01/11/2010

Sherlock 2100

Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century is a fairly curious illustrated TV series. It's science fiction, obviously, and doesn't shun a cliché. Any cliché. If one is able to ignore the fact that Holmes looks like a far too pretty escapee from the Backstreet Boys, that most Londoners sound either like Cockneys or Americans (and sometimes like American Cockneys), the police are all basically cretins, Holmes repeats "elementary" like a ruddy parrott at every turn, the plots are essentially redundant, and that the series clearly is aimed at an audience with the mental age of six and a half, one may even enjoy it. I rather do.

Moriarty has come back to terrorise New London. Actually it's his clone, but who cares. Inspector Beth Lestrade (the old Inspector Lestrade's great granddaughter or something) at once sees that only one man can vanquish such naughtiness: Sherlock Holmes. Good thing then that Holmes's body is preserved in honey (!) and stored in the cellar of Scotland Yard. And good thing too that a there's a boffin what looks exactly like Conan Doyle what knows how to quicken and rejuvenate Holmes. And as a Holmes must have a Watson, a Watson is provided: a robot who (or that? - or maybe we really must think of it as a whom) has been programmed to think of himself as Watson.

New London is a grim and surprisingly gothic place, very much out of Blade Runner with its sky scrapers, flying cars, nano technology and other cyberpunk mores: it's high tech yet also at the same time dilapidated and seedy, it's new and shiny and futuristic on the outside and has an underbelly that's a right heap of crumbling brick and rusting iron.

However, while the city may be straight from Blade Runner the car chases are straight from Star Wars and the dialogue standard fodder straight from a cheap comic book.

Holmes has his trusted magnifying glass while Watson has seemingly unlimited access to all data bases and has the ability to analyse any found substance on the spot. Very handy. Holmes status is not as independent as it once was. This time around he does take the occasional private consulting job but mostly he works for the police, with Lestrade as his supervising officer. Holmes isn't at all as distant as he used to be but Watson is still the more human one. Even if he is a robot or compudroid.

The stories aren't particularly Holmesian, well not classically so, but at times they do follow the original plots, sort of, even give them a nice and novel twist or two. Or sometimes they merely use an old title. Like in The Resident Patient. Here there is no patient, resident or otherwise. Percy Blessington has invented a method to morph people's DNA, and the way they look. This will come very handy to Moriarty when he attempts to take over the world by substituting a world leader with his dead ringer dummy. But Holmes foils it.

In The Hounds of the Baskervilles there's a crime spree in New London and sightings of phantom hounds - on the Moon. Obviously this falls under the jurisdiction of the New London police, how else. Holmes doesn't go with Lestrade and Watson, he of course already is on the Moon. The hounds seem to be large wolf like creatures that jump on the Moon dome and howl mightily. This, Holmes observes, is strange as there is no atmosphere on the Moon and therefore the howling outside the dome shouldn't be heard. Holmes hacks into a Lunar mainframe and investigates. The howls seem to going directly into the emergency broadcast system.

Holmes ventures outside the dome and proves that the giant hound is nothing but an illusion. A virtual hound. But there is another one, one that attacks people and kidnaps children. Maybe it's the phantom hound of Lunar legend? Holmes seems sceptic. The villain turns out to be Moriarty who's taken over the Moon (by kidnapping a couple of children!) and is about to try to take over the Earth "by reprogramming the Lunar defence network to unload its firepower on Earth's major communication facilities". Holmes foils the plan and Moriarty flees, almost managing to destroy the Lunar centre Galileo City.

In the The Red-Headed League it seems that certain criminals want the police - and Holmes - to cotton on to the league. Mr Wilson, the newest recruit, owns a dingy chip shop and has a dodgy assistant - who indeed put him on to the league. This time around it's forgery and art theft from the National gallery. And Moriarty, as per usual, is behind it all. The ultimate scheme is to kidnap the wealthiest man in the world. Holmes dresses up as the intended victim and foils the dastardly scheme. Moriarty gets away, yet again, just by dashing off. In The Six Napoleons the Napoleons in question are flying cars, "the most sumptuous luxury vehicles ever built". The ornamental crystals on them are destroyed. Why? Turns out one of the crystals is a new and potent power source. In The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire Lot the vampire feeds on data. Moriarty wants to catch the data vampire for his own purposes. Turns out the vampire is a hacker - a young girl who is in fact trying to hinder Moriarty. Holmes foils Moriarty's villanous scheme and Moriarty flees.

In A Case of Identity a hacker pretends to be a police costable in order to gain access to New Scotland Yards mainframe. In the Blue Carbuncle the item in question is a talking blue gremlinesque doll that every child wants for Christmas. And there's one doll in particular that everyone is after - especially Moriarty. The storyline seems to owe more to Schwarzenegger's Jingle all the Way than to Doyle. Anyway, the doll makers have come up with robot intelligence and Moriarty wants the intelligent doll so he can build his own robot army and conquer the world. Which beggars the question: Isn't Watson supposed to be an intelligent robot? If so, what's the fuss about? If he isn't, well what bloody use is he to Holmes? Moriarty's plan is foiled by Holmes and the fact that the doll doesn't much like the idea of working. Definitely one of the better episodes. In The Crooked Man Mr and Mrs Barclay have a violent row behind closed doors. When the door is broken down by a household robot Mrs Barclay is found fainted on the floor and Mr Barclay has mysteriously disappeared. There's some strange fur found and ominous claw marks. Barclay is a genetic engineer, by the way. Everyone familiar with Doyle's story can guess where this is going.

The graphic work isn't bad. Some of the voice acting is pretty horrible, most of it quite competent. Moriarty is actually very good. The science fiction elements aren't innovative but reasonably fresh and well used. This being a kiddie show murders are of course out. Which sort of diminishes the Holmesian spectrum of cases.

Art it ain't. Canonical it ain't. Holmes it ain't. It's basically Punch and Judy. But it is tolerably amusing anyway.

3 comments:

PS said...

Been watching more episodes and some of them are really good, even surprisingly good. Like the Crooked Man, The Beryl Board and The Deranged Detective. They do justice to the original stories but give them a nice new science fiction feel. And there is some actual detection for Holmes too. Seems that most of the episodes I at first saw came from the pen of one writer. And her work was quite infantile. Most of the other writers have actually read and understood Doyle and have some interesting science fiction ideas.

PS said...

Ah, now I understand. There IS logic at work here. The episodes with the silly cardboard villain Moriarty are just stupid, the ones without him not half bad.

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