A quibbling critic ought to pick the BBC’s Sherlock apart. Admirers of Arthur Conan Doyle would expect nothing less than a fanatical concentration on minute flaws, after all. “The little things are infinitely the most important,” says Holmes in A Case of Identity. His 21st-century successor accepted loose ends and unexplained solutions with a nonchalance the master would never have tolerated.
In the opening episode, a taxi-driver forced his victims to choose from two pills — one deadly, one safe. Holmes never explained why the victim always picked the fatal poison and the driver always swallowed the harmless pill. In the final programme, Moriarty set Holmes multiple challenges and storylines careered across the screen with dizzying speed. Holmes tried to save pensioners and children from being turned into human bombs, unmask an art fraud, stop an insurance swindle, find stolen government secrets and solve an old case of a murdered teenage swimmer. Television’s fear of allowing a plot the time to develop was on display once again. The action had to be relentless to stop the feckless viewer reaching for the remote.
Yet quibblers must learn to sit back and take in the show on occasion if we are not to turn into lawyers.