needs a female writer and it should be me. It’s generally accepted that Steven Moffat hates women; hiring a female writer would give him a way to refute that. And I happen to be really good at it. At least, so my fans have told me. (Decide for yourself: go ahead and read my faux Series Three script “The Empty Flat” here.)

Last year there was a big fuss made about Bridesmaids, how women can be funny and be good writers (gasp!) . . . I don’t get why that’s news, but maybe I have blinders on. In fact, I’m almost certain I’ll hit that glass ceiling sooner or later; right now I’m just so low on the totem that being a girl is the least of my concerns.

Revisiting Sherlock

I’ve been e-mailed and asked by a few readers if I’m ever going to post my thoughts about Series (Season) One of BBC’s Sherlock. I had posted quite extensive coverage of Series Two (see below) but never much about the first series for the simple reason that this site began well after that had aired. So I don’t really see much point, though I’m happy to discuss anything about the show anyone cares to bring up.

For those catching up, here is a list of links to the posts about Series Two. I apologize in advance that it’s a bit of a rabbit’s hole of information:

The reason for the labyrinth of links is that I viewed the episodes when they aired in the UK, and then again when they aired in the US, so there were a number of pulse points to cover and different readers from different places to accommodate, &c. So everything is a bit disjointed, and some of it is repetitive besides, but if you’re willing to swim through it, I’m happy to chat about it—anything that’s there or anything I might have missed, and certainly anything about Series One as well.

Summary: “The Reichenbach Fall”

And so of course I must post my various thoughts on the final episode of Sherlock Series 2:

  1. Initial Thoughts
  2. Talking Points
  3. Sneak Peek at “The Empty Flat”

Additional considerations:

Let me get clear on the series of events I’m expected to believe have led us to this pass: (a) Mycroft and Co. (including the American CIA agent?) snared Moriarty off the streets in pursuit of the technological skeleton key they believed he was in possession of. (b) To tempt Moriarty to talk, Mycroft fed Moriarty’s obsession with Sherlock by slipping him tidbits of personal information about his little brother. (c) And even though Moriarty failed to give them the key—and showed only signs of growing psychosis—they released him back onto the streets . . . Where Moriarty would use the myth of the key to target Sherlock and surround him with assassins, and use the information gathered from Mycroft to discredit Sherlock and force him to suicide.

I won’t bother to point out all the problems with this. Instead I’ll only ask: What was Mycroft’s actual goal? And is he working against or with his brother?*

Meanwhile, if James Moriarty were a fiction, wouldn’t that have been discovered during the court proceedings? Due diligence and such?

And why would John, who tag teamed with Mycroft during “Scandal,” suddenly find Mycroft’s request that John keep an eye on Sherlock so ridiculous? Particularly when faced with evidence of so many assassins on their doorstep? Not that John has ever really needed prompting to take care of his frequently errant flat mate.

I found some of the edits to the American broadcast a bit strange, too. Removing the music from the scene in which Moriarty visits Sherlock (in the version that aired in the UK, Moriarty’s tapping was set to the Bach he later references on the rooftop)? The UK cut also gave the distinct impression that Sherlock was more on top of things than the American one—after all, even if Sherlock is being a bit slow, he’s had ample time while waiting at Bart’s to sort out the fact that there is no key, as Moriarty’s binary spells out (why does Moriarty say it was “meaningless” I wonder?). There were a number of other odd differences, like the omission of Mycroft reading the paper featuring Sherlock’s suicide, but the lack of music cue in the one scene was the most glaring.

Way to economize on the headstone, Mycroft! I suppose you figure to put the actual dates on later, when your brother is actually dead? Reduce, reuse, recycle.

And how long has Sherlock been hanging around the cemetery? And to what purpose? Just to see who shows up for a “visit”?

As an aside, can we get Benedict some shirts that fit next season? These ones pull funny at the buttons and leave me to wonder whether John shrank the laundry.

*A theory in Mycroft working against Sherlock: If we posit that Jim really IS just an actor, and that Mycroft has hired him (and later tormented him into insanity, whee!) . . . And that Irene was also an actress hired by Mycroft . . . And that Mycroft [and the government] is working with these CIA agents . . . Molly escapes being targeted because Mycroft does not perceive any true affection for her from Sherlock . . . And Mycroft’s people clean up Moriarty’s body before the police arrive . . . Yeah, maybe that could work.