He can’t be Moriarty!

He can’t be Moriarty!

Debates with My Daughters

Nitin Pai is an unapologetic proponent of dad jokes@acorn

The Pai household is divided into those who watch stuff on the big flat screen and those who do not. The eight legs that constitute the Viewers Bloc consist of the three children and their mother. The six legs constituting the group that has better things to do with its time has me and Percival Wolfric Brian, our golden retriever. He is the moderate face of my faction, often spending time in the living room while the viewers binge-watch shows on Netflix. The extremist faction of our Bloc firmly believes that the best place to put the television is outside the window, especially from a high-rise apartment. The dinner table acts as the Security Council where the debates of this geopolitics are usually conducted.

“That’s Moriarty,” she said, pointing to a slick, clean-shaven young man in a suit.

I was shocked. “Moriarty? Him? The guy looks like an investment banker. He can’t be Moriarty!”

They started laughing. They told me it’s been three years since Sherlock had ended and that, indeed, was Moriarty. When Victor showed me a YouTube video of the said investment banker getting out of a helicopter with Apple earphones listening to Queen’s I want to break free, I thought the Brits had crossed a line. In fact, they’d entirely lost the plot. No wonder they got themselves into such a mess over Brexit. If you could turn the “Napoleon of crime” into a slick city suit, you will certainly make smaller mistakes.

The metaphorical man who’d been living in a cave woke up to see his family watch their favourite episodes of one of their favourite shows. I could get the reinvention of Holmes and Watson, now called “Sherlock” and “John” who send text messages, not telegrams, to each other. I understood that there had to be female characters and romantic interest. I even reluctantly adjusted to Mycroft becoming a main character. In fact, I enjoyed bits of the episodes that I saw in passing. But how could they do that to Moriarty?

I told the children that the real Professor Moriarty is a sinister, shadowy figure who appears in a couple of stories and is referred to in a few more. Sidney Paget depicts him in the December 1893 edition of The Strand Magazine as a thin, bald, brooding man, well into his fifties, emerging out of the darkness. Holmes describes him as “The greatest schemer of all time, the organiser of every devilry, the controlling brain of the underworld, a brain which might have made or marred the destiny of nations—that’s the man!” All in all, he is a villain whose malign influence is heightened because it is perceived indirectly.

The children countered that while that may be so, the new Moriarty was quite cool as well. I agreed. He was cool. The character he plays is brilliant. I quite like the I want to break free scene. But that cannot be Moriarty. That should not be Moriarty. You can’t completely change the character of the character. Airy pointed out that for a person who liked cover versions and remixes in music, it was inconsistent of me to oppose remixes of television characters.

I had to admit she was right. But having immersed myself in the pages of the facsimile edition of the Complete Sherlock Holmes for many of my childhood years, the brilliant novelty of Sherlock was too much for me. Perhaps this is what it means to be growing older — the familiar is suddenly changed, leaving you with a sense of loss, perhaps even of violation. If you try to fight it, you become a curmudgeonly old uncle or aunty. If you go along with it, you might even enjoy it. Better to accept reality.

Maybe the investment banker is not the evil professor, but his grandson.

(Nitin Pai is an unapologetic proponent of dad jokes  @acorn)

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