Sherlock's third series has just come to an end with His Last Vow, but those (like me) who fear withdrawal symptoms will be cheered by news that series four and five are already on the drawing board. This particular episode, despite the title, which alludes to "His Last Bow", was mainly based on "Charles Augustus Milverton". If my hazy memory is correct, the Milverton story was the first of the Douglas Wilmer versions of the Sherlock Holmes stories that I saw on TV as a small boy back in the Sixties.
Milverton was the king of blackmailers,and his modern equivalent is newspaper magnate Charles Augustus Magnussen, played by Lars Mikkelsen - a nice touch, this, combining Nordic noir with Baker Street. Lindsay Duncan, an actor who alwasy seems slightly mysterious (in a good way, I hasten to add), was his glamorous victim, Lady Smallwood. Steven Moffat's script began brilliantly, and I loved Mycroft's complaint that Sherlock's latest escapade with cocaine wasn't the first time that his substance abuse had wreaked havoc with his parents' line-dancing.
I did, though, feel that the story faltered after Sherlock was shot. Whilst I've really enjoyed this series, evidently some have been disappointed, and for me, the stories slip when the writer(s) go overboard on the sentimentality. We had some of that in this episode, and it is reminscent of the weaker parts of Doctor Who. Perhaps if the episodes were shorter, this kind of padding could be done away with in both these great shows.
All the same, I do love the clever and witty touches that abound in Sherlock. So I was intrigued to read today that a legal challenge has reportedly been launched by Conan Doyle's heir against the use of the Sherlock Holmes character in this way. Almost all of the original stories are now out of copyright, although the position has, I gather, been complicated by trade marks that have been registered.
There's a very interesting - and I think socially important - debate to be had as to who can and should be able to use fictional characters long after the death of the original creator. One argument is that the creations are property passed down to heirs, who are entitled to the benefit of them. Some say that, just as it's reasonable to remain entitled to,say, a house inherited from one's great-grandfather, so it is only fair to be allowed to inherit and profit from the intellectual property created by one's ancestors. As a creator myself, I don't dismiss these arguments out of hand by any means, and I'm certainly not in favour of deliberately nicking the intellectual property of the living. But there is also a very powerful argument that copyright lasts long enough, and that attempts to expand upon the substantial protection it already gives when the copyright period has elapsed are not in the wider public interest, and should be discouraged. Any views, on either side of the debate, would be of interest to me. So - what do you think?