What went on at the Sherlock Masterclass

Feature Andrew Blair 28 Aug 2012 - 07:47

Andrew popped along to the MGEITF Sherlock Masterclass to hear Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, and more chat about the hit BBC show...

This article contains spoilers for Sherlock series 2.

An entertaining hour's conversation from Sherlock folk Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, Sue Vertue and Andrew Scott delivered little information on series 3, but plenty of behind the scenes insights and a steady stream of quips.

Three words: 'Rat', 'Wedding', and 'Bow' teased series 3 with the forewarning that they may be (deliberately) misleading.

The bulk of the session focused on the process of making the show, and its initial format of two one-hour episodes (including pilot), altered in the wake of Wallander and a straightforward 'If you say yes to three ninety-minute episodes, we'll commission you' proposition. What became clear was the amount of adulation waiting to be unleashed upon other production staff.

Sue Vertue (a Conan-Doyle novice), for example, was the person who kick-started the entire thing. She pointed out to Steve Moffat that he could do the version of Sherlock Holmes he and Mark Gatiss had spent train journeys to Cardiff discussing. Then she decided Benedict Cumberbatch would be ideal based on Moffat's description of his idea for Sherlock after watching Atonement. Also, Vertue witnessed a funeral being interrupted by someone's mobile playing Stayin' Alive, which came in useful at the start of series 2.

For fans of extra content, it was revealed that the majority of John Watson's blog, and additional websites and social networking set in the show universe is worked on by Joe Lidster (Torchwood, The Sarah Jane Adventures, numerous Doctor Who related audioplays), and worked on by the producers. Moffat also described the show's music (by Michael Price) as 'ravishing'.

Director Paul McGuigan was also praised for his input, especially for visuals. The floating text idea originated with him for The Great Game, and was seized upon after Moffat saw how well it worked in the edit and wrote it into the first episode. Gatiss described McGuigan's approach to his 'Val Lewton suspense scene' in The Hounds of Baskerville, saying that rather than go for the usual darkness McGuigan came up with the idea of bright lights and sensory overload before the lights go off, to heighten a contrast. Transitions between scenes (necessitating pneumatic beds in the Welsh countryside) were improved from the script by McGuigan and editor Charlie Phillips ('They made everything playful and more elaborate').

Speaking of playful and elaborate, it was revealed that Lara Pulver sent in an audition tape with a hint of nudity to it ("I'm sure she wore a towel or something"). This was persuasive, said Sue Vertue, as she was the only auditonee who instilled the character with a sense of fun ("Also Janette Krankie said "No""). This was an episode that the creators knew would ruffle feathers, as there was already a level of obsession amongst fans about the characters that meant 'Sherlock in love' would divide opinion.

After touching on the subject of slash fiction, Moffat acknowledged that his initial expectations (around four million viewers) were confounded instantly so that by the first taxi scene in A Study in Pink, the show was so successful that 'people were already saying it wasn't as good as it used to be'.

When asked why the show worked Moffat replied 'This is awful sentimentality, but love. We both love it. It's fan fiction.'

Such is the extent of their fanboy affection, the door of 221B Baker Street is emblazoned with the number purely so that Gatiss and Moffat (hereafter referred to as 'The Gaffat') could pose outside of it, something they plan to get around to any year now. The thrill of being able to run from the door of 221B to the TARDIS set has prompted Gatiss to exclaim "It's a map of our brains!" on occasion.

The development of Moriarty came from audience research into what people wanted to see from a Sherlock Holmes series. Initially uncertain if Moriarty was an essential part of the tale, Moffat and Gatiss were pleasantly surprised to see his name crop up in the feedback. Despite this, Moriarty wasn't due to appear at the end of Series 1. A message, revealing him to be Molly's boyfriend, was initially planned until it was realised there was no script in place for actors to audition with. Dialogue was written with the intent of being too ridiculous for an actor to convey, only for Andrew Scott to turn those words into something dramatic, and for it to be included in the final show. Steve Moffat said it was now his favourite scene, adding that he'd watched it "...hundreds of times".

Scott said of his large, scene-stealing performance: "...because I wasn't obvious casting I didn't want to do an obvious take on the role", saying that image counteracts good casting on many occasions, and compared the online reaction on Twitter to "...going into a room and being punched and kissed and hugged and complimented and slapped and thrown out."

Gatiss compared Scott's Moriarty to Hannibal Lecter, both being characters who are talked about a lot but who make the most of their short screen time. As, essentially, the first supervillain, Moriarty had established a pattern that had become cliché, which everyone involved sought to overcome.

Meanwhile, Andrew Scott has said the exact words "Moriarty is dead", which could be a blunt statement of truth or a clue as to a surprise double identity. Perhaps, if it was meant to be the former, Scott will next time say "I will not be in the third series of Sherlock", unless of course he is too busy filming the third series of Sherlock.

It was not revealed how Sherlock Holmes himself will be in the third series (although Gatiss did mention "...a bizarre system of Japanese wrestling" with a negligible amount of seriousness). As well as the three cryptic crossword clues above, Gatiss added that "Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson will return", and Vertue mentioned that filming should start in January, and it will hopefully be broadcast in late summer.

Then they all left and did normal human things, like eating and writing Doctor Who.

Read our speculation on what Sherlock's three-word tease could mean, here.

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I'm astounded by the randomness that lead to such a good Moriarty and very pleased indeed to see this show in such good hands. Remarkable.

Thanks for the sum up!! Interesting stuff, that story of Andrew Scott being cast is brilliant!

And to whom did Moriarty report? Just wondering.

'It's a map of our brains' - it sounds like a map of my brain too.

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