As I've said before, I was not overly keen on the idea of a contemporary Sherlock Holmes but I found myself converted by series one. Aside from the awful Blind Banker the series was wonderful and convinced me a modern Sherlock could work.
The pattern was repeated in series two. The middle episode was not worth much but the first and third were excellent. The fan-base was pretty much united in its liking of all things Sherlock.
Then came series three. Oh my word, what went on there? Despite assurances from the writers that they were not being influenced by fan theories, the opening episode, The Empty Hearse, proceeded to send said fan-base into a right state by feeding into almost every theory that had been put forward between series two and three.
Perception is more powerful than reality so whether or not the writers were listening to fan ideas was hardly relevant; the perception was that they were and thus the schism began to appear in the opinions of fans. Some were delighted at the apparent support from the writers for their theories. Others were annoyed at what they perceived as the writers pandering to the more obsessive fans.
Perception, perception, perception.
By the time series three ended there were more dissatisfied fans than there had been at the end of series two.
This dissatisfaction made some things less tolerable than they were before. People appeared even less happy at the gaps between series. Before series three there was a more or less unspoken attitude of ....the delay's annoying but at least it will be good. Once series three ended it was more of .....another delay and will it then be as mad as the last series?
The grumbles about the perception that the writers were either pandering to the fans or mocking them became more common. Yet, despite this, there was an apparent level of faith, from those that worried that the show had lost its way, that the series could/would recover the standard of series one and two.
Then, totally unexpectedly, there was talk of a return to the Victorian era. The reaction to this was also polarized. Some fans of the modern series couldn't see the point and didn't want the contemporary setting messed with. Some thought it was pandering to the traditionalists. Ultimately we were presented with a special that did neither. True, there were plenty of people who loved it but even a casual glance at the Amazon UK ratings for the special shows how its popularity has sunk compared to the previous series.
|Series 1,2,3 and special respectively (as at 12 Jan 2016)|
Before anyone is tempted to comment, I do appreciate that as time goes on the results will change but it will be interesting to see if the high scores ultimately outstrip the low scores to the same degree as they do with series 1 - 3. What is clear is that the special motivated people in the UK to criticise in a way that they didn't appear inclined to do before.
So what of the US?
The US seems to be more pro the Special than UK reviewers yet there is still a higher level of lower scores (as percentages) compared to the previous episodes. Again, it will be interesting to see how this develops over time.
The grumbles about the wait for series four appear to have increased in the wake of the special. Can the writers reunite the fan-base or will the chasm get wider? In my opinion, only a return to solving cases as opposed to having episodes focused on character relationships stands a chance of achieving that. In other words a return to the model as displayed in the first two series.
Written by Alistair Duncan Buy my books here