Sunday, February 4, 2018

An Open Letter to Steven Moffatt

On Thursday, Radio Times gave Steven Moffatt another opportunity to dangle the possibility of more Sherlock to the show's fans.  And the internet took another vague statement from him as a definite confirmation that BBC's update of the Sherlock Holmes stories will be back in 2020 or 2021.

I would like to formally address Mr. Moffatt and his recurring hints about returning Sherlock to TV:


Please stop.

You've done enough.

Mr. Moffatt, you have taken Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original stories and brought them to a whole new generation that has created such an outpouring of emotion for The Great Detective that will not be rivaled again in my lifetime.  Sherlock Holmes has been around for over a century, and your take on him created a groundswell that was revolutionary.

Season one was some of the finest television I've ever seen in my life!  After season one, the cultural revolution was on, and you were of course going to adapt three of the most popular of all the Holmes stories: Irene Adler, Professor Moriarty, and The Hound.  You went down the tried and true pastiche road of over-inflating Moriarty and Adler's roles in the Sherlock Holmes world, but your episodes were great, so I forgive you for that.  And the cliffhanger of season two?  Hoo boy!  (It's not too soon to talk about spoilers yet, is it?)

And then came season three.  Gotta say, I didn't love it.  For me, the show became more of "This is Steven Moffatt's character and not Conan Doyle's character, and Steven Moffatt will do what Steven Moffatt wants."

Exhibit A:

Exhibit B:

Exhibit C:

Okay....  I wasn't totally sold on season three.  I still bought the blu-ray when it came out, but the show was very different from the brilliance I loved in season one.  And then there was quite a bit of a hiatus.  But to appease the fan base, we were given a Victorian Christmas special. 

Oh My God.  Look at how good this looks!  All doubts I had after season three were gone.  Mr. Moffatt, you told us that this wasn't going to have to do anything with the arc of the contemporary Sherlock series, that this was just something fun that you wanted to do with the characters.  I'm sold!  I even got my wife to sit down and watch the Victorian special with me, and she has NO interest in Sherlock Holmes.

When Mycroft said his line about "a virus in the computer," I cringed.  Oh no.  We'd been sold a bill of goods.  What had promised to be a fun throwback to a different time ended up to be a crazy convoluted fever dream.  At one point, my wife looked at me and asked, "Why do you like this show?"  I couldn't come up with an answer to that anymore.

But, like the Sherlockian fan that I am, I came back for season four.  Admittedly, I didn't have high hopes, but Culverton Smith is a great character, and I looked forward to seeing what you could do with him.

And I got what I deserved.  Four and a half hours of crap spread over three weeks. 

The aquarium scene:

John punching Sherlock:

And Eurus?

The show had taken a hard left turn in to Crazy Town, and Steven Moffatt was the giddy mayor out to prove that he could do whatever the hell he wanted with these characters, because he's Steven Moffatt, dammit.

It's been over a year, and the last episode still makes me angry.  What kind of shitshow was that supposed to be?  Did you forget that you had 60 stories of Conan Doyle's to work with and decided that you really liked the SAW movies instead?

BBC's Sherlock started out as one of the greatest things on TV and turned into complete trash.  But you can't leave well enough alone, can you?  "Maybe we'll come back..." "There's more stories to tell..." "Sherlock and John grow old together..."

Please, just admit that you are done bastardizing Sherlock Holmes and move on to other projects.  Dracula.  King Arthur.  Blackadder.  Red Dwarf.  Monty Python.  Big Brother.  Go stick your grubby little hands into some other British intellectual property and leave Sherlock Holmes alone. 

I will be forever grateful for the great television that your first two seasons brought us, and even more thankful for the great fans that it produced and introduced to Conan Doyle's stories and the Sherlockian world at large. 

We've got it from here, Steve.  Those of us who revel in the Canon more than you obviously do are happy to take the BBC fans and discuss the original stories with them.  And there's a great fan fiction community out there for fans that want to keep telling stories about Sherlock, John, Molly, Mystrade, otters, and whatever else they can think up. 

Mr. Moffat, You've done your part.  It's time to move on.


  1. Well certainly everyone is allowed to have comments, but to order to move on?? Well if u don't like it don't watch. As simple as that. I am dyiiiing to see the next season and yes i have read all the books and i am a bookwirm, i have read all the great books there is along with seeing the movies made aspired by them and most of the movies even destroy the essence of the characters but steven moffat from the very start showed us that the stories though inspired by the conan doyle books, was never gonna be the conan doyle books only the essence of the characters and i have to say he has done a brilliant job of that, and that is much more than enough for me. I will support him forever.

    1. I have no qualms with utilizing inspiration or the “essence” of an idea. I find bait and switch, however, to be in poor taste.

  2. Thanks for this. I have many and conflicting hypotheses as to what happened to BBC Sherlock, but considering the personalities in charge, I find it very difficult to believe that anything good will happen from here. Hoorah for fanfiction(which Sherlock is anyway, just with a budget and platform) and original canon, and the people who love both.

  3. I agree with you in everything. Well said!

  4. Hear, hear! I agree with very nearly all that you've said, and have no argument with the places we diverge. Well said. Thank you.

  5. I agree. Only season 1 and 2 were great, and that was it. They should have stopped then, but they certainly should stop now.

  6. I agree, though I am a all Holmes is good Holmes gal - yet the line was crossed when John physically assaulted Sherlock beyond the usual anger issues they gave him in previous episodes. Nothing about this was in any way okay. The issue for me is the inconsistency within the verse Mofftiss created. When you switch genre conventions around for no reason, are inherently inconsistent and do not follow through with your (frankly atrocious) character development, then please just move on. You've lost track of the thing you started. I think a lot of us are mostly angry because we see the potential of what could have happened to the show and instead saw its makers set fire to it and watch it burn and call it 'darker' - that's just lazy.

  7. It was just sloppy and sloppier writing. Started so well, ended so badly. Thank you for this letter. I do hope Moffat takes heed!

  8. I agree with the request to stop. It serves absolutely no purpose except to generate a social media conversation. It’s pointless and it’s cruel. The general fans will tune in if and when a new installment happens, they will watch and discard and move on to the next thing. It makes no difference to them. But the really invested fans, the ones who are committed to the narrative, to the story and to the legacy; the fan fic writers, their betas, the ACDers, the EMPers, the ones who meta and the ones who draw, paint, edit and create – it’s twisting the knife over and over again. An incredible legacy was created with Sherlock, one that we will forever be grateful for, but stop baiting, either do or do not; we can take it from here.

  9. This! This is everything I've been wanting to say!

  10. So if Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman come back in a major motion picture sequel to the series, does this rage-fest mean you're on board or not? Enquiring minds want to know!

    1. I doubt that I would go to the theater to see a Steven Moffatt Sherlock movie. Now maybe if he write an animated movie about a detective garden gnome...

  11. I wonder if ever they will reveal why they shifted from a modernized Sherlock to a Post Modern Sherlock. Or why an openly gay man writing and acting in a series would stoop to queerbait? What happened? Did Cumberbatch insist that for his future as a leading man they remove anything that might make him appear effeminate? Did Martin and Amanda's breakup affect the tone on the set?
    I don't know.
    I saw Moffat at Comicon and was five feet away from him as he spoke about Holmes. He seemed to genuinely like the character, why do this to a character you admired so much?

  12. While I cannot disagree with your assessment of BBC Sherlock--and in some ways would probably be a bit more negative in my personal opinion--I must strenuously object to your plea to Moffat to stop making more Sherlocks. While I have seen enough of Moffat and Gatiss' interpretation of Holmes and Watson, neither you nor I have any right to stop anyone from doing what they please with Doyle's icons. It is up to the market to decide if there is a continued interest in a product. Given that Dracula will take two years to air, and then might be popular enough to continue on after that, we may have five or more years before the next BBC Sherlock airs. In that time, interest might have waned enough so that the BBC would not want to pay a high price for diminishing returns on future profits. If BBC Sherlock dies a natural death, I think that is fine and just. If there is still a demand for Cumberbatch and Freeman in the early to mid 2020s, well that's fine too. We don't have to watch. Any damage Moffat and Gatiss inflict to the Doyle brand will fade, as the past 130 years have shown us. An actor's star will burn for a time, but inevitably cool; Doyle's work will be with us for a much longer time.

  13. I loved Series 1 and 2 and The Lying Detective of Series 4. The rest while fun, are not really Sherlock and bare no resemblance to the original source material and that actually makes me sad.