June 22nd, 2014

granada holmes

Sherlock-related musings

(Series three Sherlock spoilers ahead, if that still is a problem for anyone.)

I've been thinking about something related to Sherlock, or rather the Sherlock fandom. Or rather, to be specific, I haven't been thinking so much as feeling and living with a realization I'm still trying to make sense of.

I've seen a lot of back-and-forth over the character of Mary Morstan. If you're at all drawn to the show or the fandom, this is in no way surprising. What's slightly more surprising (though maybe not depending on where you're coming from) is the fact that for a lot of people, the fandom seems drawn between two camps: those who think Mary is is a villain, possibly a very exciting one, and those who try to explain away her actions and make sense of how they're understandable or even justifiable.

Put a different way, the fandom seems to be carved up along the lines of an objective analysis of Mary's morality. The question we're asking is whethr her actions are defensible or acceptable - or not.

What I'm discovering as I sit with her character is that I don't have strong opinions one way or the other on that question. One of the canonical (as in: Doyle) Sherlock's main points was that it's a mistake to form theories in the absence of evidence, and if there's one phrase I'd ascribe to Mary, "evidence of absence" is it. We just don't know nearly as much about her as we need to, to go making up our minds. I highly doubt the Watson marriage will last, for a whole slew of reasons. I have a strong intuitive sense that we're supposed to hate her, which makes me think (given these show creators) that that hatred is a red herring, either that Mary will turn out to be in some sense redeemable (even if not as Mrs. Watson) or that our focus is being drawn to her is a misdirect away from some other important aspect of the story (just a magic trick...). So I'm not really sold either way, thinking that Mary's a villain or that she's not - because we don't have the necessary evidence and I don't feel qualified to work out an answer to that question.

Here's where things get interesting for me, though. Almost in spite of myself I care deeply about Mary's character - just not about the question being asked. See, I know from my own experience that just because someone's a really, really awful excuse for a human being, that doesn't mean you don't love them, it doesn't keep you from being emotionally invested about them. And because of my own PTSD I've always identified really very strongly with John, so I feel myself going through this journey with him a bit. For me, even if Mary turns out to be a true villain that I as an objective outsider should hate the way we hate Voldemort and Morgoth, it won't change the fact that for John, the way I read John, he will suffer betrayal and anger and pain and abandonment just like he would if Mary turned out to be a redeemable character. And similarly with the baby: even if it turns out he's not the biological father, that doesn't change the fact that he'll still feel involved. He will still feel tied to Mary and will probably grieve for how Mary's past and his own falling-apart from her (assuming that happens) affects his daughter in a probably very negative way. If the baby turns out not to be his in the technical sense, that won't change how I think a man like John Watson would have to be affected.

At the end of the day, I think that is the framework I approach these questions through. It's not that I don't have opinions about Mary's past or the baby's paternity or any of the rest; it's that I think when I focus on those questions, I necessarily separate myself from the story the show is telling. I view these matters with a bit too much disinterest, I guess, and so I separate myself from these characters I care deeply about. I don't think of Mary as a villain, not because I'm convinced she isn't so much as because, if I acted like her being a villain would make everything okay, well, there's something off about that. Because it wouldn't for John Watson, or at least it wouldn't for me if I were in John Watson's shoes.

There's a part of me that wonders how many people are out there ambiguous to Mary's character or even looking a lot like the people wanting her to be redeemed, who are approaching this show from a similar perspective. I honestly don't know. I kind of hope so, though, and if they are I'm not sure where we fit into the Mary wars.
granada holmes

Mycroft, Mark Gatiss, and Doctor Who; + six-sentence Sunday

I've grown increasingly taken with the idea that while Sherlock has deleted every reference to that pop culture bit of nonsense titled Doctor Who, Mycroft is secretly a major fan. As in, had Anthea's predecessor transferred to Krakow when he called David Tennant the Second Doctor big. Probably has a sonic screw-driver rolling around in a dress drawer somewhere. Went so far as to actually try fish fingers and custard, which was every bit as revolting as he was sure it would be.

It's partly the possibility for meta humor in the Mark Gatiss connection. (If you don't know, the actor who plays Mycroft on the BBC also has written several Doctor Who episodes.) Also, there's the excuse of bringing two things I love together like that. But there's something about Mycroft that's always struck me as having great potential for what I call covert geekdom. They don't let on how big a fan they are, don't quote lines or wear fannish t-shirts to the gym, but they secretly love the shows and get a kind of hidden thrill when other people reveal themselves as geeks. The man probably abuses CCTV coverage up in Cardiff to work out spoilers for the next series.

Anyway, I was poking around this afternoon to see just what bits of Doctor Who he's been involved with. Seems that he wrote some of my favorite episodes: The Unquiet Dead, Cold War, and the Idiot's Lantern all would easily rank in my top ten fave episodes ever. (Gatiss also wrote Victory of the Daleks, Night Terrors, and The Crimson Horror.) The first three especially are so fantastical in the gods-and-monsters tradition, but at the same time have this emotional heart to them that really involves you at a gut level. They feel real, even when you're dealing with things like TV's that suck out your soul quite literally. It's odd, because Sherlock doesn't really give him room to do the same kind of work ("Baskerville" is perhaps the only exception), but going off of interviews and quotes, this strength doesn't surprise me at all, if anything it felt like the most natural style of writing in the world.

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The Sherlock fandom has a tradition called six-sentence Sunday, where people post six sentences from their current project. For once I'm working on a story that's not for an exchange so I feel like I can share bits of it. Here's a bit from my current WIP, a Study in Pink gapfiller/expansion I'm currently calling "Enemies":

In retrospect, what most surprised John wasn't that he'd failed Mycroft Holmes's first test, but that he hadn't seen it for a test at all. If by 'retrospect' he meant some seven hours later after they'd caught the police their murderer – more or less – and rounded off the evening with too much dim sum and rice wine, once the adrenaline had faded and he no longer had to fight back the urge to giggle – a short enough window to give him some perspective, but time seemed to move differently in a reality involving a Holmes, and so some words needed redefining.

His first clue should have been that trick with the phones and the video cameras, and the black town-car appearing seemingly out of thin air, to say nothing of the conveniently-abandoned warehouse. It was a scene drawn from a James Bond film, not the more mundane adventures he'd left behind in Afghanistan and certainly not his current existence. Yet there he had stood, trying not to lean too heavily on his cane, and there he had stood, the man John later attached to the name Mycroft Holmes, twirling his umbrella like a young girl's parasol, plucked from another age. Mocking him.

John knew what a reconstructed knee looked like, how a man stood even when the procedure was successful as they ever were. There was weakness there, but of course Mycroft Holmes would never admit it, give it any due deference. Quite the contrary. He had shown John just enough so any half-decent army doctor could see his injury but then had twirled his support like a child's plaything. The message was clear: see how you rely on your crutch, Doctor Watson, and how little I do mine.


Slightly more than six sentences, but I've never been a great fan of rules.