Friday, August 26, 2011

Eyes and Brains, My Dear Sherlockians

He’s brilliant.  He’s fast.  He’s strong.  He’s… blond?

A little hard to believe, but Sherlock Holmes is blond in the 22nd century.  Blond and blue-eyed—very Anglo-Saxon, and finally living up to his name: fair-haired.

He hasn’t lost any of his sardonic wit, but, on the other hand, he’s also mellowed some.  Not that this is a bad thing: this is simply Sherlock Holmes having lived a full life (some 70 years at least), died, and then returned to life.  Though he has the body of a 25-year-old, he has more of the maturity of an older man.

His supervising officer is the direct descendant of his “favorite” Yarder—folks, meet Inspector Beth Lestrade.  His comrade-in-investigation is New Scotland Yard compudroid Watson, a robot who has scanned the real Watson’s journals and taken on an imitation of the Good Doctor’s personality.  His home is once again 221B Baker Street, restored to living quarters after museum attendance fizzled out.  His eyes and ears in the Underworld are teenager Wiggins and tweens Deidre and paraplegic Tennyson.

And once again, his enemy is none other than James Moriarty.

However, unlike the cellular rejuvenation of Holmes, Moriarty is not the real McCoy returned to life, but a clone with all the original’s memories.  To borrow Holmes’s own words, “isn’t technology wonderful.”  This clone is younger, stronger, theatrical, and rather emotionally volatile, prone to anger.  Nevertheless, Moriarty is once again working his way up to the top of the criminal world, and he’s not content with just that, either.  Nope, this Moriarty is setting his sights on global domination, a goal he could well have achieved several times over by now did not Sherlock Holmes, compudroid!Watson, and Beth Lestrade stand in his way.

Moriarty’s one main assistant is Martin Fenwick, a rogue French geneticist.  The world has Fenwick to thank for retrieving the original James Moriarty’s DNA and RNA from the ice cave below Reichenbach where Holmes buried the Professor.  From there, Fenwick grew himself a criminal mastermind with the intention of using the clone as his servant.  But, as Lestrade deduced, “slave turned on master,” and Moriarty took control.

Fenwick is perhaps of average height but grossly deformed, looking more alien than human with his grey skin, distorted face, and demented eyes.  Lestrade makes regular cracks at the man, calling him “beautiful” and Moriarty’s “lab rat”—Fenwick could almost pass as a caricature of Emperor Palpatine from Star Wars.

Beth Lestrade herself is in her mid-twenties at the oldest, quite possibly New Scotland Yard’s youngest Inspector.  She’s notorious for risk-taking and reckless driving, and she’s more than willing to stand up for herself, be it to her boss, Chief Inspector Greyson, Holmes, or Moriarty himself.  Lestrade (lehstrahd) is either American or Canadian, judging by her accent, and she stands nearly as tall as Holmes.  She’s brunette and pretty, but don’t let her looks fool you: the woman is one zedding good fighter.  She can take on three criminals with lightsabers all at once and have them on the ground in handcuffs in under two minutes—impressive, yes?  She gets easily irritated—more than ever, with Holmes and the Irregulars around—but she has a heart of gold underneath.

It was Lestrade, a Sherlockian, who recognized Moriarty and made the decision to have Sherlock Holmes’s honey-entombed body rejuvenated.  And since she took the responsibility to resurrect the Great Detective, she got stuck with the responsibility to keep tabs on him.  Fortunately, she seems to hold her own pretty well with the not-so-very-misogynistic Holmes.

Lestrade’s compudroid was meant to keep an eye on the volatile Yardie; he made sure she stuck to the rules, took her every word very literally, and reported to Greyson regarding Beth.  Despite her frustration with these traits, she named the robot “Watson,” and, upon introducing him to Holmes, ordered the droid to scan the original Watson’s journals.  After doing so, the compudroid took it upon himself to act as if he were the real Watson—he appears even to consider himself as such, though there are times when he very clearly identifies himself as a machine.

Holmes initially shunned the compudroid’s new persona but very nearly lost it when he thought Watson destroyed by the Thames.  The detective then embraced the droid with the kind of fervor only Sherlock Holmes can have when he attaches himself to something, and went so far as to insist that Watson lived with him in 221B.  Watson took on an elasto-mask that was meant to be a replica of John H. Watson’s head, bowler hat and monocle (???) included.  Watson now accompanies Holmes on all his cases and has proven himself an invaluable assistant.  Though quite tough in a fight, the droid is gentle and very good-natured, not really an exact replica of the canonical Watson but a fair imitation.

Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century may be a cartoon, but don’t let that put you off.  Though the outdoor animation is a jarring 3D (think late ‘90s computer game graphics) compared to the indoor 2D and the dialogue is sometimes not quite… there… the show is quite faithful to the spirit of the Canon.

Holmes may have to fend enemies off physically more often, but the Great Detective has lost none of his stellar ability to observe and deduce.  As he says so often in the show, “eyes and brains.”  A robot may ironically be the heart of the group, but Holmes lets others see a fair bit of his own “great heart.”  Holmes and a new Inspector Lestrade argue as much as ever but have a strong friendship beneath.  Moriarty may be somewhat less stable, but he’s as evil and as cunning as ever.  And one thing hasn’t changed: the world still needs Sherlock Holmes.

Most of the episodes take stories from the Canon and update them to the 22nd century, sometimes retaining only the bare bones of the original story in order to give the audience something fresh (e.g. “The Sussex Vampire Lot”).  But not all episodes are Canon cop-offs: some are completely original stories, such as the premiere and its sequel.

And if you’re worried about any romantic interaction between Sherlock Holmes and Beth Lestrade, you needn’t be.  Nope, they don’t kiss… though there are quite a few fans of the show that wish they would.  The creators seem to have left the relationship open-ended: friendship or potential future romance.  Some fans prefer the former, some the latter.  If you’re willing to be convinced as to the potential, however, you need look no further than this page
, which lays out a compelling case using Holmes’s own methods of observation and deduction.

All in all, a terrifically fun show for kids and adult Sherlockians alike!  Holmes’s stellar characterization alone makes it worth seeing, and watching him react to 22nd century changes and interact with both friend and foe (Moriarty, especially) is fantastic.

I’ve only just recently started to watch the show, and I’ve yet to make it all the way through.  But, of course, the muse has already been fired up—you can find two SH22 fics on my profile thus far!  In fact, if you’re an AMM fan, I’ll go so far as to recommend my SH22 stories to you—they use AMM material, including material that you can’t find anywhere else except for in the book itself.

But whether or not you check out said fics, do check out the show itself!  It might take some time to get used to it, but give it a chance—it just might grow on you.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

“...Else our universe is ruled by chance, which is unthinkable.”

I recently finished The Language of Bees, the ninth Mary Russell novel and one of only two Mary books that my library has.  It was my first full foray into that universe.  It was… okay.  It was a fairly fun read—Mycroft was adorable and fantastic.  On the other hand, Sherlock did not have as large a role as I wished he could have (I hope this book was the exception rather than the rule).  The sexual morality of many characters was nonexistent (and a note to Ms. King: you actually can write a good book without ever once making a reference to sex).  I also didn’t… appreciate the usage of the Baring-Gould idea that Holmes and Irene Adler had an affair and a son (although King’s handling of Holmes as a father is masterful).

But do you know what really bothered me?  It’s a common-enough misrepresentation of Sherlock Holmes’s character, certainly in fanfiction:

Holmes is depicted as being atheistic and averse to Christianity.

How is that a misrepresentation, you say?  Surely Holmes’s logical mind would naturally be averse to religion?

Well, that’s what a lot of people seem to think.  Either that, or they think that Holmes was more interested in Eastern religions than Christianity, thanks to his description of the Great Hiatus and a couple of other little bits in the Canon.

However, neither idea is true.  Actually, both ideas must needs ignore no fewer than a dozen passages throughout the Canon that, altogether, form a very clear picture of Holmes’s spiritual beliefs.  In fact, it would appear that Holmes’s rational mind strengthens his faith rather than weakens it (allow me to submit C. S. Lewis to you as a real-life example of such a man).

The avid Sherlockian will no doubt recall the rose soliloquy of “The Naval Treaty,” the closing words of “The Cardboard Box,” and Holmes’s patriotic little speech at the end of “His Last Bow.”  These three passages alone can build a credible case for some sort of theism on Sherlock’s part.  But it’s everything else altogether that makes the case concrete (emphasis mine).

A Higher Court than Man

The first inkling we have that at least one of 221B’s tenants believes in a judgment after death is Dr. Watson’s own narrative in A Study in Scarlet, when he says of the late Jefferson Hope:

A higher Judge had taken the matter in hand, and Jefferson Hope had been summoned before a tribunal where strict justice would be meted out to him.

And in one of the earliest short stories, Holmes himself echoes this view to a man guilty of a similar crime:

“You are yourself aware that you will soon have to answer for your deed at a higher court than the Assizes.”

Sherlock Holmes never speaks idly and, in such moments, never falsely.  In the hour of judgment, his words come straight from his soul.

Familiarity with the Bible

At least, Holmes knew his Scriptures, even if he sometimes forgot them.  At the end of “The Crooked Man,” he berates himself for not remembering a certain Biblical record sooner:

“There’s one thing,” said I as we walked down to the station. “If the husband’s name was James, and the other was Henry, what was this talk about David?”
“That one word, my dear Watson, should have told me the whole story had I been the ideal reasoner which you are so fond of depicting. It was evidently a term of reproach.”
“Of reproach?”
“Yes; David strayed a little occasionally, you know, and on one occasion in the same direction as Sergeant James Barclay. You remember the small affair of Uriah and Bathsheba? My Biblical knowledge is a trifle rusty, I fear, but you will find the story in the first or second of Samuel.”

Acknowledgement of Satan as a Literal Person

The central figure of The Hound of the Baskervilles is the titular canine, merely the latest reincarnation of a popular mythological element, the hellhound.  Holmes, of course, doesn’t buy the idea that the hound is supernatural, but he when he speaks of the Devil, he does so as one who is already convinced of the reality of such a person:

“I have hitherto confined my investigations to this world,” said he. “In a modest way I have combated evil, but to take on the Father of Evil himself would, perhaps, be too ambitious a task.”

“Yes, the setting is a worthy one. If the devil did desire to have a hand in the affairs of men– –”
“Then you are yourself inclining to the supernatural explanation.”
The devil’s agents may be of flesh and blood, may they not?

Note that he doesn’t just say the Devil in that first passage, but uses a Biblical title for Satan.  And, in the second passage, he refers to Satan as an actual, existing person.

Catholic Sympathies

It is actually possible, based on HOUN, that Holmes was a Catholic (as Doyle himself was).  Another option, based on the quote below, is that Holmes’s French heritage (he was one-quarter French) instilled in him a respect for Catholicism:

“I must thank you,” said Sherlock Holmes, “for calling my attention to a case which certainly presents some features of interest. I had observed some newspaper comment at the time, but I was exceedingly preoccupied by that little affair of the Vatican cameos, and in my anxiety to oblige the Pope I lost touch with several interesting English cases. This article, you say, contains all the public facts?”

His anxiety to oblige the Pope?  Usually, the people who are anxious to “oblige the Pope” are monarchs and other political leaders, people who “suck-up,” and Catholics.  Holmes is obviously not in the first or second category, and, though he may not be Catholic, it is difficult to conceive an atheistic Sherlock as giving a care for the Pope, much less anxiety.

God-given Abilities

That’s a term you come across in Christianity.  The talents you possess are the talents God gave you, because He made you.  Holmes agrees with this idea in “Lady Frances Carfax”:

“What time was the funeral? Eight, was it not?” he asked eagerly. “Well, it is 7:20 now. Good heavens, Watson, what has become of any brains that God has given me? Quick, man, quick! It’s life or death–a hundred chances on death to one on life. I’ll never forgive myself, never, if we are too late!”

God-given Health

It’s a vow, a vow made in “Five Orange Pips”:

“That hurts my pride, Watson,” he said at last. “It is a petty feeling, no doubt, but it hurts my pride. It becomes a personal matter with me now, and, if God sends me health, I shall set my hand upon this gang. That he should come to me for help, and that I should send him away to his death– –!” He sprang from his chair and paced about the room in uncontrollable agitation, with a flush upon his sallow cheeks and a nervous clasping and unclasping of his long thin hands.

And it’s a pretty dead-serious vow.  It’s also worth noting that the only time Holmes ever uses God’s name in vain is twice in as many minutes in “Three Garridebs” (“For God’s sake, say that you are not hurt!” and “By the Lord, it is as well for you.”).

Not Chance

Holmes himself struggles with the senselessness of tragedy but, at the same time, can’t reconcile himself to the idea that chance rules the universe and thus life is ultimately purposeless:

“What is the meaning of it, Watson?” said Holmes solemnly as he laid down the paper. “What object is served by this circle of misery and violence and fear? It must tend to some end, or else our universe is ruled by chance, which is unthinkable. But what end? There is the great standing perennial problem to which human reason is as far from an answer as ever.”

The Existence of an Omnipotent God

Sherlock Holmes never lays out a string of deductions for the existence of an omnipotent God, though he does say that deduction is necessary in religion.  Instead, he acknowledges the existence of a Creator God and goes so far as to deduce a characteristic of God, rather than His existence:

What a lovely thing a rose is!”
He walked past the couch to the open window and held up the drooping stalk of a moss-rose, looking down at the dainty blend of crimson and green. It was a new phase of his character to me, for I had never before seen him show any keen interest in natural objects.
There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as in religion,” said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. “It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its colour are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.

Note that he doesn’t say, “We can deduce the existence of God from the flowers.”  Instead, he says, “We can deduce the goodness of God from the flowers.”  He’s working on the acknowledgment that God exists, and he’s deducing a characteristic: God is good.  Later in the story (“The Naval Treaty”), we discover that his fascination with the rose was a decoy; nevertheless, when Holmes spouts philosophy, he’s always shooting straight from his head.

The Grace of God

“God help us!” is not an uncommon ejaculation for the age, but it sounds like Holmes means it.  Not only that, but he makes a quote about God’s grace and means it, apparently because he realizes that it’s only God’s grace that keeps him from such a sad fate as John Turner’s in “Boscombe Valley”:

“God help us!” said Holmes after a long silence. “Why does fate play such tricks with poor, helpless worms? I never hear of such a case as this that I do not think of Baxter’s words, and say, ‘There, but for the grace of God, goes Sherlock Holmes.’”

This idea is repeated in “The Empty House”:

“I scrambled down on to the path. I don’t think I could have done it in cold blood. It was a hundred times more difficult than getting up. But I had no time to think of the danger, for another stone sang past me as I hung by my hands from the edge of the ledge. Halfway down I slipped, but, by the blessing of God, I landed, torn and bleeding, upon the path. I took to my heels, did ten miles over the mountains in the darkness, and a week later I found myself in Florence, with the certainty that no one in the world knew what had become of me.”

Torn and bleeding Holmes may be, but he’s alive, and he acknowledges it as the work of God.

The Supremacy of God

Early in his life, Holmes acknowledges an omnipotent God.  After a Great Hiatus, he still acknowledges an omnipotent God.  And as an older man, he still recognizes God as being in control over all, even wars:

“Good old Watson! You are the one fixed point in a changing age. There’s an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it’s God’s own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared.”

The date is August 2nd, 1914.  In two days, the First World War will commence; Holmes knows that it will be the most devastating conflict the planet has yet seen.  And yet he firmly believes that God has a plan and is ultimately in control, that He can use even the worst experiences for good.  It would seem that Sherlock Holmes has at last come to settle on the answer to his own question, some three decades previous:

“What is the meaning of it, Watson? What object is served by this circle of misery and violence and fear?”

The answered:

“But it’s God’s own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared.”


A Study in Scarlet
“The Boscombe Valley Mystery”
“The Five Orange Pips”
“The Crooked Man
“The Adventure of the Cardboard Box”
“The Naval Treaty”
The Hound of the Baskervilles
“The Adventure of the Empty House”
“The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax”
“His Last Bow: The War Service of Sherlock Holmes”
“The Adventure of the Three Garridebs”

And a big shout-out to Steven Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes for Dummies, who not only pointed out twice in said book that Holmes holds Christian beliefs but also shot down three different anti-Christian ideas about Holmes’s spiritual worldview.  I highly recommend reading his top-notch deductions about Holmes’s beliefs, as well as just reading the entire book—it’s excellent!

Disclaimer: The words regarding Laurie King’s works are the disappointed opinions of a Sherlockian.  The quotes are all from the Canon in their originality, save the emphasis of certain phrases, and are the original intellectual property of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.  The commentaries are my own; the deductions are elementary.  No part of this post, even the review of The Language of Bees, is intended to offend any person of any belief or background.  The body of the post merely lays out the facts.