Monthly Archives: February 2014

X-Lock, or Sherlock and Science Fiction


Okay. Don’t Panic. I know that Sherlock isn’t science fiction, even if its head writer is Steven Moffat, the head writer for Doctor Who.

Oh, except it totally is. Or, at least, it deals with two concepts that are very prevalent in science fiction: Doubt, and belief.

I.e, Are Sherlock’s exploits a myth? Can we believe in him, or was it all a ruse?

Doubt in Science Fiction

One of the key tensions of The X-Files is between Scully and Mulder, with one who wants to believe, and one who will only believe when there is proof. This is a theme that is often put in science fiction, from Philip K. Dick’s treatises on reality which deals with question like “Are my memories implanted?”, and “Am I also an android?”, to my favorite movie, Contact, which deals with doubt in science on a very visceral level. I.e, did Ellie really go across the universe and back in three seconds? If so, what proof does she have?

Doubt is integral to science, so it only follows that it is incredibly important to science fiction. Sometimes this doubt manifests in what we already know, like The X-Files or a Philip K. Dick story, and sometimes it manifests in the current tact our society is taking (think Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers”).

At the very least, this need for doubt reflects its fan’s needs and desire for something more truthful (something we ironically find in the artificial creations of scifi), or our belief that there has to be something more than what we see.

Sherlock embodies that. He sees what we don’t, can’t, or won’t. He’s able to draw conclusions that we can’t even being to piece together. He’s very much like the scientists in our favorite science fiction shows. But in the “The Riechenbach Fall”, all of that comes into question. We have to ask ourselves, “Is Moriarty real, or Sherlock’s creation?” After all, the way Moriarty sets Sherlock up makes it really seem that Sherlock committed crimes in order to solve them is entirely plausible. (I also think it’s narrative mistake to erase that doubt later on, but I’m not the writer so I’ll shut up).

That’s where the real beauty of the series two finale lies. It lies in the fact that against overwhelming odds there is still doubt, the truest precept of science fiction.

Unfortunately, with season three, all that beautiful doubt is undone. We then lose a lot of the scifi flavor. Ah well. we can’t always win.

Though, with Moriarty back, maybe not.

Belief in Science Fiction

Now, if you thought I was being esoteric before, strap in.

What’s just as important as doubt in science fiction is belief. The need for Sherlock fans to proclaim “I believe Sherlock Holmes” after the series 2 finale is an analogy for some of our greatest science fiction. We want to believe it wasn’t a dream in Inception, and we want to believe that the truth is out there in the case of The X-Files.

The same is true for Sherlock. We want to believe he isn’t a psychopath who desires accolades and gets them creating sick situations involving murder and kidnapping.


The Truth is Out There

And finally, we end with the idea that the truth is out there. Doubt keeps ups guessing, and finding better truths. Belief makes us want to find them. Basically, we all need a little Mulder and Scully in our lives. We need to question Sherlock in order to have true belief in him, and we need to want to believe for good science fiction to really work.

TLDR: The doubt keeps the tension of the story. The belief keeps us reading/watching. For science, doubt keeps us honest, belief helps us find better and greater things, much like the things Jules Vernes or HG Wells dreamdt up in their earlier works.

They are absolutely and necessarily needed, both in fiction and in reality.

Rewriting Inception 4 Years Too Late

For those of you who’ve known me since I first saw Inception, you know that I’ve been carrying a rather large narrative chip on my shoulder for four years.

It’s not even the chip about weird plot idiosyncrasies (like why isn’t Arthur positioned over a bathtub in the beginning too? Is he not in danger of needing a kick?), or the question at the end (was it all a dream?). It’s because I really want Arthur to be the main character.

Simple as that.Inception-movie-poster

In fact, I want it so much, I tried to make a trailer of Arthur as the main character. Unfortunately, his dialogue is fairly limited, so the endeavor still had far too much Dom.

Basically, I love Inception. I love it so much that I think about it at least once a week, and I’ve been slowly filling a wiki of what canon information we know, what we can surmise from that information, and various other headcanons. I wish I could figure out how to buy book rights to movies so I could write a long involved story about Dom and Arthur having to escape Cobol years later after Saitou’s protection wears off, or stories about how Saitou had been lying about his good-guy act (I.e, “We need to dissolve Fisher-Marrow because they will screw the world over with bad energy policies, and it’s nothing more sinister than that, I swear”). I want to read stories about unrelated teams, and really explore the world Somacin would create.

There are, then, two tragedies of my being an Inception fan. One, there is only the movie and two very short comics. That’s all I get. And two, Arthur isn’t the main character and he clearly should be.

So, I know some of you are thinking, “What’s your problem? Dom drives the story! Of course he’s the main character!”

Yes, he does. But that doesn’t mean he should be the main character. Plenty of stories are driven by a character that isn’t the protagnist. Like, Legend of Zelda, or, you know, The Illiad.

But the best example is Pirates of the Caribbean. Captain Jack Sparrow was not the main character, yet he drove the plot in The Black Pearl. I’d argue that when he was promoted to protagonist, the movies got markedly bad. Coincidence? I think not.

The thing is, Dom’s story is pretty straight forward: get back to his kids before succumbing to grief-induced madness. The only depth of character he achieves is through his relationship with Ariadne, and even a lot of that seems a bit forced as we don’t really get a reason for Ariadne’s curiousity.

Arthur’s story, however, is far more interesting on every level with every relationship with every character. It too bad, though, that he only has about four lines and one awesome fight scene in the movie.

First, we have him fiercely loyal to a man who can’t prove his wife didn’t kill herself, and continues to be loyal to a likely-murderer despite the fact said man is slowly descending into madness. He knows Mal is Dom’s projection, and that it’s sabotaging their dreams, but he pretends to Cobb that he doesn’t. Why is that?

Inception_Ariadne_posterNext, we have his relationship with Ariadne. She’s a rookie who doesn’t know anything, and Cobb leaves it to Arthur to train her, and get her ready for the most complicated job dreamshare has ever seen. He also has to convince her to stay on the job despite Cobb’s deepening madness. That’s two tension points right there versus Cobb’s one.

inception_ver7Then, we move on to Eames, who seems to have a somewhat antagonistic relationship with Arthur, which suggests a very complicated past of some sort. Whatever happened between them clearly rubs Eames the wrong way, as evidenced by his defensiveness, sarcasm, and willingness to watch Arthur fall over a lot. What’s even more interesting is that Arthur doesn’t really seem all that affected by Eames’ maliciousness, which suggests that he is not bothered by whatever happened between them. Still, how was he able to work with the man? What happened behind the scenes?

Of course, we then have Yusuf, who Arthur can’t trust at all, and evidently didn’t trust from the beginning as he’s not all that surprised that Dom bribed him to keep the sedative a secret. Arthur surely has some rather pointed feelings about that, particularly since the man was Eames’ choice for chemist.

And last, we have Saitou, the tourist. Not only does Arthur have to keep his crazy boss, his antagonistic forger, untrustworthy chemist, and rookie architect in check, he has to deal with a tourist who is fairly useless in dreamshare.

Did I mention as the point man, he whole point of his job is to plan the job? Well, have fun with that Arthur.

Is it any wonder, with all that going on, that he missed in the background checks that Fisher was militarized? I would have liked to dwell a little bit more on his feelings there. For that matter, I’d just like to see him planning everything, using his network of contacts and making shady deals. So basically, I want a 13-part television series with Arthur as the main character.

If that seems far-fetched, I want you to take a look at Arthur’s relationships, and tell me that doesn’t make a more interesting story. Cobb is interesting, but his plot is one dimensional. It only has one motivation, and he doesn’t seem to actually have any attachment to anyone else in the film.

And frankly, that’s not enough for me me. It’s a testament to the world building (which doesn’t always make sense, but whatever) and the inventiveness of the concept that keeps me wanting more. I’ll read all of the fanfic, and pray that I can write a book series for it.  In the meantime, I’m still going to fast forward through all the Mal and Dom scenes though.