Sherlock co-creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffatt are headed to Melbourne on November 23 for a “Script to Screen” event with fans at the Regent Theatre.
Joined by Series Producer Sue Vertue of Hartswood Films, the first official Sherlock event in Australia will explore the making of the show and characters. It will follow on from the Doctor Who Festival in Sydney on November 21 – 22.
Gatiss (pictured left), who also plays Sherlock’s brother Mycroft Holmes, tells TV Tonight UK fans at convention earlier this year had been bursting with questions.
“To me the format of anything like this is more interesting when you open it up to the public. You get far more interesting questions than standing at a lectern trying to be intelligent about everything. You also have more fun,” he says.
“The best part is sitting with actors or behind-the-scenes personnel reminiscing and taking questions from the audience, whilst of course giving away no secrets whatsoever and lying through our teeth!”
“If you ask them not to spoil things they tend not to”
Secrets are a big part of the world of Gatiss, who also writes for Doctor Who, but there’s an art to keeping a lid on things.
“It’s a tough thing, really. When we were shooting the solution to how Sherlock faked his death we had 300 people behind crash barriers watching it. Remarkably the press didn’t break anything. Partly because we filmed about 38 different versions so they couldn’t decide what to print. But people are very good-natured. If you ask them not to spoil things they tend not to,” he continues.
“I think it’s slightly sad that we’ve reached a stage where soap operas leak all their latest storylines themselves a month in advance, just because they’re afraid people will turn over.
“There’s something so wonderful about a viewer being totally surprised. We live in a surprise-averse culture in that way, I think.
“It’s obviously frustrating when Sherlock is only on every couple of years. The amount of times people have been frustrated and almost angry that you don’t tell them the entire plot of the story… but if I told you, you’d be instantly disappointed.”
A Sherlock special will be released at the end of the year, to screen in Australia on Stan and in limited cinemas.
“It’s set in 1895, and we’ve given Benedict and Martin almost the unique opportunity to do the double as it were. The only people to ever play Holmes and Watson in the Victorian era and the modern era were Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce,” he reveals.
“That’s all I can tell you. You’ll have to wait until Christmas!”
“Almost all of the letters I get are from China”
In its brief 5 year existence, Sherlock has catapulted its leading man, Benedict Cumberbatch to global fame. Gatiss says in China the show is seen by a staggering 70 million viewers, yet he prefers not to dissect the reasons why.
“In Asia it’s extraordinary. Almost all of the letters I get are from China –and they all seem to be written by the same person. The handwriting is identical!” he insists.
“Sherlock Holmes has always been popular in Japan and Korea, but I think it might be something to do with our particular version and the relationship between Benedict and Martin (Freeman). Or something about Benedict’s slightly-androgynous look, I don’t know.
“But if you over-analyse them they dissipate, so just go with it.”
Indeed, Arthur Conan Doyle’s character is universally loved. Gatiss declines to expand on CBS’ own modern take in the form of Elementary.
“I’m not going to say ‘No Comment’ because that sounds like I’ve got an axe to grind. But there’s a long and involved story about Elementary which is on record, and I don’t watch it as a result of that.”
On a lighter note, Gatiss has also written the 9th episode of the upcoming Doctor Who series, to be directed by Justin Molotnikov. Remarkably, he knows little of the remainder of the series. And that’s just the way he likes it.
“I can still remember the thrill of excitement watching the last episode”
“As a fan I genuinely try not to find out anything about the season, apart from the bits I’m involved with. I like to watch it as it goes out. I’m pretty successful in doing that and not seeing other people’s scripts,” he explains.
“So unless it directly involves the run into my story or what comes after I try and stay away. I want to watch them as a viewer, so I genuinely know very little about the rest of the season, deliberately.
“Steven (Moffat) sent me the first two-parter of the season to read with where he wants to go with Peter Capaldi this season. I think I’ve read one other episode, but otherwise I really don’t know.
“It’s like when I was a kid and I knew nothing. I can still remember the thrill of excitement watching the last episode of Genesis of the Daleks and it said “Next Week: Revenge of the Cybermen.” I went crazy!”
During his first visit to Australia this November, Gatiss is hoping to catch up with Victorian-based relatives. Any chance his stay might inspire an Australian-based episode some day?
“I’m sure the possibility must have been explored. I imagine when Janet Fielding was playing Tegan, the Australian air hostess, it (would have been) properly explored,” he suggests.
“It’s always logistics with these things. Doctor Who manages to get abroad at least once per season for lunar landscapes and stuff like that. So the only reason it wouldn’t happen I think would be pure logistics.
“It’s cost effective to go somewhere for a few days and get maximum coverage, so with Australia being so far away it’s hard to justify a couple of days, I imagine. But a story set in Australia would be fantastic.
“You have to remember that essentially the show is still made in Cardiff, so the bulk of the episode would have to be made there.”
Lastly, why is it Doctor Who has such a fervent following amongst gay viewers? Again, he is is reluctant to rationalise it, despite being openly gay himself.
“Obviously over 52 years of different styles of stories there have been very much camper eras, and those eras have their fans,” he says.
“But equally Doctor Who can be very serious and grim. As a whole I think it’s probably mostly to do with identifying with the character of the Doctor as a different sort of hero.
“For me growing up, Jon Pertwee was my Doctor and there was never anything explicitly gay about the experience. I loved the Doctor because he wasn’t just like a cowboy on a horse, or an ordinary policeman. He was just odd. Maybe children growing up gay make some sort of attachment in that way.
“But it’s something you can endlessly debate, which is what’s fascinating. You can’t really give it any kind of definitive answer.
“It’s a combination of all those things that made Doctor Who special.”
Sherlock: From Script to Screen
Regent Theatre, Melbourne
7.00pm Monday, 23rd November,
Tickets on Monday, 14th September from Ticketmaster