Sherlock and the Voices

I like the program Sherlock. I tend not to read pastiches—stories about Sherlock Holmes written by someone other than Arthur Conan Doyle—for fear that some day I find myself writing that person’s character or scenes into my own Holmes. But with Sherlock, there’s little danger of incorporating its modern scenarios into the Russell stories. I enjoy the actors, the humor is great, and some of the writing is brilliant (although the actual plots tend to be either thin or startlingly implausible.)

However, “The Final Problem,” the last episode of this most recent trilogy…

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes, Martin Freeman as John Watson, and Mark Gatiss as Mycroft Holmes.

I’ll admit I was slightly distracted when it came on, so I only noticed the odd dramatic choice of the writers a few minutes in: the narration. Holmes and Watson would look up, startled, and as they did so a woman’s voice would tell me that the two men looked up, startled. I figured this was a way of indicating that the Holmes sister, who throughout the episode is manipulating everyone else from her lunatic asylum island, is also in charge of the televised episode. Which was odd, but okay, this program has always been wildly experimental.

It was, however, distracting. Irritating.  I kept waiting for an explanation: the psycho sister is telling the audience about all these actions because…. I went off to do some things in the middle, because the over-voice was making me a little nuts, but I came back before the end because I wanted that explanation.

I didn’t get it. The program ended, the credits came up, and the next program came along on the channel—a program with no voiceover.

But some hours later, I woke up and thought: hey, I dropped the tv control just before Sherlock began.  I wonder…

The next morning I did some googling and checking and found a profound absence of other people shouting WTF!?!

So, yes. I had accidentally hit some previously unsuspected television-for-the-blind function. Audio captions, as it were. Who knew?

Still, I’m not sure I’d have liked the episode all that much better without the psycho sister telling me what was going on.

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  1. Deborah on January 27, 2017 at 8:56 am

    Yes, the episode was disjointed, confusing, and confirmed for me that these two writers apparently don’t care much for female characters in their plots. The stories have become so strangely complicated that I am not sure I want to see any more of them. If the sister, Eurus, is the most brilliant, she needn’t be criminally crazy. I am so tired of watching “bad” and/or “crazy” women characters. Many women are more wonderful and brilliant and can be on screen. Bring on the next Mary Russell book instead!

    • Ann diehl on January 27, 2017 at 7:30 pm

      Exactly what I’ve been thinking! This new Sherlock is just too doggone post modern for me!

  2. Veronica on January 27, 2017 at 10:08 am

    I’m glad you wrote this. I had just heard about the audio narration function last week and I need to set it up on my brother’s television. He is legally blind. I’ve watched dvds with that function before so I know what you’re talking about. It must have seemed very strange if you didn’t know what it was.!

  3. Jeanine Gravitt on January 27, 2017 at 10:30 am

    I wasn’t all that impressed with the James Bond meets Hannibal Lector plot of the last episode. But Mrs. Hudson IS my new spirit animal.

    By far, The Lying Detective was the best of Season 4. Toby Jones was BRILLIANT, and the expanded role for Mrs. Hudson made me cheer.

  4. Sherry Rosser Carroll on January 27, 2017 at 10:32 am

    I love a morning laugh. I, too, enjoyed this version of Sherlock – including the schizophrenic illustrations of how they showed Benedict Cumberbatch’s brain working. So I sit here, drinking my coffee and imagining the irritating voiceover through that whole episode. What a manic touch not needed and so irritating, I imagine some humphing and glaring and walking away in your part. We Just sat here looking at times like dogs hearing supersonic sounds … and we didn’t even have the voiceover.

    • Susan on January 29, 2017 at 8:48 am

      Loved your self description, last sentence. Result…startled chuff of laughter.

  5. becky s peterson on January 27, 2017 at 10:34 am

    These three episodes had elements of animated features. One can not jump in front of a bullet, like Mary did. The new bad guy was almost a cartoon without the benefits of being animated. I’m in the middle of Justice Hall, again…happily so.

  6. Kay Bowen on January 27, 2017 at 10:59 am

    If it’s any consolation, I did the same thing with described video once and took longer to figure out the problem.

  7. LJ on January 27, 2017 at 11:02 am

    I used to love this show, but…. this season, and this episode was just off in so many ways. But, I did laugh at your posting. I’d done the same thing on a show where a voice over made sense initially, and it took me about 10 minutes to realize what I’d done. Annoying, but funny, too.

  8. Sandy on January 27, 2017 at 11:03 am

    This version of Sherlock is nonsense. It doesn’t make sense. As a Conan Doyle Sherlock fan, this version is insulting. Frantic, frenetic, inane, and – gee, don’t the writers & directors & producers think they’re cute! Did they have a bag of leftover “techniques” they decided to throw into this project? “Look, we’ve got Cumberbatch: we can do anything we want!” “If Martin Freeman can play a Hobbit, we can make him do anything!” Yeah, like make these 2 actors run around looking for a plot, a reason for this nonsense. But there’s no reason here. Entertaining – maybe, for some. Sherlock Holmes – no, it’s not.

  9. Stephanie on January 27, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    And weirdly, I was irritated at the very end when it turned out psychotic criminal mastermind Eurus was just a scared little girl who needed a hug from Sherlock??? Not that I like seeing male violence glorified, but we didn’t see Moriarty get all weepy at the end, did we? It felt like it really undermined whatever crazy power Eurus was described as having.

  10. Pat Weber on January 27, 2017 at 12:20 pm

    Thank you for your posting. I have loved this version of Sherlock a lot but this season was really disjointed and often made no sense. The last episode “The Final Problem” leaves me more and more confused as I revisit all the plot holes whole. Seems like the writers were to busy being clever. Seems like the reviews I am seeing in the 4th season are about equally divided between “WTF was that?” and those that love anything and everything BBC Sherlock. Sadly I am with the WFT was that crowd but still glad to have enjoyed BBC Sherlock when it was at it’s glory.

    • Deborah on January 27, 2017 at 3:21 pm

      Totally with you here. In fact, I know people who turned it off about a half hour in because it was so screwy.

  11. Pat Harvey on January 27, 2017 at 12:53 pm

    Thank you for talking about this function on the remote. I have a nasty habit of hitting buttons that I did not intend to, and am happy to be fore-warned in case I hear Sherlock’s psycho sister narrating a program!

  12. Mary B on January 27, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    I came late to this particuler incarnation of Holmes and have been reveling in it ever since. It’s better than Johnny Lee Miller’s Elementary, but Lucy Liu is a treasure, as always. Benedict Cumberbatch is a gigantic actor, but Martin Freeman is the genius here. His speciality is being put upon and he does it very well. Amanda Abington was/is my very favorite part of the series and I hope that they keep her ghost around. All that being said, the final episode *was* weird and difficult to follow. I would watch it again. I like the riff on the original stories which I re-read, start to finish, about once every year or so. I love Kipling, too, but the late Victorian era gets a trifle stale sometimes and needs a breath of air. We can’t always live in the distant past, no matter how attractive that sometimes can be. I like this series. I do. I’ll watch it as long as they make it. And, perhaps the discovery of the voiceover for the blind could become a plot point for a new story. Any takers?

  13. Elizabeth Nunn on January 27, 2017 at 1:46 pm

    Going back to “A Study in Pink”. That makes sense.
    And awaiting Mary Russelll’s return.
    Glad to see your comments. I’ve been telling my son about the TV series and he started with this season’s series. I stopped him and told him to get back story before trying to understand these three episodes. Better yet, get “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice”. And before that, read Conan Doyle. (I am laughing at how I shared this information with him as it is reminiscent of his “movie reviews” as a child.)

  14. Deborah on January 27, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    I loved the Sherlock series…until about halfway through the 3rd season. Then it got weird. I wasn’t subjected to the audio for the blind, but it wouldn’t have helped you to not have it. The last episode was just plain awful. Great acting and occasional humor could get me past the absurdity of that story line. I’ll just rewatch the first 2 seasons and be happy. I feel the same way overall as LJ (see above comment). Now I want to go looking for audio commentary though!

  15. Fran on January 27, 2017 at 4:18 pm

    My combination of old TV and cable seems to turn on the descriptive audio whenever it cares to, and sometimes in Spanish. I can’t control it on my end, so I have to move to another room and smaller but more modern TV. First world problems,eh?

  16. Catharina on January 27, 2017 at 4:38 pm

    I had hoped you were going to say the voice you were hearing in your head was Mary Russell, and after initially telling you what was going on, she instead started giving you commentary on the show. Then, ultimately she got in there, helped Euros, teamed up with Mrs. Hudson, and the three women put Mycroft in his place. That would have been a great show.

  17. Helenmary Cody on January 27, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    I really enjoy Sherlock and I have often wondered if the writers have read your books. I think it is mostly the expanded role for Mrs. Hudson that makes me think this, since she is more prominent in your work as well.

    The show is a bit challenging to watch under any circumstances, and I think an unexpected voice over may have done me in!

  18. DJ Dodson on January 27, 2017 at 10:36 pm

    A brilliant, too-clever sister was fascinating – and her “programming people” had potential.
    Otherwise – the entire storyline seemed forced. While “implausible” can be forgiven in a TV-time-constraint-format, I thought the “tests” Eurus was giving them in the asylum were particularly boring and contrived. As was the leap from decades old cryptology to “case solved.”
    Still, the ending scene of the two playing violins for the parents was a gem.
    Several of their images and ideas (e.g., The psycho-analytic recurring theme of Reichenbach Falls scene) make it – to me, so far – worth wading through writing that should have ended up on the cutting room floor.
    Thank you for your work Ms. King. As a former beekeeper, who first read “The Complete Sherlock Holmes” collection at age 13, I look forward to your filling & curing the suggested frames of honeycombs of the Deep Supers your work has surveyed.
    In self-editing those “Irish Pennants”, the current TV versions remind me that “The Drones” – while a few are necessary, should not be allowed an unlimited buffet. DD-30-

  19. Susan D on January 28, 2017 at 9:29 am

    Oh lordy, the disembodied voice-over. Yes, it’s happened to me twice.

    Once while watching Olympics closing ceremonies. “And now all the dancers come together in a ring as giant snowflakes….” blah blah blah. I was appalled with this concept until I realised what it was. I should know, being a CNIB volunteer and being well aware of such an excellent service. But it came out of nowhere, and it took me ages to find the right button on the right control device.

    And last month, it happened again. Again it took ages…. :^))

    Glad it’s not just me.

    And what a concept for a story…. The narrative voice in your head.

  20. Elisabeth on January 30, 2017 at 1:48 pm

    LOL, described audio has been around for quite a while, but is not available in a lot of shows. My husband is blind; some shows are seriously boring because he has no idea what’s going on.

  21. Ida Umphers on January 31, 2017 at 8:18 am

    Be glad you missed whatever you did of this whole season. It violated everything that ACD and their own previous works had established about the characters of Sherlock, and especially, Watson, not to mention the total lack of a coherent plot. As a fan of previous seasons I could not watch an entire episode this round and turned Episode 3 off at the half hour point.

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