There’s something about fandoms – the communities surrounding a specific subject of mass media – that I can’t quite get the hang of.
My timing is atrocious. I never show up to a fandom on time, I’m always the new girl in school when all the cliques have already formed. Book versus movie. This adaptation versus that one. Do you follow the podcast? Do you have the first editions? I show up and the lines in the sand have already been drawn, and I am stuck wondering which side to choose while I experience the source material for the first time, alone. It’s intimidating to the point where I may never watch “Doctor Who” and I still don’t even know what “Welcome to Nightvale” is about.
The euphoria, the emotional upheaval of the first time experience is but a memory for the rest of the fandom, and no one has the patience to hold my hand and say, “Yes, that was very impactful for me, as well, but push through the pain and you’ll be glad you did.” There’s no one to comfort me when I throw my book across the room in a rage at a character’s death (thanks, George RR Martin, you dick).
It’s an isolating feeling, to be the latecomer – to develop theories of how this or that went down only to find out that your theory was debunked in a series of podcasts four years ago because you’re the latecomer.
Which brings me to my latest obsession – BBC’s “Sherlock.” Most fans have been waiting with baited breath for the premiere of Series Three after a very long two year wait. The final episode of Series Two, “The Reichenbach Fall,” left viewers with a huge cliffhanger, few answers, and vague speculation on when the show would return.
It’s been a hard couple of years for Sherlock fans, which makes them even more upset with me. I waltzed into the fandom just months ago, devouring Series One and Two within a couple of days and only being forced to wait a month or so before the premiere of Series Three. I get it, guys. I haven’t put in the time that you have and I don’t deserve the fandom as much as you do. I shouldn’t get to sit here in my Cumberbitch T-shirt and lament the poor quality of streaming the episodes on the internet because the U.S. premiere isn’t until January 19 – you don’t want me in your little club and that’s fine. I just want to remind you that I’m on your side and can’t we all just get along?
BBC’s Sherlock is not the latest adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s world-famous characters. Having seen only a bare fraction of the adaptations (I mean, I’ve seen “The Great Mouse Detective”), I can’t objectively say which one is the best, or even which one is the absolute closest to the original source material (or canon, in the fandom world). I can, however, provide a reasonable argument why you should drop what you’re doing right now and spend the next nine hours in a Netflix coma getting caught up to the rest of us.
1. It’s brought to you by the same guys who bring you “Doctor Who.”
Now, the Whovian fandom is not one in which I can claim citizenship, but I understand that’s it’s kind of a big deal to a lot of people. Wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff and sonic screwdrivers and a big blue police box are all very exciting, but now you can take that collaborative team and watch what happens when they are grounded in Earth’s physics and human emotion. When you’ve stripped away the magic and the science fiction, you’re left with a solid study in characters and relationships that are utterly human.
2. Benedryl Cabbagepatch.
British actor Benedict Cumberbatch has been popular for a number of years, but rose to world fame after Sherlock and his role as Khan (KHAAAAANNNN!!!!!!) in “Star Trek:Into Darkness.” Ever since, he’s been an overnight sex symbol worldwide, a concept that continues to throw him into a charming, befuddled state. Followers of Bandycoot Crumbcakes refer to themselves as “Cumberbitches,” which embrarrasses him, and he seems like a genuinely decent human being. In addition to all of this, he is incredibly talented as an actor, and embodies the idiosyncrasies of Sherlock Holmes with a subtlety that I have not seen in other adaptations. Plus, his name is really fun to say, and he’s a dragon in real life (I assume).
3. It’s so delightfully English.
Don’t get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed Robert Downey Jr.’s “Sherlock Holmes,” but let’s face it – an American actor is never going to fully embody such a completely English character. BBC’s “Sherlock” is filmed in London (and surrounding areas) with an English cast and crew, and it shows incredible attention to detail in its modernization of the original stories. There are subtle nods to Doyle’s original works – in episode titles, in casually dressed properties on the sets, to famous lines from the stories as written. I’m not saying that Sherlock Holmes can only be done justice by the British, but in this case, the authentic English touch is what gives this series its spine.
4. The modernization feels effortless.
Victorian England is a far cry from the bustling metropolis of modern-day London. The creators of BBC’s Sherlock have successfully brought Sherlock Holmes into the 21st century – Dr. John Watson keeps a blog instead of journals. Sherlock communicates with cell phones and text messages, and maintains a website to obtain new clients. The landscape of London is already a lovely juxtaposition of the modern and the vintage, so setting the show in the current era doesn’t feel like a hurdle you have to get over before you can enjoy the stories.
5. It’s a small time investment.
Normally, when you enter a fandom late, you’ve got a ton of source material to catch upon. Seven Harry Potter books plus the eight movies? Ridiculous time investment. Extended editions of “Lord of the Rings” after you’ve read the books finally? Uuuuuuugh. It’s so overwhelming. But that’s why your introduction to “Sherlock” can be so easy. Series One and Two are available on Netflix streaming – each with three episodes – and each episode is only 90 minutes long. Series Three is airing in the UK right now, also with three 90-minute episodes. The series will re-premiere on PBS on January 19 and will be available on DVD in February. So, literally, in something like nine hours you could be right here with me, obsessively waiting for the announcement of Series Four – when and if it happens.
6. It’s a sleek package.
The characters experience real growth in the face of the circumstances presented. The crimes to be solved are incredibly complex and leave you guessing. The writers spend equal time making you laugh and cry. It’s brilliantly acted. It will make you want tea (in a porcelain cup with a saucer, please) all the time. It will make you want to have a friendship as incredible as the one Holmes and Watson share (an admirable goal, to be sure). Martin Freeman (“The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy,” “The Hobbit”) gives consistently stellar performances, nuanced and honest.
7. BBC’s commitment to an immersive fan experience.
In the original stories, the tales of Sherlock Holmes were told in the writings left by John Watson in his notebooks. In BBC’s “Sherlock,” as I’ve mentioned, Dr. Watson keeps a blog describing the adventures he has with his friend and flatmate and Sherlock maintains a website where clients may contact him for help. These websites actually exist, complete with blog entries, comments from characters, and hidden gems that parallel action in the show. That attention to detail and the added layer of entertainment for fans of the show is fantastic.
Of course, the series isn’t perfect. Diehard Sherlock Holmes fans (and we’re talking the original stories here) might take umbrage with the adaptation loose interpretation of beloved stories like “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and “A Study in Scarlet.” The blogosphere is afire with arguments about Sherlock’s relationship with “The Woman” (Irene Adler) and the casual references to the fact that Sherlock may or may not be gay in the series has some members of the fandom up in arms (and others not-so-secretly hoping he is). It’s sometimes difficult to follow the speeches without subtitles turned on, and some might argue that the series is severely whitewashed – while people of color are represented in the show, it’s at a significantly reduced rate compared to the number of Caucasian characters. Regardless, BBC’s Sherlock is a force to be reckoned with,and may become the standard to which future adaptations are held. Sorry, Mr. Downey, Jr., but the Cumberbitches have spoken.