Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sherlock and the Doctor: Two Franchises for the Teens

It will be interesting to see what new characters enter our collective imagination in the 2010s, but two highlights of the aughts were the rebooted Doctor Who TV series, most fully realized by David Tennant who took over from Christopher Eccleston just 13 episodes in, and our beloved Sherlock Holmes, given a new lease on life by the now fully resurrected Robert Downey, Jr. They both added great spirit to the last holiday season of the decade, and their sequels will have a cultural presence in the teens.

The End of David Tennant’s Time

Doctor: “Worst. Rescue. Ever.”

Doctor to Master “It said someTHING is coming not someONE. Don’t you ever listen?”

Wilfi: Not bloody likely
Doctor: Don’t swear

Just some very small moments that I love from the last episode of David Tennant’s Doctor, the 2-part “End of Time.” I must say BBC America gave him a right proper send off, with a marathon of all his episodes starting on January 2 and ending with the final episodes.

David Tennant’s Doctor #10 is going into history as one of the greatest.

His acting is a joy to watch: he sparks and sparkles; he puts across wit and physical comedy beautifully and then menaces with frightening depth. There is a natural intelligence behind all his line readings and a conviction in what he’s staying. He is so naturally comfortable as the Doctor that the glee is never over the top, the anger isn’t forced. I love the way he conveys authority.

The last episode lacked in some logic and common sense, but it had the important beats right: the Doctor’s relationship with Donna’s grandfather Wilfi who becomes his final companion, his showdown with the Master and the Time Lord’s president, his victory lap visiting with all his friends. These were all satisfying plot points, beautifully written and executed.

One of the great things about Doctor Who is its own history. Its original run was 1963 to 1989, with eight different doctors. It was primarily a British cultural touchstone—-some Americans found it, but generations of Brits embraced it, and since the reboot looked forward to the annual Christmas Day special. It was relaunched in 2005 by BBC Wales in Cardiff, with Russell T. Davies at the helm. British actors of all stripes have guest starred over the years-—as an Avengers fan I would point particularly to Honor Blackman, Peter Wyngarde, and Michael Gough in the earlier years. Since the reboot we got to see Zoe Wannemaker, Kylie Minogue, Derek Jacobi, Simon Callow, Penelope Wilton, and Bernard Cribbins, John Simm, and Timothy Dalton. (The closest thing we have to a TV show that attracts American actors is 30 Rock, with Tina Fey attracting Alec Baldwin and some considerable film guest stars.)

Doctor 11 will be Matt Smith. Who? Nobody really knows. He’s very young, and he has very big shoes to fill.

Sherlock and Watson, Together Again

I have to say straight out that an American shouldn’t being playing Sherlock Holmes. It’s just not right. There are SO many British actors who would be excellent. It’s a DNA thing. It’s a national boasting rights thing. The Empire should see to its own for something as important as introducing Holmes to the next generation of fans.

Downey does a good job, but he’s coming back as Tony Stark in Iron-Man 2. I don’t want my Tony and my Sherlock to be the same man. It just isn’t right.

The real thrill of the new franchise anyway is Jude Law. His Watson is sharp and capable and talented. The two banter as well as Nick and Nora Charles, though it’s obviously chaste (whatever provocative pish-tosh Downey was dispensing on Letterman). And the whole made-up plot point of Sherlock trying to sabotage Watson’s engagement was straight out of Gunga Din, not some subversive reading of the Holmes canon.

I liked the stylized production. And the very surprise use of “The Rocky Road to Dublin” over the boxing fight scene, and the final credits. (I thought it was the Clancy Brothers version, but I’ve seen it attributed both to them and the Dubliners.) Very sporting for the London-centric Holmes to acknowledge Dublin.


clairehelene7 said...

I agree with you wholeheartedly with your assessment of Tennant and "The End of Time." Can you please do a Paley Center thing with him and invite me? :) I'll miss #10. I'm very curious to see where Moffat takes the Doctor, as he's written some of my favorite episodes. Tennant's my doctor all the same.

I enjoyed Robert Downey, Jr's Sherlock Holmes. I somehow missed Iron Man (I blame grad school), so I can't comment on the Tony Stark connection. I did love Jude Law as Watson.

And happy new year!

Peteski said...

David Tennant makes Anthony Newley look like Lee Marvin, Strictly Ballroom. That last ep was unwatchable. Even K bailed on it.
Worst. Doctor. Ever.

My Holmes don't[sic] fight with his fists or/and his shirt off, sorry.

I fear for your sanity, I blame Mad Men.

See you in Sweden,

M.A.Peel said...

Happy New Year Claire! I'll see what I can do about an event!

Peteski, not sure you're gonna be much happier with the boy wonder, I mean #11. And I do believe the fighter-Holmes is in the canon.

Yes, next year in Sweden . . .

Ross Ruediger said...

Oh how I hate to be a geeky know-it-all, but just for your info, Peel, The first ever DW X-Mas special was Tennant's first story, "The Christmas Invasion." There had never been one in the forty some odd years prior to that!

M.A.Peel said...

RR, I'm always happy to correct misinformation, especially about DW. I separated the "generations embracing" from the Christmas specials. So now we just mark time until 11 starts up.

scribbler50 said...

Hate to be a stick-in-the-mud (and especially since I haven't seen the movie) but I'd rather see Sherlock's brain rather than his brawn. Despite all that's been written lately in defense of this twist on the character... that according to Conan Doyle's writings Holmes was a bit of a pugilist in his youth... from what I've seen in the previews he was Charles Bronson kicking ass in Hard Times. And though Downey Jr. has the acting chops, I couldn't agree with your statement more that an American shouldn't be playing Sherlock Holmes. Period! As Bogart's Rick might've said it... "Of all the Brits in all the Shires you had to pick this Yank!"
I think I'll wait for NetFlix to catch this one.