You need reminding sometimes that Sherlock is a truly global phenomenon. We’ve seen the adulation the show and its cast and showrunners receive at things like the San Diego Comic-Con, but to see it first hand is quite something. The final panel session at the excellent first Radio Time Festival saw three member of the cast (Una Stubbs, Amanda Abbington and Louise Brealey), writers Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat and producer Sue Vertue gather to talk about the women of Sherlock, an interesting and new approach to the Sherlock runaway train. Along with the panel was a sold-out auditorium – and every joke and comment from the panel were met alternately with excited laughter and cheers.
Sherlock has that power. It was surprising to see that the average age of the audience was very young – there were so many teens there, and a high percentage of females, which was great to see.
This might have been because of the subject matter – the women of Sherlock – but I think Sherlock has that kind of harry Potter-style appeal, which is, again, surprising for an adult crime show. There’s something about Benedict Cumberbatch, the deduction side of things that attracts a certain type of teen and adult fan – someone who likes brains before looks. (Although if you talk to most fans they have a massive crush on Cumberbatch.)
First things first – there NOTHING given away about the Christmas special (we saw the same clip that has been doing the rounds) or the next series. Instead it was an entertaining chat about the show, with Gatiss and Brealey in particular on fine, funny form.
Moffat explained that in a show that has a strong male friendship at its heart, the female characters are very important, although because of this central friendship everyone else in the show is a few notches down in terms of colour, not because they’re women.
Gatiss also explained the Arthur Conan Doyle actually emancipated his female characters because in that Victorian period was a brutal time for women in general, not just characters in the novels. He also said the time was right for a restoration of the show, and he and Moffat wanted to get back to what they both loved about the original novels – the friendship, the deduction.
They were asked whether they were thinking of introducing any other female characters from the canon. Violet was mentioned as a perhaps, and that they liked the character Janine and of course Mary would be coming back. Gatiss and Moffat also said that there weren’t as many as the walk-in female clients that were present in the novels.
But any talk of strong women in Sherlock inevitably, sooner or later, arrives as Irene Adler. Asked whether Adler was a bit of a stereotype, Moffat explained that that their relationship was mutually beneficial and Adler was not your usual femme fatale. Adler uses sex to get what she wants while Sherlock is bored by sex. They these two damaged people get together one intrigues the other and they need each other.
Mrs Hudson got a bit of love, too. Una Stubbs was happy with her character’s back story (as a former topless dancer), while Moffat asked how would put up with a person like Sherlock Holmes? Someone who had already lived a less-than-normal life.