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My original concept for this diary was to talk about how the expiration of the copyright on Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories had led to three high-profile bastardizations of the works in recent years. But when I started researching the issue of Sherlock Holmes copyrights and trademarks, I discovered that I didn't know squat about the subject, and many of the stories are still under copyright in the United States. Therefore, all three of the entities I'm railing against (The Robert Downey Jr. films, the British "Sherlock" series, and the American "Elementary" series) were produced with the blessing of the Doyle estate.

There's a fascinating story to be told about the copyrights and trademarks, believe it or not. But at this point, I don't know enough to tell it. It's complicated, tangled, contentious and baffling -- seemingly an appropriate subject for the great detective himself. But if I tried to tell it, I would undoubtedly mess it up.

But about those three "bastardizations" ... follow me below the squiggle if you dare.

I'm a Sherlock Holmes fan from way back. I read the stories for the first time when I was in junior high school (or middle school in the current vernacular). I read every single one of the stories, over and over.

Then I found the Basil Rathbone movies -- adoring the first ones that kept Holmes in his period, and forgiving the silly later movies that had Holmes fighting Nazis. After all, even if they were trashing all the beautiful Victorian detail of the original stories, they were giving me a little more access to the character I loved so much.

Much later, I watched the British Jeremy Brett series. It wasn't perfect, but I felt it captured the characters of both Holmes and Watson well.

Along the way there were other films -- Holmes is a favorite cinematic subject. Most kept the stories in their Victorian context, though there are exceptions.

But in the past three years, there has been an explosion of new Holmes projects. I thought it was sparked by the end of the copyrights on the original material, but it's more likely a matter of the ownership of those copyrights passing to people with a greater interest in making money off them.

First, there was the Guy Ritchie directed, Robert Downey Jr. films. I won't go on too much about them except to say I don't hate them. I just don't think they have anything to do with Sherlock Holmes. If they'd decided to name the detective Sherman Heathercorp and his friend John Witterdon, I would be wholly satisfied. The movies are energetic and entertaining. They take a somewhat steampunk approach to the era. They're bright, well designed and fun to watch.

The use of Doyle's character names seems to be entirely a marketing strategy. People will turn out for a Sherlock Holmes movie. A movie about Sherman Heathercorp is less certain.

Next came the British production of "Sherlock," starring Benedict Cummerbatch. It's received a lot of acclaim and I'll admit that in my own circle of friends, I'm the only person I know who hates it.

I hate it because it fails in every aspect of moving the characters of Sherlock and John Watson to the present. The stories are based in part on actual Doyle stories (the first episode being a reworking of A Study in Scarlett). But the writers seem to completely miss the point of every one of those stories.

In the first episode, Cummerbatch's Holmes declares himself a "sociopath," who doesn't care a bit about the right or wrong of the situation, but is only interested in solving a puzzle.

I'm sorry, this isn't Sherlock Holmes. The character as Doyle wrote him was fascinated by puzzles, but he was the opposite of a sociopath. He was deeply committed to fighting evil in the name of good.

Doyle was a Victorian, and he believed in good and evil. More than that, he believed in the spirit world and in the existence of magic. He believed in fairies.

Arthur Conan Doyle carried on a long friendship and rivalry with Harry Houdini over the question of whether spiritualists were charlatans or a link to the great beyond. Houdini spent his adult life debunking spiritualists and Doyle defended them.

The idea that Sherlock Holmes was a sociopath would have Doyle spinning in his grave. Not only was Holmes not at all sociopathic, he was charming a erudite when dealing with his clients. He never left his rooms on Baker Street without being impeccably dressed (unless he was in disguise). He treated women with courtesy.

Sherlock Holmes was the epitome of a Victorian gentleman. He was perfect on the surface with a roiling, hidden underbelly. Doyle showed Holmes dark side entirely within his Baker Street flat, where he fired a pistol at the walls, was slovenly, abused drugs, and offended polite society (but never where society could see it).

This is a metaphor for what Doyle saw of the Victorian world. For all the proper social convention of Victorian society (where women were advised to "close their eyes and think of England" while having relations with their husbands), there was a thriving porn industry, and persistent rumors of sex orgies among the upper crust. London was a jewel of civilization that sheltered Jack the Ripper.

Doyle saw this and fashioned it into his perfect gentleman who seemed absolutely admirable to the world, but hid a bundle of ugly habits from everyone but his closest associate, Dr. Watson.

But despite the underground sexual culture, which I believe Doyle would have been quite aware of, he chose not to give his perfect gentleman a sexual dimension. I don't know whether it was because he was uncomfortable with sex or because he simply wanted his creation to marketable to the widest possible audience. Whatever his motivation, Sherlock Holmes, as written by Doyle, did not have boners.

There has been, in contemporary times, a temptation to portray the Holmes/Watson relationship as gay. But that would not have been a reasonable assumption in Victorian society. The sexes were more widely divided in that time, and for men to form close bonds of friendship and even live together entirely platonically was not viewed as anything unusual. Look, for a moment, at Evelyn Waugh's "Brideshead Revisited." Sebastian and Charles Ryder are inseparable friends through their college years. Sebastian does turn out to be gay, though he never made (to the reader's knowledge) advances to Charles. Charles, on the other hand, is entirely heterosexual (at least in that we see him pursuing women through his life).

While "Brideshead Revisited" is a World War II story, not Victorian, it does reflect the society that grew out of the Victorian era.

Doyle would have been aware of the existence of homosexuality. Oscar Wilde was a contemporary. It's not like gays weren't discovered until the 1960s.

While "Sherlock" doesn't specifically cast Holmes and Watson as a gay couple, the writers have winked at the concept, particularly in an early scene where Holmes seems to think Watson is "coming on" to him. This is one of the ways that the Sherlock Holmes stories suffer when they're brought forward to contemporary times. The contemporary audience assumes, in the real world, that two adult men who live together are probably a couple.

Please don't construe my objection to implying Holmes and Watson are gay as homophobia on my part. I'm fine with gay characters in literature, entertainment and the real world. My objection is that Doyle did not envision a gay couple when he created Holmes and Watson. He could have if he'd wanted to. If you want to use his creations, you should try to use them as Doyle created them -- otherwise write your own characters.

Another objection I have to recent adaptations is the use of Irene Adler and Professor Moriarty. Both were characters in one story apiece.

Irene Adler was not Sherlock Holmes girlfriend. She was an adversary whom he admired because she outwitted him. Note: She was not a "bad guy." As the story she starred in worked out, the client was the person in the wrong. Irene Adler was simply protecting her own person and getting what she was entitled to. Holmes ends up admiring her intelligence.

Yet, the Robert Downey Jr. films make her his girlfriend. Let's be clear: Sherlock Holmes did not have a girlfriend! The current American TV incarnation has cast her as a recent emotional trauma (her exact relationship hasn't been revealed yet).

Moriarty was created solely to be the foe strong enough to kill Sherlock Holmes, who was approaching superhero status in his Strand magazine stories. Doyle wanted to be done with Holmes. He was tired of writing the detective and wanted to concentrate on his other works -- which were attracting scant attention, overshadowed as they were by Sherlock Holmes.

Moriarty was never mentioned before Reichenbach Falls, and never afterward. Yet, he seems to turn up in every contemporary Holmes pistache.

Finally, let me finish with my animus toward the current CBS series. This is by far the worst of the three productions I'm talking about. I watched it up to this past week's episode, at first because I enjoyed Lucy Liu's character, but after the first two episodes, more because it was like a train wreck where you can't look away.


I find Jonny Lee Miller to be mildly repulsive. His accent is deeply annoying. (And I generally like English accents.) The character is continually disheveled and generally inappropriately dressed. (The opposite of the way the character was portrayed in the original material.) He's an emotional train wreck. (Doyle's Holmes was a man always in control of himself in public, only defeated by boredom in private.) He's a recovering addict. (Holmes was never addicted. He used drugs when he was bored and put them aside instantly when something grabbed his attention. I'm not saying this is a realistic thing. It's just the way Doyle wrote it.)

And while I like Lucy Liu as a performer, her character here is a prying busybody. She is a brilliant but discredited surgeon (Watson of the stories was never shown to be much of a doctor. He wasn't a incompetent, but he was never lauded for his medical skills either.)

The "Elementary" Sherlock was introduced as having just finished partaking of the services of hookers -- which instantly disqualifies him as having any connection to the Doyle character.

I watch most of my TV time delayed, because I work nights. I fell asleep half way through last week's episode of Elementary. Usually, when that happens (not that unusual -- my falling asleep is usually not because I'm bored by the program, it's because my hours cause sleep disruptions), I rewind to the point where I checked out and watch again. Not this time. I was utterly disinterested, and I went ahead and deleted it. I think I'm taking it off my DVR list now.

Here's the bottom line: If you want to make a Sherlock Holmes story set in contemporary America, stop and ask yourself why you don't just make something with characters you create yourself. Doyle didn't write about a recovering drug addict in 21st century New York. He wrote about the world he lived in -- Victorian London. He wrote a body of stories that vividly portray that world, and which are still accessible to the modern reader. It's not like trying to understand 16th Century Spain by reading Cervantes, or Revolutionary American by reading Nathaniel Hawthorne. Anybody can pick up a Sherlock Holmes story and read it without wading through obscure language and idiom.

Doyle was a writer in the form of Mark Twain. His prose was clear and evocative and his plotting was straight forward and involving.

If you want to write a TV series about a highly perceptive detective go ahead and do it... wait, that's The Mentalist, or Monk, or Columbo, or Psych, and on and on. The truth is, practically the entire body of contemporary TV detectives trace their ancestry back to Sherlock Holmes.

It doesn't make your story better to paste Doyle's character names into it.

Originally posted to elsaf on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 09:24 AM PST.

Also republished by Readers and Book Lovers.


OK, I admit it, I HATE "Elementary", but what about you? Do you like it?

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Comment Preferences

  •  The aversion of Holmes to the company of women (11+ / 0-)

    seems more to do with disdain and misogyny than actual homosexuality.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 09:28:18 AM PST

  •  I have similar complaints about the Oz reworks. (12+ / 0-)

    Wicked just pisses me off, seeing as it has absolutely nothing to do with the books and is just an adaptation of the 1939 movie, IMHO.

    Then they're doing "Oz, the Great and powerful"... and honestly the movie "Return to Oz" totally effed up 2 books that are complete stories on their own.

    C'mon folks, there's 13 books to work with!  You don't need to "Reimagine" something that you haven't even "Imagined" yet.

    I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

    by detroitmechworks on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 09:31:36 AM PST

    •  I agree completely (5+ / 0-)

      And SyFy's "Tin Man" was a complete travesty.

      Wealth doesn't trickle down -- it rises up.

      by elsaf on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 09:33:20 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Return to Oz (7+ / 0-)

      I didn't mind the way Return to Oz smerged the plots of Land of Oz and Ozma of Oz nearly as much as the nightmarish and overly-long opening where Dorothy is taken to a creepy insane asylum to be given electroshock therapy.  And the wholly unnecessary rule the makers adopted from the Judy Garland movie that everything Dorothy experiences in Oz might be a hallucination and so all the major Oz characters must be prefigured in people she meets in the Real World.

      The Oz parts of the movie I actually liked.

      "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

      by quarkstomper on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 10:19:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Wow! Glad I missed these! eom (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elsaf, Aunt Pat

        And even though it all went wrong I'll stand before the Lord of Song with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah! -Leonard Cohen .................@laurenreichelt

        by TheFatLadySings on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 11:09:31 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I Actually Liked Return To Oz... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I actually liked Return to Oz once it actually got past that nightmarish beginning.  I think they did a good job of imagining the world of Oz.  There were frightening parts there too:  the psycho Wheelers, the witch with the collection of heads, the creepy Nomes, the outwardly jovial yet completely amoral Nome King; but these were all within a fairy-tale context.  The initial sequence at the hospital was simply brutal, and was not even given a satisfactory resolution.

          "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

          by quarkstomper on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 07:01:00 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Now here I disagree (10+ / 0-)
    (Holmes was never addicted. He used drugs when he was bored and put them aside instantly when something grabbed his attention. I'm not saying this is a realistic thing. It's just the way Doyle wrote it.)
    On several occasions in the pre-Reichenbach Falls stories, Watson is very concerned about Holmes' cocaine use. I'm not sure that I would go so far as to say he was an addict (he does quite eventually) but the idea that Holmes was in that opium den pursuing a case never did quite convince me for some reason.
    •  I see where you're coming from (10+ / 0-)

      ... but I would argue that Watson is the "unreliable narrator" in this case. It's Watson's opinion that Sherlock is addicted, but that's just Watson's adherence to social norms speaking.

      Doyle had little respect for the medical men of his time. Today, we think of physicians as people with extensive scientific education and skills. In Doyle's time, doctors often did more harm than good. The medicine we know today was only in its infancy.

      From a purely objective frame, I would say that someone who used drugs the way we saw Holmes use them, was indeed an addict. But it's my argument that Doyle saw Holmes as someone nearly superhuman -- who had near complete control over his physiology through his intellect.

      I can say from my modern perspective that it isn't realistic, but that doesn't mean it isn't what Doyle was trying to say.

      Wealth doesn't trickle down -- it rises up.

      by elsaf on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 09:50:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well... (8+ / 0-)

        in the pre-Reichenbach Falls stories, I would say that Holmes was defintely as close to a superhuman being that you can get (and it occured to me that Holmes was defintely a model for The Batman).

        In the post-RF stories, Holmes did become more human and it wasn't always to everyone's liking.

      •  Medical Men (6+ / 0-)

        Um... Doyle was a medical man of his time.  He just found writing more renumerative.  But besides his Sherlock Holmes stories and his beloved historical adventures such as The White Company, Doyle also wrote several medical stories which were collected as Round the Red Lamp.  These stories don't necessarily shy away from the flaws of medical practice in that era, and he portrays his doctors as human beings with failings and fobiles like everyone else; but I wouldn't say in reading them that he displays a lack of respect for his profession.

        Now granted, Watson does not come off as a highly-competent medical professional in the Holmes stories; but that's because he's a supporting character, not the star.  Doyle deliberately keeps him and his medical activities in the background except in rare instances such as the opening of "The Engineer's Thumb" where in treating a patient he learns of a mystery for Holmes to solve.

        "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

        by quarkstomper on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 10:10:54 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Doyle was a physician (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          avsp, TheFatLadySings, Aunt Pat, Brecht

          ... but never very successfully.

          And at the time, drug treatments were very sketchy, and surgery a definite risk for the patient. Both anesthesia and antiseptic procedures were in their infancy in the late 19th century.

          Which is to say, the medical profession was not held in as high esteem then as it is now.

          As for Doyle, his interests in spiritualism and fairies fed a general distrust of what he perceived as "scientists," who debunked these treasured ideas.

          I read one article (at least 30 years ago) that put forth the theory that Doyle was behind the Piltdown Man hoax -- basically, as revenge against scientific thinkers who had ridiculed his interest in spiritualism.

          The above is sadly free of links back to source material, mostly because it's based on things I've read over the last 40 years and I mostly don't remember where.

          You could be correct. I could be mentally cherry picking snippets from my head.

          Wealth doesn't trickle down -- it rises up.

          by elsaf on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 10:37:59 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Uh, no (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        First, why do you say that Watson is an unreliable narrator?  You rely on his statements for your beliefs about Holmes and women even though critics and fans from the Baker Street Irregulars on down have found plenty of wiggle room in the texts for Holmes to have romantic relationships with everyone from Irene Adler to Violet Hunter.

        Second, Watson explicitly says in at least one of the stories that Holmes was addicted to cocaine but is now clean, and is horrified when he sees Holmes with a syringe in his hands.  If that isn't canon, what is?

  •  When Literary heroes transform to folk heroes (6+ / 0-)

    this is what happens. I agree that it is important to preserve the intended and original meaning of literary symbols, but the most powerful of them often become cultural symbols, bending to the needs of each new generation and cultural subset that embraces them.

    Take, for example, Superman, and how even his creator morphed his character from a hero of the people, to an iconic symbol of American ideals.

    Jesus is an even better example, as he is exemplified by every color and cultural taste to the point that the same Jesus represents entirely opposite things from one household to another.

    I'm not dead yet.

    by Krum on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 10:07:44 AM PST

    •  Reinterpretation (6+ / 0-)

      These works aren't "bastardizations", they are reinterpretations. "Man of La Mancha" is quite different than "Don Quixote", it reflects a more romantic interpretation. It's not an implausible interpretation to interpret Holmes and Watson as gay - at the time, there were gay people who kept up the appearance of "just being friends". That doesn't mean that Doyle would have interpreted it this way, of course.

      Some reinterpretations are better than others. A couple years ago, the SciFi channel put out a Flash Gordon mini-series. But an understated Ming the Merciless? Doesn't work. Ming has to steal the show.

      Humans have been reinterpreting stories for untold ages. If someone makes a reinterpretation of Sherlock Holmes, Holmes isn't harmed by it, it's still there.

      The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

      by A Citizen on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 10:47:23 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Man of La Mancha (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TheFatLadySings, Brecht, Aunt Pat

        I would take Man of La Mancha less as a reinterpretation than as an adaptation making a classic novel more accessible to the modern audience.

        I read (an English translation) of Don Quixote as a teenager. It was a hard slog -- the language being rather dense for an American teenager accustomed to reading contemporary fiction. But I loved the story.

        The musical frames Cervantes story with a little bit of Cervantes personal story (imprisonment).

        I agree that the original work was more of a burlesque than a romance, but I don't think the writers of the musical significantly changed who Don Quixote is. He's a man who sees nobility where everyone else sees vulgarity. Cervantes played it for laughs. The musical plays it for pathos.

        Wealth doesn't trickle down -- it rises up.

        by elsaf on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 10:57:56 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I read Cervantes as a teenager and could (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elsaf, Jane Lew, Aunt Pat

          barely remain in my chair. I was laughing so hard it hurt. I still have that translation, which had footnotes explaining puns that never made it into English.

          It may be the translation rather than the text that was inaccessible.

          And even though it all went wrong I'll stand before the Lord of Song with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah! -Leonard Cohen .................@laurenreichelt

          by TheFatLadySings on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 11:14:15 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  Man of La Mancha (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          elsaf, Aunt Pat, Nailbanger

          In Man of La Mancha, the fictional version of Cervantes talks about preferring to see the world as it should be, rather than seeing the world as it is. But that's the world-view the real Cervantes was satirizing.

          Cervantes didn't admire Don Quixote's "impossible dream" as the the writer of the musical, he uses Don Quixote to expose the ludicrous nature of the romances of the day.

          Those romances that Cervantes satirized are long gone. Today, we look at Don Quixote as someone to be admired for his ideals, but that wasn't what Cervantes was going for. But each generation reinterprets and repurposes the stories it inherits.

          I've read and loved both, but they are really different takes.

          The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

          by A Citizen on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 12:16:32 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I have to admit... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Aunt Pat

            I read the original novel without context. I didn't know what Cervantes was satirizing.

            But, I think the character hasn't actually been changed, simply the perspective that we view him from.

            Cervantes wrote him as a clown. The modern audience, seeing from its own prejudices, sees the clown as noble.

            The character who has been re-imagined is Cervantes.

            Wealth doesn't trickle down -- it rises up.

            by elsaf on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 12:30:40 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Reimagine one, you reimagine the other. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Aunt Pat, elsaf

              When you reimagine Cervantes, you change his interpretation of his own work, and in doing so, you change the interpretation of the character.

              In the book, he makes a firm renunciation of his dreams of knight-errantry, while in Man of La Mancha, he renounces it temporaraily, only for his last act to be to recant his renunciation, and re-embrace his dreams of knight-errantry.

              In Don Quixote, his friends try to help him back to sanity for his own good, while in Man of La Mancha, it is strongly implied that his friends are being selfish, for example, the song "I'm only thinking of him".

              The wolfpack eats venison. The lone wolf eats mice.

              by A Citizen on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 12:50:56 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

      •  Thank you (0+ / 0-)

        I couldn't agree with you more - especially since the "Holmes and Watson are lovers" idea first surfaced in the late 1960s, and the "Holmes and Irene Adler are lovers" idea surfaced in the 1930s.  These are not new ideas by any means.

    •  Some heroes are bigger than the books they're from (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aunt Pat, elsaf

      Sherlock Holmes, James Bond, Frankenstein are each so iconic that they step right out of the original pages, and leave their books behind.

      For each of these three, many authors (of books, movies and TV shows) have been so inspired by the originals that they wrote characters whose DNA is 50% derivative. But other authors have merely taken the icon and tweaked it to their ends. If their art is good enough, I forgive them.

      Boris Karloff's Frankenstein is the one we all know - he looms larger than Mary Shelley's in our minds. Branagh's Frankenstein looked back to Shelley.

      Daniel Craig's James Bond has an edge he may have learned from Jason Bourne. Skyfall returns to some of the leitmotifs of 60s Bond (e.g. his old car, and Moneypenny), but is also a very 21st century spy.

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 02:25:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Oh, yes (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        jarbyus, Brecht

        And reinterpreting these characters and these books happens all the time.   Just look at the way Shakespeare, and grand opera, and even, for God's sake, comic books characters have been reimagined and reinterpreted over the years.  

        Example:  there was a highly acclaimed Bollywood-style production of Handel's Giulio Caesar in Egitto in England about ten years ago.  Caesar and his soldier were stand-ins for the British Raj, Tolomeo and his men were the Ottoman Empire, Cleopatra wore a glittery black cocktail dress, there were zeppelins and modern warships in the background during a battle scene, and the dances were about as far from Baroque as it's possible to get without having everyone break into the Watusi.  The actual music was historically accurate (having William Christie conduct will do that) but everything else was very modern.

        And guess what?  The production was so enjoyable, and so popular, that Glyndebourne had to revive it a few years later.  It's going to be staged at the Met next spring and simulcast across the country, and I've already blocked off that Saturday on my calendar so I can see it at my local HD theater.  Normally I like my Baroque opera authentic, but denying myself this particular production because Caesar wears an officer's greatcoat is ridiculous.

        What this all means is that times change, people change, and art changes.  Maybe individuals don't like certain of these changes, but it doesn't mean they're bad, or wrong.  It simply means that they're different.

        •  I pretty much agree with what you're saying, Ellid (0+ / 0-)

          and appreciate all the knowledge you're bringing in your comments.

          elsaf wrote "I'm a Sherlock Holmes fan from way back. I read the stories for the first time when I was in junior high school". I'm wary of overanalyzing, but in general we make strong emotional connections at that age, so elsaf may be a little in love with the man elsaf first met years ago, just the way he looked then.

          elsaf is welcome to contest or correct this guess of mine.

          Shakespeare's work is the most frequently bastardized, and that's very apt. Shakespeare bastardized all his sources freely, and broke every rule. I don't think anyone, before him, had written a play like Henry IV, part 1, with its radical blend of tragedy, comedy and history.

          So the directors who set his plays in British India, gangster Chicago, or Nazi Germany, are just doing the same things to Shakespeare that he did to his own sources.

          "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

          by Brecht on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 09:12:46 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  What is your opinion of the Mary Russell books? (5+ / 0-)

    I came across "Locked Rooms" by accident at my local library and enjoyed it enough to track down all the other Mary Russell books that they owned.  (Author is Laurie R. King)

    I feel that the character of Sherlock Holmes is represented well in these books, with any changes easily explained by the adaptations of age.

    •  I've never seen those (4+ / 0-)

      But I have enjoyed some stories where Holmes shows up as a secondary character.

      I haven't re-read them in many years, but there was a time I was very much taken by Fred Saberhagen's re-imagining of Dracula.

      I know, I've just finished a Gone-With-the-Wind-length trashing of re-imagining of Sherlock Holmes, but to my eye (at the time, I might feel differently if I re-read them now) Saberhagen did a good job of rendering the character of Count Dracula (Vlad the Impaler) as a good guy. Crazy, isn't it? There was one of the Saberhagen Dracula books that had Dracula teaming up with Sherlock Holmes.

      It was all very much pulp fiction stuff. Fun to read, but don't try to think about it too carefully.

      Sherlock Holmes and Watson also showed up on one of the Doctor Who spin-off books back in the early 1990s. I forget the title, but the author was Andy Lane.

      Wealth doesn't trickle down -- it rises up.

      by elsaf on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 10:50:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I'm no Holmes scholar, but (6+ / 0-)

      I really like the Mary Russell series. The stories are interesting and the portrayal of Holmes seems to me reasonably consistent with Conan Doyle's vision in most respects. That Holmes would become more capable of emotional and sexual attachment in his older years isn't entirely implausible the way King presents it.

  •  I'm not bothered by the knockoffs (7+ / 0-)

    Really, when you have super-popular characters like Holmes, it's common to see them echoed or parodied. There are two kinds of heirs to Sherlock Holmes: efforts to depict the characters and stories exactly as Conan Doyle intended; and knockoffs, which riff off the canonical characters and stories. These different categories should be evaluated in different ways. The first must be exact in Victoriana, characteristics, plots, etc to be successful. The second can be anything at all, and how well the canon is re-imagined is the most important criterion.  The question is "is this a well-done entertainment?", not "is this an exact copy of Conan Doyle's vision?". Did Jimi Hendrix have to perform "All Along the Watchtower" exactly as Dylan performed it?

    I like mysteries, and I find both Elementary and Sherlock fun to watch. I might even enjoy them if the characters were named Sherman Heathercorp and John Witterdon, but for me part of the fun is seeing how the Conan Doyle canon is tweaked. I'm not troubled by the tweaking - I find it creatively exciting.

    OTOH, I'm not so thrilled by the Robert Downey Jr films, because they get so much of the Victoriana wrong and that gets on my nerves. I watch them because they're visually gorgeous, but I consider them a weak entry in the Holmes ranks.

    Have you considered that "Sherman Heathercorp and John Witterdon" have already made their appearance? I'm thinking of the late great series Monk, where Monk was Sherlock and his various nurses/assistants were Watson. It's the same basic plot -- brilliant, somewhat wacky, iconoclastic detective, assisted by a supportive sidekick, assists the police in solving crimes. When you start to think about it, there are many such variations on that theme in contemporary film and literature. So what? It's a great plot device!

    On a related note...
    AN interesting bit of Victoriana here for all you Conan Doyle fans out there - have you noticed that in his Holmes stories, an Englishman NEVER commits the murder. He may have trained the animal or influenced the dark-skinned foreigner to kill, but never ever does the actual deed. Or am I wrong? Feedback welcome!

    Democracy - Not Plutocracy!

    by vulcangrrl on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 11:05:03 AM PST

    •  In the first few stories (3+ / 0-)

      ... you're right, it's always a foreigner or a trained animal or some-such. But I will point to "The Empty House" where Col. Sebastian Moran is the culprit (and was even trying to kill Holmes himself). I'm sure there are others.

      I think some of Doyle's nationalism wore off as time went on.

      Wealth doesn't trickle down -- it rises up.

      by elsaf on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 11:15:10 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Good catch! nt (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Aunt Pat, elsaf

        Democracy - Not Plutocracy!

        by vulcangrrl on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 11:41:14 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Especially post-RF stories (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elsaf, Aunt Pat, Brecht

        I reread the Sherlock Holmes stories in the 2 volume Barnes and Noble editions and one thing that was pointed out was that Doyle was completely disgusted with the British Legal system.

        I suppose this mightbe the time to bring up the other issue from The Adventure of the Yellow Face.

        I think that even in London, the resolution to that story and, more importantly, Holmes (and Doyle's) belief in the humanity of Effie Munro's young child was uncommon enough in England but, as it was published in Harper's at around that same time, I wonmder how American readers reacted to that story (that may be worthy of my own investigation, but I find it hard to believe that a late 19th century American magazine published that story.

        •  Barnes & Noble Classics are pretty good (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Chitown Kev

          I enjoy the informative introductions, and especially the reactions of contemporaries and later critics.

          And the prices are most reasonable.

          "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

          by Brecht on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 08:10:31 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  The Downey films (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Brecht, Nailbanger, Aunt Pat
      OTOH, I'm not so thrilled by the Robert Downey Jr films, because they get so much of the Victoriana wrong and that gets on my nerves.
      I know where you're coming from, but I don't really see them as portraying Victoriana as much as steampunk. Dodgy Victoriana can be good steampunk.

      I get annoyed that they are ripping off the Sherlock Holmes name, but I like the movies just as fast-moving eye candy. :-)

      Wealth doesn't trickle down -- it rises up.

      by elsaf on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 11:20:41 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I was surprised when I saw the first one ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Aunt Pat, elsaf

        ... (I haven't seen the second) that it was more true to the characters than I was expecting.

        Yes, it was obviously done with a lot more emphasis on humor, action, adventure, and so on ... but I was especially surprised to see that Jude Law's Watson was probably one of the most accurate depictions of Watson -- a younger, more vigourous man, and definitely not stupid or slow.

        The depiction of Victorian England was also much more realistic than I was expecting.  (I was expecting more of a "fantasy" Victorian setting.)

        So, while I agree that it's not the books, my pleasant surprise and initial low expectations made it an enjoyable experience.

        •  I loved Jude Law as Watson (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          We finally had Watson as the young, vigorous, sexually desirable (and desiring) man of the books, not an elderly fussbudget who inexplicably found a pretty girl to marry him.  I also adored Kelly Reilly as Mary Watson, who's a strong, intelligent woman in her own right and not just eye candy.

  •  Very entertaining. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elsaf, Aunt Pat, KateCrashes

    My daughter watches some take-off on Holmes that is unrecognizable to me. Camera angles change so frequently it makes my eyes cross. Holmes is a spoiled rich teenager without morals as far as I can tell. I stopped watching after just a few minutes so I have no idea if Lucy Liu was part of it, but I seem to recall he was British.

    And even though it all went wrong I'll stand before the Lord of Song with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah! -Leonard Cohen .................@laurenreichelt

    by TheFatLadySings on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 11:07:55 AM PST

  •  As the Author of "Sherlock Holmes in Space"... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elsaf, Brecht, Aunt Pat

    ...Tuesday at 8 PM Eastern here on dkos, I try to give credit to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle before each free chapter - and they are all free - (I think I missed one or two).

    My understanding is that in the US, the major characters of Holmes, Watson, et al are available for use. (There are a few stories that are still under copyright protection.) I think the moral obligation, though, for any writer using the Doyle characters is to be true to the Doyle canon - to an extent. In, "Holmes in Space" I've tried to imagine how Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson would react if transported across space and time.

    I've created characters in other works (and supporting characters in this series) and my experience is that the characters evolve as they are being written. But at some point the character achieves independence and autonomy. Even the creator of the character then needs to respect that.



    Strange that a harp of thousand strings should keep in tune so long

    by jabney on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 11:41:52 AM PST

    •  As I said in my introduction... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jabney, Aunt Pat, Brecht

      The trademark and copyright issues on the Doyle characters and stories are very complicated and murky.

      It was widely believed back when Star Trek: The Next Generation was in production that the producers messed up, thinking Holmes and Watson were public domain when they used them in the episode "Elementary My Dear Data."

      This is not true. Paramount's legal department was very aware of the copyright and trademark status of those characters and negotiated a license to use them in Star Trek before the fact, and at considerable cost.

      To tell the truth, I'm not certain either way (major Doyle characters public domain or not), after reading what I read this morning.

      And if you want to split hairs, whether or not you're making money on your story is irrelevant when it comes to trademark and copyright infringement issues. This is a common misconception held by writers of fan fiction. It's not whether you made money that counts. It's whether your use of the characters could COST the owners of the licenses money or control -- say if your story got so popular that people started thinking of you as the owner of the character rather than the person who owns it.

      I don't say that to discourage you from continuing to write your story. I just want to clarify the issue when it comes to copyright and trademark infringement.

      At the end of the day, if you haven't got a cease and desist letter from the owner of the characters, you've got no problem.

      Wealth doesn't trickle down -- it rises up.

      by elsaf on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 11:53:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  My first exposure to Sherlock Holmes was (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elsaf, Brecht, Aunt Pat

    Basil Rathbone's portrayal in the 1940's movies.  When I was about 10 yrs. old my mother let me stay up late with her to watch these old movies which aired on very late night television.  That Christmas I was gifted with an anthology of all the Sherlock Holmes stories which I greedily devoured.  My love of mystery novels began at age seven when I read through all of the Nancy Drew books.  Mystery novels are my "fun" and guilty pleasure reading to this day.

    I have no problem with any newer versions using the Holmes character, as long as they are entertaining to me.  I just don't associate them with the original.  I actually have enjoyed the Cumberbatch programs, and enjoy the latest incarnation with Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu, I just take them for what they are and don't try to compare and contrast them with Doyle's original and IMHO, best version.  They are a totally different animal but entertaining in their own way.  I guess I am just a mystery addict and get my "fix" wherever I can get it.  

    "Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." - John F. Kennedy -7.8., -6.6

    by helpImdrowning on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 12:29:46 PM PST

    •  It just comes down to... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      helpImdrowning, Aunt Pat

      ... whether you can personally connect with the Jonny Lee Miller character. I can't ... but YMMV.

      Wealth doesn't trickle down -- it rises up.

      by elsaf on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 12:33:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Although his Holmes is not immediately (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        elsaf, Aunt Pat

        charming and overly likeable, the story line suggests why this is so and bit by bit we get some insight and understanding about his personality flaws which elicit some level of empathy (in me), resulting in his character becoming more appealing to me as the series moves forward.  Is this a "great" show?  No, but I don't have a television so I watch what programming is available on Hulu and the networks on the internet after the original airings.  Beggars can't be choosers as they say.  Cheers.

        "Too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought." - John F. Kennedy -7.8., -6.6

        by helpImdrowning on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 01:12:50 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  minor typofix (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
  •  Mrs. Hudson (0+ / 0-)
    hid a bundle of ugly habits from everyone but his closest associate, Dr. Watson.
    and Mrs. Hudson.
  •  Fabulous Diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elsaf, Brecht

    I haven't seen many of the adaptations you write about (the one with Martin Freeman or the one with Lucy Liu) but I just about tolerated Guy Ritchie's first movie & hated his second movie.

    For me, the biggest grouse was how poorly the characters were represented. Many of the characters in the book were iconic & bigger than life, they gave me goosebumps when I read the stories, but in the movie they are just forgettable characters. Examples are all over the movies
    - Irene Adler - what a character in the book - the One - the only woman Holmes respected
    - Moriarty & Moran - the first & second most dangerous most people in England in the book. In the movie, Moran is little more than a side kick.

    I can go on, but writing about Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes leaves me very disappointed.

    I enjoyed the Jeremy Brett ones.

  •  An alternative: Dashiell Hammet (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I read Sherlock Holmes as a teenager. I found the puzzles and twist and turns interesting.

    But lately, I think Conan Doyle wrote fantasy novels. They did not reflect reality. There were elements of truth to them, some people actually acted this way, but by and large most people did not.

    [Political aside: like Romney and his visions]

    I like reading Dashiell Hammett. He actually did private detective work. His novels and stories include interesting people. Some were homosexuals. The women were often involved in either the crime or solution. (Interestingly he did not have children in his stories).

    Dashiell wrote in part as a response to Conan and his ilk, their writings had little to do with actual police work or how crimes are solved. Dashiell was one of the first to actually get closer to describing reality.


    Doyle was a writer in the form of Mark Twain. His prose was clear and evocative and his plotting was straight forward and involving.
    Exactly the issue: real life isn't very straightforward or clear. Often involving unsettling aspects.

    I would recommend reading the Red Harvest, a tale of "solving a crime" in a corrupt town - based on his experience of Butte Montana.

    •  I just read Chandler's 'Simple Art of Murder', (0+ / 0-)

      which is a marvelous essay everyone should read.

      Chandler praises Hammett's mastery of the "American language", his adherence to reality, and because he "gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse."

      "Every man has a right to utter what he thinks truth" Samuel Johnson

      by Brecht on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 08:21:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  If I might weigh in here.... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elsaf, KateCrashes, ffour, niemann

    Growing up, as I did, in England, the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle were an integral part of the culture. My father told me of going to see the Rathbone films at the local cinema, before the main feature. I was sadly disappointed when I came across them. It was not the fact that only the first two were set in the Victorian era, but I'm terribly sorry, Rathbone was too frenetic to stand up as Holmes (plus Nigel Bruce was a bumbling fool, and almost too stupid to believe as an M.D.).

    To me, the late lamented Jeremy Brett epitomised the world-weary, politically innocent, violin-playing investigator who took to his '7.0 % solution' only when there was nothing worthy of his great intellect. I also think that the fine, classically-trained actor, Edward Hardwicke (who played Watson for eight years) was better than any other Dr Watson I have seen, by far. Holmes and Watson had a close relationship, it is true, but they were typical of the times. After all, Watson does get married! Holmes, it seems to me, is best classified as an asexual being.

    As to the current and immediate past crop of abominations that claim to have some kind of attachment to the legend of Sherlock Holmes, I shall shudder and pass by on the other side. A WOMAN? Good grief! Set in the present day? Absolutely not!

    Holmes was a product of that great Victorian world-city, that stew of iniquity topped by a glittering layer of 'society' that was London. A place where Holmes could pass the time of day as a pugilist (and Robert Downey Jnr. was NOT believable as this) or in the private rooms of an aristocrat cum politician sorting out a thorny problem in European diplomacy.

    No, you only have to view the fabulous opening title sequence of the Granada TV series to understand JUST who Holmes is, and the multi-layered, complex society in which he moved. Conan Doyle's contemporary, Rudyard Kipling, had, perhaps, a wider 'reach' (more on that, at another time), but the character of Holmes encapsulates all that is both good and bad about Victorian England.

    One last aside, for an early British TV attempt to produce a time-travelling 'modern' Holmes-clone, I offer you 'Adam Adamant' who lived at 28A Albany Street, London. The BBC series is still available on DVD.

  •  : : : waving : : : (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elsaf, niemann

    Hi.  Now you know somebody else who absolutely hates the Cummerbatch "Sherlock."  It's just a vapid string of gimmicks.

    One of the things I like about Doyle's stories is their smallness.  The crimes are horrible because you're pulled close to them.  The crimes don't have to be gory multiplying slaughters because one death - or one attempted murder or one fraud - is made real in its evils and ironies.

    You're nose to nose with victims and perps, feel the scratch of Holmes's tweeds and smell Watson's pipe tobacco.  You see drab dark colors and know it will rain soon if it isn't already raining.  The Brett series kept that nearly claustrophobic aura intact.  The mod forms have gone prime time schlock tv and wide-screen Dolby.  They're soulless and generic and boring.  

    The Cummerbatch series particularly revolts me because its attempt at techno-savvy is so idiotic that it's an insult to the viewer, and the Holmes/Watson interactions are reduced to schtick.

    An aside:  The first time "Asperger's" was explained to me, what popped into my head was, "Sherlock Holmes":  the detachment, the intensity, the intellect, the disinterest in social niceties, the isolation, the blase daring.  

    (And poor Watson's stuck with an ESFJ in the Myers-Briggs zodiac.)

    "Injustice wears ever the same harsh face wherever it shows itself." - Ralph Ellison

    by KateCrashes on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 06:15:04 PM PST

    •  It just occurred to me while reading this ... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      ... that while I agree with you 100% ...

      Maybe we shouldn't be referring to the new series as "the Cummberbatch series."  He's just the poor actor being paid to do the scripts (and a very good actor too)!  And as an actor myself, I say good for him for landing the lead in a series.  

      The faults of the series aren't the actor's fault.  I guess, if anything, we should be calling the series by the creators'/writers'/producers' names.

      •  You're right (0+ / 0-)

        Nothing that is wrong with "Sherlock" is Benedict Cummerbatch's fault. He didn't write this stuff. He only performs it.

        And by the same token, Jonny Lee Miller isn't responsible for "Elementary," though at least one component of my dislike for the series is not finding any charm in his performance.

        The Cummerbatch series is just an easy tag to put on the project. Cummerbatch is who you remember when you watch it. By the same token, Jeremy Brett was just an actor on the other series, though it generally gets called the Brett series, just as the 1940s movies get called the Basil Rathbone films.

        It's easy to confuse titles as bare as "Elementary" and "Sherlock." If you refer to the actors, there is no confusion at all.

        Wealth doesn't trickle down -- it rises up.

        by elsaf on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 11:23:48 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Baker Street floor plans (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Also too and not quite OT... Russ Stutler's done an in-depth study of Doyle's descriptions of 221B and produced detailed plans of it that I find as fascinating as his account of how he reasoned them out.  The plans have appeared in various publications, but if you've missed them or wondered where to find them:

    "Injustice wears ever the same harsh face wherever it shows itself." - Ralph Ellison

    by KateCrashes on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 06:24:34 PM PST

  •  I'm a bit more lenient with newer interpretations (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elsaf, niemann

    ...of classic works.  For example, I don't have objections per se to setting works of Shakespeare in the modern-day.  I have fond memories of the Adam West "Batman" series and the 1980's "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" series, even though both clearly took huge licenses with the source materiel.

    And while I was a bit wary at some of the licenses taken with JJ Abrams "Star Trek" (i.e. building the Enterprise on the surface, instead of in space; Kirk becoming a captain right out of the academy; all the characters appearing roughly the same age; having a GLASS WINDOW on the bridge, instead of a viewscreen; and the Spock/Uhura romance), I came around to really liking it overall.

    I'd also point out the Basil Rathbone versions weren't totally faithful either.  Perhaps their worst sin was turning people's image of Watson into this bumbling, overweight character whose sole function is to be astonished by Holmes' deductions.  Nor is Holmes ever described as wearing a deerstalker cap in any of Doyle's work.

    •  I thought JJ Abrams... (0+ / 0-)

      ... most brilliant stroke was setting his Star Trek reboot in an alternate universe (which was created when Spock came back through the portal with the Romulan, who killed Kirk's father and completely changed his childhood). This made all the changes absolutely fine.

      Wealth doesn't trickle down -- it rises up.

      by elsaf on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 07:04:29 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Except some of those changes weren't explained (0+ / 0-)

        by simply being in an alternate timeline:

        Okay, supposedly the different look of the ships and technology were explained by the Kelvin survivors bringing back scans of this Romulan ship from the future.

        But that doesn't explain building a ship on the GROUND (meaning you've gotta now launch this massive thing into space), or having Kirk be a captain right after graduating, or him being the same age as Uhura and Sulu.

        As I said, I liked the movie overall, but I almost wondered if it might not be better to make it a completely independent reboot, with no connection to the "prime" universe (as is the case with most reboots).  You could still have Leonard Nimoy play the older Spock and still reference people, places, and things, but not have to worry about lining things up.

  •  As a female, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elsaf, Brecht

    perhaps I am unusual in my devotion to the Sherlock Holmes stories.  His frustration with women seems to me to be due to their unpredictability, as in "...the motives of women are so inscrutable...How can you build on such quicksand? (The Adventure of the Second Stain)  He hates social BS.   I am inspired by his absence of fear and concern for what others may think in his dogged pursuit of the truth.   He has no illusions about himself, either.  He carefully maintains his freedom to be true to his values.  He has superb discipline (when he is on a case, anyway).  Although he puts mental activity above care of the body, he knows exactly what he is doing, for his art.  His perceptions are completely open on many levels, and he develops in character as he gets older.  He starts somewhere in a case and keeps adjusting as he gets more data as long as it takes to get to the solution.  He has a great sense of humor.  He resists labeling, and it is ridiculous, because he himself would not care what anybody thought.  Doyle had him constantly evolving.

    I have also read these stories over and over and find Sherlock, Watson and Mycroft great company and have learned so much about humanity from them.  Doyle must have been as lovable to create such stories.


  •  Of Holmes and Hounds (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    elsaf, Brecht

    Last year I posted a retelling of The Hound of the Baskervilles in verse as part of the Readers & Book Lovers Club Monday Night Mystery series.  ("Not a gigantic hound, just a bit of doggerel.")

    One re-working of Sherlock Holmes that I enjoyed was a Japanese animated series called "Great Detective Holmes" (aka: "Sherlock Hound").  As you can guess from the English title, the series was given an all-canine cast.  Although the episodes tended to be formulistic, (The villain is always Moriarity; he usually has some big steam-powered machinery; it always ends with a chase), the characters were appealing, and they actually managed to occasionally adapt some of the original stories.  Anime god Hayao Miyazaki worked on the character design and development of the series and the Miyazaki touch can be seen in it; (most obviously in the airplanes that feature in several episodes, but also in the cute, young version of Mrs. Hudson whom both Holmes and Watson have obvious crushes on, and who is clever enough to give Holmes a helping hand now and then.)

    "All the World's a Stage and Everyone's a Critic." -- Mervyn Alquist

    by quarkstomper on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 07:27:56 PM PST

  •  well. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


    i don't agree with much of what you have to say -- though i expect i wouldn't care for the downey films if i could be bothered to watch them -- but i can't really muster the enthusiasm for an argument. i suppose i'll note that i think your objections over the treatment of the "gay issue" in the Sherlock series are ... well ... what exactly are you objecting to again? at no point are we ever given any evidence that there is an erotic component to their relationship. sure, other characters speculate, and briefly Holmes & Watson each wonder about the other's proclivities, but it would be ridiculous if that didn't happen. it's a necessity given the repositioning of the characters into 21st century london culture.

    other than that, well, i suggest all y'all google "solar pons", which, by the way, i cannot bear to read simply because of the immense weirdness of the character's name.

    To put the torture behind us is, inevitably, to put it in front of us.

    by UntimelyRippd on Fri Nov 23, 2012 at 09:17:28 PM PST

  •  I hate to tell you this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    But speculation about the Holmes/Adler relationship predates the RDJ movies by close to 70 years.  The Baker Street Irregulars, which were founded in the 1930s by novelist Christopher Morley, not only discussed their idea, one of their number, William S. Baring-Gould, maintained that Holmes and Adler were the parents of Nero Wolfe!

    As for me, I haven't seen either Elementary or Sherlock, but I thoroughly enjoyed the Downey movies and found his portrayal of Holmes as a mad genius quite true to the books.  And I've been reading them for forty years.

    Finally, the only Holmes book that is still under copyright is The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, which is why it's the only one that can't be obtained on copyright-free download sites like Project Gutenberg.  The copyright on the vast majority of the Holmes stories lapsed in 1980, which is why there so many UNauthorized Holmes novels, short stories, cartoons, graphic novels, and movies that have come out since then.  Among them are Alan Moore's "From Hell," Laurie King's Mary Russell novels, and at least two dozen other novels that range from decent to execrable.


    •  I never said... (0+ / 0-)

      ... that speculation about Irene Adler started with the Robert Downey Jr. movies. I know it's been around a long time. That doesn't make it make sense.

      Irene Adler appeared in a single story where there was no hint that she and Sherlock Holmes ever wanted to see one another again.

      Yes, many people writing derivative works have given Holmes and Adler a relationship. This is not something Doyle ever did. It simply reflects the tendency of later works to "shave the corners" off the original and make it more conventional.  

      As Doyle wrote Holmes, he simply admired her for her intelligence. That, a romance does not make.


      The copyright expired for most of the stories in 1980 in the UK. Not in the United States where copyright law was changed in 1976 to allow the heirs to recapture ownership of many of the stories until 2023. The licenses have changed hands several times since 1981, but are still being actively managed (i.e., cease and desist letters for people who infringe) to this day.

      You can read about the ownership issues here. The article was written in connection with the first Guy Richie Holmes movie.

      Wealth doesn't trickle down -- it rises up.

      by elsaf on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 05:39:48 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  My feeling is... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Chitown Kev

    I'll go with the original Doyle stories and ignore the rest.

    It's a funny thing. If someone painted a painting exactly in the style of say Leonardo da Vinci, it might be regarded fairly on its own merits as a painting - but no one would take it as the equivalent of a genuine da Vinci. And if the artist tried to claim it was a da Vinci, they'd be called a forger.

    Imagine the reaction if someone painted the Mona Lisa in the style of Picasso or Salvado Dali - and then tried to claim it was just like the original, only 'reimagined'. Erm...

    Not that it can't work for some characters. There's what they call a 'franchise', a story universe in which reinvention and updating is accepted, and people argue about who did it best. Consider Dr. Who, James Bond, Star Trek, Friday the Thirteenth, Rocky, The Hobbit.

    I suppose it comes down to personal taste in the final analysis. I for one am willing to be tolerant when original material is taken up by others - but treated with respect.

    Poul Anderson's award winning "The Queen of Air and Darkness" has as a main character a "consulting detective" named Eric Sherrinford. He's deliberately modeled himself on Sherlock Holmes as an archetype - without attempting to be a clone of Holmes. While not a genuine Sherlock Holmes story, I consider it a legitimate evocation of the spirit of Holmes.

    In the same sense, I'll put up Galaxy Quest as a worthy tribute to Star Trek - warts and all.

    "No special skill, no standard attitude, no technology, and no organization - no matter how valuable - can safely replace thought itself."

    by xaxnar on Sat Nov 24, 2012 at 08:29:56 AM PST

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