I was ten when the Granada Sherlock Holmes series began in 1984 and I don’t recall being outraged or emotionally damaged when Holmes went over the falls (supposedly) at the end of The Final Problem. In this I find myself at the opposite pole to many younger fans of BBC Sherlock who seemed to go into a collective bout of hysteria at the conclusion of The Reichenbach Fall (if many blogs and Youtube videos are anything to go by).
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|The Granada "Fall"|
Was my reaction (or lack of one) because I’d read the Canon and knew full well that Holmes returned? More than likely. One thing I never felt (and no this isn't me having a convenient memory) was that I had any right to criticise the series or the show’s creators beyond remarking on changes between the episodes and the original stories. That level of criticism was acceptable as Granada was promising to give us a canonical Holmes. Unlike the BBC it was not attempting to reinvent.
Granada's series was unusual in its attempts to be faithful - in stark contrast to the adaptations that had come before it. The films of Arthur Wontner, Basil Rathbone and Ronald Howard (during the 1930s, 40s and 50s respectively) had all messed with the Canon in some way so Granada’s faithful approach was refreshing and, at the same time, relatively devoid of surprises as the stories were out there in print.
The current BBC offering is both canonical and unfaithful. It, like so many other versions, has been made contemporary and the stories, whilst rooted in the canon, are different. It is, as its creators have freely admitted, following very much in the footsteps of the Rathbone Universal films.
This has the advantage that even someone one who knows the Canon can be surprised by the way the stories unfold. But the Canon still exerts a strong influence and certain fixed points cannot be messed with. One of these is that Sherlock Holmes survives his clash with Moriarty.
Therefore, anyone watching The Reichenbach Fall who had any familiarity with the Canon would have known full well that Sherlock would be alive. There was, let's be honest, almost zero chance that he would actually die in a program that was a smash hit. That doesn't mean the episode would not be emotional but only a person with no Canon knowledge could have been surprised when Sherlock turned out to be alive.
|The BBC "Fall"|
I read some blogs and watched some offerings on Youtube and was quite frankly staggered at the response to The Reichenbach Fall. Young people outraged that Sherlock was dead, the same people then outraged that he wasn't, the borderline hysterical tantrums – all only remotely reasonable if they were ignorant of the Canon. People presumably drawn from this same group have gone on to hurl insults at other fans and people connected to the show and set up blogs, Tumblrs etc. to rant about the emotional trauma they were put through etc, etc.
As downright bizarre and, in some cases, disturbing this all was to me; a part of me was actually envious of their apparent Canon ignorance. The one downside of having had the entire Canon available from day one was that no adaptation has really held surprises for me. In some respects I longed to have an experience analogous to the Victorians who were drip-fed the original stories through The Strand and had no idea between the end 1893 and mid-1903 that Sherlock Holmes wasn't actually dead. The people watching the BBC show today without that Canon knowledge are getting, to an extent, an experience similar to the original Victorian readers of The Strand and this is something I cannot help but envy even though I don’t like some of the less savoury aspects that seem to come with it.
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