Tuesday, January 10, 2012


As I've said many times in the past, Jeremy Brett is the definitive Sherlock Holmes for the main Toobworld, Earth Prime-Time.  However, there is a slight niggle.....

 What concerns me as a televisiologist is the recastaway problem with Dr. John H. Watson. 

David Burke portrayed Watson to Jeremy Brett's Sherlock Holmes in the first fourteen adventures, with Edward Hardwicke picking up the mantle with the second series.  (Each series had a different umbrella title, as listed in the earlier "ASOTV" post, which is why we're going with the DVD box set title.  The same holds true for the literary version; we're going with the umbrella title for the omnibus on the volume I purchased back in the mid-1970's.)

 David Burke held the role until just after the final confrontation between Holmes and his arch-nemesis Professor Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls.  This happened in the spring of 1891.  When we meet him again three years later when he's reunited with the Great Detective, Edward Hardwicke now was Watson.  So whatever the splainin for his transformation, it had to happen between the summer of 1891 and probably April of 1894.  (The timeline for the TV series clashes with the established canon due to episode broadcast order and the recasting.)

 I used to throw out a lot of wild ideas on how to splain away the difference in Watson's appearance to my friend Sean Cleary (the Little Buddy to my Skipper as I've often described him).  And the lad would either expand on those ideas or throw back some equally fanciful theories.  We dealt with time travel, dimension-hopping, alien substitutions.

 But I think Occam's Razor must apply here: "Among competing hypotheses, selecting the one that makes the fewest new assumptions usually provides the correct one, and that the simplest explanation will be the most plausible until evidence is presented to prove it false."

 Therefore, I'm thinking we must turn to that old reliable, plastic surgery.

 According medical history, plastic surgery was practiced as far back as 800 B.C. in India.  It is believed that the first truly successful surgical procedure in this field occurred in 1917.  But in the Toobworld Dynamic, we know of at least two skilled plastic surgeons in the 1870's, both of whom were to be found in 'The Wild, Wild West' - Dr. Faustina ("The Night Of The Big Blast") and my all-time favorite TV character, Dr. Miguelito Loveless ("The Night That Terror Stalked The Town").

 So it's pozz'ble, just pozz'ble, within the reality of the TV Universe that plastic surgerty was used to alter the appearance of Dr. Watson at some point between 1891 and 1894. 

But why would Watson have needed it?

 Perhaps someday I may find the reason within a TV show.  But for now, I've turned to the real-life history of the Trueniverse, our world, to find the splainin.  And since so much of the real world's history has been adapted for television, the event I found may have been covered in a French documentary at the very least.....

 On November 8, 1892, a young anarchist named Emile Henry planted a bomb at an office building on the Avenue de l'Opera in Paris.  Discovered before it could blow up, it was carried to the police station on the Rue des Bons Enfants where it exploded and killed at least five people (most of them police officers.)

 Emile Henry was all of nineteen and highly intelligent with an adept facility for mathematics, having been eligible for a college education by the age of sixteen.  It could be that - as far as his televersion was concerned - his proficiency in this field of study brought him to the attention of Professor James Moriarty, the Napoleon of Crime and a mathematical genius in his own right.  (He wrote "The Dynamics Of An Asteroid".)  In Toobworld, Moriarty may have led young Henry down the path to anarchy.

 After that first explosion for which he later took credit, Emile Henry fled to England where he openly bragged about his accomplishment to others in London's underground circle of Anarchists.  By February of 1894, Henry had returned to Paris, where he flung a bomb into the Cafe Terminus which only killed one person but wounded 20 others.  He was caught fleeing the scene and defiantly took credit for the bombing a year and a half earlier.  By the age of 22, Emile Henry was dead, beheaded by the guillotine in front of a crowd of Parisians.

 So what does this have to do with Dr. Watson?

 I don't think he was present at either bombing in Paris.  While no stranger to the continent, I think Watson spent the days of the "Missing Years" in re-establishing his practice in London, assisting the Metropolitan Police as a medical examiner, and perhaps finding love with the TV equivalent of Miss Mary Morstan?  (In re-acquainting myself with the Jeremy Brett series, I've yet to find any indication that Watson ever marries, but then I'm only up to having seen "The Second Stain".)
 Here's an excerpt from a book about the Anarchist movement in the 19th Century:

 "Three days after Henry flung his bomb into the Cafe Terminus, that is on February 15, 1894, a remarkable discovery was made in Greenwich Park at no great distance from the Observatory, a man's body being found there in a more or less mutilated condition. It was surmised that this individual had stumbled whilst walking, and had been killed by some explosives which he was undoubtedly carrying at the time. The police were apparently of opinion that he had entertained some design against the Observatory." - [Ernest Alfred Vizetelly. The Anarchists: Their Faith and Their Record. Turnbull and Spears Printers, Edingurgh, 1911.]

 Fictional characters have been inserted into so many of the real world's historical events - look how many more people have booked passage on the Titanic than actually were on board.  Currently we see the same thing happening with the bombing and collapse of the World Trade Center towers.  So I think this is an "adventure" in which Dr. Watson may have been involved through his capacity as a police consultant.

 Once again I play a fanfic enabler, throwing out the suggestion that Dr. Watson, using the rudimentary skills he learned from his "late" friend, Watson may have discovered the plot by Martial Bourdin and was successful in stopping the French anarchist before he could blow up the Observatory.  But in doing so, Bourdin died in the explosion of the bomb he was carrying, and Watson was severely injured in the blast.

 Apparently, Sherlock Holmes revealed himself to be still alive to Watson in April of 1894.  A month and a half of recuperation during that less sophisticated, almost primitive, stage in the development of plastic surgery might not seem like it would have been enough.  But as we saw in those two episodes of 'The Wild, Wild West', the two patients were up and about in far less time.

 And to make this truly a crossover event, perhaps Dr. Watson was aided by another TV doctor, not only in the rebuilding of his face, but in the original case of the Observatory Anarchist.  Perhaps Dr. Watson was a temporary companion to The Doctor of 'Doctor Who' fame.  And as he was a Time Lord, not only would he have been able to bring Watson to the best plastic surgeons available in the Future - Drs. Christian Troy and Sean McNamara of 'nip/tuck', anyone? - but he then might have allowed Watson to become a "resident patient" in the TARDIS, letting him recuperate at his leisure outside of the timestream. 
Eventually the Doctor would have brought Dr. Watson back to his own timeline, mere moments after he left it.  (And all that time spent away from Earth would account for the grey hair Watson now sported.)

 And maybe it was Dr. Watson who first introduced the Doctor to the joys of wearing a fez (which means he was probably involved with the Seventh Incarnation of the Doctor.)

Of course, plastic surgery wouldn't splain away the change in eye color - Burke's Watson had blue eyes; Hardwicke's Watson sported brown.  (Or so it looks to me, anyway.....)

But maybe Dr. Watson was subjected to heterochromia because of exposure to the Time-stream.....?


 This post is dedicated to Robert Wronski, Jr. whose own explorations into shared universes, the TVCU, celebrates its first anniversary today. 

1 comment:

Hugh said...

Didn't Burke return to the role for one production, while Hardwicke was filming Shadowlands?