Steven Moffat isn’t the only link between BBC’s top shows. “There’s documentary evidence that in the formulation of The Doctor, there’s an awful lot of Sherlock Holmes influence,” producer Mark Gatiss notes. In fact, both these thin, eccentric mystery-solvers have much in common. They have gadgets, immense intellects, and wisdom far beyond their sidekicks. And the authorities beg them for help when they’re out of their depths. The introductory episodes, “Rose” and “A Study in Pink” do much to emphasize the hero’s briskness, mysteriousness, and uniqueness, while updating the classic stories with the internet, cellphones, and modern storylines. Likewise, the shadowy threats of Moriarty and “Bad Wolf” provide a season arc and an unseen manipulator.
They have a strong ethical core independent of conventional laws but are mostly asexual with awkward social skills. Both seem oblivious to women, especially those like Martha or the hapless mortician Molly who are actively interested. The Doctor clings to his moral center, offering warnings to his worst enemies and allowing them to leave in peace. The point appears several times that nothing is more dangerous than a good man fighting for those he loves. Holmes, too, offers mercy to sympathetic criminals in the (original short stories) The Devil’s Foot, The Blue Carbuncle, and The Three Gables. At the same time, he threatens to horsewhip a cruel seducer. His television reincarnation chooses his problems by their colorfulness, not their seriousness of crime. He tries to avoid helping Britain’s rulers, stubbornly arriving at the palace in only a sheet. He also suggests paying off Irene Adler and saves her more than once. A threat to his beloved Mrs. Hudson, however, reveals a shockingly cruel side to his personality.
While both these characters appear heroic to readers, there’s a darker edge not shared by the
more innocent companions or even Doctor Watson. Watson and the companions are the ordinary characters, dragged into the world of the unusual and even supernatural. Watson and all the companions, especially Rose, represent the analytical hero’s heart—his link to the people he’s determined to save. Both heroes would be lost without their sidekicks, the ones who remind them that trust and love are the greatest of emotions. “That’s the frailty of genius—it needs an audience” as Holmes notes. But this friend is far more: Holmes and the Doctor are terribly isolated for their uniqueness and “the only one in the world,” as it’s often pointed out—only their one trusted friend can keep them grounded and morally upright.