Tuesday, 17 January 2012


Sherlock with a gun

I love the new series of Sherlock on the BBC, both series 1 and 2 were brilliant. The writing is sharp, the chemistry between the leads is excellent and while I feel some stories are dragged out a little to fit their feature length slot, I very rarely check my watch which is a very good sign in my book.

However, there are two things that continually bug me and in my humble opinion are major flaws with the show.

First of all, Guns. 

Watson with a gun
This is the UK, we do not have easy access to guns. No civilian would ever be given a licence to carry a handgun and if caught carrying one, would receive a relatively harsh prison sentence.

Lestrade with a gun
Further more, no police officer would be allowed to handle a gun unless trained as an armed police officer, in which case (aside from a rare few who guard high risk targets like nuclear facilities or diplomats)  his/her firearms must be carried in a safe within a locked boot of a specially designed and equipped police vehicle. They must obtain permission before even being allowed to get the guns out! There are around 150,000 police officers in the England and Wales but less than 7,000 have been trained to use a gun and there are not even ten incidents per year where the police have opened fire.

Joe Public with a gun
I can buy the criminal element having access weapons because they're on the wrong side of the law anyway and I can buy the good guys using their weapons against them but we are pro gun control in this country! When you show everyone from police officers to Sherlock and even members of the general public who aren't criminally minded touting a handgun and no one even batting an eyelid, it throws me right out of a story.

We are the UK, not the USA. Please to be learning the cultural differences.

Actually what really irks me is that the writers are English and if they engaged with current affairs in even the smallest way through out the past 20 years, they could not have failed to notice that guns=illegal.

Clearly they have chosen to ignore this rather massive and important piece of legislation but why?

John Watson with another gun
Sherlock with another gun

Are they trying to sell the show to American audiences? Because in my opinion, ignoring this huge cultural difference is as jarring as then the Americans doing a bad British accent or we Brits doing a bad American accent. It doesn't sit right, it doesn't feel right and it throws you out of the story because it draws your attention to something that is out of place.
Sherlock showing off with a gun

My other big bug bear, which upsets me even more than the lackadaisical use of firearms, is Cliffhangers.

Each movie told its own complete story
When I read a book, watch a film or a TV show, I like to know that I will be left with a satisfying conclusion. Even serialised films and books leave you with a conclusion to that chapter in the story. Some successful examples include the Godfather trilogy, the Harry Potter books and films, The Star Wars Trilogy, The Lord of the Rings books and movies, the Southern Vampire Mysteries books and True Blood TV series, Dexter, the Alien films, James Bond books and films, Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park and Lost World books and the Twilight books and films to name but a few.  Each manages to wrap up the story arc for that instalment and tempt the audience back for the next book/series/film without resorting to massive cliffhangers.

Each book told a complete story
When it comes to TV shows, I will tolerate an episode to episode cliffhanger sometimes but when they leave a series on a cliff hanger, I hate it.You don't have to tie up all the threads, just the major ones, you can leave small things unanswered or sew the seeds for the plots of the next book/film/series but when you leave me on a massive cliffhanger that I have to wait a year to see the conclusion to, I more than likley will not bother.

It's sloppy writing and to me it says "I'm really not confident that my writing is good enough to tempt the audience to tune in next season, so I have to leave them on a massive cliffhanger so that they will want to watch the next series to find out what happens".

The writing on Sherlock is strong enough to draw the audience back in next season without resorting to these silly and annoying theatrics.

The cliffhanger in season 1 wasn't too bad, they completed the arc of the series and episode leaving just one question unanswered, who would win the face off, Sherlock or Moriarty and to be perfectly honest, this ending felt like it was just tacked onto the end of the episode as an afterthought. I still thought that it was cheap and bad writing but on the whole season 1 left me satisfied.

No cliffhangers in sight!
This season the whole final episode is left unexplained. We can draw our own conclusions about some things but there are huge gaping questions left unanswered and while viewers can come up with their own theories, we will not get an answer for  another whole year. Okay, maybe I am exaggerating slightly. We wont get an answer for another 49 weeks, assuming the scheduling is the same for series 3.

Why can you not trust in your writing ability enough to give your loyal viewers a satisfying conclusion? Are you catering to the fan-boys/girls who love a good mystery and coming up with their own theories? Are you hoping that they will create an internet buzz? Because I have to tell you, doing that at the end of the series is the wrong time to get people interested.

95% or more of your viewing audience are not fan-boys/girls who will trawl the internet looking for answers and even if they were inclined to come up with their own theories, one week is ample time for anyone to do so.

To sum up my feelings on this, if you can't be bothered to give me a satisfying resolution, then I'm not sure I can be bothered to tune in next year.

Trust me, I have real life problems that last a year or more, I do not want my entertainment to be so problematic.


In the interests of fairness, this is Mark Gatiss's reply. Forgive the brevity, they're tweets.

Click to enlarge
"Re: guns. It's fiction and merely mirroring the accessibility of weapons in the original (Watson's revolver) Re: cliffhangers. As Wilkie Collins said "Make 'em cry, make 'em laugh, make 'em wait."

It's nice that he would take the trouble to reply to a viewer, even if we must agree to disagree!


  1. Never read A Song of Ice and Fire. The cliffhangers will end you.

    Personally, I like cliffhangers. Keeps things more exciting.

  2. Thanks for the tip!

    With weekly or even monthly instalments of something I wouldn't mind but waiting a year is excessive and by the time the sequel come out, I've moved on and forgotten most of what made the cliffhanger exciting in the first place, but I probably will remember feeling short changed.

  3. Wholeheartedly agree with Kroms. The whole of Song of Ice and Fire is LONG books ending in cliff-hangers :-) -solsticedawn

  4. Sorry but what, just *WHAT*:
    The Star Wars Trilogy:
    Luke I am your father isn't a cliffhanger? Nothing was resolved in Empire (these best of the series). Unless you're treating them as a single entity in which case... why them and not Sherlock. There was even more time between Star Wars movies than Sherlock movie sets.

    The Lord of the Rings books and movies:
    Again... what? These were 3/6/7 books depending on how you look at it, and none of them had any sense of closure bar the last one, and even that, whilst not a cliffhanger, was left very open to interpretation and somber (in the case of the novels only).

    Series 4, arguably the strongest, ends on the death of Rita with the viewer not knowing if Dexter is going to blamed for her murder, run away and abandon the baby etc.

    Alien films:
    Not really seeing this one either. Neither of the first two films exactly ends with Ripley being high and dry (although the third does arguably *seem* to conclude the story it was the least popular entry).

    And indeed you've been very selective with your shows, the majority of standard american seasons of 24 episodes all end on cliffhangers. Be it House driving through his girlfriends wall or Atlantis being overrun by aliens with at least 3 cast members in mortal danger/ presumed dead.
    The point isn't to leave you guessing for a whole a year, our theories were done and dusted in minutes after the episode aired, the point is to hit the ground running next year. Rather than having a slow start where the show attempts to find it's feet again you fire off the series with a bang, and make the viewer feel that it never went off the air (which worked excellently with this seasons opener, and there is nothing worse than a sense of disconnect between seasons, which a lot of bad shows end up with). People tune in to see if their theories were right, they stick around because it dives right back in without having to open a book that was closed (for no good reason) the previous year.

    Incidentally that particular cliffhanger was taken from the novels (and was less of a tease than them as in the novels his survival is not confirmed in any way).

  5. With Dexter, Rita's death was the beginning of a new plot line for the next season and as such viewers weren't invested in the story line yet. Like I said, they can certainly sew seeds for future seasons, just not leave that seasons big questions unanswered. Dexter's season 4's arc was wrapped up with a little bit of tantalisation added for season 5.

    Maybe you need to watch the alien films again, in Alien and Alien's she had killed the bad guy and the film ended with her going to bed safe and sound. Neither she nor the viewer was aware that anything might be amiss. I call that a concluded chapter, until someone decided there was another sequel in the franchise.

    And you're right, the majority of American shows do resort to cliffhangers and other cheap theatrics, which is why I don't generally watch many American shows. British TV shows (generally speaking) are better quality, don't patronise their audience and don't resort to the same cheap tricks as American shows do.

    Other than obsessive fans, who can honestly remember the ending of a TV show from a year ago? The majority if viewers wont have watched the finale (or any episode) more than twice and will probably at best just have a vague notion of how it ended. 95% wont have a theory about how, what, when or why because they don't spend their free time getting unduly obsessed over fiction.

    If you know anything about the Conan-Doyle (which I cant help being as I live in his home town and just sort of absorb this stuff by osmosis) you will know that he intended to kill Sherlock off in the original Reichenback Fall (no I cant spell it). He wanted to kill him off because he was so popular Conan-Doyle wanted time to work on other things. He finally brought him back from the dead, like Bobby Ewing walking from a shower, because of fan demand. First of all he wrote books and stories set prior to Sherlock death, then he actually brought him back to life and wrote new stories based after the date that novel was set.

    That wasn't a tease or cliffhanger, that was a U-turn.

    BTW, I think that you might have missed the fact that I love this show (I said so right at the beginning) and that these are the 2 flaws that bug me the most. No show is perfect and if I didn't like it so much, these flaws wouldn't bother me in the slightest. Believe me, there is a lot of crappy TV out there. You don't see me blogging about them because I don't care about them.

  6. Oh, and while I disagree on Star Wars not resolving each movie's main story arc and major plot points, I didn't argue about it because I was 6 when the third movie came out and the internet was in it's infancy.

    As for the LOTR books, I can't comment because I haven't read the books and didn't like the movies so cant remember much about them. If they did end on cliffhangers, I onviously didn't care enough to want to know what happened.

  7. Not sure you've explained *why* it's a bad thing to leave it open though, clearly most people enjoy it, and it's certainly not a sign of a bad series (whatever shows you may associate it with). Taking the previous example of House the cliffhangers led to some of the most interesting followup episodes (asylum/jail). I also didn't watch Sherlock in between the two series but the ending to series 1 left an impact so it didn't take two seconds for me to remember where it left off.
    By definition the LOTR books did as they were part of a continuing story.

    Yes Doyle intended to kill of Sherlock, but that doesn't make it any less a cliffhanger. Indeed there was no cliffhanger here as the characters survival is shown.

    Personally I absolutely DESPISE nice clean unambiguous endings that wrap things up in a way that never happens in real life, I always find it somewhat insulting to the audience.
    It's certainly not lazy writing as you seem to imply, all they have to do to do to "wrap things up" is make the finale just another episode, which would strike me as lazy.

    I'd also argue that drifting alone in space isn't particularly safe, especially not the second time around when every single member of the audience must have been asking themselves where, and after how long a period in supsended animation, she would eventually awaken.

  8. Cliffhangers are bad because they leave the audience hanging. The audience invests in the story line, becomes interested in the plot and suddenly finds that the last chapter is missing!!! It's like buying a book only to find that the last few chapters have been torn out or buying a coach ticket and being dropped off two stops before your expected destination.

    You can end book chapters on a cliffhanger or TV episodes on a cliffhanger but to end a whole book, series or movie on a cliffhanger means that you need to give your audience a reason to come back after the break in programming. But if the quality of your writing, the acting and the total package is good enough, your audience don't need to be given a reason to comeback. When average shows do it, it's cheap theatrics, when great shows do it it feels like the writers don't trust their own writing enough to believe that they can drawn an audience back in.

    If you need any more proof of the quality to cliffhanger ratio, the majority of cliffhangers are and have always been used by soap operas, the lowest common denominator in TV viewing.

    I never said that everything had to be wrapped up at the end of a series, but the main plot lines, the season arc, the reason we've been watching should be. By all means leave the sub plots open to be concluded or built upon at a later date because since less screen time is given to these sub plots, the audience isn't as invested in them. You can also set up future plot lines to give the audience a taste of what might be to come because again, the audience hasn't had time to invest in those new plot lines.

    Very few films or TV shows wrap every plot point up, even at the end of the TV or film series. What they usually do do is wrap up the major character arcs and plots, what happens next is for the viewer to decide (if they want to) based on what they know of the characters.

    It's established at the beginning of Alien that the crew is all asleep for the flights and the ship pilots itself to and from the mining destination. Why would the viewer wonder why the ship couldn't fly itself home when we had seen Ripley programming the controls before getting into the cryo chamber. It's standard procedure for the deep space miners.

    Of course the audience doesn't see Ripley arrive back at earth so the audience (and sequel writers) are free to wonder if perhaps the computer might malfunction but we haven't actually been given any reason to suspect that it will.

  9. Soaps never go off the air... so they can only have weekly cliffhangers. And giving examples of poor shows which did it doesn't make it a bad idea by definition. You've yet to convince me of *why* its bad, *why* it's a bad thing that the audience is left hanging. There's nothing more irritating (to me personally) than false closure when the franchise is going to be reopened in increasingly unbelievable manners (again the Alien franchise is a fantastic example of this, having cryo go wrong once and bringing your main character back from the dead isn't an example of strong writing, and is in fact one of my larger issues with the progression of that franchise).
    As it's not a complaint I've heard frequently I'd chalk it up to personal preference. Personally I like the promise of a continuing interconnected saga, rather than discreet unrelated snippets, and the cliffhangers increase the anticipation for the first episode.

  10. Anthony Trollope said that cliffhangers "violate all proper confidence between the author and his reader". I couldn't agree more.

    You wouldn't go out wearing half an outfit.

    You wouldn't buy a car that only worked half the time.

    You wouldn't be happy if the internet offered at a netcafe only worked half the time, even if it is a free perk.

    You wouldn't accept half a pair of shoes with the vague assurance that he other shoe would arrive in about a year, maybe, depending on scheduling issues.

    You wouldn't buy tickets to a concert or a sports match and be happy to be sent home at half time, even if you are reassured that the concert or match will be resumed in a year or so's time.

    I don't understand why you would accept half a story, please explain that to me because from where I stand, your argument is completely illogical. It sounds like you enjoy being short changed.

  11. There is no issue w/ the guns because as Mark Gatiss said, what Sherlock has been using was John's. And remember the Baskerville episode is in the country, where some people have guns (ex. farmers).

    And I hope people stop complaining about the length of the show. Clearly a one and a half per episode takes time to write and create. Compare the quality of Sherlock and Doctor Who. every episode in Sherlock is well-made and has a film quality to it w/c you certainly can't say to all Doctor Who episodes.

    With the cliffhangers, that's the beauty of the show. Because they can surprise and excite you even though you really already know the story because of THE BOOKS. Read the books, apply imagination, and use deduction. that's part of the appeal. You want the tv show to spoon fed you, watch East Enders.

  12. Additionally, the cliffhangers at the end of each series didn't decreased the enjoyment and entertainment in it. In the end of the first series, because you know Sherlock wouldn't die. Because there is what we call CANON (or the CONAN DOYLE books) so it was just really a way to introduce who Moriarty. The How is what's left. And as I said, that is adds to the fun is. You get to speculate w/ other people and can be a great conversational topic.

    The second series, also just leaves the question HOW. We know Sherlock is not dead because of the books and he was shown at the end (and a third series is confirmed). Is the last episode half-made because they didn't show how he survived? No. Because if they revealed how Sherlock survived, what's the fun in that? what's the point of waiting for months just to see how John will mourn.

    By showing how Sherlock survived in the third series, they can show continuity and a room for more stories. Like Watson while mourning would probably meet the future Mrs.Watson, etc.

    I think that's why CONAN DOYLE's BOOK SALES increased because of BBC Sherlock. People are more intrigued with the stories or want to refresh their memories.

    I think we shouldn't use American TV shows as comparison to Sherlock because they are not similar, that is, the length of each episode and series. It's not apples to apples.

  13. Sorry, Clancybot but when you update something, you go with modern day law (unless you explain why it doesn't apply here, like Bond's license to kill). Service men no longer get to keep their firearm when they leave the services and even supposing if they did manage to keep it, Lestrade should have confiscated it long ago. Plus farmers only have access to shotguns, not handguns.

    If you are going to break the laws of the land, you need to explain why they are getting away with it, otherwise it's as ridiculous as an American cop show with unarmed officers.

    Of course we knew Sherlock wouldn't die at the end of the first series. Anyone who put their money on him dying should be shot for being too dumb to exist. We knew he wouldn't die in this final episode either because of the clues laid down through out the whole episode (such as the dummy hanging). if you needed to see Sherlock at the end of the episode to know that he wasn't dead, then you weren't paying attention.

    The fun of knowing how he faked his death is having a conclusion to the story. Would you watch a quiz show that only asked questions but didn't give any answers? No. What would be the point of that? just like what's the point in being told half a story?

    Finally I think you'll find that the increased sales of Homes books can also be attributed to the Sherlock movies of late, which have been seen by far more people world wide than this series. BBC Sherlock draws audiences of around 10 million, which is very good for a UK TV show but still nothing compared to the Sherlock movies.

  14. You seem to be comparing apples and oranges. How can you compare a Quiz show with no answers to a TV series with a semi cliff hanger. At the start you said that things like Harry Potter wrapped up their individual plot points but so does Sherlock. Just like at the end of Philosopher's Stone when Harry saves the stone but we don't learn why Voldemort was after him or how he was still alive. We have been shown that Sherlock is still alive (main point) we just don't know the how yet and that is OK. It isn't a cliff hanger it is just something to think about until the next bit comes along and we are told for certain.
    With the guns all I can say is that Sherlock only follows the laws that make sense to him. He is constantly attacked so owning a gun is the best option and some silly law against it isn't going to stand in his way.

  15. I agree with froggym's comment. Just because it supposed to be modern, doesn't mean it should and be limited to what today is. Are you saying Sherlock should not have a gun to protect himself to whatever he is against with? and i would like to note that his brother in the show is "the british government" so there is a way for him to get away with the gun.

    in the baskerville episode, i am merely pointing out that farmers for example can have a gun. if they can have a shotgun, don't you think it's possible for a rich person in the country to have a gun?

    and with this penchant for using examples that are not similar at all to Sherlock. Every show has a cliffhanger. They use cliffhangers to entice audiences and keep the show alive. A show that only has 3 episodes and runs for 3 weeks a year would rely on cliffhangers to make sure the audience is excited and would have something to hold on to while the long wait.

    does it make the episodes half a story? no because as i said, we already know what will happen. there's no disappointing end or such because we know what's supposed to happen. it's just how it happened that is the question. and they use that question to, as I said, transition to another story for the next series. To use that to where it ended to introduce new story lines.

    if you want everything to be explained watch a documentary or something. Sherlock is fiction. An episode contains different stories from Conan Doyle books. The gun and the cliffhanger doesn't ruin anything but adds to the tension and excitement.

    Regarding the increase book sales, read this article: http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2012-01-17/benedict-cumberbatch's-sherlock-boosts-conan-doyle-book-sales

    The movie may have helped but I doubt it since the movie doesn't really feature much of the stories in the books. in fact, the 2009 movie's villain is not part of the books. When I watched the movie, I certainly didn't have the urge to read the books again. But watching BBC Sherlock does.

  16. Question: Have you read the Sherlock Holmes stories? You haven't made many allusions to them.

    Also, your world view is awfully idealistic. Guns = Illegal. That is true, but do people break the law? All the time.

    You presume to know how everyone would feel in these situations and you generalize their responses. That is awfully naive. Our whole world is based on a system of trust. Let's say you go out for a burger or something, you give the employee your cash and you trust that they will, in turn, supply your food because it's the LAW. Why would you do that based solely on a promise? It is because you trust in the system.

    With all the wonderful creations that the writers and producers of "Sherlock" have brought to us before, it's only natural to believe that they wouldn't leave us hanging forever. They like to make us wait, because once the wait is over they get to see whether or not they were truly successful. They get to see how many people came back. (They get to see everyone's torment as they try to sort through the clues.)

    It's like everyone is in such a rush to get through everything and move on to the next great thing as quickly as possible and forget all about Sherlock and everything it has brought with it and- SLOW DOWN. Why are you in such a rush? We know that there will be a conclusion so why are you so worried about it?

    Not to mention the fact that, with detective stories and who/howdunnits like this, the fans ENJOY thinking about what really could have happened or what is to come.

    GASP! People like to think!?

    Yes, people like to think. It's not all that uncommon. Some people even take notes and try to sort through all of the clues and symbolism. If they aren't supposed to be thought about, what is the point of all of those things? Television has made this genre of fiction a little more difficult to pull off since audiences have been so accustomed to being able to close the book or go back and look at little details they might have missed. Even with all the advanced recording programs, most viewers would not pause the episode to think about everything. This leaves the problem of, if they don't pause to put the puzzle together themselves, what's the fun in it? An engaging story should be what every writer aspires to create. As long as the main story is resolved, the rest is Easter eggs.

  17. If you know anything about the Conan-Doyle (which I cant help being as I live in his home town and just sort of absorb this stuff by osmosis) you will know that he intended to kill Sherlock off

    So Conan Doyle claimed. But I don't believe it. If he'd been genuinely committed to killing Holmes off he'd have had Watson find the body. Having Watson find merely signs of a scuffle rests our certainty of Holmes' death not on Watson's considerable skills as a physician but on his far less impressive skills as a detective; clearly Conan Doyle was deliberately leaving himself a way to bring Holmes back.

    Re guns: it's been established that both Holmes and Watson are perfectly happy to break the law on numerous occasions -- as was the case in the books also. (From the original version of "Scandal in Bohemia": "By the way, Doctor, I shall want your co-operation." "I shall be delighted." "You don't mind breaking the law?" "Not in the least." "Nor running a chance of arrest?" "Not in a good cause." "Oh, the cause is excellent!" "Then I am your man." "I was sure that I might rely on you.")

  18. @BerserkRL, I could handle Holmes and Watson using guns, it's just the fact that no one bats an eyelid when they do!

    Holmes even fired a gun into the air saying "That'll bring the police running" or similar. Yes,it will 'cos we take that shit very seriously!

    The final straw was seeing the client in Baskervills owning a handgun and then Lestrade bringing a handgun with him on "holiday".

    It's just too much not to offer an explanation within the cannon (not that there really is a believable explanation for a former addict, high functioning sociopath to ever be granted a license. You'd even have problems getting a licence to carry in America with that history!)

  19. Dunblane, Stirlingshire.
    Whitehaven, Cumbria.
    Both men who committed the murders in these cases used firearms that were licensed to them at the time.

    1. "At the time" being the operative word for Dunblain. That was the incidents that tightened up our gun laws and made us such an anti-gun society.

      Derrick Bird used a shotgun and rifle. If you read the original post I use the term hang gun. I wouldn't have a problem with a TV show using shotguns or rifles because you CAN still obtain licences for those weapons for farming, veterinary purposes, pheasant shooting etc.

      You wont ever get a licence to own a hand gun in this country. Even gun clubs have to use compressed air hand guns.