Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Sherlock: Chronicles by Steve Tribe

New Year – new blog posts. And a new laptop. Santa was very nice this year. In fact, the subject of this year's second post (originally planned as the first, but then Hamlette's Sherlock Holmes blog party came by so conveniently) is another Christmas present, one that my sister (who is always wonderful with gifts!) gave to me: Sherlock: Chronicles by Steve Tribe, in other words a most fantastic behind-the-scenes companion to my favorite TV show.

You know how sometimes, these kinds of making-of books just have loads of pretty pictures and maybe a couple of little paragraphs of text, none of which is new information for you if you've seen the DVD extras. Well, not so with Sherlock: Chronicles. There is a lot to read in here – without forgetting the pretty pictures too. This person typing here, who normally finds it hard to get kicks out of visual stimuli, admits that she nearly had a fit on every turn of the page – that's how gorgeous this book looks. Whoever were responsible for the visual outlook of this book have done their job amazingly well.

Sherlock was, of course, born in the collective imaginations of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, who share a passion for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories. Sherlock: Chronicles starts from the very beginning: the reasons behind Moffat and Gatiss' Holmeslove and why they wanted to create a modern Sherlock Holmes (for which they give impressively good justifications) and the process of collecting the most valuable members of the Sherlock-making team. All of these people share their thoughts in this book, and the textual portion is almost entirely made up of direct quotes. I think this kind of a structure works wonderfully; rather than feeling like we're relying on Steve Tribe's perception of Sherlock behind the scenes, it feels like we are hearing it all from the real people who made it. I even heard Moffat's, Gatiss', Cumberbatch's, Freeman's & co's voices very vividly in my head while reading, which was a rather fun experience.

The various quotes from Moffat and Gatiss alone provide a very intriguing view of the creative process that became Sherlock, but this book gives us even more than that. We actually get snippets from screenplay drafts that didn't make it to the final cut (an earlier version of John and Sherlock's "will you be my best man?" conversation reveals that John's mother is dead, and now I desperately want to know if it's still canon and if so, when and how!) and emails that they sent to each other while working on it.

The entertainment world and its media coverage often seems most obsessed with film stars and what they're wearing on the red carpet, and I think that those of us who want to consider ourselves aficionados of film and television can't be reminded often enough that the greatest productions on screen are always the result of a tremendous, hugely dedicated group effort in which the actors are just one important element among others, though of course they do make the most visible contribution. In the case of Sherlock, it looks like Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, the creators and principal writers, are getting recognition comparable to that of lead actors Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, which is already a very positive development in my mind. However, Sherlock: Chronicles draws even more of the uniquely talented people on the show's team to the spotlight. Someone had to compose that music that sets the atmosphere in the way we all now associate with Sherlock; to manage the editing which gives the show its distinctive look; to dress up all of John and Mary's wedding guests; and decorate Sherlock and John's flat where we all want to live in. Sherlock: Chronicles gives a voice to all of these people. One of my favourite parts in the book was director Paul McGuigan's delightfully lengthy portion. He has directed four episodes of Sherlock so far, and did you know that it was originally his idea to show text messages directly on the screen? Just try to imagine Sherlock now without that one unique visual trick! McGuigan also gives some insight to the differences of film and TV and how they have evolved lately, and how the positions of a director and a screenwriter differ in those worlds.

All in all, Steve Tribe's Sherlock: Chronicles is a great read for any fan of the show, but it will also satisfy someone with a deeper interest in what goes into making good television as it covers the different stages from screenwriting to visual effects. It's beautiful to look at and abundant in interesting and informative content. Most importantly, it celebrates not just Sherlock as a unique and widely acclaimed TV show, but all the diversely talented people who bring it to us and the cultural significance and inspiring qualities of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original stories that put Moffat and Gatiss in action in the first place. Sherlock is something very special and so is this book.

So, this is the first in a series of Sherlock Holmes-y posts that I'll be putting up this week to commemorate the legendary sleuth's recent birthday, for which occasion fellow blogger Hamlette hosted a marvellous blog party. I have the upcoming posts mostly planned out and half-written, but there is one subject on which I simply can't make up my mind, and I was wondering if any of you readers would like to help me out and voice your opinion on what you would like to read in the near future.

The (Final) Problem is handling the two current modern-day Sherlock Holmeses in BBC's Sherlock and CBS's Elementary. I was initially planning a good old Sherlock vs. Elementary post where I'd compare the two shows side by side. I have to confess that I love the idea of pitting two similar-yet-fundamentally-different things against each other in writing and I have a couple of other This vs. That posts planned already. However, there was a lot of Sherlock vs. Elementary stuff on blogs, websites and Youtube at the time when the two shows emerged, so I wondered if people have gotten bored of that sort of thing already. Some people also find that the two shows are so different structurally that there's little point in comparing them to each other, and I can see their point as well. So, readers, do you want to see a comparison post or individual posts on both shows? Throw me a comment so I'll know and keep checking up Music & My Mind over the week if you're interested in more Holmes-y content!


  1. I've only read one or two comparison-y posts for Sherlock and Elementary, both of them a couple years ago when I first got into Sherlock, so I'd certainly be happy to read another!

    This book looks great, and if my library doesn't have it, I may have to put it on my wish list :-D

  2. It's great to know that this book isn't a lazy cash-grab! I'm sure I'll read this book at some point then.

    As for your question if you want to make a comparison post - and it sounds like you do - then go for it!