Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Doctor Who vs Sherlock!

Here we are again. Another year gone, another just starting. Same old, same old. Christmas has just been and gone, leaving you empty-pocketed and the warm glow you get from giving out presents and eating too much food has faded. It can be quite a depressing time of year for some, can January. However, this year we all have a bit of a pick-me-up, or should I say a huge chuck-me-into-the-stratosphere as the long-awaited second series of mega-clever, mega-exciting and mega-short Sherlock is BACK! Three new 90 minute movies are being given to us by the good people at the BBC and scriptwriting geniuses Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. AND this Christmas Day, as per tradition, we had a new Doctor Who special which will be our only Who fix for several months. So, the big question is, for someone like me who loves the worlds of Doctor Who and Sherlock Holmes more than any other fiction; which was better? There's only one way to find out! Fight? No, a cerebral consideration of each.

By the way, spoilers ahead, sweeties. So if you haven't seen either the Who special or Sherlock, go and do so at once. Then come straight back here, OK? Promise? Good, I'll see you lot later.

There is definitely something extra Christmassy about Matt Smith's Christmas specials. Out of all of the Doctors, the Eleventh Doctor loves Christmas the most, perhaps on account of him being just a big kid. So when he lands in the cheery mid-winter this year in Steven Moffat's The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe, his Doctor really enjoying himself and Matt Smith is on top form. The rest of the main guest cast are also great. Maurice Cole and Holly Earl are good as the kids and Claire Skinner (Sue in BBC sitcom Outnumbered, which if you haven't seen you really should) again gets to play a put-upon mum, Madge, very well, managing to be, as all great Doctor Who guest stars are, both touching and funny.
In narrative terms, The Doctor, the Widow and the Wardrobe (I warn you not to initialise this title as part of it makes a rather un-family friendly word) follows the loose literary adaption theme started last year. However, I think this is where the story sadly falls short of last year's superb A Christmas Carol which largely stuck to how the Dickens classic plays out but with a huge dollop of timey-wimey, Wardrobe only takes the opening premise of CS Lewis's original tale - children are evacuated from London to a country house where they enter a magical winter wonderland. Once the Doctor and Madge join the kids, the tale spirals off into a tale of living trees with glowing orbs on their tops like Christmas trees that represent their souls. It's wonderful Christmas madness that only Doctor Who can do and Moffat has again pitched his episode to fit right in with the 'xmas atmos', but such a daft (in a good way) idea fails to pack the emotional punch of last year and all seems to whizz by until suddenly the Doctor's saying his goodbyes to the Arwells.
However, it's what happens next which was the highlight of this reviewer's Christmas (special of Doctor Who) - he goes and visits the Ponds! It's a joy to see Amy, armed with water pistol, answering the door on Christmas day to find her best friend she has not seen for two years standing on the doorstep, before inviting him in for Christmas dinner (they always set him a place apparently).The Doctor's own reaction, his own surprise at crying with happiness, is perfect. All in all, as it's Christmas (I can still say that as it's Twelfth Night) I say sod the subtle plot points, here's to this great slice of Doctor Who Christmas cake!

Just seven days later, as the year 2012 first opened its eyes, we were treated to the first big, possibly the biggest, treat of the year: the Return of Sherlock Holmes!
As you may know, from a quick glace at this blog, I adore Sherlock Holmes and in particular Moffat and Gattiss' modern versions of the classic tales; by stripping away the deerstalker, the fog and gaslight (all fun of course but not necessities) and concentrating on the characters of Holmes and Watson - or as we are in the 21st century, Sherlock and John - and the impossible mysteries, they have come up with the surprisingly closest adaptations of the original stories.
The opening episode of the second series, A Scandal in Belgravia, gets off to a brilliant start with the nail-biting cliffhanger from last year's finale being resolved so quickly and trivially that it is extremely funny - but there's also some foreboding as Moriarty skulks away, promising Sherlock they will meet again. The genius continues as we see the duo's success and fame growth over the months pass in minutes as John's blog becomes the talk of the town, causing Sherlock to don a deerstalker- yep, I know I what I just said, but this is a brilliant use of the stereotype - in disguise while out in public. We see several cases pass by which all have devilishly clever references to Conan Doyle tales ('The Greek Interpreter' becomes The Geek Interpreter, 'The Speckled Band' is The Speckled Blonde ETC) which is a great pay-off for Sherlockians like yours truly and hopefully encourages those who haven't to seek out the originals - if this sounds like you, please seek away.
Not to give to much away about the plot, Sherlock is sent on a mission by Buckingham Palace to recover compromising photos of an unnamed royal from dominatrix Irene Adler, known professionally as 'The Woman.' Fans of classic Holmes will know Adler as the only woman Holmes has ever taken too - something which is explored brilliantly here. Adler and Sherlock's form of flirting ranges from their playful battle of wits over his guessing her phone - that holds the photos - password (the answer to which is sure to become a catchphrase for fans) and her strutting around naked when they first meet. Theirs is a twisted love story to the highest degree and is fantastic viewing to watch unfold.
What brings the script to life is the excellent cast. As always, Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock is superb, drawing you too him every time he's on screen. As is Martin Freeman, who, although Cumberbatch as the best on-screen Holmes is debatable, is undoubtedly the best on-screen Watson. Una Stubbs gets quite a bit to do as Mrs Hudson, the Baker Street boy's resilient landlady, and Louise Brealey is again adorable in her few minutes on screen as the Sherlock-infatuated Molly. However, Lara Pulver is the star of the supporting cast as her Adler is sassy, sexy and a genius and is believably more than a match for Sherlock. After watching 90 minutes of something so cerebral yet exciting as this, your brain is throbbing from all it has taken it but you'll find yourself beaming at the expert telly you've just watched - why can't more telly be like this?!

So, overall, although both Who and Sherlock are the best examples of television out there, and it is extremely hard to choose between them, in this instance Sherlock wins, by a smidgen.

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