I didn’t watch the latest episode of the latest attempt to cash in on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s magazine sketch on the night it was broadcast, but the wails of despair were audible (or tweetable) throughout London.

The following morning, a swathe of tube geek destruction had swept across the city as people woke up to the terrifying news that a form of light entertainment might not have accurately recorded a trip on the London Underground.

That’s not a District Line tune they cried; That’s the wrong route they moaned; That’s the wrong station they exclaimed in mock horror.

Or maybe real horror?

So, I watched the programme myself last night — partly due to curiosity, and partly due to BBC4’s bizarre decision to show Mary Poppins at prime time just a day after it was shown on BBC1, leaving me with little else to watch last night.

What transport horrors awaited me?

Well, erm, not a lot frankly.

Yes, they did seem to go in at Westminster Station and walk around the disused parts of Charing Cross. Yes, they did seem to be watching video footage of a Jubilee Line train and saying it is the District line.

But so what?

It’s a bit of light entertainment, not a bloody documentary.

Yes, it might have been amusing to write a blog post about the subtle differences, and do so in a humourous style. Actually, considering some the locations they got into, I would have been tempted to write an “OMG!!!!! How Amazing Is That!!!!” type blog post.

But the reaction hasn’t been humourous or amazement, but outrage.

How dare they despoil our beloved transport network like that!

Any decent Londoner knows than you can’t take train X from location Y like that. Disgusting!

I know how exceptionally difficult it is to film on the London Underground, and frankly, I think they did a pretty decent job of hacking together a load of footage into a moderately decent narrative.

Untitled-2

I am actually damn impressed that they were able to use the secondary service tunnels at Charing Cross for some of the footage, knowing what a pain they probably were to film in as some of the spaces they were in are now filled with ventilation equipment.

They were also in a winding tunnel running under Trafalgar Square, which was constructed to carry spoil and workers digging the Jubilee Line, and today is a convenient storage tunnel.

I found it enjoyable that more of the public were able to get fleeting glances of the hidden world that lies under London’s streets that has long fascinated me.

Then again, rather than delightfully watching them wander around real “abandoned tunnels” under Charing Cross, maybe I should have been wailing about minor errors elsewhere.

I notice that there hasn’t been the same level of outrage about other programmes or films in the past — you certainly wouldn’t be catching a tube train from Aldwych to run under Westminster, as V for Vendetta showed. The extension of the Central Line in Quatermass and the Pit wasn’t in the centre of London, but on the outskirts. Etcetera.

People have a choice, they can either just relax and watch a bit of light entertainment, and maybe chuckle at continuity errors… or we can live in an ever more tediously pedantic world where even fiction is required to be absolutely factually accurate.

Personally, for this particular show, I find the way the camera jumps around the place and the use computer graphics to be vastly more irritating than a few minor issues about which tube station they are walking through.

Anyway, the late Jeremy Brett is still the best Sherlock Holmes ever!

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21 comments on “Sherlock and the Curse of the Tube Pedants
  1. Stephen Watson says:

    In complete agreement – except, oddly, I don’t find the computer graphics and camera whizzing around annoying at all but adds hugely to the style of the programme. Unusual for me but there you go.

    And of course, Jeremy Brett was indeed The Man.

  2. Kevin says:

    It was worse when Thor took the tube to Greenwich on a train that didn’t go there πŸ˜›

    Sherlock created a new fake abandoned station, we know that so everything else is acceptable.

  3. Tom Brown says:

    I agree that some of the reaction did rather miss the point, and of course the challenge of getting it right is insurmountable. That said, these glitches are perhaps more troublesome because the show (and Sherlock himself) is all about the little things – so if you do notice the errors, there is a danger it takes you out of the story. (In a written Sherlock story, you could easily imagine the writer using these very anomalies as plot devices…)

  4. David Fisher says:

    Agreed, there’s absolutely no point in getting annoyed about TV/film continuity (I love watching Morse and gleefully spotting when he flits instantly from one end of Oxford to the other). What irked me more was the general uselessness of the Tube Geek character. “There’s nothing down there, no escape tunnels, nothing … Oh hang on, sorry I forgot, there’s a WHOLE BLOODY GHOST STATION down there. Silly me.”

  5. I firmly sat in the “doesn’t matter” camp throughout, although it was slightly annoying to see Sherlock and Watson climb aboard a 1972 stock train (standing in reasonably for the more modern Jubilee train shown earlier) and then suddenly find themselves about a District line train which was a completely different shape!

    It was just horrendous continuity – although you can see why it happened when you known that they built a set for that. Clearly the set designer had read the script, presumably not knowing that the real life carriage they’d use would be different.

    No, the issues (small ones) I had were that:

    a) surely someone at LU would have noticed that a seventh of the train had disappeared and made a BIG fuss about it. [ Let’s ignore the real life issues that the train probably couldn’t move without it πŸ˜‰ ]

    b) where was this unfinished station where the carriage was, supposed to be? On a siding? On a branch? If so, why did no one know that branch was there?

    Minor plot holes more than anything though!

  6. Carol says:

    Was with you right up to the comment about Jeremy Brett πŸ˜‰

  7. Very good, and agreed.
    I think it was Christmas Downton in which they went to the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. Almost certain that they used the picture gallery at Royal Holloway College for the purpose, where you could clearly see glass on the pictures. Outrage! Nearly choked on a mince pie, I tell you.

  8. Penny Ward says:

    I have to admit to having lots of fun trying to spot where they were for any given bit of Sherlock & Watson’s Underground adventure. But as Ian says, it was amazing the places they managed to get some filming done!

    I have a rule when it comes to watching television, if I can’t watch it without shouting at the telly, then I have to turn it off. It’s not real and they can’t hear me…!

  9. Mike says:

    Ian, I think the point is that a large part of the the premise for Sherlock is that he has a huge attention to detail and fact.

    In other tv dramas, factual inaccuracies might not matter so much, but combined with the continuity errors, I thought it could have been better. Why not at least use one type of train, for example?

    For what it’s worth I thought it was the weakest Sherlock so far – and not just because of the tube errors!

    • IanVisits says:

      I think the point is that regardless of whether a fictional character has certain skills it is not then realistic to expect the directors of a show including the character to share those characteristics.

      We don’t expect the director of The Hulk to be able to turn Green, so why do we expect — indeed demand — that the director of a Sherlock Holmes based show share the fictitious character’s equally fictitious and frankly, totally unrealistic abilities?

      It’s just a bit of light fun. Isn’t it?

  10. If you want a /real/ poke at places not being where they should be pick any episode of the modern Doctor Who and ask yourself what the hell a /London/ Bus is doing driving past recognisable /Cardiff/ landmarks! πŸ™‚

    And no I haven’t ever bothered tweeting or blogging about it because as you rightly point out ‘it’s a bit of light entertainment not a bloody documentary!’ πŸ™‚

    As a non-London resident the tube issues in Sherlock passed me by totally, but as with Doctor Who even when I am familiar with the area, I find it much more fun to geekily (new word alert!) ‘location spot’ than complain πŸ™‚

  11. Which reminds me of a blog post I wrote in 2009 about Doctor Who πŸ˜‰
    http://www.planetbods.org/blog/2009/04/12/doctorwho

  12. slabman says:

    I think I’ll probably watch this episode with the sound down just for the tube geekiness. Having watched other episodes, I find this version of Sherlock, like recent Dr Who, is just a bit too hyperactive, scatty, and filled with Routemaster-sized plot holes. But that’s just me.

    However, not only is the late Jeremy Brett still the best Sherlock Holmes ever, but Eric Porter was the best Moriarty. Check out their confrontation on Youtube if you doubt me. Marvellous stuff.

    The single greatest crime in the new Sherlock was to turn Moriarty into a homunculus spawned from Ant & Dec.

  13. Actually, when Skyfall came out, there were lots of ‘that could never happen!’ comments regarding the Underground scenes. And in the same way that articles containing typos will jar and make my brain pause, so moments of impossibility in a film will pull me out from being immersed in the story.

    But I don’t think anyone is seriously bothered. They were just saying. I don’t take everything I read on twitter seriously.:-)

  14. I really don’t enjoy the constant reworking of the Sherlock Holmes stories – for me While I’m happy with your honourable mention for Jeremy Brett I always thought Peter Cushing had the look, voice and presence of the “Consulting Detective.” I did however give into the lure of geekdom and traced their journey around the system but fully agree the Underground is merely a prop but one in the tale of “The Empty Hearse” which really adds to the story and atmospherics. We can’t really complain if Sherlock’s travel planner works better than TfL’s!!

    http://daithaic.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/sherlocks-mysterious-underground.html

  15. Michael Scott says:

    I suspect many of those complaining fail to realise just how difficult it is to film on the tube, rather than recognising that some locations were rather remarkable.

    I enjoyed calling out the different locations while watching the programme, but I certainly wasn’t complaining.

    That said, I’m sure it would have been possible to piece together a slightly more plausible story together regarding the Jubilee Line Extension, Charing Cross, Westminster and pretend that Aldwych was a ghost station actually under the Houses of Parliament (missed by the tube geek, as it was classified). All they would have had to film differently would have been to switch the District interior shots for Jubilee, although I don’t know how much more difficult that would have been to organise…

  16. Mike Jordan says:

    Even BBC News gets in on this with quite a few nice pictures.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-25576814

  17. Dave k says:

    Thanks for mentioning where they went as that was the only thing I wanted to know! Who cares about the travelling for X to Y practicalities, I want to know whether that was charing Cross or not! Now I know, thanks:)

  18. Dave says:

    Does the tube not really go to Walford then,,,?

  19. Mark Pack says:

    It did all remind me of a Cornish friend who explained once how confusing a TV drama was as the outsides and insides of pubs didn’t match up, so he’d see people outside a pub he knew and then when they walked in the door they were suddenly in another pub dozens of miles away.

    That was just amusing. For me the issue is that Sherlock is a show that usually repays the viewer who pays close attention to the details with extra entertainment in return. There are lots of subtle touches through the episodes that add to the fun if you watch closely. So if you set yourself up as a show where people should pay attention to the details, then I think it’s fair to say the show should consistently pay attention to the details.

    Even allowing for the filming problems, the use of footage of the wrong line/platform rather jarred – especially as the viewer was invited to look at that footage and think closely about it, trying to think what an explanation might be for what they’ve just seen.

    The switch between going into one Tube station and then using a corridor in another bothered me far less as that didn’t have the same invitation to pay close attention going with it.

  20. Joel says:

    Yep, it’s a story but sadly expediency replaced a few minutes’ work to bring in some consistency. Setting it ALL on the Jubilee Line, brand new and whizzy, would have been elementary my dear Reader. It almost passes under Parliament (where there IS something odd – no, I just invented that) to have a fictitious siding platform for government to escape in the case of disaster.

    Modern ‘Sherlock’ is superb, the adaptations are excellent, translating the classic stories into a contemporary setting. My favourite is the ‘Sign of Four’ and I’d love to see the moderisation of that. But in a consistent London, please…

    And, no, the late Jeremy was good but never the best – that belongs to Douglas Wilmer, recognised by his cameo in a recent ‘Sherlock’. DW looks like Paget’s Holmes, and resembles (or did then) Doyle’s description of the great (fictional) detective.

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