Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Open Letter to Steven Moffat

Dear Mr. Moffat,

First of all, let me say that I am huge fan. I love the episodes you wrote of Doctor Who with Christopher Eccleston and David Tennant, and I am in awe of any writer who is responsible for both Coupling and Jekyll. The differences between them astound me, each one brilliant in their own way, and my hat is off to you. Much has been made of the genius behind the episode "Blink," and I will throw my weight behind all of that praise. It's a beautiful scifi story, combining time travel, character moments, and some of the scariest villains ever created. I was very excited to learn that you had been put in charge of the new season of Doctor Who, and I enjoyed the season-long journey you took us on with Matt Smith.

Today, I am writing to you because I just watched the episodes of your new BBC series, Sherlock. I am a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes, and it was with an equal mix of excitement and nervousness that I approached your new series. The idea of bringing Holmes into the modern age was one that I didn't completely agree with, but I was keeping my mind open to the possibilities. Also, I was willing to follow your name to the project. And you, sir, did not disappoint. The series is one of the best interpretations of the character that has ever been put on film, and Benedict Cumberbatch has the potential to be one of the iconic images of Sherlock. Martin Freeman's Watson is pitch-perfect, and your vision of Lestrade is quite possibly an improvement over Conan Doyle's. In short, the series is very strong, and I'm looking forward to season two.

However, it would be remiss of me not to point out the one fault that I see developing in the series. In fact, it is now a running them in all of your writing. One might call it a variation on the Aaron Sorkin effect. In Sorkin's shows, all of his characters inevitably end up sounding the same. They speak in similar rhythms, similar styles, have similar styles of humor and similar levels of intelligence. This is not your problem, sir. Instead, you constantly have one single character (the Doctor, Jekyll, Sherlock) who is much smarter and speaks much faster than everyone else in the room. And that character sounds the same, no matter which series I'm watching. Sherlock Holmes should sound different than the Doctor, and they should both sound different than Mr. Hyde (no matter how hyper-intelligent he is.) This may seem like a very small detail in the face of the overwhelming awesome that are these shows, but the measure of genius is often in those small details. It's not the sort of thing that would make me stop watching either show, but it is the thing that reduces the originality of both programs.

Also, and while not directly related to this matter, I would also like to take a moment to talk about cliffhangers. A good cliffhanger leaves the action in a tense beat, from which action can proceed in many directions, and we have to tune in next week(season) for the resolution. A good cliffhanger is not what happens that the end of Episode 3 of Sherlock. That was done so poorly, with such little regard for dramatic pacing, that I literally thought my DVR had missed the final act of the show.

Script in Hand

ps. Who the f@&k is River Song? Seriously. The mystery is getting tedious.

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