Talking Torchwood: Series 1, Episodes 4-7: “Cyberwoman”, “Small Worlds”, “Countrycide”, and “Greeks Bearing Gifts”

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First series of TV shows can be a bit hit and miss. This is perfectly natural, the opening series is essentially there to establish everything, and test out what elements of your show work and what elements do not. That way, if your show is lucky enough to get a second series, you can take the elements that work and build on them, hopefully creating a more consistent run of episodes.

This isn’t always the case, I find Series 1 of Doctor Who to be much stronger than the second series, and a very consistent run, but there’s definitkey some TV shows which have a wobbly first season, take notes, and improve for the rest of their run.

Ultimately, I don’t think it’s important for a first series to be the best thing ever, because it’s main purpose is to introduce. So long as there’s potential shown for future stories, and room for improvement, I think you’re okay. Hoping for top quality is good, but I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world if there’s a couple of duds at the beginning.

That being said, when it comes to the first series of Torchwood, the individual episode quality is so diverse, that it actually becomes noticeable. Whenever you get a large group of items together, whether it be songs on an album or biscuits in a Christmas tin, there will always be some which you like more than others. That’s natural.

But the quality jumps from this particular set of episodes? I don’t think this is a case of trial and error, I think this is a case of throwing mud at the wall and seeing what sticks.

The problem is, here, a lot of the mud is falling right off.

Cyberwoman

There’s not really a lot of positive things I can say about this one. There’s some alright bits, some okay performances, and some passable character stuff, but ultimately, I don’t think this episode works.

This episode is supposed to be Ianto’s time to shine, which on paper is a really good idea, as so far he hasn’t really done much. He was barely in Ghost Machine, and didn’t feel particularly present in the opening two episodes, so I’m glad to finally get a story where he’s at the centre. Some good character stuff, why he’s the way he is, and why he doesn’t feel like he fits in with the rest of the Torchwood team.

On paper, it’s a good idea. The problem is, when I’m actually watching this, the story all about Ianto, I’m preferring the scenes when he’s not actually in it.

It’s not that Gareth David Lloyd is a bad actor, because he’s not. He’s not particularly good here, though he’s not been given the best script to work with, and a bad script can weaken even some really good actors performances. It’s also not that the material he’s been given sucks on paper either. The “I clean up your shit” scene could have been brilliant with the right words (it is a little tell-y). It’s all in the execution, and when it’s not being boring, it’s being incredibly silly.

I like the idea that Ianto has a secret, that he’s keeping it apart from his colleagues because he’s not particularly comfortable around them, and that his secret breaks out and he has to face the consequences. That’s great, I just can’t take it seriously when his secret is in a metallic bikini.

The relationship stuff is very poorly written, the acting is questionable from both parts, and the dialogue is at times atrocious. The whole scene with the pizza delivery girl, featuring great lines such as “when we woke up a dog was p*ssing on our tent” is unintentionally hilarious. This episode is very hard to take seriously. It tries to be dramatic, it tries to be scary, and it tries to have some good character stuff, but it’s really hard to take seriously when there’s a fight with a pterodactyl.

The direction and cinematography really sucks in this one too, to the point I actually find it distracting. All these random zoom ins get really annoying after a while. There’s also some really shit editing here too, and the music is pretty bland, which is a shame, considering how strong it was in episodes 1-3.

I do think this is the weakest episode of the series so far, and I do understand why a lot of people I know gave up after this one. I don’t find much to love here at all. There’s some interesting ideas, and I get what it wants to do, but it fails in its execution massively. It’s not very well made at all.

Small Worlds

Hold on, am I actually watching the same show? Are you sure?

Small Worlds is brilliant. I wouldn’t go as far to say it was a masterpiece, there’s a couple of things I don’t particularly like about it, but out of the seven I have rewatched so far, this is my favourite.

Why? Well, I think that out of all of them, this feels the most like your traditional Doctor Who story. Rework it a bit, and I could probably see Tennant and Piper in this one. I do think that helps. Of course, while I want Torchwood to be somewhat different (otherwise it would have no reason to exist), I also want it to not be too different. It is a Doctor Who spinoff, it should feel like Doctor Who, alongside having aliens and Captain Jack in it.

The characterisation in this story is top notch. This one is the first one to really put Jack at the centre, and he gets some really interesting, and cool, stuff here. You get to know more about him, his past life here, and how this information is executed in the story is really lovely. His relationship with Estelle is really touching, and Barrowman acts the scene when she dies really well. I also love the scene when he’s explaining to Gwen about the fairy petals, how all his colleagues were massacred in the tunnel. Barrowman gives his best performance here, showing some great chemistry with Eve Myles too, who also gets some really good stuff here.

This episode also has a really cool concept too. I love all of the stuff with Jasmine and the fairies, the extent they go to protect their own, and the suffocating with the flower petals is brilliantly gross. The design is pretty creepy too. The CGI scene where they kill Jasmine’s stepdad doesn’t look great, but it’s passable. It’s wonderfully violent though, though I do think the episodes creepiest moment is when the storm occurs in the playground, and Jasmine just stands there, laughing. That’s amazingly disturbing.

The music is good here too, the direction works, and the pacing is actually perfect for once. It doesn’t rush, it doesn’t drag, it goes at my tempo, and I love it.

I do think it goes into unpleasant territory at times. I don’t see why the man who upset the fairies at the beginning had to be a pervert, and her stepdad is a bit OTT at times. I know it’s acting and not real, but even on TV, referring to a small child as a “b*tch” really leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

Overall though, a Small Worlds is a creepy, dark, character filled piece which stays mostly mature, and has some great stuff behind the scenes.

I love it.

Countrycide

I think if I would describe anything as good but unspectacular, Countrycide fits the bill for me personally. I can see why a lot of people love this one, for the most part it’s pretty good, but it’s not my cup of tea.

There’s not too much I can find which is wrong about it. There’s some really bad dialogue in places, the Gwen/Owen forest scene springs to mind instantly, and a few issues with pacing, but it’s pretty good, I’m just not especially into it.

I do really like the build up in this story. From the stealing of the van, to the finding of the house, it does keep you guessing a lot of the time. The direction is really good at creating tension, and the low lighting, and decent dialogue for the most part, makes the episode feel naturally scary. The reveal of the body parts in the fridge has got to be the episodes highlight I think. Sure, I knew it was coming, that’s the downside to a rewatch, but it still made me uncomfortable in a good way. The reveal that these ads humans that did all this, really is an interesting reveal. The idea that “humans are the greatest monsters of them all” is a common theme in the Davies era, so it does work that the scariest, and most gruesome episode so far has humans responsible for it.

The character stuff here is pretty good too. I love the references to Cyberwoman, both on Ianto’s behalf and Gwen/Owen’s, and I love the scenes (Bar “Forrest Hump”, as I’m now going to refer to it) with them together, particularly the second where Owen has to operate on Gwen after she gets shot. The final scene with Gwen is pretty strong too.

And who can not love that ruddy great tractor scene?

I guess it’s just personal taste really. I’ve never been the biggest horror fan, so this isn’t going to appeal to me as much, but, it’s a very interesting and unique addition to the show so far.

Greeks Bearing Gifts

I’m not quite sure how they did it, but Whithouse and Co managed to make an episode which was far more unpleasant and difficult to watch than the one about cannibals.

Greek’s Bearing Gifts is essentially a “Greatest Shits” compilation of the worst things about Torchwood so far. Pretty much everything I have disliked about the show so far is present in this script, and it’s a lot worse here than before. There’s some good moments scattered around, which I’ll get to later, but for the most part, I’m really not a fan.

Firstly, there’s the overuse of sexual dialogue here. Torchwood has always had it’s fairshare of conversation concerning sex and sexual relationships, but here I don’t think we can go two scenes without someone bringing up an unnecessary reference. I’m not against sex talk on TV and movies, it can, if written well, can be quite sweet, touching, and add to character development. The problem with Torchwood, especially here, it’s in it because apparently a 15 certificate is a coveted prize. Here, it just gets a bit distracting, quite awkward to watch, as it’s poorly written, but not so poorly written, it’s actually funny. We don’t need a minute long conversation on how Owen and Gwen are now sleeping together, we saw that at the end of the last episode, and we don’t need to hear the dirty thoughts of the Cardiff public. It doesn’t add anything, and considering this one is nearly 50 minutes long, I think a lot could have been cut with no difference made to character or story.

Secondly, this one is really unpleasant. Firstly, there’s the disgusting transphobia, which is awful and should be cut from all future versions, because it’s vile and as far from the point trying to be made as they can get. Secondly, there’s that scene with man, trying to kill his son and his mother. I get what they wanted to do, showing Tosh using the pendant, but, did we really want to go that far.

Thirdly, and finally, there’s a waste of good potential. A story with Tosh is great, the concept of the pendant is great, and Mary, if she was rewritten slightly, could have been an interesting villain. But instead of a story concerning Tosh and her relationship with her co-workers, let’s have sex jokes, unpleasantness, and lack of story galore.

That’s the main problem with Torchwood, sex and swearing is considered more important than stories, and honestly, it’s kinda sad.

Competent acting, direction, and music save it from being the worst of the series, but nothing leaves a bad taste in my mouth like this one does.

Overall: Torchwood is still finding it’s feet, yes, and there is plenty to like here, plenty to appreciate, but also plenty of problems. These four episodes really do show the inconsistency of the show in it’s early stages, and while it makes it interesting from reviewing standpoint, it’s not always fun to watch.

Scores

1. Everything Changes (A very good, but imperfect, introduction to Torchwood) 8/10
2. Day One (A ridiculous, often OTT story, but there’s definitely some things to praise) 4/10
3. Ghost Machine (Fantastic concepts and great production, definitely shows the potential of a post watershed Who) 9/10
4. Cyberwoman (I get what it’s trying to do, but it’s executed really poorly) 3/10
5. Small Worlds (Creepy and full of character, a fantastic story) 9/10
6. Countrycide (A pretty good horror story with good tension and great direction) 7/10
7. Greeks Bearing Gifts (A complete load of tosh) 4/10

Talking Torchwood: Series 1, Episodes 1-3: “Everything Changes”, “Day One”, and “Ghost Machine”

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One of my favourite things about Doctor Who is that it’s a family show. Firstly, it’s one of the few shows everyone can sit and watch together on a Saturday night, and everyone can genuinely enjoy. Doctor Who connects people, its found me some of my best friends, and it’s something I can talk about with a lot of people. Even if they haven’t watched it for years or even at all, people know who the Daleks are and what the TARDIS is.

Secondly, and more to the point of this article, I think it makes the show more intelligent. Doctor Who has tackled some tough topics in its 50 year run, particularly in the revival. Stories about depression, death and bereavement, discrimination. Doctor Who can be a powerful teacher when the themes are tackled correctly by the right writers. It can teach some very important things in an accessible, but not patronising, way. Doctor Who does handle its more mature themes with intelligence, and that’s something I genuinely love about the show, why it’s my favourite.

The issue is there is only so much you’re allowed to show at 7pm on a Saturday evening. I don’t think I would say Doctor Who has ever “glammed up” a serious issue “for the sake of the children”, not off the top of my head anyway, but I do think the show must have been restricted in some way tackling certain themes. The show has seen a later airtime in recent years, but as I said, there’s only so much you can get away with, and some people have thought they’ve gone past that already. I would probably disagree, but, what I’m (very poorly) trying to say is that I think post-watershed Doctor Who, on paper, is an interesting idea.

Torchwood’s problem is it has two very different ideas of what post watershed television is, and that’s evident from the first three episodes. In its strongest moments, it’s dark, though still enjoyable, real feeling with a sci-fi twist, and quite thought-provoking. At it’s weakest, it’s immature, silly, and sometimes even downright unpleasant to watch.

I do think on the whole these episodes show Torchwood’s potential, I do like the series and I would call it good, but, it is clear from the start that the show has a lot of problems.

Everything Changes

I like Everything Changes. It’s not a perfect story, and there’s some issues we’ll get to later (mainly what I’ve talked about above), but I do think it’s a perfectly solid opener. On my personal, hypothetical, checklist of what makes a good opening story, it does tick all of the boxes. It establishes the characters and setting rather well, it introduces the theme and tone of the show in a perfectly fine manner, it’s a solid story in its own right, and it does do a good job of establishing itself as a Doctor Who spinoff.

That’s the main praise for this episode I feel. Torchwood definitely does feel at place in the RTD era, along Series 1 and 2, and even 3 (which hadn’t aired at the time, but it definitely feels part of the rebooted Who universe). Why’s this? Well, I think it’s ultimately down to the fact this is a Russell T Davies script, and Russell T Davies is very good at introducing things.

Everything Changes very much plays out like Rose in the sense it’s Gwen’s story, it’s Gwen’s introduction to the universe, and it’s her we spend the most time with. Gwen is a very interesting character already, she gets done really good stuff and is written very well, and Eve Myles is wonderful already, carrying the episode on her own, but also showing good chemistry with the other cast. It’s very clear from the beginning this is her show. The rest of the cast is pretty good too, particularly Burn Gorman and Indira Varma, but this is Gwen’s story, and she’s brilliant in it.

Davies’ apparent, but brilliant style, alongside a couple of small, but vital references to events in Doctor Who series 2, really connects  the show to the parent, adding to the Who universe. As well as the character stuff, which does drive this episode, Davies is very good at intertwining the plot into the episode. It’s paced nicely, and though the ending is a little rushed, it’s tied up nicely at the end. Bar a bit of iffy dialogue, the scene with Suzie and Gwen is very good, her motives prove her to be an interesting character, and there’s definitely an element created of “there must be more of her” created in her final scene (though that could be because I know that there’s an episode called “They Keep Killing Suzie”, which does parallel nicely to this one. The dialogue when they resurrect the victim at the beginning, about seeing darkness in death, that’s cool set up).

The story is very well produced too. The direction and cinematography are lovely, there’s some interesting editing in places, it’s paced rather well bar the slightly rushed ending, and the music in this (and the other two episodes) is top-notch.

The problems. As I said earlier, Torchwood seems to have two ideas on what post-watershed entertainment is. Everything Changes isn’t a particularly adult themed script, and bar the swearing and blood splashes, and that questionable scene with Owen, there’s not much which, with a redraft, couldn’t be edited to fit Doctor Who. As Torchwood is meant for older audiences, surely a darker mystery would have worked better. This just feels like a standard story with added moments solely to achieve 15 rating.

And that’s the beginning of Torchwood’s problems.

Day One

Day One isn’t an awful story, not below the surface anyway. It’s hardly a great story there, but it’s definitely a lot better when you see it as the story of Carys instead of “The One with the Sex Monster”, (which would have been a more suitable title).

There’s definitely some good stuff here. The characterisation of Gwen is pretty good, Eve Myles continues to be brilliant, getting some good lines, and I do like the scene where she wants to take responsibility for everything which has happened. The pacing’s pretty good, though we have a rushed ending again, and the direction and music are excellent. There’s potential for an interesting story here, and credit where credits due, I suppose a sex monster story could have gone at lot worse.

The problem is, the way this one feels, it does feel like the show is proud for having a sex related story.

On paper, no, I’m not against a sex related Doctor Who story. It’s an everyday part of adult life, and that’s what Doctor Who does, take things from the real world. Also, sex related stories can have important messages and morale to say. Easy A, one of my favourite films, while primarily a comedy, has some great themes such as the double standards for promiscuity concerning men and women. It’s an intelligent, well written, hilarious movie. This just feels like the team had a list of sex related things and decided to cross them off one by one. This feels like a sex story for the sake of a sex story, and a pretty immature and uncomfortable one at that. The scene with the security guard made me feel rather awkward. It didn’t add anything to the script, it felt thrown in, and I think that lies the problem. It mistakes the benefits of a post watershed Who to tell normal stories filled with crude moments.

It does tone down as the episode goes along, for a bit, but the whole package does feel very immature. If I was 12 (and I mean if I was 12, not assuming the maturity of the nation’s 12 year olds. I wasn’t one) I would have probably loved this, but I do think it’s really quite poor, now I don’t find any mention of the word “sex” hilarious.

I can see why people stopped watching after this. As I said, it’s not atrocious when you look at it past the surface, the problem is the show doesn’t wat you too, instead it wants to wave it’s 15 certificate in front of your face.

Ghost Machine

Now this one I really like. For a start, it actually builds on the show’s potential. It’s a dark story, with a really interesting concept, and some great character moments. Not just from Gwen, but from the rest of the team (Bar Ianto, who has like 2 lines).

I love the concept of the Ghost Machine, the two halves, how it’s introduced, and his it’s played throughout the story. The scene at the beginning where Gwen is “transported” back to WW2, is really intriguing, as are the scenes following it. The concept, of the machine itself and how it affects its users are genuinely compelling. I love the scene after Owen witnesses the murder of Lizzie Lewis. For the previous two episodes, Owen is presented as an arse, after this scene he’s presented as an arse, but that little moment, that moment where he feels upset and scared at what he’s seen, is amazing, and wonderfully acted by Gorman.

Gorman is brilliant in this episode by the way, giving Eve Myles (who is still at the centre of the story) a run for her money. The scene where he interrogates Ed Morgan is the episode’s strongest. Paired with some great cinematography and editing, Gorman’s performance is really tense here.

I do love how the Ghost Machine is used regarding on that character. It’s interesting how Gwen sees an evacuee, a boy away from home for the first time, as she is away from home, or normal life, for the first time as she joins Torchwood. Owen is disturbed by a man sexually abusing a woman, despite him doing something similar in the first episode. There’s some really interesting characterisation here.

I do love stories about ghosts, past and future, and how people who know the future “can’t just sit and look at it”. That’s a really interesting idea, one which has been used well in Doctor Who before.

Ghost Machine is a rather dark script. There are some silly moments, like that Chase scene, but for the most part the story handles the idea of “ghosts”, how people can’t just look at the future, the importance of past and future actions, in a rather dark, adult, but ultimately mature way. It’s an excellent, well written script, with great caharctersiation and an interesting concept, and easily the best story out of the three.

Interestingly, checking the BBFC website, this one’s only rated 12.

Overall
Torchwood definitely has potential. There’s some good ideas, some interesting characters, and some really great scenes and moments here or there. It is at times a great show, an interesting addition to the Whoniverse, a series which does have quite a bit to offer, when it’s not telling you how adult it is.

Scores
1. Everything Changes (A very good, but imperfect, introduction to Torchwood) 8/10
2. Day One (A ridiculous, often OTT story, but there’s definitely some things to praise) 4/10
3. Ghost Machine (Fantastic concepts and great production, definitely shows the potential of a post watershed Who) 9/10

Studying Sherlock: “The Final Problem”

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Endings can be extremely difficult. There are a couple of reasons for this from my personal experience. The first one is the desolate realisation that the someone or something which meant so much to you is no longer going to be part of your future. If you’re someone who gets attached to things easily, like I am, that’s incredibly difficult to cope with. The second reason is the unwritten obligation to make the final moments count. We all want to look back in happiness and not regret in the future, the last thing we want to do is screw up those final minutes.

Though as much as it hurts, endings are a part of the natural cycle. Everything has an introduction, and everything has a conclusion. This includes TV shows, and as much as we may want our favourite programmes to go on forever, they will have to finish one day. In my personal opinion, there are a few vital ingredients in an overall finale. The first is pretty self-explanatory, wrap up all character arcs and plot threads. While it can be effective to end on some sort of cliffhanger, it can also be annoying, knowing that certain elements of the story will never be resolved. I also think it’s important that the final episode represents the show and reminds its audience why they fell in love with it. The last episode will be remembered, and watched, for the sole reason it’s the final one. It needs to leave a good impression, end with a bang and not a whimper, and allow the audience to feel satisfied they spend so much time and effort with this show, it’s story and it’s characters.

While The Final Problem isn’t confirmed to be Sherlock’s final episode, it’s definitely the end of an era, tying up the show many have known and loved since 2010 (I only started watching on New Year’s Eve 2016, so I can’t call myself the world’s biggest fan, but Sherlock is a show I have grown to adore in a short space of time). While there’s no doubt The Final Problem is a flawed story, more so than quite a few episodes, in my opinion, it does work as a finale to the show’s Phase One. There’s rather a lot to love and appreciate here, and while it may not be perfect, you can clearly see the effort put in by Moffat and Gatiss to create not only a good finale but a good adventure in its own right.

As I have mentioned many times before, Sherlock has three main strengths on its storytelling terms. These are its use of character, it’s original, clever and inventive plots and it’s humour. Now, there’s not too much comedy here, in fairness it wouldn’t be very appropriate given the tone of the story (easily Sherlock’s darkest), but the couple of cases it is used (Moriarty coming out of the plane dancing to “I Want to Break Free” made me crack a smile, as did Mrs Hudson listening to Iron Maiden) work well. The Final Problem is mainly about the plot and the character work. While both work, on the whole, both do have serious drawbacks and could be improved slightly.

Let’s start with the character work. The character work has always been what Sherlock has been primarily about, and this episode is no exception. It’s the relationship between John and Sherlock which drives the plots, as well as the individual character work, and both are given some good material here. Sherlock is the lead who I find the most interesting. Though I do like John, a lot, and think Martin Freeman gives a cracking performance throughout, I do find Sherlock the more exciting character. In the beginning, Sherlock was a very different person. He was entirely intellectual, he didn’t care much for other people or how he acted towards them and was completely oblivious to the effect he had on others. He’s grown so much throughout the four series. The Final Problem sees Sherlock pushed to his limits, as there’s not much room for his intellectual intelligence to solve the case, instead he relies on his emotional ability. Sherlock has realised the importance of his friends and his family, and how much he cares for them. Eurus is a terrifying villain because she realises this, and uses his troubles with emotion against him. Series 1 Sherlock probably would have failed the case, it’s the growth of his character, to the emotional, three-dimensional, human we’ve seen over the last few episodes which got through it. The Molly scene is a highlight. The pressure Sherlock is under is emphasised because he is aware that making Molly say she loves him will hurt her, as it will hurt him.

The other highlight is the scene with Mycroft. It’s good to get an episode where Mycroft is as important as he is here. He’s got some development over the four series, but not as much as he has here. Again, it’s the element of care which makes this character interesting. How he insults the importance of John to try and make it easier for Sherlock to shoot him (what’s also notable is how Sherlock turns the gun on himself, a brilliant character moment). It’s a beautiful scene, Mycroft has felt like your conventional older brother for the first time. Someone who may get annoyed with their younger siblings, but also deeply loves them and cares for them. But what’s also interesting is how Mycroft is presented as the villain of the whole piece. It was his mistake, the thought that she’d grow out of her problems, which caused all of this to happen. The “she’s still our daughter” scene is another powerful one. Eurus may be a murderer, but she’s also someone’s family. That angle’s not often taken with characters who are portrayed as being bad, and while it’s only touched upon here, it’s a beautiful moment. It’s also fair to say Gatiss gives his best performance here. The emotion he puts in the role is wonderful. I wish Gatiss wasn’t so inconsistent with his talent, he can be an amazing actor and writer when he wants to be, I wish he knew his own strengths more. His performance was a highlight here.

Speaking of highlights, the overall highlight in terms of performance has to go to the amazing Sian Brooke, who portrayed Eurus as the most threatening antagonist yet. Her cold, deadpan delivery, flat facial expressions, and big black eyes were terrifying, being probably the most threatening character we’ve had so far on screen. I think it’s her manipulative abilities, as well as her intelligence, which make her so petrifying. But also how she’s not the villain. She may have done evil things, but she’s not evil herself. All she wanted was affection, she killed Redbeard because she wanted to play too (as little siblings do). The scene where Sherlock finds her and gives her a cuddle is really powerful for both characters, and I love how they play the violin together at the end of the episode.

Like others, though, I didn’t find some character resolution to be too strong. The Molly scene was fantastic as I have already said, and the amount of trauma both characters was painful but wonderful to watch. It’s a shame that we got no resolution to that scene, an apology or a quick chat about it at the end. It could have provided some more great work between the two characters, the Sherlock/Molly dynamic being my favourite in the whole show, instead, everything is okay at the end, almost like that scene never happened. It’s a real shame, even more, disappointing was the answer Moffat gave for why it wasn’t resolved (though I won’t go into that here).

Plot-wise, this one is interesting. It reminds me of The Great Game, a series of challenges set to push Sherlock to his limits in order to solve them, but this time on an emotional scale than an intellectual one. It’s executed in a way which does feel a bit far-fetched, and I do ultimately prefer what The Great Game tries to do, but it’s okay. I do get the criticisms that it’s a tad nonsensical, though, and I feel like the idea would be more at home in Doctor Who. It’s not enjoyable in the way The Great Game is, this one is designed to shock and scare you. It works, but enjoyability is a massive factor in Sherlock’s quality for me. As good as this is, enjoy wouldn’t be the word I would use to describe my thoughts on it.

I do think this episode also suffers from being very “in the moment”. It’s built around the trauma the audience creates watching these horrific events, once you’ve seen how the story plays out, it might scare you, but the fear it creates from being unpredictable is lost. This does seem like an episode which is designed for people to talk about after airing, I don’t know if it would work as well when the viewer knows how the story plays out. I haven’t tested this rather, but I don’t wish to create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I do really like how this episode ends. It reminds me of Survival, a monologue which pretty much sums up the ethos and idea of the show closing it. This allows it to continue if they so wish, it doesn’t end it for definite, but it also showcases our two main characters doing what they do best. I love how it was Mary who read the monologue out, a character who understood our two leads better than they did, summing up who they were and what makes them special. It’s a lovely scene.

Production wise, stunning as usual. The musical score was really good here, and the direction was also fantastic. I found the lighting very atmospheric as well. It added to the fear of the asylum, made it feel really unnerving, and quite uncomfortable to watch on screen.

Overall: No doubts a flawed story, but there’s some excellent character work, and it’s pretty damn terrifying. Also works as a good conclusion to the show, if that’s the case.

8.5/10

Final Episode Ranking
1. The Lying Detective
2. The Reichenbach Fall
3. The Sign of Three
4. A Study in Pink
5. His Last Vow
6. The Great Game
7. A Scandal in Belgravia
8. The Final Problem
9. The Hounds of Baskerville
10. The Abominable Bride
11. The Six Thatchers
12. The Blind Banker
13. The Empty Hearse

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Overall Thoughts

I’ve really enjoyed this Sherlock marathon. I’ve loved seeing a detective show which is as much about the people solving the crimes as the crimes themselves, and I’ve loved seeing how these characters have grown. I’ve loved the wacky and inventive plots, being thrown around like no other piece of media has thrown me before, being shocked and scared frequently, but also laughing lots and enjoying the ride. I’ve loved the performances, the writing, the high production values.

Sherlock has become one of my favourite shows over this marathon. I’m looking forward to rewatching the series at some point, and I do hope that it does carry on in future. This has been one of the most enjoyable TV watching experiences I have had, and I will definitely recommend this show to anyone who hasn’t seen it.

Thank you, Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, Sue Vertue, Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Una Stubbs, Rupert Graves, Louise Brealey, Amanda Abbington, Andrew Scott, David Arnold, Michael Price, and anyone else who has worked on this series. I may have only been watching this series two weeks, but it’s been fantastic.

Many thanks to all those who have read the reviews, and shared the journey with me. It’s been great fun.

Studying Sherlock: “The Lying Detective”

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The phrase “quality over quantity” has never seemed truer than it dos with Sherlock. While it’s sad that each series only lasts a mere 3 episodes, it had proved beneficial in the long run. The three episode format has meant that there’s not much time for any crap, and while there have been a couple of iffy moments along the way (find me a TV show which doesn’t have any iffy moments), Sherlock is consistently good. Two-thirds of the way through the fourth series, and I still haven’t scored anything below a seven.

But even though Sherlock is consistently good, there are still some highlights. It’s not the best show on television every episode. I wouldn’t expect it to be, but I do ask what separates the good from the great from the best. My answer and this applies to all stories, is that the best stories play with your emotions. Of course, this is a subjective approach to determining quality, everyone’s feelings are different, but it’s the only way I can determine which ones are my favourite. It’s why A Scandal in Belgravia gets a lower score than a lot of the others for me. Yes, I appreciate what it’s trying to do, and I can see the brilliance in it, but it doesn’t interest me much. To me, good episodes keep me entertained. Great episodes keep me entertained more than the “good” ones. The best episodes, keep me entertained, but they also make me feel things. If we go by that rule for determining quality, in my opinion, The Lying Detective perhaps may be the best episode of the lot.

To just say it, The Lying Detective completely unnerved me. It’s probably the darkest, scariest, episode to date. There’s a reason for that if feels real. I watch TV mainly for escapism. I like to sit back, relax, and enjoy scenarios which I’ll never experience in the real world (for better or for worse) on the TV. I do enjoy realistic dramas, but there is a reason why Doctor Who is my favourite franchise, and there’s a reason why I enjoy murder mysteries. However, I do think it’s vital to have a kick of realism in the story. This adds to the experience, gets the audience to relate to the characters and to see themselves in the story. In this case, The Lying Detective is terrifying because it could actually happen. Hell, it has happened.

It’s obvious that Moffat’s version of Culverton Smith is inspired by Jimmy Saville. A dark, twisted, manipulative individual who abused his celebrity power to commit awful crimes. The abuse of power and status, as well as the idolisation of celebrity, is something which is very prominent in modern times. It really made me uncomfortable, seeing this man do the things he did, and get away with it because he was a known figure with status. The scene where he’s talking to the children about serial killers is a particular highlight. If a normal person came and frightened children this way, they’d be thrown out of the building, but Culverton Smith had influence, the hospital couldn’t exist without him, so he is allowed to continue. This is an episode which definitely works now, with people like Rolf Harris still being trialled for sick offences. The character is improved by the performance of Toby Jones, who is perfect in the role. He’s creepy, unnerving, but at times quite likeable and charming, which is what made it scarier. The best villain we’ve had so far, an achievement in a show where Andrew Scott is in it most weeks and a simply marvellous performance. My highlight of the episode.

Of course, this isn’t the main focus of the story. Sherlock will always be about the relationships between all of the characters, John and Sherlock in particular. This was probably the best episode at showing the complicated, but loving relationship, between the two main characters. Both of them drive each other insane and cause a lot of trouble for each other, but there’s definitely a lot of platonic love between them. The hug scene was beautiful, doing wonders for both characters. This episode really pushed the friendship of the two leads, but frankly, it has never been showcased better than it has here. I loved how Mary was used to reflecting John’s thoughts. It was a very interesting use if that character, and I’m thrilled that Amanda Abbington hasn’t vanished even if Mary herself may have died,

Speaking of characters, this episode was Una Stubb’s time to shine as Mrs Hudson. She provided some good humour, the car scene was hilarious with Stubb’s evidencing her beautiful comic timing. But there were also some really touching between her and Sherlock and Watson. Stubb’s definitely gave her greatest performance this episode, and I hope this development of Stubbs continued. All along she has told us that she’s “not their landlady” and here she got to prove it. She’s their friend, and it’s fantastic to see.

Sherlock continues to be extremely clever, and the twist at the end here has got to be one of the finest in all of television. As said in the episode, the easiest place to hide is in plain sight, and it was a wonderful reveal that not only Sherlock has a sister, but we had seen her three times before already. I honestly feel a bit stupid that I couldn’t recognise the same woman three times, and I never expected three minor, insignificant, characters to be anything but. A wonderful, exciting, rewarding reveal.

Production wise, marvellous. Nick Hurran proves why he should direct every episode of this programme, the music is lovely, and the pacing is so good, you’re unaware that time is even passing.

Overall: Absolutely magnificent. Great performances and development all round, a magnificent script, and absolutely chilling throughout. Sherlock has never been darker, and it has never been better.

10/10

Episode Ranking
1. The Lying Detective
2. The Reichenbach Fall
3. The Sign of Three
4. A Study in Pink
5. His Last Vow
6. The Great Game
7. A Scandal in Belgravia
8. The Hounds of Baskerville
9. The Abominable Bride
10. The Six Thatchers
11. The Blind Banker
12. The Empty Hearse

Studying Sherlock: “The Six Thatchers”

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I think it could be argued there’s a lot of power in a single moment of time. Particularly in a story, sometimes a certain moment can be so important to the overall viewing experience, that it changes the audience’s perspective on the entire product. This can be for better or for worse, though admittedly this usually has negative connotations. Of course, it’s important to look at the picture as a whole, as well as the compartments which make up the image, but sometimes certain moments stick out to you and end up refining your opinion on all that has come before.

That’s kind of how I feel about The Six Thatchers. It’s not a bad piece of TV by any means on the whole, not the best episode of Sherlock, but it still contains many of the aspects which made this series great. There’s a clever, if a bit convoluted, plot, and there’s some good character work in there too. But there’s also quite a lot of junk in there too. While the good definitely outweighs the bad, the bad really can’t be ignored, and turns this story into a bit of a mess. Ultimately, I’m conflicted and don’t know exactly what to make of it.

Let’s start with the good. Like pretty much all of the episodes of this series, it’s strengths are in its character work, it’s plot, and it’s quirky sense of humour. I do seem to say this in every review, obviously the production team are aware of what makes this show, but if it’s good you can’t complain.

As I have said before, I think Gatiss himself may be the best at understanding Sherlock. Quite possibly because I think Gatiss is that bit eccentric himself, so he can reflect that in his writing, but Sherlock definitely feels a lot quirkier, while still remaining completely human, in Gatiss’ stories. There are some brilliant moments at the beginning of the story, with his bluntness towards being a godparent making me crack a smile, and there’s also some really touching moments, every time Sherlock remembers he made a vow is a lovely moment, as well as when he tells Mrs Hudson to call him out if he gets arrogant. I always love the moments where Sherlock shows emotion. They’re becoming more apparent now, each episode Sherlock is becoming more dimensional, and I’ve loved seeing how much he has grown throughout the series so far. Benedict Cumberbatch gives some of his strongest performances in the softer moments and is a joy to watch in the quieter moments (as well as the entirety of the rest of the series, Cumberbatch is brilliant).

The Six Thatchers also provides us with a decent plot. I really enjoyed the mystery at the beginning, with the boy in the car. It wasn’t the most difficult murder to solve, but in fairness, it probably couldn’t have filled 90 minutes of screen time, and it was resolved in a satisfying way. I enjoyed the mystery of the Thatcher head smashing, and I also enjoyed hearing more of Mary’s backstory. That allowed her to have some good development, gave Amanda Abbington a chance to shine. Mary’s certainly a unique character, whose relationship with the other characters is a pleasure to watch, as well as her complex morals. I do feel that Gatiss tried to do too much here. I can sort of work out each compartment of the plot separately, but as a whole, it did feel messy. Too much is trying to be done at once, and while it ties together slightly (though not as strong as episodes like A Scandal in Belgravia do), I do find it hard to follow at times.

I mentioned that Mary got some good development here, and she did. It was great learning more about her, her morals, why she does what she does, and what she’ll do for the people she loves. This was a great episode for Mary, and I was looking forward to seeing how she’d grow from this point…

…Except they went and bloody killed her, didn’t they? Talk about wasted potential. Like O’Donell in Before the Flood, it seems that Gatiss and Moffat read a textbook on “How to fridge your female characters” beforehand. It doesn’t really seem to serve much purpose, only so John can grieve with his male angst. What annoys me most is this came after a brilliantly feminist episode in The Abominable Bride. This reduces female characters to objects and plot devices, something so the men can mourn over rather than being allowed to be a damn good character in their own right. It was cheap, it was silly, and it really ruined a lot of the episode for me. Apparently, they did it to focus more on the relationship with John and Sherlock. Personally, that was always more prominent even in the Mary episodes (Hell, that’s entirely what The Sign of Three, an episode set entirely at John and Mary’s wedding is about) and you didn’t need to kill your character to achieve that. I also found it more enjoyable with another character in the mix myself. John and Sherlock worked on their own for two series, it was great having someone else, almost a mixture of the two, there. Shame.

Also, I wasn’t a fan of John’s affair subplot. That felt a bit off to me, probably just something extra for John to feel guilty about. Apparently, it gets pay off next episode, which makes me very happy, as here I see no purpose or need for it whatsoever.

Production wise, it’s mainly good. Talalay’s direction is good, as always, but sometimes, the swimming pool scene, in particular, moments felt a bit clunky and not quite right fit the show. Talalay is one of my favourite TV directors, but I think her work on Doctor Who will always be her strongest. The music was good, and so was the pacing.

Overall: Gave us some fantastic character development and then took it away, but the plot’s decent, Sherlock’s written well, and it’s competently made.

7/10

Episode Ranking
1. The Reichenbach Fall
2. The Sign of Three
3. A Study in Pink
4. His Last Vow
5. The Great Game
6. A Scandal in Belgravia
7. The Hound of Baskerville
8. The Abominable Bride
9. The Six Thatchers
10. The Blind Banker
11. The Empty Hearse

Studying Sherlock: “The Abominable Bride”

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With franchises seeming to dominate the media at the moment, audiences can be split into two categories: the casual fan and the die-hard fan. The casual fan is someone who likes this particular franchise, may even own a few bits of merch, but ultimately it’s just something they enjoy. In slight contrast, the die-hard fan could be described as slightly obsessed with this particular thing. Those who love this franchise to great detail, know a lot about it and are urging to find out more, and are passionate about it. As geek culture franchises extend even more to the public eye, the number of casual fans increases. It’s not just your stereotypical nerds enjoying Marvel Comics and Tolkien anymore, it seems to be pretty much anyone.

This has probably left institutions with a hard task and has left to the creation of fan service. No, not that type of fan service, I’m referring to the little references and continuity nods which are very prominent in pop culture today. They’re not anything which will make or break the experience of the casual fan or even the die-hard, but it’s the sort of thing which will slightly enhance the experience of the die-hard fan, without making the casual fan feel isolated. The product does have to entertain all members of its audience, not doing so would fail its purpose. With a TV show, which tells its story through several different instalments, they can afford to have certain episodes which are primarily for the fandom. Episodes which may be based on old continuity or a moment from a few episodes. They should still be enjoyed by the casual fan, but they’re ones which do feel crafted with the diehard fan in mind. For Doctor Who, this episode would be The Magician’s Apprentice and for Sherlock, this episode is The Abominable Bride.

The Abominable Bride is probably an episode which could be enjoyed by someone who wasn’t too familiar with the series, there’s a solid story and good acting to keep everyone entertained. However, I do feel that it will be most enjoyed by those most familiar with both the show and Conan Doyle’s stories. It’s a fun and perfectly enjoyable script, but I don’t think I can physically get as much out of it as a lot of people, down to my Sherlock experience lasting two weeks, and my unfamiliarity with the original stories.

This story serves three main functions, each relating to a different part of the audience. The first function seems to be to tell a good murder mystery that everyone can enjoy. It’s definitely fair to say The Abominable Bride achieves this. While the idea that a dead woman committing a murder isn’t the most original one, this does execute the plot in an original way. It keeps you guessing throughout, and the resolution to the case is both clever and satisfying. It’s not the most interesting case the show has had, it doesn’t throw you like some of the others, but it fills its runtime effectively and allows for some great moments.

Of course, though, it is the character work which this episode thrives on and what’s most enjoyable about the story. It’s fun to see how everyone acts in their new time-period, how they’ve changed and what remains, and the new period allows for some very self-aware humour. I enjoyed the gags relating to Mrs Hudson in particular, how she only seems to deliver them tea and let people in the door. It’s reflective of the time period, but it also shows that Moffat and Gatiss have a sense of humour about the programme. It’s fun to see how John changes in particular. He’s still written as your everyday normal bloke, but of course, your everyday normal bloke was different in 1895 to it is in the present day. John’s now got very sexist values. He’s not misogynistic I don’t think, as I don’t think he means any malice or harm in his words, but he’s certainly a man of his times.

This brings me to my next point. I love the feminist side to this story and the message it gives. It works in both the historical context if my history is correct the suffragette movement was starting to begin and is important in modern day too. It’s one of those things which baffles me today, that there was a time where women weren’t even allowed a vote in this country, and yet it also baffles me there’s still a lot of sexism in the world today. The episode gave strong portrayals of both Molly and Mary, showing both of them are so important to this show and are strong characters that can get overlooked. I really enjoyed this element to the story.

This episode does seem to be for the fans, though, both of the show and the books. A lot of the enjoyment comes from seeing how these characters work in 1895 instead of 2014, meaning you have to know about these characters to fully get the humour surrounding the story. While I couldn’t call myself the biggest Sherlock fan ever, this is a series I have watched grow in a short space of time, so seeing this element to it does work for me. It’s also clever how it ties into the modern portrayal, building on the last episode well. The twist wasn’t shocking for me, knowing Moffat I presumed there had to be a reason that they were suddenly in 1895, but it was in character and interesting. It’s the references to the books which stumped me. As I have never really known much about Holmes before, with Sherlock being only my second (after the Robert Downey Jr film) and main experience with the character, the changes in the characters, bar the notable ones and what I knew of the history, didn’t do much for me. In some cases it baffled me, I had no idea why Mycroft had suddenly gained about 10 Stone for example. There was also other fanservice, such as the “Elementary my dear Watson” line which I fully understood, but didn’t do much for me.

Production wise, stellar as usual. One of my favourite elements of period pieces is the costume, and how everything looks, and it’s fair to say the team did a stellar job her. The music was nice, Douglas MacKinnon’s direction was excellent, and I can see this episode working well on the big screen. It did struggle with pacing a bit, I did get bored every now and again, but nothing too major.

As a side note, I love how the DVD comes with a colouring poster. Not the sort of thing you receive with many DVDs with 15 certificates. And on a completely different side note, Andrew Scott is welcome anytime. I adore Moriarty.

Overall: A fun, enjoyable, feminist piece with some great self-aware humour, but not my favourite of the lot so far.

8/10

Episode Ranking
1. The Reichenbach Fall
2. The Sign of Three
3. A Study in Pink
4. His Last Vow
5. The Great Game
6. A Scandal in Belgravia
7. The Hound of Baskerville
8. The Abominable Bride
9. The Blind Banker
10. The Empty Hearse

Studying Sherlock: “His Last Vow”

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If I could sum up my experience with Sherlock in a few words, I’d probably say that what overall, the aspect I love most about this series is how it has impressed me. With quite a few series regarded to be “the best of TV”, Broadchurch perhaps being the most notable, I’ve sat through with a straight face and without really being into what I’m seeing on screen. As I have said before, I can be ridiculously fussy at times. With Sherlock, I’ve not felt like that at all. Whether it’s the stunning plots, the character development, or even the performances, I am constantly dazzled by the quality of this series. I watch each episode with my eyes glued to the screen, my feet and hands shaking in excitement, open mouthed in shock and/or awe. Sherlock feels more than your average TV show to me, this seems like a masterpiece in filmmaking and visual media.

His Last Vow continues this trend. While I won’t say that it was my favourite of the show so far, it still continued to throw me, surprise me, and remind me why I have fallen in love with this series. It’s a stunningly acted, written, scored episode, and it’s probably the best directed episode of the show so far. His Last Vow is a perfect example of why this show is regarded by many to be one of the finest TV shows of all time. It’s excellent in every manner, and I love it.

Of course, if I’m going to make a hyperbolic statement like that, I have to be prepared to back it up. As I established in my last review, I believe Sherlock has three main strengths: it’s character work, it’s clever plots, and it’s comedy. His Last Vow, like the other episodes, reflects this in its script. Comedy is not used as much here, this script is more of a thriller than a lighthearted affair like The Sign of Three was, but it’s good when it’s used, and the quirky relationship between each of the main characters is still highly amusing. This script focuses more on the character and the plot, and both are brilliantly executed.

Let’s start with the character work. This episode probably contains the cleverest and most interesting work so far, with Sherlock and John both receiving some great development. The stakes are high here, both get pushed really far, and it’s really exciting to watch. Let’s start with Sherlock. Sherlock is portrayed here as his eccentric and bizarre self, as he has been for the previous eight episodes, however, here he is shown pushed to his limits, and we see how far he is willing to go to solve a case. Drug addiction, sex, it’s really intriguing how he uses people, and also how others, such as Janine (who I really enjoyed) use him. The high functioning sociopath really gets it’s full use here, and Sherlock is taken in an interesting, but brilliant, direction. What I also loved was the Mind Palace sequence. His determination to survive, to take control of the situation, and to beat it. This was helped by the stunning performances by everyone involved, as well as Nick Hurran’s beautiful direction, but I just love the idea. The idea that Sherlock Holmes stores all the information he’s ever acquired in his head is marvellous. The whole scene was probably the best in the episode, how it gave us more of Sherlock’s backstory and how far he was pushed. Brilliantly written, and wonderfully performed by Cumberbatch.

John also gets some great work. His stuff is very meta. John is, of course, the eyes of the viewer, the everyday man who represents the majority of the audience. John is arguably the main character of the entire series, while the series is called Sherlock, it’s John who is the catalyst in the direction of the plot and events. The idea that John has an addiction to the abnormal, like the audience does, is wonderful.

Of course, I can’t mention development in His Last Vow without mentioning Mary. I’ve always quite liked Mary. She was likeable, Amanda Abbington was full of energy, and she was fun to have around. However, I would say she was a little bit bland. That’s not really a criticism, I liked having her around, but I couldn’t have imagined much being done with her. So, you can probably imagine my facial expression when Mary was revealed to be a highly trained assassin, and how the events of the last few series, as well as throwaway lines, have built one of the most detailed characters Moffat and Co have created. This is one of those moments I have to stand up from my chair and applaud the production team. What I do find interesting, though, and what I do like, is how Mary isn’t a villain. She’s morally complex, yes, but there is good in her heart. All scenes with her, following the Great reveal, were stellar. Abbington and Cumberbatch had fantastic chemistry, and I’m looking forward to seeing how her character develops in the next few episodes. She has a lot of potential, and I can’t wait to see how she changes and evolves.

His Last Vow probably features the darkest and most intimidating plot thus far. How one man can know the pressure point of anybody is a terrifying concept, and it is used to great effect throughout the episode. The reveal that Mangussen tried to burn Watson is a satisfying one in terms of character, and I love the idea that he also has a mind palace. It’s threatening, and it’s petrifying, with Lars Mikkelsen giving a stunning performance throughout. He’s a chilling villain.

Speaking of villains, yes. Yes, I did miss you, Moriarty. That was a fantastic reveal as well.

Production wise, stunning. Nick Hurran is the perfect fit for this show, providing the best direction to date. The cinematography is gorgeous, as is the music, and the pacing is brilliant too. This probably wasn’t as conventionally enjoyable as some of the others, but it was a fantastic experience. A stunning script, one of Moffat’s best to date.

Overall: Beautiful on all regards, Sherlock continues to prove why it’s one of the best shows on TV. Fantastic work.

10/10

Episode Ranking
1. The Reichenbach Fall
2. The Sign of Three
3. A Study in Pink
4. His Last Vow
5. The Great Game
6. A Scandal in Belgravia
7. The Hounds of Baskerville
8. The Blind Banker
9. The Empty Hearse