Interview/Review: T.D. McKinney and “Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia”

(We saw the original UK broadcast back in January, hence the references)


SHERLOCK, the BBC‘s landmark hit series, returned for a second season on New Year’s Day to over 9 million viewers in the UK. Kicking off the triad of episodes this season was “A Scandal in Belgravia,” Stephen Moffat‘s story based on the canon “A Scandal in Bohemia.” I have with me today my co-author and best friend, and one of the most informed Sherlockians I know, T. D. McKinney.

(She just stuck her tongue out at me.)

TW: So we’ve both watched “A Scandal in Belgravia,” a number of times now. Let’s start with overall impressions. Does it hold up against Series 1?

TD: Of course, it’s only one film from a slate of three. But if they maintain this quality for the other two, it will certainly exceed Series 1. The cinematography is excellent, the acting is superb, and the cast has gelled into their roles perfectly. Steven Moffat offered up a script, that¾while not perfect¾certainly had a great deal of excitement and humor. There were the expected “Easter eggs” for long-time Holmes fans and some interesting twists on the Canon.

TW: I agree. They’ve certainly honed the blade. So on to some more specific things. The “pool solution” – which we won’t detail here. What did you think? Brilliant or bust?

TD: Freaking hilarious! It was definitely “out of the box”‘ and one none of the fans had thought of. As such, it was brilliant.

TW: LOL, I still laugh every time I see it. While we’re still hovering somewhere near Jim Moriarty, let’s talk Andrew Scott for a minute. Impressions?

TD: Excellent actor. He’s taken Moriarty in an unexpected direction. I’m still deciding what I think of that direction, but I have to give him all credit for doing something new and interesting with a iconic character.

TW: They’ve done that a lot¾Moffat and Mark Gatiss¾let the characters take some new directions while still remaining true to the spirit of the canon. And created some new ones as well. Anyone in particular stand out to you, whether from the first series or since the new series began? In terms of either characters or actors.

TD: Misters Moffat and Gatiss have taken all the characters in new directions. They have remained true to the heart of Conan Doyle’s work while following their own vision. Sherlock himself, under their hands, is a very different man from the one who existed in 1895. So is the somewhat ditzy Mrs. Hudson, the handsome and rather sarcastic D.I. Lestrade, the almost pixyish Mike Stamford. Odd, the least changed may be John Watson. Of the new ones, the most famous have to the antagonistic Sgt. Sally Donovan and Medical Examiner Anderson, and the love-struck Molly Hooper.

My personal favorite has to be Lestrade. The most famous agent New Scotland Yard ever had, a ferret-faced little man anxious to one-up his rival Gregson, always a little in awe of Holmes and never quite willing to admit it, completely re-imaged into a world-weary, 21st-century cop who comes to Sherlock begging for help because he needs the man. This time, he’s not afraid to snark back or call Sherlock on childish behavior, though he knows he can only push so far. And did I mention handsome?

TW: LOL – yes, your vicarious love affair with Rupert Graves is well-documented.

TD: Oh yeah!

TW: LOL!!! Go for – wax rhapsodic for a minute – just keep it PG J

TD: I’ll be good!

TW: Seriously – go for – he’s fabulous in the character – we’ve talked about Andrew Scott – we’ll probably get along to the others as we go.

TD: Well, what’s not to love? Mr. Graves has amazing talent. And big dark eyes. An impressive body of work. And that wonderful silvery hair. You’ve seen Maurice; he was brilliant and he was barely an adult. He’s finally grown into that voice. Oh my God, that voice! That little-boy smile and then that voice. It should be illegal. No, it should be bottled and available for sale.

TW: “A Scandal in Belgravia” introduced one of the most iconic adversaries in the canon Holmes’ career – though the original Irene Adler wasn’t a villain and she only appeared briefly in the one story. There have been a few rather cutting reviews of the upgraded version. What’s your take?

TD: The original Irene was an opera singer and an “adventuress” – Victorian catch-phrase for a woman who was no better than she should be. She wasn’t a proper lady at all, but rather a sophisticated woman of rather looser morals, a courtesan. Undoubtedly, there was more than one gentleman in her career. She was not a thief (as many of the Hollywood productions make her out to be), nor some criminal mastermind. She was a very clever and rather resourceful woman who liked to wander around dressed as a man. She had an affair with the king of Bohemia and kept a photo of herself and His Highness as protection. Sound familiar?

This new Irene is not such a stretch from her Victorian sister. Instead of a singer/courtesan who sleeps with a king, she’s a high-grade hooker who sleeps with a princess. She’s still clever and resourceful. And like the original she falls in love. Just instead of falling for her lawyer, she falls for a consulting detective.

TW: We’ve talked in the last couple of days about “mirror images” and also the idea that, overall, Irene Adler actually did win on a number of levels…

TD: Yes, I love the whole mirror thing Moffat did. In the beginning, it’s very blatant. Sherlock is looking at photos of Irene as she’s flipping through camera images of him. She’s trying to decide what to wear; he’s trying to decide what to wear. Both mention girding for battle. Then he bloodies his face as she decides her lipstick shade will be “blood.” And just as Sherlock was earlier naked, albeit with his trusty sheet, Irene is naked. It becomes more subtle as the film continues, but if anything it’s stronger for that.

She is no more mature than he is, is just as addicted to drama, exhibitionism, and praise. Sherlock basically ends up falling for his own doppelganger and Irene for hers. That’s the ultimate appeal – they are truly two of a single kind.

TW: She gave John Watson something to think about.

TD: Didn’t she though? Poor John. He has quite enough going on. I think everyone gave him something to think about. His latest girlfriend certainly did. Of course, there are many forms of love. And many forms of attraction. John’s a big boy. I have no doubt he’s capable of deciding for himself exactly what he wants and how he fits best into everything.

TW: Speaking of parallels, I noticed Sherlock has his own rather vicious version of “recreational scolding.” Only his isn’t welcomed by his target.

TD: Oh yes, he’s very talented at it. If he got paid for it, Anderson would be bankrupt and Sally Donovan would owe Sherlock her first-born.

TW: Poor Molly, though. Defense mechanism? I did note he stopped dead when he realized…and then apologized, to everyone’s utter shock.

TD: Part of it is Sherlock showing off. He has to be clever and once that mouth starts going he doesn’t stop. No social skills, of course, which is why John is so important. Actually, John should have kicked Sherlock in the ankle and stopped that particular rush of inductive reasoning (it’s not actually deductive, you know). But yes, he did stop as soon as he realized what he’d done. He didn’t mean to hurt Molly. The apology was genuine. And props to Molly for calling him on it for once. He might like her more if she were less of a doormat. Of course, if Lestrade does something to match that dropped jaw of his now that he knows his wife is worthless, it might all just be a moot point. Hey, I can wish my favorite D.I. someone sweet who’ll appreciate his wonderfulness, now can’t I?

Especially since I’m hotter than Molly.

TW: Yep. Moving on… 😛

TD: Brat.

TW: Always. So…most powerful scene? And your reason for choosing it. Going to ask for your favorite next, in case they’re one and the same. (scenes is okay, too – several very powerful moments)

TD: Oh, that’s evil.

TW: LOL – you thought I wouldn’t ask?

TD: Yes, I know you. You are evil. I love you for it until you turn it on me.

TW: “Too many to choose from” is a perfectly acceptable answer. And scenes are powerful for different reasons.

TD: Okay, the most powerful and quite possibly my favorite is one and the same. Those few moments between Sherlock and Mycroft after Sherlock identifies Irene’s body at St. Bart’s.

TW: Most powerful why?

TD: In terms of the Holmes brothers, that’s the equivalent of an embrace. “Do you ever wonder if there’s something wrong with us?” Right there – all of Sherlock’s insecurities laid bare. A plea made to the one person who might understand, who shares that possible wrongness. The question isn’t “Is something wrong with me?” but “Is something wrong with us?” Sherlock isn’t in this alone. He isn’t the only creature of his kind. There is one other. There is Mycroft. For all their bickering and their rivalry, they are brothers. Sherlock turns to Mycroft for the answers to the big questions, for that ultimate guidance. And Mycroft answers without condescension or mind games. There’s sadness and gentleness and the guiding hand of an older brother. “All lives end. All hearts are broken. Caring is not an advantage…Sherlock.” Yet Mycroft shows nothing but caring for Sherlock over these next few minutes.

TW: We saw quite a bit of Mycroft this time around. And a lot of peeks into the backstory of the Holmes boys.

TD: Seeing Mycroft is always wonderful. I have to say that Mark Gatiss has become my visual internal Mycroft. He wasn’t originally, but he’s worked his way into the mental role in my brain. It helps that he transfers easily to late Victorian garb. He practically dresses that way for SHERLOCK.

As a Sherlockian, I’ve always enjoyed The Game, so any hint about Holmes’ childhood and background is fun. It’s lovely to see what two well-versed Holmesians think it might have been like.

[Blogger NOTE: “In North America, the term ‘Sherlockian’ refers to fans of Sherlock Holmes. In Europe, and especially in Great Britain, the term ‘Holmesian’ is used.” (from A Baker Street Glossary for Beginning Sherlockians)

“…devotees of Sherlock Holmes have regarded him as a real person. It’s called playing The Game. Sherlockians were the first (I believe) to devise elaborate, book-length chronologies for a literary character.” (taken from Sherlockian.Net: Working Back to Sherlock through Tarzan by Carl William Thiel]

TW: Back at the start of the interview, you said “Steven Moffat offered up a script, that – while not perfect – certainly had a great deal of excitement and humor.” I’m just curious – is there something specific you would liked to have seen done or done differently? Just pure personal opinion.

TD: The naked Sherlock thing dragged on a bit. So did the naked Irene thing. Mind you, I’m as in favor of pretty naked people as anyone, but it was starting to get dull. You have to know when to deliver the punch line or you ruin the joke. There were a few other places where the pacing could have been fine tuned. Moffat is also overly fond of being cryptic. A little is fun. But again, you have to know when and how much or it’s annoying. Yes, I read through it. But I can also tell your relationship with your mother by how neatly you keep your car. Profiler stuff again. It’s really only nitpicky things. The episode was brilliant.

TW: So onward to “The Hounds of Baskerville” this coming Sunday. What are you most looking forward to?

TD: I actually don’t know. I know Gatiss did the script and that makes me happy. He’s very good with horror and HOUN has always been a horror tale. I know it’s a favorite for many fans, but not for me. I don’t like the separation of Holmes and Watson in the Doyle story and never have. I understand that’s mostly been avoided in this one, so that may be very interesting. It’s also one of the more physical tales and that’s also not a big draw for me. I’m all about the cerebral. It’s probably how I ended up in love with profilers. So… I just want to see what they come up with. If it’s anything like PINK or GAME or BELG, it’s going to be great.

TW: Thanks for sitting a spell and chatting. Can I refill your tea? 😉

TD: Thank you, John.


2 thoughts on “Interview/Review: T.D. McKinney and “Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia”

  1. She really can profile you from the contents of and how you keep your car. I should know… she knows me too well because of it! Or maybe it’s because I’ve known her for so long. Lovely interview ladies.

  2. Hey, nice discussion! Overall, a pleasant and astute assessment of the new Sherlock. Imagine my surprise upon seeing my slight article “Working Back to Sherlock…” quoted. It is always nice to see acknowledgment of one’s scholarly efforts. Thanks!

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