Tuesday, December 24, 2013

BBC Sherlock Christmas Mini-Episode "Many Happy Returns" - Review

Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in BBC Sherlock Christmas Episode Many Happy Returns Season 3 Prequel

Dear Readers,

The Christmas mini episode of BBC Sherlock has arrived.

The rest of the post might contain spoilers. Please watch the video first, if you wish to avoid spoilers.




The episode opens in a Buddhist monastery, in which a blonde female smuggler is caught by an abbott with extraordinary powers of observation and deduction.

The scene cuts to Anderson (Jonathan Aris) and Detective Inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves) discussing about the possibility of Sherlock surviving the fall. Anderson has been obsessively looking out for signs of Sherlock's existence, to the extent of losing his job.

Anderson brings up the next sighting in New Delhi, India where the solution to a particular case strongly suggests the presence of a genius. The third sighting is of an mysterious juror in Hamburg, where one Herr Trepoff is proven to be guilty of the murder of his wife, despite all the other jurors believing in his innocence.

Lestrade advises Anderson to try to get his job back and then meets John Watson (Martin Freeman) to hand over an uncut version of the video of Sherlock's message on John's birthday. Interesting thing to note is that John refers to Lestrade by his first name “Greg” (a nice nod to the inn scene in “The Hounds of Baskerville”).

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Canonical References

1. The first sighting of Sherlock by Anderson takes place in the Buddhist monastery - Sherlock Holmes states to Dr John Watson in The Adventure of the Empty House: “I travelled for two years in Tibet, therefore, and amused myself by visiting Lhassa, and spending some days with the head lama.”

2. In the second sighting in New Delhi, India: The local inspector solves the case by working out the depth to which the chocolate flake had sunk into victim's ice-cream cone. This is a reference to The Adventure of the Six Napoleons, in which Sherlock Holmes remarks to Dr John Watson: “You will remember, Watson, how the dreadful business of the Abernetty family was first brought to my notice by the depth which the parsley had sunk into the butter upon a hot day.”

3. Anderson commenting to Lestrade about Sherlock's refusal to take credit for solving the latter's cases - Sherlock Holmes often refuses to take any credit from Scotland Yard in many cases in the Canon

4. Anderson chiding Lestrade for not seeing the signs of Sherlock's genius at work - Sherlock Holmes makes a similar statement to Dr John Watson in A Scandal in Bohemia: “You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.” 

5. The Herr Trepoff case - Dr John Watson writes in A Scandal in Bohemia: “From time to time I heard some vague account of his doings: of his summons to Odessa in the case of the Trepoff murder,...”

6. Anderson notes that Sherlock is getting closer to London, with the recent sightings in Germany, Netherlands and the latest one in France - Sherlock Holmes informs Dr John Watson in The Adventure of the Empty House: “Returning to France, I spent some months in a research into the coal-tar derivatives, which I conducted in a laboratory at Montpellier, in the south of France.” 

Martin Freeman as Dr John Watson in BBC Sherlock Christmas Episode Many Happy Returns Season 3 Prequel

7. In addition to a pink phone (presumably from A Study in Pink), a yellow mask can be seen inside Lestrade's box - This is a reference to the main plot of The Adventure of the Yellow Face: Sherlock Holmes is sought out by Grant Munro to solve the mystery behind a yellow-faced person in a nearby cottage (credit to Swanpride)

8. Sherlock's statement about missing John's dinner: “Of course, I am going to miss dinner. There will be people” - 

Sherlock Holmes remarks to Dr John Watson in The Adventure of the Gloria Scott: “I was never a very sociable fellow, Watson, always rather fond of moping in my rooms and working out my own little methods of thought, so that I never mixed much with the men of my year.”

Dr John Watson also writes about Sherlock Holmes in A Scandal in Bohemia: “...Holmes, who loathed every form of society with his whole Bohemian soul, remained in our lodgings in Baker Street, buried among his old books, and alternating from week to week between cocaine and ambition, the drowsiness of the drug, and the fierce energy of his own keen nature.”

9. Sherlock notes in the video that he has written an essay on suppressed hatred in close proximity after observing John's friends - Sherlock Holmes notes in The Adventure of the Dying Detective: “Malingering is a subject upon which I have sometimes thought of writing a monograph.” Holmes has already written monographs on cigar ashes (A Study in Scarlet) and tracing of footsteps (The Sign of the Four).

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes wearing deerstalker and Dr John Watson outside 221 B Baker Street in BBC Sherlock Season 3

The episode has everything that fans have liked about the show so far: the trademark visual text, the humor (the newspaper headline proclaiming “The game is back on!”) and references to Arthur Conan Doyle's original stories.

Benedict Cumberbatch is back in the game as Sherlock. I liked his explanation for refusing to elaborate on his excuse to skip John's birthday: “Only lies have details”.

This is a veritable Christmas treat for fans. Sherlock Season 3 debuts with the first episode “The Empty Hearse” on Jan 01 2014 in the UK and on Jan 19 2014 in the US.

Click here to read all my posts about BBC Sherlock.

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Image Source: BBC Wales, Hartswood Films, Masterpiece Theatre

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18 comments:

  1. I was so excited to see this minisode! It really got me excited for the new season!

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    1. I too found this very enjoyable. The Sherlock team have pulled off a miracle again - bodes well for Season 3.

      B2B.

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    2. Fun mini episode! Great to read about those references that are completely lost on me. I didn't recognize Anderson in the beard.

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    3. I am happy to hear that the references were useful.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      B2B.

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    4. Nice job B2B! Like sidekick above, I didn't recognize Anderson either the first-time I watched it. It was an awe-inspiring 7 minutes and a nice Christmas gift to us from Mofftiss. Hard to believe Anderson of all people figured it out :-)

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    5. Thanks Howard.

      Mofftiss did an amazing job with this minisode. Anderson "sleuthing" Sherlock was an excellent touch.

      B2B.

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  2. The only thing I'm looking forward to w/The Empty Hearse is seeing John Watson faint. If he doesn't, I might never go back to Sherlock!

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  3. I will need to watch this soon, thanks for posting B2B!

    -James

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  4. Isn't it telling that they manage to cram as many references in 7 minutes than Elementary sometimes has in a full episode?

    Loved it, especially the ending was heartbreaking. Only the juror thing irritates me. I guess you already read a commentary about this somewhere, but we don't have a juror system in Germany. I guess they tried to handwave it with the unusual circumstances, but it didn't really work for me.

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    1. Regarding the Canonical references: It is not exactly a surprise, is it? Moffat and Gatiss are obviously much more familiar with the Sherlock Holmes canon than the writers behind the CBS show. And it also helps that they love the character of Sherlock Holmes and his idiosyncrasies. At the end of the day, BBC Sherlock is nothing but a love letter from Moffat and Gatiss to ACD about his iconic creation.

      I too liked the episode very much. I can understand why the juror part did not work for you. At least there is the visual texting, that might alleviate it a bit.

      I liked how Anderson traced Sherlock's return route to London on the map. That was just amazing.

      B2B.

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    2. You missed at least one, btw. The yellow mask in the box with Sherlock's stuff.

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    3. Thanks for the catch. I will update the post and give you credit for the same.

      B2B.

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  5. A great and fun review as always. Cheers.

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  6. I enjoyed very much the seven minute gift. What I am now working on, as a New Yorker, is getting to see the season 3 opener on January 1 without flying to London. We are told that on this side of the Atlantic we have to wait until Jan. 18th to see it. I don't think that in this day and age, that is realistic. Whether by legitimate means or not, people over here will find a way to see it on their own schedule, not the network's, that simply reflects the way of the world of television has shifted. It's now "Me TV," no longer "Network TV."

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    1. Your comment accurately captures the both the advantages and drawbacks of the digital age. It is not fair to the producers of the BBC show that their hard work gets to be seen ahead of the planned schedule.

      I read that Benedict Cumberbatch tried to get Season 3 broadcast simultaneously in the UK and the USA. Wish that had worked out.

      B2B.

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