Villains - Don't look back

When it comes to the BBC Sherlock series I have read a lot of stuff on the internet where people express the hope that Moriarty and, especially, Irene Adler will return to the series. This is something I simply don’t understand.
The wedding of Irene Adler to Godfrey Norton as witnessed by the disguised  Holmes

The disguised Irene Adler greeting Holmes

Yes they were significant characters (as they were in the original stories) but if you keep bringing them back you dilute them. Irene Adler holds such a place in the canon precisely because she outwitted Sherlock Holmes in one adventure. However if Conan Doyle had kept bringing her back he either would have had to have her lose or keep beating Holmes. If he had her lose it would have diluted her impact and if she kept winning it would have damaged the reputation of Holmes and an overwhelmingly successful Holmes was vital to Conan Doyle’s bank balance.

The same thing applies to the series. In order to keep the threat credible you have to have new opponents and not keep resurrecting old ones. If you need proof just look at Doctor Who. Look at any of the regular villains. The Daleks and the Cyberman are classic examples. Whenever they reappear we are not remotely concerned. We know that the Doctor has repeatedly beaten them year in year out for fifty years and that’s not going to change. The slight exception to this was the Doctor’s own Moriarty – the Master – and that was precisely because he appeared considerably less than the others (at least that is my recollection).

So by all means appreciate good and strong characters but don’t keep looking back. Look forward to new opponents and new challenges for the Great Detective.

For more information on Arthur Conan Doyle and his time at Undershaw please refer to my book, An Entirely New Country which is available through all good bookstores including Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Classic Specialities, and in all electronic formats including iTunes, Kobo, Nook and Kindle .

The Norwood Author is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including Waterstones UK, Amazon UK,  Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble, Amazon Kindle, iBooks for the iPad/iPhone, Kobo Books, Nook.

Close to Holmes is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including Amazon USABarnes and NobleAmazon UKWaterstones UKAmazon KindleKoboNook  and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.

Eliminate the Impossible is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.


  1. This is the problem with comic book villains as well. However, there is a work around for Moriarty. There are three Moriarty brothers, if you make them triplets Andrew Scott could play all three brothers and Cumberbatch can pick them off one by one over the course of four or five series. Better than having three different actors playing the same Moriarty and dying at the end of each appearance, as in the Rathbone pictures.

  2. I remember Moffat implying in an interview that Moriarty would not be coming back... at least, not the Moriarty we've already seen. To quote: "Moriarty's a one-shot deal in the original [books]. I don't want [Sherlock] to turn into a show that's about one villain and one hero. Moriarty was great because he was a surprise. Every time you bring him back he won't be as big a surprise."

    Of course, as James said, he could easily bring in one or more of the brothers. But it won't be the same sort of situation. As for Irene Adler, I totally agree with your assessment, she can't be beaten or beat Holmes again, because it will dilute her character. What could happen, and what I think a lot of fans are hoping will happen, is that she returns as an ally, or even a client.

    Personally, I'm fine with her going about her own life wherever in the world (I was fine with her dying, actually - nothing against the actress or character, but it was a more powerful ending that way) but if they decided to bring her back it would have to be in a 'working together' scenario.