Apr 1 2010 2:31pm

Thrust Upon an Unsuspecting Fandom: Sherlock Holmes Meets the Beekeeper's Apprentice

The 2009 Sherlock Holmes movie was a box office hit, grossing over $65 million on its Christmas Day opening weekend in the US alone, and currently grossing over $500 million world-wide.

As you might guess, a sequel is now in the works.

Given that Sherlock Holmes had a plot that resembled nothing that ever appeared in the canon—or in any other Sherlock Holmes adaptation—it’ll be interesting to see what Guy Ritchie comes up with next.

Especially since the character of Mary Russell will officially become part of the new canon.

Now, Mary Russell is not the same person as Mary Morstan, whom Watson married both in the original canon and in the movie. Russell is the main character in Laurie R. King’s series, The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, a quite logical and insightful young woman who, in the books, discovers an elderly, retired Sherlock Holmes amongst his beehives on the Downs. He becomes her mentor. Her friend. Her BFF.

Her lover.

Let that sink in for a minute.

Of course, in King’s books, Sherlock Holmes is not really ancient; I look upon them as a sort of sidereal fantasy, the kind where the characters are forever in 1865, even if half a century has passed by. Both Holmes and Watson (and Mrs. Hudson) are pretty much frozen in age since Doyle’s last story about Holmes, “His Last Bow.” And it’s not like December-May non-dysfunctional romances don’t exist in the real world.

However, the prospect of pairing a young Mary Russell with a young Sherlock Holmes has... shall we say... many possibilities (most of them more acceptable to a wider audience; “ageism” has not really gone away). Though having two characters named Mary might be confusing to a film audience; whether Ritchie deals with this via renaming or some other method remains to be seen.

The impact of Mary Russell’s introduction to the story line will be epic—but not as epic as the conflict that will surely ensue among fans. I mean, not only have you got Holmes/Adler and Watson/Mary (Morstan), you also have the subversive context of Holmes/Watson. Adding in Holmes/Mary (Russell) is not just going to be like pouring oil on a fire, it’s going to be like dropping several tons of nitroglycerine onto a burning oil field.

And given that this is Guy Ritchie, he may even decide to add in a Mary/Mary sub-context. Which would be hella awesome. As well as a way to resolve the current Holmes/Watson/Mary triangle. An awesome way.

Wait. What about Mary/Adler? Or the other Mary/Adler?  Actually, one of those might be incestuous, depending on how Ritchie wants to play this (and what King will let him get away with when altering her characters as well).

My gods, this could be epic AND awesome.

Ladies and gentlemen: let the ‘shipping wars... begin.

Actually, now would be a good time to share with you my favorite, and most relevant, moment from the Granada TV series adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. Watch.

Arachne Jericho writes about science fiction and fantasy, and other topics determined by 1d20, at Spontaneous ∂erivation. She also thinks waaay too much about Sherlock Holmes. She writes at on a semi-biweekly basis and would actually like to see widow!Mary/widow!Mary.

Kate Nepveu
1. katenepveu
Weirdly, filming Mary Russell in the context of young-Holmes would actually reduce her Mary Sue quotient by quite a bit . . .

(I mostly pretend they aren't actually married, as I disliked the second book very strongly.)
Having recently read a bunch of the originals again I find it funny that everyone says the movie was waaay off. I can only assume reviewers haven't read them recently and are only repeating each other. I found the movie very true to everything I've read in characterization, wit, and spirit. Holmes does run around the street in a bathrobe, smoke so much Watson has to air the entire flat out, string Watson along mercilessly, and is way more active than any of the tv adaptations I saw. I read The Hound of the Baskervilles and then watched the Jeremy Brett version I used to love (it's streaming on Netflix btw) and found they had ditched much of what made the original story good to me as I read it (and most of the action). OTOH, the movie brought out that tone more than any of the other versions I've seen. Maybe everyone has just dulled their senses to it over the years by watching the tv adaptions. (shrug) Go back and read the stories and I think you'll see my point. The movie takes a more youthful approach, but it is there in the text too.
3. Mogrithweesd
Dropping Nitro on an Oil fire should put it out.

Tons is an over kill but it won't be a fire anymore.
Arachne Jericho
4. arachnejericho
@katenepveu #1 -

I agree with you there. I don't think it worked anywhere near as well as, say, Dorothy Sayers' self-insert did. Holmes and Russell are too reflective of each other at times.

I'd much rather see a young Mary Russell in the new canon. But I'd rather see them ditch the menfolk in the new canon, too.

@cranscape #2 -

I agree with you on that point, too. :) It's why the movie amuses me so, so much. Doyle wrote some crazy shit in the Holmes stories. He also had more quiet moments as well, though. TV and film Back In the Day tended to work better at the latter than the former.

It's not until the new age of cinema and special effects, and the New Movie, that the crazy shit could really be shown off. Yes, there is 'SPLODE in the movie, but "A Scandal in Bohemia" also had 'SPLODE. More toned down, obviously, but then again the stories are Victorian Age. After applying inflation of excitement until we get to today's standards, you get, basically, the New Movie.

Jude Law's Watson is also a more modern interpretation. You can see the more cynical aspects of him in later Holmes stories. I always thought they particularly stood out in "The Red Circle" and "The Dying Detective" in simply how the narrator chose to portray the story.

I'm kind of happy they blended the obvious hero worship of the earlier Watson with the more cynical later Watson into a balanced character... which means that a relationship between Holmes and Watson has a better chance of working out for a longer time. I think Doyle would have been less annoyed about Watson (calling him dumb later on in life) if he'd started this way....

Or, you know, not.

@Mogrithweesd #3 -

This is true. It would be neither a fire nor an oil field. It would be a Michael Bay 'SPLODE, also known as awesome. :D
Kristin Franseen
5. musichistorygeek
On another note, is it bad that I would love a film with Russell/Donleavy subtext?
Arachne Jericho
6. arachnejericho
@musichistorygeek #5 -

If that's wrong, then I don't want to be right. :D
7. Dark Thoughts
Happy April Fool's Day.

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