Thursday, March 20, 2014

Doctor Wholmes, Interdimensional Detective [part the second: The Rock Star]

     Loud, flashy, larger than life. Impossible to ignore. A surfeit of style. A brilliant mind and a self-awareness of that fact. In this second installment of comparisons, we look at Robert Downey Jr's Sherlock Holmes and David Tennant's Tenth Doctor.

     RDJ's portrayal was (at least prior to the BBC's modern day version) arguably the most famous, with an international film release and (for the first time in over two decades) a theatrical release in the US. The films are loud, flashy, over-the-top, but still with all of the elements necessary to be recognizable as Holmes. In much the same way, David Tennant's run was where Doctor Who reached, and possibly surpassed, it's previous heights of popularity with an audience as wide and as fervent as any you'd see in Tom Baker's day.

     Having gotten over his Time War PTSD, this Doctor knows how to have fun, how to be cocky, and how to get peoples' attention. He moves through the universe leaving a large wake behind him like a geek-chic tornado of cool. Much in the same vein that RDJ's Holmes is an amplified version of the character, Tennant is The Doctor turned up to 11 (I'm sorry, I'm so sorry for that pun). He brings a physicality to the role that had been lacking for a while. The Tenth Doctor is no passive chess-player or wounded soldier. He's out dueling intergalactic cultists within minutes of his first conscious moments, and building a reputation that would scatter armies at the mention of his name, culminating in that moment where he defies the laws of time and is brought down from being "The Time Lord Victorious."

     Much like Tennant's amped up Doctor, RDJ's Holmes is also an amplification, borderlining on exaggeration, of everything that Sherlock Holmes is, was, and could have been. He's brilliant, there's no doubt, but there's a practical application of that brilliance. When combining the way his mind works with the physicality that previous portrayals have lacked, this is a man that steps into a bare-knuckle boxing ring and has won the match before it even starts. And unlike some portrayals, this version (despite having only two films under his belt) is shown traveling a great deal more than some, much like his Time Lord equivalent.

     Tennant's Doctor is also the only one of the relaunch Doctors to square off against his Moriarty, the Master. Contrary to previous appearances, the relationship is also deeper and more contextual. This is not just the hero squaring off against a dangerous enemy. Ten and the Master (as portrayed by John Simm) could believably have been brothers, best of friends, comrades in another life. They are truly equals, one on the side of the angels and the other clearly not, much like Holmes and Moriarty. Much more so than previous incarnations.

Next time: An East wind blows to Trenzalore.

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