BBC Sherlock: The Abominable Bride – The Special that Ruined the Fandom

Ruined, ruined, I say. RUINED!

Allow me to elaborate.

BBC Sherlock The Special that Ruined the Fandom

Sherlock is a great BBC TV series based off the original Sherlock Holmes books by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with Benedict Cumberpatch as Sherlock and Martin Freeman as Watson. So far there are only three series with three episodes for each, the very first being A Study in Pink (which is my favorite out of all). The series is actually very well done, from the acting and the script to the props and the reality. Everything is perfect with this TV series except for one thing: It takes place in the modern era. Therefore the original stories are taken and made for 21st century London. This isn’t really a bad thing, and is actually quite genius in a way, but this made Sherlock BBC complete with the modern lifestyle and vulgar language, which is most of the time not very appropriate.

This is the main reason why I was very excited when I heard that there would be a Sherlock Christmas special taking place in the Victorian era: the right time era for Sherlock Holmes. Finally. Everything will be right. We’ll have the remarkable performance of Cumberpatch and Freeman as “Holmes” and “Watson” in Victorian London with the hansom cabs, long coats and top hats and old-fashioned British everything! Why, this is the very Sherlock Holmes film we’ve been waiting for and oh, if only Doyle himself were here to see an accurate adaptation of his books for the screen.

But alas. This was not to be so.

The beginning of the special was perfect … in fact, the whole first half was, with references to earlier episodes and word-for-word phrases from the stories themselves. I was jolly well delighted to see that it first took place at the very beginning, with Watson coming back from the war in Afghanistan and meeting Sherlock Holmes for the first time, a Victorian redo of their first meeting from A Study in Pink.

Things only got better as they referred to each other as “Good heavens Holmes” and “my dear Watson.” The plot opens up as Lestrade comes in to explain about an “undead bride” named Emilia Ricoletti who murdered several people and then shot herself through the head. This is a hint that the plot would be based on women’s rights and suffragists, as was common in that time period. Other witnesses find the same bride, after her “death,” coming back and murdering other people. The whole mystery from beginning to end was, as always, complex, and interesting to draw views in as Mary, Mycroft, and Molly took up their roles and the gore and horror of flashback scenes with the bride were easily looked over as the story and drama tightened. Witty conversation mixed with original book quotes, comedy and character, story and mystery, the first half of the special was practically perfect in every way …

And then Moriarty arrived. The 21st century Moriarty. And he ruined. The whole. Thing.

Moriarty was a cool comedic villain from earlier episodes. In this special, however, when Sherlock is meditating, Moriarty appears in his study. This disorienting scene marks the “halfway line” as Moriarty taunts Sherlock (with modern language and no British accent!!!), alluding to how similar this case is to the time he shot himself before the Reichenbach Fall. Aaaand … he ends with shooting himself.

Me: Seriously! Did that have to happen! *starts hitting dead bodies with renewed gusto*

This is where it gets very confusing and frustrating. Immediately Sherlock “jumps to present” to the plane landing from the last episode, His Last Bow. Here, delirious (and suddenly very out-of-character) Sherlock rambles about the Ricoletti case; obviously he had been using drugs to enter his mind palace: in the Victorian era. In solving this Ricoletti case within his mind palace, he hopes to find the reason for Moriarty coming back. So yes, I’m saying that the whole story in the Victorian era was all just in his mind palace.

Without giving away the story, Sherlock enters his 1880s “mind palace in the past” again and does solve the Ricoletti case (no spoilers here). Moriarty then appears again and messes everything up with a slightly unsatisfying and unnecessarily dramatic ending.

Now that is incredibly infuriatingly frustrating and fantastically genius all at the same time (hey, it did remind me a lot of the intricately complicated Inception like the dream within a dream). Personally, disappointment outweighed the pros. Did they really have to solve the whole thing with Moriarty’s comeback in the special? Why couldn’t the special just be a fun and simple Sherlock story, a “period-piece trifle”? And I didn’t like Sherlock’s character as much. The tie-in with the modern Sherlock into this special was probably supposed to keep the hype going for the fans … but I’m not sure that worked; in fact, it looks like there’s a civil war among the fans. As a non-Sherlockian friend once said after reading the negative reviews, “I’m very glad I’m not part of the Sherlock fandom right now.”

Of course, as I’ve said before, there were things that I liked, such as Mary’s character, Molly’s disguise, and the whole first twenty minutes or so. But the special nearly ruined the Sherlock fandom for me. Moriarty flash-backs and modern Sherlock with drug addictions, please no. Give me the classic Sherlock Holmes in the two-sided hat, trench coat and pipe. To stay. If you’ve seen the special, what are your thoughts? Rants and raves? How about this: how much are you looking forward to Season 4 now?

As for me, I’m off for a Sherlock redemption; I’m off to see A Study in Pink. The game, Mrs. Hudson, is on!


5 Comments Add yours

  1. Dragon says:

    I’m new to the fandom, and I only just recently watched the special, so I don’t know much about this civil war. While I’m annoyed with Sherlock for being his own worst enemy, I did like it.
    It could simply be because I’ve always liked weird things. It could also be because we get to see more of Sherlock’s mental landscape. Or some mix thereof. I’m not actually sure.


    1. It’s interesting to hear from someone who enjoyed the Special. (and welcome to the fandom!) I did think it was pretty genius of how the story took a totally different turn and we see that it was all just in his mind all along.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Dragon says:

        It was really cool.


  2. Sarz says:

    I personally thought it was smashing. Ben and Martin in the same scene added with Mycroft’s too bulky appearance just made all so appealing!

    But I get where this post is coming from. I didn’t like the suffragettes part. I have no problem with Sherlock digging in with his head because of drugs and all that– I liked all the brotherly interaction… no what I don’t like is the too obvious escape of the ‘crime’. It slipped. She killed herself and went on killing more people- you know she ain’t a ghost cause this is Sherlock we’re talking about there has to be a trick. Then you find him jump from one time to another (which is absolutely fantastic, i tell yah)… then…. connect it with Moriarty and BAM! I’m a Sherlockian truly, all books and series and movies… and I like a smart crime. This one.. with all the hints from Mycroft ‘something we’ve been battling against from a long time’ or something like that, ‘we cannot win’… blah blah that. Hate it. Women? I’m a woman… but it ruined the story.

    Then again… when it comes to the work of fiction… either you satisfy the viewers, readers, audience…
    or you satisfy yourself. In case of Mark and Stephen… I guess they were carried away by being fanboys in the 21st century xD but I still love them and love them and love all Sherlock episode they make no matter how absurd~


    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the special! I’m happy there are other people out there who aren’t so disappointed with it. Unfortunately I still think the disappointments outweigh the genius of it for me, but I may think differently watching a second time. And actually, I liked the suffragettes part, it was very era-relevant for the story. I still wish Moriarty could have stayed out for once.


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