Sherlock: The Hounds of Baskerville

Henry: “Mr Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound.”

Mark Gatiss and 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' should have made perfect bedfellows. His childhood passion for Holmes, his extensive writing experience, and his love of classic horror, should have produced a script beyond compare. Sadly, he was cursed with the misfortune of following Stephen Moffat. Compared to 'A Scandal in Belgravia', 'The Hounds of Baskerville' was less complex, less exciting, and ultimately less rewarding. Conversely, it was beautifully filmed, contained some great dialogue, and perfectly captured the spirit of the original story. And it most definitely had chills.

As is quickly becoming the norm, virtually everything about tonight's story was either subtly altered, turned completely on its head, or chucked in the bin completely. Bookish schoolmaster Jack Stapleton traded in his butterfly net (and gender) to become a geneticist, Sir Henry Baskerville was replaced by non-Sir Henry Knight (no relation to non-Henry Gale), Doctor Mortimer changed both his sex and speciality and became a therapist, and lawsuit obsessed Mr Frankland turned into that bloke from Casualty. Even the place names were deftly tweaked. The Great Grimpen Mire became the Grimpen Mine, Baskerville Hall became Baskerville Army Base, murderers became red herrings, and most curiously of all: werewolves became prey.

Speaking of Russell Tovey: what accent was he attempting exactly? He slipped in and out of it with such alacrity, it was virtually impossible to nail down. Usually, it’s American TV shows which massacre the English accent, but tonight, Sherlock gave them a run for their money. In the novel, Henry spent much of his life in the Americas -- so why the pseudo-posh English accent? Tovey's Billericay twang would surely have sufficed? Fortunately, his appalling accent didn't ruin what was an otherwise solid performance. Tovey did a fine job of conveying Henry’s absolute desperation, isolation and anguish. True, every time he screamed, I half expected him to turn into a werewolf -- but that was more a failing on my part, than it was his.

Whereas last week examined Sherlock’s ability to love, tonight’s episode had him questioning the reliability of his own mind. Cumberbatch was in his element here. It's not often we get to see Holmes terrified. As well as being out of his environment, he was well and truly out of his depth. Initially, I was a little puzzled by the unevenness of Cumberbatch’s performance. Compared to last week, it felt noticeably over-the-top. The hallucinogenic gas explained some of the discrepancies -- and I guess nicotine withdrawal explained the rest. But where tonight's story really shone was in its portrayal of Watson and Holmes' growing relationship -- and by 'relationship' I mean friendship, not the seemingly never ending gay subtext they keep throwing in our faces. It was funny the first time, guys... maybe the second, but every week?

Whether Holmes felt truly remorseful at Watson’s hurt -- or whether he simply sensed it from his reaction, and acted accordingly -- his words were surprisingly affecting. ('John, I don't have friends, I just have one'.) Watson's response was delightfully terse. Praise from Sherlock is so painfully extended, sparing him the indignity felt like a kindness. He didn't quite manage to cut off the inevitable insult, but it was a valiant effort. He even managed to force down a cup of over-sweetened coffee, designed to send him into a state of conditioned terror. How he didn't punch Sherlock, I'll never know. I guess they must be friends after all. Which is more than can be said for Lestrade. He still hasn't managed to secure a place in Holmes' trusted inner circle. (Current membership = 3.)

The fan community appeared to get itself into a collective tizzy this week over Sherlock’s deductions being less deductive, more guesswork. There’s obviously some truth to that. I suppose the problem lies in the word 'deduction'. Holmes is actually more prone to inductive reasoning that he is to deductive. With deductive reasoning, the conclusions are contained in the premises. Inductive reasoning allows for the expansion of knowledge -- which makes it useful for detective work, but also prone to error. Which is why Sherlock sometimes gets things wrong.

And, lest we forget: this is fiction. We’re not attending a real court case. If Sherlock were to explain why, out of his seven theories for seeing the hound, only one was truly valid, the story would grind to a halt. The sheer weight of observing every clue, looking for possible patterns, postulating hypotheses, and then coming up with working theories, would be fatal to the narrative. Even in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories, Sherlock’s certainty in his own deductions often far exceeded reason. There's no way he could have 'deduced' Barrymore's password. He made an educated guess, which paid off in a fictional context. Detective work is infinitely complex. Realistically, I doubt we'd be able to cover the basics of even the simplest case in just 90 minutes.

So what's going on with Moriarty? Last time we saw him he was a free man, yet tonight, we saw Mycroft setting him free. Whether this turns out to be some clever twist in a developing story, or some cheap way of reintroducing Moriarty, I guess time will tell. Here's hoping for great things from Steve Thompson.

Bits and Pieces:

-- Clive Mantle was a terrible Dr Frankland. He couldn't stop grinning inanely, plus his lack of tact in front of Watson and Louise Mortimer was cringe-worthy. Way to cramp John's style, Doc.

-- Lestrade's first name is Greg. So that's what the G stands for!

-- Sherlock's 'mind palace' looked very Minority Report.

-- John said 'friend' not 'friends'. Sherlock's response that he has no friends was entirely besides the point.

-- It's hard to believe that any modern software would allow a six letter password containing no numbers. What kind of crappy security is that?

-- I loved Holmes' attempts at passive smoking. We've all been there. Apart from those of us who haven't.

-- Was there supposed to be a link between hound and dogging? Presumably somebody's foot (or worse) was tapping out UMQRA on the car headlights?

-- Nice little cameo from Chipo Chung -- previously seen playing Vivien in Camelot, and as Chantho in Doctor Who. Counting Tovey, that's two Doctor Who alumni this week.

-- As well as being a keen Blogger, John also writes poetry.

Quotes:

Mrs Hudson: “How about a nice cup of tea and you can put away your harpoon.”

Holmes: “It’s this, or Cluedo.”
Watson: “Ah, no! We are never playing that again.”
Holmes: “Why not?”
Watson: “Because it’s not actually possible for the victim to have done it, Sherlock. That’s why.”
Holmes: “It was the only possible solution.”
Watson: “It’s not in the rules.”
Holmes: “Well then, the rules are wrong.”

Watson: “In your own time.”
Holmes: “But quite quickly.”

Watson: “I haven't pulled rank in ages.”
Holmes: “Enjoy it?”
Watson: “Oh yeah.”

Watson: “Did we just break into a military base to investigate a rabbit?”

Watson: “Why would you listen to me? I’m just your friend."
Holmes: “I don’t have friends!”
Watson: “I wonder why.”

Holmes: “What I said before, John, I don’t have friends. I just have one.”

Holmes: “Is that’s why you’re calling yourself Greg?”
Watson: “That’s his name.”
Holmes: “Is it?”
Lestrade: “Yes. If you’d ever bother to find out.”

Stapleton: "So this imaginary location could be anything? A house or a street?"
Watson: "Yes."
Stapleton: "But it’s a palace. He said it was a palace."
Watson: "Yes. Well, he would, wouldn't he?"

Holmes: “This case, Henry. Thank You. It’s been brilliant.”
Watson: “Sherlock!”
Holmes: “What?”
Watson: “Timing.”
Holmes: “Not good?”
---
Also posted at The Time Meddler.

6 comments:

Juliette said...

Glad it's not just me getting irritated by the oh-so-hilarious they're mistaken for gay 'jokes'. I've travelled all over the place with a single female friend and no one has ever assumed we're gay. On the other hand, when my friend and her partner were out celebrating their anniversary recently, they were mistaken for straight girls hoping to meet guys. In real life, the mistake is much more likely to happen that way around!

Robertr said...

I agree, Juliette. The only reason anyone would have to assume a couple were gay, is if they were showing obvious physical affection, or were communicating in a way which betrayed a closeness beyond friendship. Holmes and Watson do neither. Apparently, mistaking everyone for being gay is what passes for humour these days.

Paul, I think you were too generous with Russell Tovey. Not only was his accent ridiculous, he can only play one character. You weren't the only one expecting to turn into a werewolf. George is the only character he ever plays. And his accent sounded like he was taking the piss out of the Queen.

It wasn't an awful episode. But last week raised our expectations too high. This was my least favourite episode of the series so far, but it's still better than half the rubbish the BBC subject us to week after week.

Chronotis said...

I'm starting to lose faith in Mark Gatiss' ability to consistently write a good script. This was a step up from Victory of the Daleks, but a step down from The Great Game. It looked lovely, but felt far too self referencing. Despite all the book characters being there, they hardly did anything. There were no viable red herrings, the HOUND thing felt forced, and the plot was too straightforward. Not bad, but not great.

Patryk said...

A 2nd episode letdown is becoming a Sherlock trademark. Of course the drop in quality wasn't as big this time around. Just hope the next epsiode will be great and not end with a cliffhanger.

Sooze said...

You put my favorite quote first!

I watched one and two back-to-back. After the brilliance of one, this was a bit of a letdown. But I did still enjoy it.

And being from the US, I never really notice when a British accent is done badly - but I do notice when an American accent is done badly...everyone is either from Georgia or from Boston (which, of course, we're not).


sunbunny said...

This episode is actually my favorite one. I recognize it's not the best one (and may in fact be the worst), but it's still my favorite. I have no reasoning for this. None at all. I guess I'm just insane. :)