Tuesday, January 24, 2012

"The Hounds of Baskerville"

If the second series of "Sherlock" maintaining, as I suggested in my previous review, the standards of the first means a somewhat weaker or at least less consistent second episode then this is certainly true to type. In many ways, Gatiss succeeds in reinvigorating one of Conan Doyle's most well-known instalments of his canon. While "The Hound of the Baskervilles" has got to be one of the most over-adapted and perhaps even overrated Holmes mysteries, Gatiss does put a fairly interesting new spin on things here. "Baskerville" is no longer an ancestral family and corresponding estate but a secretive military research centre, and the murder is not a recent affair but rather a cold case. The original novel was written by Conan Doyle due to popular demand after Holmes' apparent death in "The Final Problem" and was set beforehand. His visible exhaustion with the character is very apparent in the original story as Holmes is absent for about half of the adventure while Watson gathers information on the Baskervilles for him. Gatiss of course has no such qualms about using Holmes and so after a nod towards this original situation in which Holmes suggests he's sending Watson in his place they both end up going out to the country to investigate. He's intrigued by their client Henry Knight's use of the term "hound" to describe the apparent beast which is terrorising the region. I'm not sure this was ever explained to my satisfaction; yes, Holmes felt it was a rather overly-poetic term which gave him a clue that something unusual was afoot but it still seems a little bit much.
Another thing I might quibble about is the cold open. This basically just involved a nightmare on the part of Henry, our stand-in for the original Sir Henry Baskerville, and seemed to be rather excessively reminiscent of the cold opening of an episode of modern Doctor Who. There were a few times in this story where I felt a bit of a strong Doctor Who vibe, especially through the numerous horror and science-fiction elements present. The "Baskerville" centre is the source of plentiful urban legends and conspiracy theories in the surrounding region, and rumours abound of genetically engineered animals and devious experiments with living weapons. Of course, by and large we never got the full picture about what was going on at Baskerville but the idea that anyone would really believe or even bother propagating such tales was something of a stretch to my mind and seemed a little out of place in the "realistic" world of Sherlock. Then again the original stories had their fare share of fanciful elements, usually debunked by Holmes, and the original story of The Hound of the Baskervilles was a similar, although much more period, crime connected to fear of something in a sense supernatural, although in that case the fantastic and in this the science-fictional. So I suppose Gatiss has updated the concepts fairly effectively. Conspiracy theories are, after all, the modern equivalent of such demoniac myths, although believed or taken seriously much, much more rarely, and that may be what makes it harder to swallow to my mind. It seems easier to imagine late 19th century people believing in a demonic hound than it does early 21st century people believing in a vicious genetically-engineered dog or some kind of top-secret lab where the military's up to no good with scientific ethics out the window.
Nonetheless, Holmes and Watson go out with Henry to investigate the situation on the moor, and this is when things definitely became interesting. While John's distracted by some lights which ultimately turn out to be a red herring much like in the original tale, albeit of a more pervy nature here, Henry and Sherlock encounter the hound. This led us into one of the best sequences of the episode as Sherlock become paralysed with doubt. Despite telling Henry otherwise, he has seen the hound. The full force of encountering something not only genuinely terrifying but supernatural to an otherwise entirely logical and rational mind is devastating. I once read an old comic which sort of hybridised "The Final Problem" with the plot of Dracula, and part of Moriarty's plot involved manoeuvering Holmes into a confrontation with Dracula himself. Upon being presented with blatant proof of the existence of the supernatural, Holmes falls for a long time into a borderline catatonic state, unable to reconcile the evidence of his senses, upon which he completely relies, with his equally complete conviction that the universe is entirely scientific and mechanical in its function. I was pleased to see Gatiss employ a similar notion in this episode. Our modern Sherlock is a particularly emotionless and mechanistic character, and such cannot cope. He alienates John and is gripped with paranoia.
Sherlock of course admits in this episode that John is his friend, which is a far more important piece of character development I feel than we received in the Irene Adler scenario in the previous episode. What frustrated me, however, was the perpetuation of this rather tiring depiction of Holmes as a complete jerk. In this instance he dopes John with the fear drug and tricks him into thinking he's being attacked by the hound just to prove a point. However it turns out to all be rather pointless and self-defeating. What did he need to prove to John, especially after admitting his friendship? It was confronting, yes, but just made Holmes look like a tool, which is a tiresomely repetitive source of humour in this series which often subverts the points they're trying to make. Another repetitive element was the overuse of Mycroft. While he had no dialogue and only appeared in one scene the use of his access to government facilities all seemed a little bit too convenient and a rather purposeless exercise. Again, it feels often that this series is more about governmental intrigue and espionage rather than specifically detective work. Nonethless, there is still a murder to investigate.
Of course it couldn't really be a demonic hound. Sherlock's about solving mysteries, not perpetuating absurdities. I think from the moment they saw it in the mist I was convinced that some kind of drug was in use and the similarities to Scarecrow's fear toxin were pretty striking. Gatiss was right to acknowledge that representations of the hound are usually disappointing. That's certainly true in numerous adaptations and while it was successful of them to make the hound mostly an imaginary impression and to have it unseen I think it was a mistake to visualise it at all. The CGI hound we got to see is entirely unconvincing and while it's meant to be understood as a hallucination I think it was a weak concession to make any attempt to depict the beast. I would have had the shots been fired and then shown the entirely ordinary dog falling to the ground. The hound was far more intimidating when we couldn't see it at all, especially in John's experience.
I think the culprit, Dr Frankland, was simultaneously predictable given his apparent helpfulness and rather underdeveloped so that his role as villain seemed a little insignificant or lacking in impact. Similarly the character of Stapleton, obviously a deliberate red herring on Gatiss' part to throw off those of us who know the original story, seemed underdeveloped. All of a sudden she's helping Sherlock out, and her admission of genetic experiments on animals and the recurrent throwing back to her daughter's plea for help seemed a little repetitious of the scenario in the previous episode. Overall the plot started to fall apart by the end. Many reviewers have suggested that there really wasn't enough plot to fill a full ninety-minute episode and I think I hesitatingly agree. The numerous false clues, dead ends and abandoned or barely accounted-for plot threads suggest an element of padding out beyond simply throwing the audience off the scent. At times the heavy atmosphere of horror and conspiracy thriller suggested to me that there was an absence of criminal mystery and that the detective work wasn't that important. Compound this with the scene where Sherlock arrogantly dismisses John on the need to explore his "mind palace" or some nonsense followed by the admission of Sherlock's deliberate poisoning of John with the fear gas and the character development feels rather wobbly too.
I'm not saying it was a bad episode but it was certainly inconsistent. I think that as tempting as it obviously was it wasn't necessary to try to update "The Hound of the Baskervilles" and that there were more challenging and interesting criminal plots they could have developed, from Holmes adventures or of their own creation. The development of Sherlock and John's friendship, as difficult as it is to reconcile it with other parts of the episode, was important, and the scenes where Sherlock loses faith in his own rationality and confidence in the understandability of the universe were very interesting and confronting. This second part in particular really stands out to me as a high point of the episode, even if the direction was a little odd with the juxtaposition of Sherlock's face in close up to John in the background. Unfortunately, however, the plot was a little thin on the ground and several notionally important characters weren't developed enough to give the story a good pace. I feel that there are issues in this episode reminiscent of issues in the modern version of Doctor Who: that some of the fundamental tenets of the concept, in this case the amazing solutions of complex detective mysteries, have been replaced with a general atmosphere of intrigue and air of suspense which isn't enough alone to sustain the plot. Perhaps we've had things like Jonathan Creek for long enough, but the best Holmes stories to me are generally the criminal investigations. In that regard it's possible that applying modern television concepts to a Holmes story which is in my opinion somewhat overrated, reliant on atmosphere more than investigation and representative of a great relunctance on the part of Conan Doyle to continue the character only compounded existing problems. In that way maybe it's a typical Gatiss story: the good bits are normally impressive but the missteps tend to leave you little more than apathetic.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

"A Scandal in Belgravia"

Irene Adler is a frustrating character. The subject of exactly one short story, "A Scandal in Bohemia," adaptations trying to establish an elaborate and consistent mythos and cast for the "Sherlock Holmes universe" love to completely blow her out of proportion. This is to an extent also true for recurring, implied or regularly-referenced characters like Mycroft, Moriarty and Moriarty's offsider Colonel Moran, if they aren't used well. The problem with Irene Adler is that she is always, without fail, turned into Holmes' love interest even though that is based on a complete misreading of the text of "A Scandal in Bohemia" and is symptomatic of the numbing terror that conventional entertainment seems to have about the idea of asexuality, like it's a disease that makes your bits fall off or something. So Sherlock Holmes has to have a female love interest, even if the specifics and intimacies of their relationship are left at best vague. The whole point of "A Scandal in Bohemia" was that Holmes was for once defeated, in this instance by a woman of particular resourcefulness, and as a result came to greatly respect and admire her talents. He keeps her photograph as a testament to this, and refers to her thereafter solely as "the Woman", the one woman, and indeed one of the few people, to best him. Adaptations can occasionally use this for the sake of counterpoint, creating slightly wearied scenarios where the just Holmes has two "nemesis figures": Moriarty, the "evil Holmes", and Irene Adler, the "female Holmes," usually a figure of ethical flexibility. I think if anything this episode highlights some of the problems with these accumulated Holmes archetypes.
The set-up is fairly familiar; Holmes has been requested to gain access to some compromising photographs. In this case, however, it is not the King of Bohemia whose integrity is at stake but an unspecified member of the British Royal Family. Holmes and Watson have become notorious figures on the internet; we get some smirk-inducing in-jokes involving Holmes disguising himself in a deerstalker and Watson typing up cases with punning names like "The Speckled Blonde," "The Navel Treatment," and my personal favourite, "The Geek Interpreter." Details for some of these can be found on the verisimilitudinous http://www.johnwatsonblog.co.uk/ viral website for the show. You're welcome, Moff. Anyway, in the midst of a case for which he is getting John to be his eyes and ears, Sherlock is summoned to Buckingham Palace, and Watson arrives soon after, enter Mycroft with the case and the game is afoot.
This is an extremely Mycroft-heavy episode, quite surprisingly so, but I think that is a good thing and I rarely felt that Mycroft's presence was extraneous. However, I do feel that the episode was occasionally lacking something in terms of the Holmes-Watson dynamic, and that occasionally Mycroft was acting as Sherlock's foil in scenes where Watson could probably have been used. While there's certainly a risk of Mycroft being overused, I think he was good here, but as much as I enjoy the character I hope he's used sparingly for the remainder of the series. To be fair, Holmes and Watson didn't actually see him very often in the original stories.
Anyway, Sherlock and John set out to investigate Irene Adler. Sherlock's motives seemed a tad flimsy to me. Irene doesn't want money or favour; she's involved in a power play, and apparently that's what gets Sherlock interested. How is it a power play? Not really sure, to be honest. It's only much later that she presents demands to the British Government. Regardless, this Irene Adler is not an actress, adventuress and opera singer who is finally settingly down with a sensible man after a youth of flirting with the aristocracy. Instead she's a dominatrix. While I felt that this was of course a perfectly good reason for her to have compromising photographs of a member of the Royal Family I found it to be quite cliché and a little tasteless in general. Once Sherlock is bundled into her house pretending to be a distressed clergyman as in the original story, she confronts him in a way distinctly unrelated to the source material, as she walks in starkers. As Sherlock himself puts it, "You cater to the whims of the pathetic and take your clothes off to make an impression." So begins our nightmarish descent into the world of Moffat's incredibly confusing sexual politics. He seems to give us a lot in terms of women who are so ridiculously over-empowered that it turns back on itself and becomes condescending, and yet who often play out rather adolescent fantasies of feminine sexual aggression. You can say all you like about Irene Adler's nudity giving Sherlock nothing to "read". To be honest I think Moffat just wanted a woman with her clothes off on camera. By comparison, we see his scrutiny of John standing to one side. I'm sure Sherlock could have read a lot from Irene Adler's makeup, hairstyle, body language and so on. Apparently, however, he can't. We do have another nice reference to the original events of the story, however, when John starts a fire to get Irene to give away the location of her photographs. It's good to see when the writers bow to the simple elegance of Conan Doyle's own creations.
Then the CIA burst in and we get down to the plot proper; I suppose it was fair enough of them to expand a relatively brief short story into a more elaborate piece. Recovering the photographs from Irene Adler was hardly going to make a detective story of its own. Indeed there are a number of Holmes short stories that aren't really detective stories at all, more just Holmes and Watson getting swept up in events. So we are given a real conspiracy: why is the American government intent on recovering Ms Adler's phone? What secrets does it conceal? The more important question in the view of the narrative, however, is this: does Sherlock Holmes have a heart?
I think the answer to anyone who's actually read Holmes is a "yes". Although he is, as I've stated, occasionally callous and manipulative when the need arises, and although he views romance and sexuality, as Watson notes in the original tale, "with a gibe and a sneer", we see repeatedly that he is a staunchly loyal friend, a true gentleman and even something of a patriot. Given the particularly aloof, eccentric and absent-minded figure of Holmes with which we are presented in this series, however, perhaps this question was in its own way important. Indeed the original novels and short stories, scattered as they are throughout Holmes' life, are suggestive of a humanising influence or at least a kindling of some warmth in Holmes by his long, loyal and mutually supportive friendship with Watson. Maybe that's why this episode frustrates me; it's more the situation with Irene Adler than his friendship with Watson which is used as a catalyst for exploring his emotional side.
To refer back to the original text, in the same above-quoted passage Watson explicitly tells us that "It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise, but admirably balanced mind." The feelings Irene Adler conveys in Holmes are those of admiration and professional respect. They encourage him to take women more seriously. The two most notable instances, to me at least, of true powerful emotion from Holmes which convey affect or sentiment in the canon are firstly when Lestrade tells him how much the police force respects him at the end of "The Six Napoleons" and secondly, and most powerfully, in "The Three Garridebs" when, after Watson is shot, Holmes is observed to be on the borders of a homicidal rage before he discovers that his friend is still alive. I realise that such observations are born of a Victorian culture of great emotional privacy and romantic propriety but nonetheless I think they are noteworthy. It is not Irene Adler but Watson and Lestrade who permit our insights into Holmes' emotional side, and frankly I find having a suggestively sexual or romantic situation with a woman as our catalyst rather than platonic friendships is, in our contemporary climate certainly, rather trite.
Honestly it's all blown up into rather absurd proportions. Believing Irene to be dead, Holmes sinks into a melancholy. He met her for all of a few minutes, and despite her obvious intellectual capacities they hardly have time to establish an affectionate relationship. There's no valid reason he should be so affected, and I think this was a failing of the episode. Holmes' behaviour seemed to lack justification. He's evidently distracted by her apparent demise in some way. I think something involving his friendship with John would have been a much better exploration. As I said at the beginning, the ludicrous, canonically contradicted and rather unjustified extension of Irene Adler's character into a love interest for Holmes is completely overdone and besides that its sheer normativity makes it seem tired, repetitive and unambitious. The problem with Moffat asking "Does Sherlock Holmes have a heart?" is exactly the same as him asking "Does the Doctor have a heart?" The answer, as I've said, is unanimously yes - but as a friend. "Friend" in as much emphasis as possible. Romantic and sexual considerations are quite simply irrelevant to his character, and problematising them always feels like a pointless time-wasting exercise in futility which risks making their characters seem less unique.
Of course in the end it's all left very ambiguous, as it is with the Doctor. Irene makes a number of bald-faced sexual suggestions towards Sherlock by which he seems fairly unaffected. She tells him, rather pointlessly I felt, that Moriarty's nickname for him is "The Virgin"; it seems to me that he's more or less unaffected by this as well, given that it's little more than an adolescent jibe. I really hope it wasn't meant to be taken seriously or else it makes Moffat seem rather juvenile; is virginity some kind of weakness or failing? Who can say in the world of Moffat. Sherlock exploits Irene's apparent feelings for him to finally unlock her phone and destroy her plans. He reassures her that she has given him living proof of the disadvantage inherent to sentiment and love. At the very end he pulls the wool over everyone's eyes by rescuing her from terrorist execution, and keeps her phone, reminiscent of saving the photograph in the original adventure. Was this out of romantic sentiment, friendship, or professional admiration? It's really very hard to say. Frankly with Holmes I think if you're leaving it ambiguous you're missing the point. I did, however, appreciate the suggestion we're left with by Mycroft, who muses to John upon his brother's employment of his immense brainpower for detective work and his presumably childhood desire to be a "pirate". This suggests what I feel is a "Romantic" bent, which is to say capital R Romantic: not of the amorous kind, but rather of the adventurous, thrill-seeking and imaginative type, in the way old stories are characterised as "Romances." That, I believe, is a neat enough summation from Mycroft, but it does make a lot of the episode's content seem awfully bunk.
A lot of people have criticised the interpretation of Irene Adler in this episode as sexist: that, in contrast to the original story, her feelings are the ruin of her, she loses to Holmes, that she needs the assistance of Moriarty rather than her own nous alone to get the job done and that she has to be saved from the terrorists by Sherlock at the end. I think that is in some ways a valid complaint, turning one of Conan Doyle's most assertive and capable figures into something of a defeatable damsel in distress. However, I think my biggest criticism is how "sexed up" the character is; not even for Holmes necessarily, but definitely for the audience. I realise that the original Irene Adler was evidently a woman with an amorous past, and that turning her into a dominatrix is, as I've said, a convenient way to have her in possesion of a lot of compromising information, but it does feel an awful lot like someone just wanted a naked lady on the screen, and making her a sex worker feels like they couldn't think of a cleverer or more subtle method of establishing the plot. The fact that she has to use her sex appeal to make her way in the world rather than her brains suggests to me a disparity, and I think it would have been much, much more effective, infinitely moreso, and altogether more challenging, to establish her as an equally sexless character or at least one whose sexuality was not relevant to the events at hand, as was the case in the original story, and made her profession more intellectual. Her mental strength certainly parallels Sherlock, but it doesn't change the fact that in the episode she is, as a woman, sexualised professionally, and the fact that Sherlock apparently doesn't care much about her sexuality suggests that having her get her kit off or characterised as a dominatrix is really just unnecessary titillation for the audience. Frankly I think it was a bit of a cop-out, cheap and a little crass.
What about the rest of the plot? I really liked it, I must say. While I think "Bond Air" being a codename for "Flight 007" is the kind of ridiculous association a secret operation would never be so frivolous as to use, Mycroft's solution to this terrorist bombing is indeed elegant. Blowing up a plane full of the already dead is rather ingenious, and it provides us with the extremely eerie confrontation between Sherlock and Mycroft surrounded by corpses. That being said, linking this back to some of the cases Sherlock dismissed in the early montage may have been a bridge too far. Similarly the idea of a test-run occurring in Germany for which one corpse ended up being absent is equally rather absurd: if a plane went down anywhere in Western Europe with no survivors and terrorists had been implicated there would be utter panic and turmoil. We certainly don't see evidence of that in the episode, and we know the staging of this incident isn't public knowledge. Nonetheless I liked the bluffing game the governments are playing with the terrorists, and the idea that knowing your enemy's secret is often far more valuable if they don't know that you know their secret. Holmes unwittingly compromises this information and the whole plan goes down the toilet as Moriarty informs the relevant criminal parties of the situation. To return to Irene Adler for just a moment, I didn't like the idea either that she was in league with Moriarty, an equally apparent problem in the current Hollywood film series. Irene Adler is presented in "A Scandal in Bohemia" as an independent, resourceful and principled woman, and while she may be ethically flexible, she wouldn't ally herself with someone as blatantly evil and dangerous as Moriarty. Putting yourself between Holmes and Moriarty goes completely against the strong instincts of self-preservation and self-protection which are so fundamental to her character.
One other thing I would mention is that the resolution to the cliffhanger of "The Great Game" is, like all cliffhangers, a bit of a disappointment. Moriarty gets a phone call from Irene Adler and decides to just leave. It's not really clear why. Does he honestly believe that Irene Adler is going to bring about Sherlock's ruination? Seems a bit optimistic. I wonder if the ever-present sniper laser-target which accompanies Moriarty everywhere is going to eventually be revealed as having Colonel Moran at the other end. What else is there? Oh yes. Here's a petty gripe. I believe I mentioned in my reviews for the first series that occasionally Moffat made a few over-eager efforts to appear modern and tech-savvy which come across as clumsy and actually makes him seem more out of touch. That returns here with the overuse of the term "camera-phone". Does anyone call them "camera-phones" these days? Did they ever really call them that? What phones don't have cameras in them these days? Very few, I'd wager. I'm pretty sure if you say "I took a picture on my phone," people aren't staring at each other open-mouthed in bewilderment as asking "What the devil do you mean you took a picture on your phone?" so that you have to reply "It's a camera-phone," and they all relax and go "Oh I see, you should be more specific young man." Yet in this the term is used repeatedly, rather than just "phone", as if having a camera in your phone is a novelty, and Irene points out the added value of her phone by specifying that it is a "camera-phone". Really, it's quite unnecessary. I'm surprised they don't feel the need to call all the phones "mobile phones" as well just in case we think everyone's got land lines running up their trousers. I suppose also in fairness to Ms Adler I ought to mention that we almost see Sherlock without his gear on too when he almost walks off without even a sheet in the middle of Buckingham Palace. I'm sure fangirls go crazy over that sort of thing but it makes eyes roll in my head. Pointless. Juvenile. Unnecessary.
Mycroft saying "Oh shut up Mrs Hudson!" has got to be one of the funniest moments of the series.
I've maybe been a little over-harsh in this review but I think the Holmes purist in me got control. It was certainly a very entertaining episode with a good mystery, some excellent dialogue, a few nice deductions and pretty consistent pacing. Yet I'm rather dubious about the depiction of Irene Adler and whether there was really any point in exploring Sherlock's affective side, and if so I wonder if there weren't better characters and situations than the one with "The Woman" which could have been used to such an end. In this regard, John was altogether underused. In a more general sense Mycroft was perhaps slightly overused. All sexual politics aside, however, the performances were as good as ever, the plot was engaging and it's looking like the second series will maintain the standards of the first.

"The Great Game"

Mark Gatiss' contribution to the Sherlock writing duties is certainly a stronger entry than the second with a good plot although maybe in some ways not as intriguing as the first. However I think the strength of this story was that it gave the characters several mysteries to investigate which enabled us to see more of Holmes' powers in action. I thought the opening was a little ridiculous; why would Holmes bother to go all the way to Belarus to investigate what he described as an "open and shut domestic murder"? The scene only seems to exist to show him correcting the prisoner's grammar. It's a little pointless. That being said the actual main investigation is quite an interesting one. Someone is playing a game with Sherlock where he is given a number of hours to solve various mysteries or else a hostage is killed. This of course gives us plenty of opportunities where John's compassion towards the hostages is contrasted to Sherlock's view that really only solving the mystery is important, and that it's his eagerness to solve the puzzles, and not any compassion for the victims, which is going to save the people in danger. I thought this was a good example of what should be borne out from the characterisation of Holmes we're given in this particular series. He obviously does want to save the victims; that much is evident in his desperation at trying to stop the old woman from giving away any personal details about her captor. Yet he also provides good reasoning for being so practically-minded about the situation. While it may seem callous to gain such a thrill from solving the problems, it is the best way to save the people involved.
We also see the return of both Lestrade and Mycroft in this episode, which is a welcome feature. Mycroft's plot is adapted from one of his original appearances, "The Bruce-Partington Plans", which while now regarding a missile system rather than a submarine is hybridised with elements of "The Naval Treaty" to give us the best of two excellent espionage intrigues from the Holmes canon and which also gives John a time to shine with his own investigation. We also have more obtuse references to "The Five Orange Pips" with the countdown of the various puzzles. The Carl Powers case with the poisoned eczema medication is a rather chilling cold case which gives us a much earlier link between Holmes and his nemesis. The Janus Cars bust is another interesting one; Gatiss does an excellent job, I think, of stringing together a number of smaller conspiracies into an over-arching plot. It gives us some nice examples of Holmes acting the fool to get clues from the "victim's" wife and analysing the blood to determine that it was from a frozen sample. My criticisms would be two: one that part of the evidence was the Janus Cars' owner's tan from being in South America "settling in" his client - it seems rather elaborate that he would do all that himself. My other is the fact that it was called "Janus Cars". Seems a bit too deliberately suggestive of the organisation's true purpose, and as Sherlock points out the clue is in the name. It makes me think of an evil agency like KAOS from Maxwell Smart or something.
The third crime I have more ambiguous feelings about. For a start, the wound on the victim's hand, supposedly made after death, appears healed - do wounds heal like that on corpses? Also, the incorrect but believed diagnosis was that Connie Prince had died from tetanus. But who gets tetanus in the West these days? I think Sherlock should have pointed this out, because a death from tetanus in London would be so incredibly unlikely as to be suspicious in itself. Still, we did get a nice appearance in full camp mode from John Sessions as her brother, which was quite amusing, but the resolution seemed a little easy. Maybe Gatiss was aware of this dramatically, which explains why he had the old woman who was the hostage in this scenario killed off. I thought this was an effective resolution because it contrasted the mood of the entire investigation with a rather confronting climax with numerous casualities and evidence that Sherlock is dealing with a ruthless opponent.
The fourth and final crime I particularly liked because it dealt with an element of Holmes' character which has its origins in "A Study in Scarlet" itself: the idea that Holmes has no solid working knowledge of astronomy and that he doesn't know that the Earth revolves around the Sun. The way in which he recognises the fake Vermeer is by noticing the presence of the "Van Buren Supernova" in the painting. I would have liked if this little astronomical oddity had been real but it provided a humorous counterpoint to Sherlock's earlier ignorance and was a rather tense moment when it seemed that he would fail. While I enjoyed Sherlock's deduction about the murdered museum worker and the planetarium narration by Peter Davison I wasn't entirely sold on the use of this towering Hammer Horror-esque assassin, "The Golem". That, like the Tong presence in the previous episode, was a bit too far-fetched and spy-fi for me. I would have liked to have seen some consequences for the museum curator who had employed Moriarty to get rid of anyone who knew the painting was fake. Unlike the old woman who was blown up just for describing his voice, the curator even tells them that the name involved is "Moriarty". I was expecting her to at least get shot through a window or something.
Anyway, with the recovery of the Bruce-Partington plans it's time to confront Moriarty. Personally I'm a trifle disappointed that Mycroft didn't make any more appearances, although I did appreciate his disparaging comment towards the need for "legwork" in the West case. Mycroft's typical lethargy about the routine business of investigating problems was a good element to incorporate in this story. I would have preferred some kind of resolution of his plot line within the bounds of the story. Instead Sherlock uses the plans as bait for Moriarty.
I'm not entirely sure the ending of this episode made a huge amount of sense. Moriarty doesn't want the Plans, he mostly just wants to show off. I suppose that does reflect the element of exhibitionism Sherlock said was implicit in the nature of psychopaths back in "A Study in Pink": that they crave attention and recognition. The bit where John walks out talking as if he's the mastermind was very effective as a brief scare moment, however, perhaps moreso than Moriarty's own appearance. Frankly I'm not entirely sure if I'm sold on the "Sherlock" incarnation of Moriarty. I often find that people don't really know what to do with him. Moriarty appears rather peripherally in all of exactly one Holmes story, "The Final Problem," even if he is implicated in "The Valley of Fear," and all we know is that he's a mathematician who is also a criminal mastermind. Watson, our narrator, never meets him and only sees him at a distance. This has been obvious fodder for some Holmes pastiches to suggest that Moriarty never existed. Some more conventional depictions of the Napoleon of Crime paint him as more of a generic criminal mastermind, often manipulating entire governments. The suggestion we get in "The Final Problem" is more that of a man who has his finger in every pie in the criminal activities of London, but we never exactly discover what his ultimate agenda is, if indeed he has one, or what his motivations are beyond what Holmes suggests as a regression to some atavistic criminal nature. As such I do enjoy Moffat and Gatiss' depiction of the character as a "consulting criminal", someone who plugs the holes and covers the bases, for a fee, for the activities of other criminals. He's a man who, as he himself puts it, doesn't like to get his hands dirty, and seems to derive a lot of his direction from deeply repressed rage. What I would have liked retained is the scientific aspect of Moriarty's character, with which I feel no adapation has ever really gotten to grips. His bizarre sing-song voice followed by intense rants is obviously meant to depict him as a deeply unstable individual, but in some ways I feel that makes him a not entirely meaningful parallel to the emotionally controlled, dispassionate, even cold Sherlock. Nonetheless we only see a few minutes of him, so I guess there isn't too much to draw a complete judgement on.
I certainly think "The Great Game" is as good a conclusion to the series as "A Study in Pink" is as an opening, although I believe each contained elements the other ocassionally needed in terms of pacing, plot resolution and characterisation. However, it's a strong first series, and upon finishing my re-watch I found myself wishing there was more. It's certainly a well-written and engaging show and a brave attempt at modernising the concept, and I think moreso than the middle episode this one proved that there was life in the concept.

Friday, January 6, 2012

"The Blind Banker"

Penned by Steve Thompson, author of the now-infamous "pirate ship episode" of the Eleventh Doctor's Series 6 misadventures, "The Curse of the Black Spot", also known as "The Curse of the Brown Spot", this middle episode of the series is still good but not quite as engaging as the first. I found the use of a criminal Chinese "Tong" to be a little trite and unambitious after the rather unusual villain of the first episode. Overall the episode is a bit more by-the-numbers than the first or indeed the third. A couple of murders are accompanied by a cryptic cypher, which is to say a numerical Chinese dialect employed as a form of message. While I see the inspiration from "The Dancing Men", which I must say was never one of my favourite Holmes stories, and "The Valley of Fear", the villains of which were a group of American masonic miners rather than rather stereotyped Asian-Triad-type Chinese criminals, it's all a bit by the numbers and we don't get as many instances of Holmes using his marvellous powers of deduction. A lot of it is just spent constipating over what this code means.
The plot seems a little weak to me. One of two smugglers in the employ of the Tong has stolen a valuable antique, which turns out to be a three-million-pound hairpin, so for some reason the Tong follow them to London disguised as an unusual Chinese circus and assassinate them both. Why would you kill both "foot soldiers" when one was still perfectly reliable? What's more, this is all done by a rather generic "all Asian assassins are ninjas" style hitman. The situation really is rather overly elaborate, and as I've said the length is to a significant extent padded out by Sherlock struggling with the code for ages. Dramatic tension is also lessened due to an opening involving a Chinese "tea ceremony" which seems intent on injecting the episode with a rather misleading element of Oriental mystery. It really meanders all over the place. Holmes and Watson have to hunt down "Soo Lin Yao" who ends up getting killed, Holmes has elaborate fights with her brother the assassin, and John goes on a date with Alison from Absolute Power.
I don't think this episode really gave either Benedict Cumberbatch or Martin Freeman as much to work with as the other episodes did. Sherlock has a swordfight and John gets a job after shouting at an automatic pay machine at a shopping centre. There are some good moments such as when John photographs the wall of code before it's erased or takes the cheque from Sherlock's old uni friend but these moments were a little rare and overall it felt a tad unstructured or lacking in relevance at times. The most frustrating part in my opinion is the climax where John and Sarah his date are kidnapped and threatened by the Tong; General Shan mistakes John for Sherlock. That was really stupid, I thought, like something from a kid's show. They're getting help from Moriarty. How can they not tell Holmes from Watson? Their hideout is in an abandoned tube tunnel, upon capturing John they all dress up like they're in the Matrix and they threaten Sarah with a lethal version of one of the acts from their circus. All in all it's a little cliché in my opinion.
I really don't know what else to say about this episode. It's a bit of a nothing, to be honest. We aren't given enough to sink our teeth into and the entire thing is at best rather trite and at worst potentially a little bit racist. Solving codes doesn't make for amazingly good drama and while there were some interesting elements like everyone having an A to Z of London for reference it seemed occasionally to be overly elaborate and kind of unnecessary, like the criminals were being overly complicated just so that the situation would be confusing for viewers. It's worthwhile for some good character moments, especially from John, but I'd consider it the least interesting of the first series.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

"A Study in Pink"

Anyone who knows me reasonably well will know that I'm a Sherlock Holmes enthusiast. I've got the complete novel and short story collection. I own all thirteen Basil Rathbone Holmes films from the 40s and the complete Jeremy Brett series of Granada television adaptations. I have a Sherlock Holmes t-shirt from the Sherlock Holmes museum at 221B Baker Street in London, as well as a deerstalker cap. I've dressed as Sherlock Holmes for Halloween. I play Frogwares' Sherlock Holmes adventure games. I have a section of my comic collection specifically devoted to Sherlock Holmes comics. Once, in an ice-breaker session in the first class of a Philosophy tutorial at university when everyone in the class was saying which fictional character they were most like, after jokingly suggesting "God", I said "Sherlock Holmes." So while I wouldn't say I was the biggest Holmes fan in the world, I certainly know what I like.
Understandably I was hesitant when it was revealed to me in 2008, by a gent at the Sherlock Holmes museum no less, that over the next two years we were to be seeing two new adaptations of Holmes, one for film starring an American of all things as the Great Detective and one on television re-envisioned for a modern-day setting. The former is a discussion for another time but my fears were somewhat allayed when I discovered that the latter television series would be under the creative control of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, who, certain Doctor Who efforts notwithstanding, have generally been consistent writers. My fears were further allayed when I learned that the affable Martin Freeman of The Office fame, who gave us an Arthur Dent perhaps better than most of everything around him in the film of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and who I particularly enjoyed in Simon Nye's underrated sitcom Hardware, had been cast as none other than John Watson. I didn't have a damn clue who "Benedict Cumberbatch" was but you can't go into a show knowing everything, I suppose.
"A Study in Pink", the first episode, is probably the strongest instalment of the first series. Conveniently enough, I suppose, we're able to retain Watson's involvement in Afghanistan and his subsequent wounding and trauma. I thought introducing Watson at first rather than Holmes was a good way of getting into the story through our "audience identification" character and the way he is depicted as this jaded ex-military type with a haunted, meaningless life was a very powerful and confronting way to get things going. That moment where he says "Nothing ever happens to me," and we smash cut to the title sequence is a great start that plays the contrast heavily to draw us in. While the idea of Watson writing a blog describing his experiences feels a little bit like Moffat and Gatiss making a desperate effort to be trendy by hamfistedly forcing in modern technology I guess it does feel like an equivalent situation to the publishing of stories allegedly written by Watson in the widely-read Strand Magazine in the 19th Century.
The introduction of Sherlock is very good as well, with enough reference to the set-up of the original "A Study in Scarlet" to make the encounter seem both brisk and plausible. We don't waste a lot of time on an origin story for the two of them. Seeing Sherlock striking a corpse with a crop and being completely oblivious to the advances of a woman are succinct enough, I suppose. Then we get the whole analysis of Watson which is based on some very observant deductions on the part of Holmes so we know he's one of those damn clever chaps we keep hearing so much about. Their method of showing the deductions is of course very clever, zooming all around Watson's person to show off relevant clues, and generally the direction compliments the narrative very well. In due course we're introduced to 221B Baker Street and Mrs Hudson, Inspector Lestrade appears and the game is afoot.
The crime in this is interesting enough, I think. How do you derive a murder investigation from what appear to be "serial suicides"? The references to "A Study in Scarlet" are funny enough for old school Holmes fans but spin things off in a new direction. It's interesting that the source material is one rarely seen in the better-known Holmes media because half the novel is backstory from a third person perspective set in the United States, a situation repeated in "The Valley of Fear" and certainly imitated in "The Sign of the Four." Certain elements are retained, of course. The murderer is a cab driver dying of a brain aneurysm and a life-or-death choice is made using poison. Of course in this instance the murders are being perpetrated against all sorts under the sponsorship of Moriarty to test Holmes and the cab driver wants to provide an inheritance for his children, not seek revenge.
This allows all sorts of mind games where the cab driver gets to put Holmes' ruthlessness and obsessive nature to the test as he almost has him pop a pill just to see if he can read the cab driver adequately. Fortunately Watson shows up to save the day and shoots the cab driver. I thought this end was a bit of a cop-out in some regards; Holmes was in no real danger from the cab driver, and the gunshot only seemed to shock him back to his senses. Was it just that the cab driver's hypnotic presence was somehow keeping Sherlock enthralled? The murderer claims that he talks people into killing themselves but later reveals that he actually threatens them into testing their luck with a fake gun and that with Holmes it's different, so really he is just forcing them to take a chance and relying on them making the wrong one based on this idea, not really borne to fruition, that he can "read people". It's just not entirely clear what the problem is, for Holmes, at least. Was he just desperate to prove he was better at deduction than the killer? I guess so, but pardon me if that comes across as a little insubstantial in some respects.
Despite such not-entirely-satisfactory resolutions the plot is nonetheless engaging and keeps you on your toes as to how these crimes are being committed. Some of it, as I've said, is a little too technology-heavy, such as using an online GPS tracking service to find people's phones, but Holmes' insights and methods are interesting to see, as is his budding friendship with Watson. Now I'm not some repressed fangirl so the continuously implied homoerotic misunderstandings between Holmes, Watson and anyone who encounters them don't seem particularly necessary to me, and much like the occasionally awkward insertions of technology I find the gay jokes a little bit too defensive or apologetic about a two-man team occurring in modern drama, as if it's incredibly rare for two guys to hang out together without some kind of subtext. In addition the show seems deathly afraid of describing Holmes as asexual, which seems much more likely than anything else, as if people won't buy it or something. I do like the idea that Watson actually misses the war rather than being traumatised by it, however. It's not an entirely pleasant notion but it makes his friendship with this version's particularly alien Holmes more plausible.
While I think Cumberbatch does an excellent job with the role I sometimes think this version of Holmes lacks something of the suavity or gentlemanly demeanour of a classic Sherlock Holmes. Even though Holmes is regularly arrogant and manipulative in even his original iteration there was also always something rather dapper and high-class about him. This translates into the modern incarnation as him being a "high functioning sociopath" which mostly means him being alternately oblivious and brilliant, usually for comic effect. While this is effective in its own way I feel like it makes him more aloof and less engaging than other performances of Holmes. We do occasionally see him having a chuckle with Watson or a mutually respectful greeting with a former client but I think we could use a little more. We don't even see him playing the violin this series, when his appreciation for music was one of his more relatable characeristics. However, I believe the writers wanted this to develop over time through his friendship with Watson so I'll grant some leeway. As I say, Benedict Cumberbatch is very well cast and puts in an excellent performance as a man of intermittent spontaneous action and as a unique thinker. He does work in a way I think a modern-day Holmes would, and that makes the character a success.
Watson for his own part I think is my favourite character in the series. Martin Freeman's well-known in the UK for his comedy work but this series is also very successful at giving him opportunities to show off a more serious side. While his personal brand of quiet, eyebrow-involved bemusement is well-placed as a counterpart to Holmes' antics, he also works very well as someone who is evidently troubled or at least ill at ease. You can believe him, I think, as someone who is bother a soldier and a doctor, as a man with the courage of both professions as well as an adventurous spirit coupled with a compassionate nature. I realise that sounds a little bit wishy-washy but I think both the writing and Martin Freeman's performance really nail the character and likewise make him believe as a modern-day version. People can forget that in "Sherlock Holmes", Watson is really just as crucial as the Great Detective himself, and evidently if you're going to produce a good adaptation you've got to get Watson right too. You can't just slap a moustache and a bowler hat on anyone and you've got an instant Holmes offsider. Rather, we need to see a competent associate, a "friend and colleague" as Holmes traditionally puts it, someone who's not just a sidekick but one half of a team.
We're also introduced to two major recurring characters from the Holmes canon in this story. The first is Inspector Lestrade, who is updated again successfully I think as being competent but, in his own words, "desperate". Rupert Graves has that very contemporary "police drama" look to him and quality to his rather exasperated performance which goes further in making the series mesh neatly with the standards of modern detective shows. Nonetheless I found the antagonism towards Holmes from his deputies in this episode to be a little needless and overplayed at times. They call him names like children and it just seems pointless dramatically, like all those times Dr McCoy jumps in with a wise crack to try to get Spock to show emotion. If I was Watson and one of them told me Holmes was a psycho I think I'd reply "Is he, or are you just envious that he's a better detective than you?" I realise that's the point but I feel like their attitude is to an extent laboured.
The other major Holmes character introduced in this story is his brother Mycroft, played with the more traditional suavity, albeit with a sinister element, by the ever-dependable Mark Gatiss. I've always liked Mycroft as a character and I think he was a good inclusion. Like everyone else, I'm sure, I was convinced he was Moriarty upon his first appearance in the episode and had a good chuckle when this was contradicted at the end. While I do sometimes despair at how Holmes pastiches obsess over Mycroft being some kind of spy mastermind, they make it work here. That being said, I would have appreciated some more of Mycroft's traditional lethargy since in some ways he seems a lot more active than Holmes himself. I also would have enjoyed seeing an even more intense example of Mycroft's superior skills of deduction. That being said he's not crucial to the plot so his involvement is simply enjoyable for what it does.
As such, apart from a few instances in which I think Moffat, unsurprisingly, gets a little bit carried away with what he thinks is his own cleverness, "A Study in Pink" is a good starting point for the series and a successful attempt to bring Sherlock Holmes into a contemporary context. In some ways it's familiar, and in some ways it's different, but overall it works. We get strong characters, an intriguing mystery and some good insights into criminality and "unusual" behaviour from both sides of the law. I understand there was a shorter, unbroadcast pilot with a similar plot filmed earlier so evidently they were afforded the resources they needed to compose a finished product of quality. It may not entirely be the Holmes you know and the plot could maybe have used a little bit more work but it achieves its mission statement to an impressive extent and it's definitely an enjoyable watch.

Monday, January 2, 2012

"The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe"

I don't want to go so far as to say that the 2011 Christmas special was utter rubbish but a nagging feeling in the back of my mind tells me that it certainly wasn't entirely out of the scrap heap. Doctor Who shouldn't have Christmas specials, as I've said before. Either they're insubstantial drivel like the Tenth Doctor's yuletime encounters or they're too deep and complex for Christmas viewing, as we encountered in 2010. After giving us the one example for the second category, Moffat seems to have largely retreated to the foundations set by his predecessor by giving us something which, while not as teeth-grindingly infuriating in its deliberate ridiculousness and proud in its own stupidity as an RTD Christmas special, is nonetheless, slow, meandering, thinly-plotted, insubstantial and pointless.
We start with a spaceship headed for Earth but that's not nearly twee enough so before you know it the spaceship gets blown up and the Doctor's swimming through space to nick a suit from a corpse. Of course all the exciting stuff happens in the opening. Heaven forbid any of the "casual" viewers and mainstream audience think they're watching science fiction. As such we then get shoved back to New Who's tiresome placeholder of World War Two and straight into the really boring bits. You know, sometimes I think I actually completely despise the revived series and that I'm lying to myself about the alleged "good" parts and that the show is generally just such idiot-pandering nonsense that I'm insulting my own intelligence by watching it. But that's only sometimes.
Anyway the Doctor crash-lands to Earth with his helmet on backwards and comes to the attention of Madge Arwell, aka the mum from Outnumbered, who helps him to the TARDIS. It was a pretty conventional set-up. The Doctor's been introduced to a stranger with a family of supporting characters, husband Reg goes off to the Second World War and is missing presumed dead, Madge and kids toddle off to escape the blitz and lo and behold here's the Doctor again, inexplicably having done up a rather fancy old stately home for their convenience. This was all a rather plotless and long-winded segment of set-up, with the decked out manor house being given rather needless attention. The Doctor shows off all these "cool" gizmos he's added and Madge complains that he's being excessively frivolous given that she's fretting over revealing her husband's alleged death to the children. To be fair, he shows off this "funny stuff" he's put in and says "I know!" to their bemused looks far too many times to be funny.
Matt Smith's a much stronger actor than I think Moffat is regularly giving him credit for at the moment, and occasionally I think the writing for the Eleventh Doctor plays up his zaniness and eccentricity in a way which obstruct segments of episodes from having any integrity of plot. It's especially noticeable here where the Doctor doesn't seem to be present or involved for any reason beyond fulfilling a "wish" of giving Madge and her kids a good Christmas. While that's all very nice, it feels a bit like a piece of background information or the plot of a spin-off rather than something upon which to base an entire one hour Christmas special. Anyway there's this intriguingly large present in the living room and of course very old-timey-named son du jour Cyril sneaks off and discovers it's a portal to another world, much like The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
To be honest the Narnia links aren't especially strong. There's certainly not the same kind of laboured Christian allegory C.S. Lewis would like to serve up. While I think that's a good thing it does seem a little pointless as a reference or plot device. Anyway, the Doctor and daughter Lily follow Cyril into Narnia and eventually Madge follows suit, having gotten up to look in on the children for no obvious reason. Really, Moffat comes up with some fairly bogus reasoning to get all these characters into the alien environment.
On thing I will compliment this episode for is its aesthetics. The alien forest looks very nice and realistic, and I liked the alien king Cyril sets free from the trees. The big wooden tower with the golf ball on top is a bit more take it or leave it but overall it's nice looking. Similarly I appreciated the contrast between the very pristine forest and the grimy appearance of the Bill Bailey-led Space Marines who confront Madge soon after. This brings me to another quibble, however. Bill Bailey and his team are absurdly throwaway, appearing it what essentially constitutes two scenes and despite some nice performances giving us very little besides exposition. With such a limited cast for so much of the episode their presence was incredibly refreshing but they disappeared too quickly and we never got to see a Bill Bailey-Matt Smith encounter, which I think could have been great. I understand how the good old "bottle episode" with few characters can work but in this Special the main ones we were given, the Arwell family, were simply not developed enough, and consequently it felt thin and flimsy, and the appearance of the Androzani Harvest Rangers was so frustratingly brief as to ultimately make the whole thing look even more anaemic.
As just mentioned, Androzani Major was name-dropped rather pointlessly, perhaps in the hope from Moffat that a reference to an all-time classic Fifth Doctor serial would give his own story slightly more cred. If nothing else it was a Classic Series nod to counterbalance the annoying bit where the Doctor, talking about alien trees, felt the need to mention how the Forest of Cheem from the very second Eccly episode "fancied" him. The Doctor shouldn't notice, remember or care about being fancied! Honestly, I'd have gone without the Androzani mention if we'd lost that too.
Anyway the trees know their forest is about to be harvested so in a textbook piece of magic thinking they all forsake their physical bodies and use a special telepathic crown to invade the minds of initally Cyril but then Madge. There's really not a lot of drama. With Madge's help they escape and everything's perfectly fine. There are some dumb bits where Madge cries to trick the Harvest Rangers into helping her and later pilots their giant walking futuristic platform just because her husband once took her up in a 1940s era plane and it really feels a lot like some pretty wishy-washy set pieces strung together. Of course Madge is the perfect one to rescue the forest because she's a mother.
There's some pretty dodgy stuff from Moffat here, where the tree people describe males as "weak" and females as "strong". Also, Ven-Garr of the Harvest Rangers mentions that he has "mother issues". Sometimes I must hesitantly agree with the suggestions which occasionally get bandied about that Moffat himself has some kind of Freudian neurosis in his writing where he seems to hate his own gender and bigs up the other in a way which is almost condescending. Frankly it just doesn't entirely make sense. What's the point of saying men are weak and women are strong? Why is Billis the rational Harvest Ranger while the two men are untrustworthy? Perpetuating these kinds of gender divides is exactly the kind of thing Doctor Who shouldn't be doing. It should be looking for reconciliation.
Anyway Madge uses the power of wishful thinking to fly the golfball into the time vortex and she reveals her husband's apparent death to the kids as she holds onto memories to lead her home. I did appreciate that the Doctor made an attempt to explain the departure of the trees scientifically as part of a "sub-aetheric waveband of light" to suggest that they weren't really souls at all so I hope people took that away from it. Now what do you know? Husband Reg survived and it's happy families all around. Marge chastises the Doctor for ditching his friends at Christmas and he pops in on Amy and Rory.
As much as I like Amy and Rory, Moffat needs to let them go. Their departure would have been infinitely more effective if it had occurred succinctly and simply at the end of "The God Complex" and while I would have been happy to see them again if Moffat could have made it make sense I want to feel like they've moved on. The Doctor's been a man of many companions before and I hope the Eleventh Doctor gets a chance to riff with another character. Hopefully this was just a cameo and the Doctor will be off on his own again by the time of the next series.
But since the proper start of Series 7 is so far off, what did this Christmas Special leave us with in the meantime? Well nothing really happened, there was no real danger or drama, the few characters weren't developed enough, it didn't really even say anything particularly significant and ultimately it felt incredibly stretched over the one hour timeslot. There was a shred of an idea running through about how humans cry when they're happy, and while this wasn't nearly enough to carry an episode at least it was something suggesting a paradox of joy which was interesting but could have been developed more. Nonetheless, seeing the Eleventh Doctor wipe a single tear away at the end somehow managaed to avoid being cheesy for me. I actually thought it was a rather poignant ending and given his character, especially his rather overplayed wackiness in the rest of the episode, it was much more effective than the old routine of forcing David Tennant to bawl his eyes out every other week. Nonetheless it didn't say much. Still, it's nice to see the Doctor not being deliberately mopey and lonely for once in the New Series, or acting as if his companions are all jerks who ditch him.
This certainly wasn't up to the standard of "A Christmas Carol" but that was largely because of how incredibly limited it was. I really don't understand why Moffat put together something so padded out and overextended unless money was a concern. Of course they haven't even started filming Series 7 proper yet so there was no trailer or anything. It's going to be a long wait until the Doctor's return and I hope it's altogether more triumphant than this.