Posts Tagged ‘television’

We have finally come to the end. I say ‘finally’, when in fact it’s only been 12 days. But what an emotional rollercoaster those 12 days have been: I’ve laughed, cried, sworn, shouted, cried some more and heaved a huge sigh of relief that they didn’t finish with ‘aliens did it’. But in all seriousness, I thought that this final episode almost made up for the travesty that was the second episode of the series (it feels weird saying ‘series’ – it was only 3 episodes!) but the pain is still there. Anywho, let me talk you through the things that I enjoyed in particular about this episode.

Oh yes, there will be spoilers – *bonus points to whoever gets that reference*

Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary

Ah Mary, I must admit I didn’t really care for you in the second episode. I thought your involvement in the series was just to introduce the ‘Sherlock-John-Mary’ love triangle into the story. But boy, did they surprise me this episode: Mary shot Sherlock! The moment she turned round to face Sherlock in Magnussen’s apartment I gasped – okay, maybe not ‘gasped’, but I did that ‘furrowing confused’ look that people who know me might recognise. I particularly enjoyed the way that Mary’s prior behaviour was referenced and tied into the fact that she was a ‘baddie’ – remember how she recoiled when the name ‘Cam’ was read out in the telegram at the wedding? C.A.M. = Charles Augustus Magnussen!

To be honest, I’m surprised Mary survived the finale – not because I’m being particularly harsh, but because in Conan Doyle’s work Mary actually dies at an unspecified time between The Final Problem and The Adventure of the Empty House. But hey, she’s alive. I hope that the awkward dynamic between her and John will play a role in Series 4.

Sherlock Dies

The few minutes after Mary shoots Sherlock is one of the best things I think I’ve seen on British television. Sherlock retreats into his ‘mind palace’ and deduces how to try to survive the shooting. I won’t go into full detail about it here, as I believe it needs to be seen to be appreciated, but in short – it was beautiful. Beautifully shot, beautifully written and beautifully played. More of this, please!

(I tried to find the clip on YouTube, but the only thing I could find is the scene split into about 20 clips of 30 seconds each – hopefully someone will upload the full scene in due course.)

Mind Palaces

Oh Moffatt, you little teaser! At the start of the episode we were led to believe that Magnussen wears some kind of Google Glass-esque device that allows him to recall information he has on people. But no, he does it with his mind! There were no vaults underneath Appledore (the stunning Swinhay House in real life) it was all just in Magnussen’s head. I must admit, the fact that he did the actions whilst ‘searching’ through his mind palace was a little silly, but hey, whatever works for him. Mind palaces are a genuine phenomenon and, if used correctly, can be an extremely useful tool for those that are not blessed with eidetic memory.

If you want to try your hand at constructing a mind palace, here’s a step-by-step guide to getting started – http://www.wikihow.com/Build-a-Memory-Palace

References Galore!

It really does show that both Moffatt and Gatiss have read their fair share of Conan Doyle: evident from all the references they sprinkle into their writing. Here are some that I noticed:

  • Bees! Janine says she’s retiring to a cottage in the Sussex Downs, where she has to remove some beehives. This is a reference to the story ‘His Last Bow’ where Sherlock retires from being a detective to keep bees in the Sussex Downs.
  • Bill ‘Billy’ Wiggins is a character from some of Conan Doyle’s work, so hopefully he will appear in future episodes.
  • The ‘East wind’ is a nod to the outbreak of WWI – rather fitting.
  • A.G.R.A is a cheeky nod to ‘The Sign of Four’ in which Mary Watson’s case involves treasures from the city of Agra in India.

There are probably a few more hidden there, but it’s still nice to see that there is some love for the source material on the part of the writers.

The Ending

Yeah, it’s time to talk about that ending. In one word – ‘Moriarty’! Did we miss him? Indeed we did. Whilst this sets up the show nicely for the fourth series (Christ knows when that’ll surface) it does however throw up a lot of questions: is it really Moriarty? Did he fake his suicide? Or is it someone masquerading as him? So now are there going to be endless fan theories on how Moriarty faked his death? Something tells me people won’t be as keen to solve this one as they were to try to work out how Sherlock managed it. Time will tell, I guess.

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So that’s the end of Sherlock, for the forseeable future at least. A fourth and fifth series is in the pipeline apparently, with a rumoured Christmas episode due out (at Christmas time funnily enough). Overall, I was somewhat underwhelmed with this series – I think I’m just going to try to erase the second episode from my mind – it’s only saving grace was the finale. Regardless, I look forward to seeing what The Dynamic Duo of Moffatt and Gatiss have in store for us next series.
Tom

Sherlock is officially back! Sadly, he’s only back for three episodes – and then we’ll have to wait another two years for three more episodes. Ah well, let’s make the most of each episode while we have the chance.

The moment he says ‘Bazinga!’ I’m hunting you down, Moffatt and co.

And what an episode it was – John and Mary got married! And Sherlock, being the best man, had to deliver the best man’s speech at the ceremony. See, even from the initial premise of the episode, it felt like I was about to start watching ‘The Big Bang Theory’. For those of you who have been living under a rock, TBBT is a programme about physics nerds who try and ‘fit in’ with normal life, with amusing results. Now don’t get me wrong, TBBT is a brilliant show (even if they sometimes get their maths wrong…) but it’s NOT Sherlock. I do not want to see Sherlock morphed into a Sheldon Cooper-esque character in which the audience laughs at how he ‘struggles to fit into normal society’. 

Is it just me or does this whole season feel out of sync with the calendar? I mean, the first episode clearly should have been broadcast in November, and this episode should have been some sort of ‘Christmas special’: what with all the joviality and funny bits (“Let’s laugh as Sherlock gets drunk and talks silly“). Speaking of the whole ‘stag night’ segment, the whole thing felt cheap. It felt tacky. It’s been done countless times before, all with the same end-result. Protagonist tries not to get drunk; protagonist gets drunk; protagonist does something silly; audience laugh. I did appreciate the ‘Sherlock’ian element in that they attempted to solve a crime whilst drunk. But in short, I could have done without the whole segment – it was cringe-worthy.

However, there were some redeeming qualities to last night’s episode: I loved the courtroom scene. That was an excellent visual representation of how Sherlock’s mind works and I applaud the writers for coming up with these inventive ways of showing ‘his methods’. The cases themselves were very good, although I am a little doubtful as to how realistic the murder was. And again, visually, Sherlock is a beautiful programme: the incorporation of text and graphics into the scenes is done flawlessly and is so adult. I think that was my issue with last night’s episode: it didn’t know who (in terms of audience demographic) it was aiming for: you have the adultness in terms of style of programme and complexity, but then you have the childish side to it: getting drunk and getting into fights blah blah blah. In my opinion, Sherlock has two choices: either become the new ‘Doctor Who’ or recognise it is a more serious crime programme and continue in that manner. Don’t sit on the fence, it starts to hurt.

So in short, I’m somewhat underwhelmed with this episode especially considering it’s been in production for two years. Next week’s episode, however, looks like a return to the Sherlock that we know and love. Plus it’ll be the season finale so I’m hoping that Mr Gatiss is pulling something out of the bag.

If you agree with my review or perhaps disagree (or even if you’re completely ambivalent) let me know in the comments!

Sherlock continues next Sunday (12th) at 8:30pm on BBC One.

Tom.

sherlock3s

Guess who’s back…

Two years ago, practically everyone in the world was asking the same question – “How the hell could he do it?!” No, I’m not referring to Captain Francesco Schettino of the Costa Concordia, but rather a certain detective that graced our screens on BBC One. Yup, Sherlock Holmes and his faked death that had everyone on the Internet up in arms about how he managed to do it. There were fan theories flying around left, right and centre: people adamant that they’d worked it out, only to be discouraged by co-showrunner Steven Moffatt who kept teasing ‘There’s still something that everyone’s missed’.

But finally after two years of waiting for answers, last  night we finally got some… or did we?

N.B. For those of you who don’t know what a ‘review’ is – it’s where I look at the episode and comment on individual parts of it, so, if you haven’t seen the episode yet then don’t read this if you don’t want to know what happens – pretty self-explanatory, huh?

The episode opened on what I, and most people, thought was a stylish ‘Previously on Sherlock’ segment. However this went further – it started to explain how Sherlock faked his death. In terms of the pace of the show, it made sense – give the fans what they want and then you can get on with telling the story. And then Derren Brown appeared. I immediately imagined the entire Internet now cursing showrunners Moffatt and Mark Gatiss, demanding their heads on a plate for making the world wait two years only to have the answer be ‘Derren Brown helped him do it.’ But my fears quickly subsided when it turned out to be just someone’s theory on how Sherlock faked his death. The opening segment was very well done and I’m sure it had most people’s undivided attention as they waited expectantly for answers.

The main story arc of this episode was the terrorist plot on London that Sherlock has been drafted in to thwart. Coupled with the sub-plot of Sherlock’s return and how John deals with it, it made for a very good opening episode indeed. I especially enjoyed visualisations of fan theories as to how Sherlock faked his death – it became a running gag throughout the episode. However, by the time it came to Sherlock actually explaining his plan, I am still dubious as to whether he is telling the truth or not. As one can expect from an episode of Sherlock, visually it was beautiful: the ‘Sherlock is thinking’ scenes are done very well as the camera time-lapses through the streets of London; the incorporation of text into the scenes is done perfectly; the music and soundtrack is fantastic. Why, therefore, can’t the BBC transfer this beauty into some of their other programmes *cough* Doctor Who *cough*. Mark Gatiss – who wrote this episode of Sherlock – is a fantastic writer: he effortlessly blends humour, drama and intelligence into his scripts. Why can’t the BBC just make him the E.P. for Doctor Who? Sure, Moffatt has had a good run but we need someone to untangle his ‘timey-wimey’ mess that he’s made with the show. Or better yet, start with a clean slate – hopefully with the introduction of Peter Capaldi this is a likely scenario. Anyway, back to Sherlock.

Overall, it was a very good episode – achieving the standard we have come to expect from this programme. I’m still glad that the BBC haven’t gotten cocky and ‘fleshed out’ the show to have 12 or 13 episodes like most other programmes on the BBC. The rarity of the episodes feels as if the writers treasure each individual episode and it really does show. In short, I’m glad he’s back.

The next episode of Sherlock is on BBC One on Sunday 5th January at 9pm.

P.S. Oh, I totally tried that trick with the rubber ball – it worked!.

Tom.

I like Futurama. I like it a lot. In fact, I would even say I prefer it to The Simpsons (the newer episodes at least). For those of who who have been living under a rock, Futurama is by the same chap that created The Simpsons (Matt Groening) and it is a cartoon about a delivery boy who is cryogenically frozen until he wakes up in the year 3000. Then come the wacky shenanigans with a cyclops, a robot, an old professor, and whatever-the-heck Dr Zoidberg is.

What may be of interest to you is that some of the showrunners and writers of both Futurama and The Simpsons have a background in mathematics. There have been many many mathematical references or jokes embedded into The Simpsons, which might be the topic of another blog post – for more info, I recommend Simon Singh’s book ‘The Simpsons and their Mathematical Secrets’. No, today I’m going to be talking about one of the greatest pieces of mathematics embedded into a television programme that I have ever seen: The Futurama Theorem.

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The Futurama Theorem was invented by Ken Keeler one of the writers of the show who also happens to have a PhD in applied mathematics. It was created for the sole purpose of explaining a concept behind an episode of Futurama – think of it like the ultimate ‘deus ex machina’. Let me explain: in the Season 6 episode entitled ‘The Prisoner of Benda’, Professor Farnsworth and Amy Wong invent a mind-switching machine (this allows two people to switch minds). However, once two people have switched minds, they cannot switch back directly. So for most of the episode, both characters are trying to get back to their original bodies by switching minds with a whole host of other characters. Just when all hope is lost, the Professor comes up with a mathematical solution to their situation:

It’s so…beautiful…

What this proves, in not so many words, is that no matter how many mind switches between two bodies have been made, they can still all be restored to their original bodies using only two extra people, provided these two people have not had any mind switches already. Pretty cool, huh?

Now the truly amazing thing about this theorem is that it was made just so the writers could continue the story in a resolute manner: they didn’t want the classic cut to ’20 hours later’ and everything would be sorted. No, they got one of the writers to come up with an actual valid mathematical theorem (that had never been published before) as a way of concluding an episode. Ken Keeler, you fantastic S.O.B.!

For those of who who cannot ‘read’ maths and are interested in what the heck the formula states, here it is in English:

  • Step 1: Have everybody who’s messed up arrange themselves in circles, each facing the body their mind should land in (e.g., if Fry’s mind is in Zoidberg’s body, then the Zoidberg body should face the Fry body).
  • Step 2: Go get two “fresh” (as of yet never mind-swapped) people. Let’s call them Helper A and Helper B.
  • Step 3: Fix the circles one by one as follows:
  • 3.a) Start each time with Helper A and Helper B’s minds in either their own or each other’s bodies
  • 3.b) Pick any circle of messed-up people you like and unwrap it into a line with whoever you like at the front
  • 3.c) Swap the mind at the front of the line into Helper A’s body
  • 3.d) From back to front, have everybody in the line swap minds with Helper B’s body in turn. (This moves each mind in the line, apart from the front one, forward into the right body)
  • 3.e) Swap the mind in Helper A’s body back where it belongs, into the body at the back of the line. Now the circle/line has been completely fixed. The one side effect is that for each time a circle is fixed, the Helpers’ minds will switch places, but that’s OK, see below
  • Step 4: At the very end, after all the circles have been fixed, mind-swap the two Helpers if necessary (i.e., in case there was originally an odd number of messed-up circles)

So there you have it: if you ever find yourself in a mind-swapped mishap then you may have need of The Futurama Theorem. If not, then at least you can marvel at how freakin’ awesome it is!

Tom

N.B. I have been told that I need to make my posts more ‘accessible’ to the ‘hoi polloi’ of the Internet world. Therefore, starting from now, if I post something maths-y then I will make sure to include something that non-mathematicians can appreciate and enjoy.

So here’s a picture of a dog dressed as Spiderman: