Sherlock review: Are Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss turning Sherlock Holmes into Doctor Who?

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Like many, I had been looking forward to Sherlock Holmes’ return for a long time. Last night the moment finally came and how disappointed I was.

The big comeback episode on New Years Day felt as if Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss both turned up with a large file of ideas for both Sherlock and Doctor Who, crammed them all together and thought: “Well … This could work …”

Nothing seemed to make sense, with all explanations for the fall being just tease after tease in an attempt to make fun of the fans and their online theories. Why Moffat and Gatiss think making fun of the fans is a great idea is beyond me, but the pair often did the same in Doctor Who.

While I’m on the subject of our favourite Timelord, it is clear that in the past few years Moffat and Gatiss have lost the difference between Sherlock and The Doctor. In the past there were some clashes, but this was the first episode where Benedict Cumberbatch might as well have been replaced by Matt Smith.

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Sherlock now seems to have all of the Doctors characteristics and isn’t Watson echoing Rory in some parts?. He repeated some of his lines, with even the motorbike scene harking back to The Bells of St John. The only difference is that The Doctor often seemed more human than Sherlock does these days. Instead of the very clever (almost autistic) man who could solve a mystery without having to get up from his chair he is dangerously close to becoming a weird action/James Bond type. There is a strange Batman feel sometimes that is very out of place with the way Sherlock used to be.

Continuing the SherWho similarities: why do both shows feature these bizarre clunky comedic sequences sandwiched between the most horrific happenings? Some series’ feature the “comedic babbling” scenes and make them work, it never worked in the last series of Doctor Who and fell flat in Sherlock – a slapstick Holmes felt ridiculous and once again out of character. I love comedy and it can work in drama – both A Touch of Frost and Lewis showed how it can without taking away from the show – but Moffat and Gatiss seem to be getting it wrong these days. Speaking non stop with someone looking on in surprise, flirtatious chat or fast talking is not funny when it is used all the time.

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Also the same and annoying: “This terrible thing happened”, “No it did not happen”, “It did but differently from how you saw it did”, “Actually no, it never did”, with Who adding the obvious: “it did but the time-line has been rewritten so now it didn’t” is getting tiresome. It’s a good idea when used sporadically. But using this as the solution to everything, all the time, not so much …

If you have no clue how to solve “brilliant” ideas when you start out either let it lie until you do, or ask help. After the disappointing “resolve” of all the story arcs in “The Time Of The Doctor” on Christmas Day, the solution to the The Reichenbach Fall was another let down.

To me, the beauty of the story was to see a changed Sherlock weighed down by the hurt of the media and Moriaty ruining his life. For the first time he feels, and is desperate to protect his first and only friends in life from being murdered – he realises how much he wants them to believe in him. Despite knowing he might not see them again he fakes his death and sacrifices himself for them.

sherlock many happy returns

The Empty Hearse ruined this story: apparently Sherlock was never upset: it was a plan and he was in on it from the start. Or maybe not, or maybe he was … All in all, Sherlock had learned next to nothing on his return. The reunion with Watson, if done right, could have been an epic scene, but once again comedy not feeling was used. I would have loved Sherlock going deep just once, telling Watson he could not tell him the truth as he wanted to protect him, tell him how he had been through hell in those two years combating Moriaty’s cells -as was seen in the awful torture scene at the start. Instead we got Watson punching Sherlock a lot and all Holmes had been through was, as usual, neatly forgotten. Why write bits that can give a character growth only to ignore them moments later – the same goes for Watson being nearly burned to a crisp. By the time Sherlock did get emotional, just for it to be another joke, I came close to giving up on him.

To finish I could go into the treatment of Molly, (another in a long line of Moffat women whose whole life revolves around no-one but The Doctor… Whoops, Sherlock). She is obviously an intelligent woman but has now just become tragic and obsessed. In Doctor Who the writers would have written her out by now in a tragic sacrifice but here they might have actually learn how to write a non-sassy and flirty woman with a strong story – though Who’s Clara is also still waiting for that, so don’t get your hopes up!

What did you think of yesterday’s Sherlock return? Leave your comments below….

This post was written by guest blogger and TV showbiz observer, Daniel Cohen. Catch up with him on Twitter here!


  1. billkragline on January 3, 2014 at 12:32 pm

    Absolute tosh. Everything you’re criticising has been the very basis of Sherlock for the last four years, and the very basis of Doctor Who for the last fifty.

  2. John Machin on January 7, 2014 at 1:41 am

    I agree unreservedly with all the points made re the convergence of Dr Who & Sherlock. The early Sherlock episodes were excellent and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one wondering how Steven Moffat could write such great scenes while on Dr Who Matt Smith pranced about talking rubbish and generally reprising the disastrously fatuous Sylvester McCoy era that IMHO did so much to kill its audience figures & get it taken off the air. Now we’ve witnessed the Whoisation of Sherlock; Benedict Cumberbatch had Matt Smith-like idiocies put into his mouth. Both Who & Holmes are essentially SERIOUS characters and you simply cannot inject humour – and a combination of lower-sixth-form haha-got-you and slapstick humour at that – without doing these canonical characters fatal harm. Sherlock guying Watson over a ticking bomb? Really? Even after catastrophically misjudging his reaction to his two years’ absence and the deception involved? It’s not plausible. Sherlock’s character is simply made inconsistent: one minute, for the benefit of a few gags, Sherlock is made to appear unaware of commonplace social conventions; the next, he’s analysing people in seconds flat. You can’t be the world’s best detective without a thorough understanding of human nature. Conan Doyle’s Sherlock never lacked social grace or awareness, though he may have judged them unimportant or unhelpful to clear reasoning. Much of the inconsistencies Moffat & Gatiss are forcing upon Sherlock are similar to those displayed by the high-functioning autistic, brilliant-scientist character Shelden in ‘Big Bang Theory’. But BBT is a comedy, so we trade character plausibility for some well-turned gags. Sherlock cannot be turned into a comedic character; it does violence to his raison d’être. He is a reasoning machine within a human being. Watson gets any laughs going, and there aren’t many – and shouldn’t be, in a series of detective mysteries. The writers appear to believe, perhaps encouraged by the scientific licence permitted to Dr Who, that they can bend any rule they like. But we watch the shows on Earth, not in a parallel universe. On our planet, implausible behaviour by dramatic characters is not conveniently cancelled out by the Moffat-Gatiss theory of comedy-tragedy duality.

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