A Scandal in Repetition

Re-watching “A Scandal in Belgravia” last night, I remembered a critique I initially had upon my first viewing: namely, how the episode begins by showing Sherlock’s catapult into the public eye, along with front page coverage of him in a deerstalker hat. The hat was a nice nod to Doyle’s Sherlock but the notoriety was  undeniably Moffat-esque, especially coming off the heels of Doctor Who’s most recent season. I immediately thought (SPOILERS for the rest of season 2): well this season Sherlock is going to become too famous for his own good and the show will end up with him faking his own death to remove himself from the spotlight. (This could have been paranoia from the Doctor doing just that but yet in the end, same thing).

There is no arguing against the fact that Steven Moffat brought a fresh approach to storytelling to the television world, but nowadays even those “twists” seem to be telegraphed.  So much so that now I tend to give him more credit than he apparently deserves. The long drawn out nature of Doctor Who Season 6 (spoilers, again) gave plenty of time for speculation; unfortunately, all of my musings skirted around the idea that the River Song/Melody Pond thing was too obvious –in this vein, I read and came up with some pretty fantastic theories. Alas, after the buildup nothing could compare to those intricately detailed theories, especially something River Song related. UGH. I could barely take her in small doses before Season 6 so the emphasis on her (Moffat’s obsession?) recently went into excess. It would be a digression to discuss those firmly against River versus those that love the character so I will move on. (I really think my memory of Season 6 will be helped if I watch it again straight through…to be continued.) I know I can’t be the only one to have seen this parallel between Doctor Who 6 and Sherlock 2. So allow me to pause and do a quick search. (Research on Google commences.) Surprisingly, this quote from Steven Moffat  is the most substantial thing my search yielded:

We always knew we were going to have to do Reichenbach, and yes, indeed, I did have the Doctor faking his own death – though by slightly more elaborate means! The problem is, I’m in charge of both shows, and what I can’t ever do is not do something in one show because I did it in the other. Ninety-nine per cent of the audience haven’t a clue who I am or know that I work on both of them, so you just ignore things like that. They are two swashbuckling geniuses; they’re always going to be doing similar things.

Now, this is all well and good except it is complete BS. He is being a bit too modest about how recognizable his name is to the audience. And inevitably when one of his shows is under discussion, that person or article will also link him to both Sherlock and Doctor Who. It is hard to ignore I had just seen the same story arch take place a few months beforehand AND it really doesn’t help that the Doctor and Sherlock share so many of the same characteristics, made all the more apparent by Moffat’s treatment. Another problem? It isn’t just that they both faked their own deaths…it is also the why. The Doctor and Sherlock both reached a point where their infamy preceded them and their lifestyles became unsustainable. To be honest, I love Doctor Who and I love Sherlock: my issue is that Moffat is famous for his “wibbly wobbly timey wimey” plots, and his ability to take that wonky structure from Coupling to the likes of Doctor Who and Sherlock. His results are often brilliant but the way in which the deck becomes stacked is starting to look more and more familiar. To conclude, I guess this is a classic argument against the one head writer format of the UK. There are pros and cons to all formats but maybe a bit more input from other writers could even out all the Moffat-y bits so that his most striking ideas shine through.

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About Staciellyn Chapman

Grad student at the School of Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. This blog is an attempt to condense the craziness that is my TV viewing habits (with the occasional aside into film, music, and general life).

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