The last couple of seasons of Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman seem to have gone a bit awry. It all started to get a bit out of hand when they married off Watson to Mary. So far so good and this all seems to be lifted directly from the original Sherlock Holmes stories. (I have to admit at this stage that I haven’t read the original Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle but then again I’ve not read Rupert Bear either, or at least I’ve not read the 1920s Rupert stories to which I’m referring, so what do I know?)
Anyway, doing a bit of research it seems Arthur Conan Doyle did indeed marry Watson off to a governess called Mary so that relationship can’t be claimed as messing with the Holmes canon. She’s a governess, they meet and eventually fall in love etc., it’s all good Victorian stuff. Fast forward to 2014 and Mary is somehow transformed into a super spy, assassin and general special forces person with all the fighty, shooty skills and dropping down ropes stuff.
Of course this isn’t the first time this sort of behaviour has been seen in modern Sherlock. Back in an earlier episode where Sherlock met a potential love match he manages to almost magically find his way into a terrorist group in Pakistan to rescue her with apparent James Bond type skills of deception and disguise, but at least it was only once.
At this stage I have to issue a spoiler alert but you can skip this paragraph if you are bothered although the plot’s so thin I don’t know why you are bothered and the spoiler is a bit general anyway. So these days in Sherlock we get people disappearing around the globe, digging passports and apparently infinite amounts of money (or untraceable credit cards) out of secret stashes (that haven’t been discovered by small children), passing unseen through customs and all sorts of security networks (I bet they get to go to all the best concerts and football matches) and even evading the super sleuth Holmes himself in the process. Of course Holmes is apparently able to place trackers in solid state devices that don’t have space for such things (or software trackers that work without being plugged in or connected to the Internet) while not noticing that other super spy, special forces, shooty drop down ropes type people are secretly following him. I thought Holmes was all about deduction albeit on a bit of an improbable level. I mean Gatiss gets paid millions (lots anyway) for writing this stuff and even gets to cast himself in one of the roles!
Now it’s safe to read on unless you are a Rupert Bear fan and still on the 1927 episode of Rupert and the Magic Toy Man in which case this might be a spoiler but it probably isn’t.
So Rupert Bear clearly wasn’t a spy but, apparently, in his early days he did develop super powers of some sort. Some years ago, while pottering about the house listening to Radio 4 (as you do) I heard a commentator describe how there was a time when the early Rupert stories had become a bit tired. It seems the writer had fallen into the habit of placing Rupert in some difficulty, for even in a children’s story drama has to come from some sort of peril even if it’s finding your way home from the darkest reaches of Nutwood. However, after some years of this and perhaps running out of ideas, rather than finding a suitable solution to poor Rupert’s problem the commentator on the radio described how the writer would frequently resort to magic to get him home in time for tea with Aunt Meg or whoever she was. Of course at the time I was washing up or putting up shelves or working on my own great literary masterpiece (as you do) so I didn’t take much notice other than to file it away for future reference. Researching now it seems the original creator of Rupert, Mary Tourtel, retired in the early 1930s and the strip was taken over by Alfred Bestall who continued into the 1960s. I’m not going to point the finger here (although I clearly have) but, unless I’m imagining all this, I suppose Mary Tourtel was the writer the radio pundit was talking about.
Anyway, the point is that in any creative genre one has to be careful when creating peril that the solutions are reasonable. Create a challenge that means you have to use magic, super powers, unfathomable technology or dare I say inconceivable skills of deception, disguise and balancing on tall dangerous places before droppjng like an olympic acrobat on top of your enemies, then you need to tread very carefully because it can so easily turn into the Rupert Bear magic getout. (See also the my super weapon is more super than yours getout, the my secret/rare/mystical spell is more secret/rare/mystical and better than yours getout or even the I can fall over exhausted after getting punched more times than you before getting up to deliver the killer blow getout.) Readers of my novel The Hidden Masters and the Unspeakable Evil might recall that the magicians therein often found that their spells didn’t work or perhaps just resulted in their trousers falling down… or something. I’m sure I cheated in other ways.