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Moffat's Variations on a Theme

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD. Read Only If You Had Seen the Season/Series Finales of Both Doctor Who and Sherlock. You have been warned.

Guess which Steven Moffat-helmed series this synopsis is from: "The hero's ego got the best of him as a powerful adversary plots his death. The hero's flaw is that he has become too big, too visible, too popular, too famous for his own good. In the end, the hero welcomes his inevitable death... only to cheat it by careful planning, and being crazy prepared all along."

If you guessed Doctor Who - "The Wedding of River Song", you are correct!

You are also correct if you guessed Sherlock - "The Reichenbach Fall".

As a rabid Steven Moffat fan boy, I am a bit uncomfortable watching the Sherlock season finale. It echoes too much of the season finale of the other Steven Moffat show, Doctor Who.

Just so this post doesn't bore you by not having any pictures,
here's one of Benedict Cumberbatch doing a really stupid smile.

First, the title: Both title contains a reference to a body of water: river and fall. If you had seen the recent season of Doctor Who, then the pervading sense of dread for the "inevitable" death of The Doctor was the phrase "The Silence Will Fall". Who is the silence? Let's hear it from The Doctor himself.

"And Silence would fall." All those times I heard those words, I never realized it was my silence. My death. The Doctor will fall.

As with "The Silence will Fall" meaning "The Doctor WILL Fall", so did "The Reichenbach Fall" play on the equally inevitable (unavoidable, as decreed by the canon established by Arthur Conan Doyle) death of Sherlock Holmes, who the BBC One series branded as "The Reichenbach Kid" after successfully returning a painting of the Reichenbach Falls from a thief. Thus, "The Reichenbach Fall" = "The Fall of Sherlock Holmes", in its literal and mortal sense.

Second, the plot: Both stories deal with the titular character's ego having gotten the best of him. Both Sherlock and The Doctor have meddled in people's affairs too much, and too many people are watching, too many watchful eyes waiting for one tiny misstep, one little mistake. The problem with both Holmes and The Doctor was they attracted too much attention: welcomed attention, yes, for both men are insufferably vain, and are notorious for being self-centered mad men.

The Solution: To disappear. To welcome death, create a disappearing act so convincing that even those who know them most would be fooled. Thus: Watson's grief—made more powerful by his denial ("Stop being... dead. Just stop this. For me.") was gutwrenching because it was sincere. Watson wasn't in on the plot. Neither were Amy and Rory.

River Song and Molly: When River Song looked into The Doctor's eyes, she saw through his plot to cheat death. Did Molly, that ever faithful Holmes admirer, earned her right to be in on Holmes's plot? Shortly before meeting Moriarty, Holmes met Molly as she was heading home for the night.

Sherlock: Molly, I think I'm going to die.
Molly: What do you need?
Sherlock: If I wasn't everything that you think I am, everything that I think I am, would you still want to help me?
Molly: What do you need?
Sherlock: You.

As we have already established in "A Scandal in Belgravia", there is precedence in faking an autopsy, thanks to Ms. Irene Adler's use of a body double.

Oh, my. Body switches at the last minute... AGAIN, MOFFAT? Really? You're basically pulling variations on a theme: "genius madman fakes death to lie low from public scrutiny." With Sherlock, it's forgiveable, you are bound by canon to fake his death. But with Doctor Who, you had the entire space and time to play with. You "rebooted" the entire creation to save it from crashing, and the only way you can save The Doctor from falling was putting him inside a copy, like a fucking Matrushka doll? Really, Moffat? There's no other angle to play with The Doctor's and Sherlock's inevitable death than "being too hot on the eyes of the masses", too many enemies wanting both of them dead?

Mycroft's shadow government has a dossier—maybe an entire dedicated department, even—of James Moriarty's background and current activities. He IS without a shadow of a doubt NOT A CREATION of Sherlock's. One word from Mycroft and Moriarty's ruse—the I'm-an-actor-hired-by-Sherlock—would crumble. Sure, the idea may not that easily be killed, but hey, isn't the episode all about killing old ideas by suggesting new ones? Isn't "public perception" vis-à-vis "logical deduction" the whole conflict about? Moriarty's scheme was to create a public perception of himself as the untouchable lord of all crimes, his "I'm Sherlock's Creation" plot was obviously a bluff. Even if he did successfully pull off "Sherlock is the Evil Mastermind Here" plot, he would have lost clients over to Mr. Holmes. Not so smart, is it?

Which is my problem with the Doctor Who finally as well. What did faking his own death do for The Doctor, but buy him a bit of time (which he is, by the way, lord master of to begin with). In his future (by which I mean subsequent to his fall by Lake Silencio) appearances in the Universal Timeline (not his personal timeline, which is all timey-wimey), no one is surprised to find him alive and well... suggesting that no one bought his fake death anyway. So, what's going on, really? The Doctor wanted to take a summer off?

Well, that's all I have to say to that. I wish the two finales weren't too similarly themed, or at least, not so incoveniently timed too near each other.


To be fair, we don't know how Sherlock Holmes cheated death. And we won't know until Series 3. So the only similarity (at least in my opinion) between Sherlock and the Doctor is that both of them cheated death. But they could've done it for very different purposes and in totally different ways. So maybe they're not as similar as we'd like to think.

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