Serial commas, Moriarty, and another convert

Arika Okrent rounds up “The Best Shots Fired in the Oxford Comma Wars.”

It’s a nice reminder that the Oxford insistence on always including a serial comma can lead to absurdities just as easily as never including it can.

Comma police, arrest this man …

This creates a problem for fundamentalist partisans in the Oxford Comma Wars, but isn’t really a big deal for everyone else. Style books lean toward sweeping rules — they like to say “always” or “never.” But always will always get you in trouble eventually, and never will never keep you perfectly safe from ambiguity.

So use the Oxford comma in a sentence like “She took a photograph of her parents, the president, and the vice president,” because without it the sentence is ambiguous and potentially misleading. Enjoy a chuckle over “the strippers, JFK and Stalin,” but do so as a reminder of why a serial comma is needed in sentences like that one, not in all sentences, everywhere, because rule.

If you shove an Oxford comma into a simple list that doesn’t need one — “red, white, and blue” — the only thing you’re communicating to readers is that you have a rule and you’re going to follow it no matter what it does to the rhythm of a sentence.

Well, that, and that you should never be allowed to sing “Stars and Stripes Forever” or “Scarborough Fair.”

* * * * * * * * *

Dave Lartigue describes what has started to bug him about Sherlock and Elementary, and in so doing makes me realize that something bugs me about Sherlock and Elementary too. “I’d Prefer Less Moriarty,” he writes:

In the stories we don’t marvel at [Sherlock Holmes] stalking Jack the Ripper or D.B. Cooper or Dr. Moriarty, we look at him taking interest in an oddball case involving a dude “hired” to copy pages from a dictionary, or about a guy who gets orange seeds in the mail. These are the cases that interest Holmes, and then us as he uncovers the plots behind them.

Moriarty was no part of this until he was clumsily introduced in a story specifically to kill off Holmes. Suddenly this diabolus ex machina was wheeled in, awkwardly retconned as the man behind all the crime, and then dispatched. Never mentioned before, barely mentioned afterwards. Now he’s the third most important character in the Holmesiverse, and I don’t know how he got there.

The thing that bothers me about Moriarty, and especially when it came to Sherlock and now Elementary is that not only does he come in as the big bad, he also brings with him the old personal vendetta. He’s not The Napoleon of Crime, he’s The Guy Who Really Effin Hates Sherlock Holmes, and he doesn’t just do crimes, he has it in for Holmes specifically. Once he walks on stage, Holmes stops solving crimes and starts a deadly game of cat and mouse where this time it’s personal. What we tuned in to see is cast aside: we know who the bad guys is (Moriarty) and what the endgame is (defeat Holmes).

It also bugs me at this point because it turns the plot into exactly the kind of plot I hate, the one where the good guy and the bad guy just have a giant pissing contest around the city and usually a bunch of faceless innocent nobodies get caught in-between. I hate this story. I don’t like it when the hero is in a situation where, honestly, we’d be better off without him.

If I had to give a name to what he describes in that last paragraph, I think I’d call it The Joker Problem.

* * * * * * * * *

We have another convert. Sarah Bessey confesses:

I heard about it forever but I don’t like sci-fi or alien stuff. But I grabbed the first season (starting with the ninth doctor) and decided to give it a go. After the first episode, I thought it was a horrible show with cheap special effects. … All of a sudden, right around episode 9, I lost my mind and became completely addicted. I’ve blasted through Series 1 and I’m halfway through Series 2. I’m a converted New Whovian, drinking from a firehose.

One of us, gabba gabba. …

 

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  • Kadh2000

    Yea!! Whovians abound!

  • http://www.nicolejleboeuf.com/index.php Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little

    Probably not first by the time I finish writing.

    While I’m always pleased to hear others are jumping on the fan wagons I love, I confess myself bewildered by someone who would declare a show “horrible” from Ep 1 but stick around through Ep 9. If something about the ep intrigued me despite the horribleness, I might watch the 2nd and 3rd to see if the balance of intriguing to horribleness improved, but nine whole episodes? 9 eps times 45 minutes per episode while thinking “This is horrible” the whole way through? I’d be outta there, no matter what my FB friends were screaming.

    On the other hand, I don’t entirely understand “I know it sucks now, but stick with it ’cause it gets better” in the first place. What works for me is the advice, “Skip the first 8 episodes. They suck. Come back to them maybe after you’ve watched Ep 9 and gotten hooked.” It worked for me with Eureka, after all – my friends had me started at a point after Sheriff Carter stopped being quite so much of a chauvenist pig towards Alison Blake. I probably would have bailed otherwise, because my Gods was he annoying in the first handful of episodes.

  • Jim Roberts

    And the change, by the way, came from the actor, not the writers. He’s a pretty swell guy.

    I think the “This is horrible,” is just what your forebrain thinks about a show. It’s your kneejerk, gut reaction, but there’s a part of you that’s really, really enjoying what’s going on.  The trick is, that part of you is subliminal at first – you’re aware that you’re continuing to watch, but you’re not sure why, until that subliminal part becomes . . . liminal? Is that a word.

    My theory on it is that when you’re in this state, you’re enjoying the mythos, but not the action. You like the setup and the possibilities that the setup gives you, but you’re let down by the actual thing itself. Eventually, either to action improves, or your love for the setup overwhelms your dislike of the action.

  • Rae

    I’ll stick around for the first season (or half-season if it begins airing in the fall) if a show is “horrible” but has an interesting premise – many shows that have been brilliant when they hit their stride had really unimpressive first season. But I also have a really, really difficult time following what’s going on in almost any TV show without watching it from the beginning. 
    For example, I’m currently watching The Following. I’m not sure how I feel about it, but I’m curious to see where this goes because it’s a really, genuinely unique idea.

    Also, if you’re into the “so-bad-it’s-good” B-movie thing, there’s also the possibility that a show will develop into something so truly awful it’s hilarious and enjoyable. For example, last year’s TV show “The River”… the characters could not have made worse decisions if they had all been trying to die.(That said, with Doctor Who, it depends on your taste and your cultural awareness – most people I’ve converted had their “I love this show!” moment when they saw the “This was called an iPod” scene in the second episode)

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    For example, I’m currently watching The Following. I’m not sure how I feel about it, but I’m curious to see where this goes because it’s a really, genuinely unique idea.

    It strikes me as the flip side of the “Red John” plot thread in “The Mentalist”, another serial killer with a legion of minions turning up where you least expect them, except nobody knows who Red John is – he’s inspiring all this warped loyalty in person, which makes a lot more sense than someone we’re told (but not really shown) is so charismatic that he can inspire that from a maximum security prison cell.

  • fraser

     What baffles me is when having an arch-enemy became de rigeur for everyday detectives. Profiler, Women’s Murder Club, NCIS Rizzoli and Isles as well as Mentalist all involve having some sort of super-villain adversary to the good guys.  I find Moriarty much less annoying.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Simplifies the problem of ‘multi-episode arc’, I imagine.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    What baffles me is when having an arch-enemy became de rigeur for
    everyday detectives. Profiler, Women’s Murder Club, NCIS Rizzoli and
    Isles as well as Mentalist all involve having some sort of super-villain
    adversary to the good guys.  I find Moriarty much less annoying.

    Was Hoyt in Rizzoli & Isles really a “super-villain adversary,” though? He was a recurring bad guy who had established an interest in one of the heroes, but that was pretty much it, pretty much the opposite of, say, Red John from The Mentalist.

    That and the fact that (rot13) Wnar xvyyrq uvz va whfg uvf guveq nccrnenapr.

  • Nenya

    Hoyt in R&I bugged me for exactly that “arch-nemesis” reason, and I was SO relieved when Jane got her birthday present. Especially since he’d been so fucking skeevy and sexualizing of her in his creepitude. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

    Hoyt in R&I bugged me for exactly that “arch-nemesis” reason, and I was SO relieved when Jane got her birthday present. Especially since
    he’d been so fucking skeevy and sexualizing of her in his creepitude.

    Michael Massee excels at playing skeevy. I was also relieved because the show is so much better when the case of the week is just an excuse for the characters to bicker like the proverbial Old Married Couple.

  • Nenya

    Hoyt seriously made my skin crawl. Yarrghhh. *shudders*

    Jane and Maura, though–*totally* married, OMG. And Jane’s mother basically considers Maura an extra one of her kids. Alllll the lesbian subtext, hurray!

  • stardreamer42

    I had the same issue with Eureka. What kept me going was that I knew the friend who had given me the first season on DVD for Yule would NOT have liked or recommended it if it had stayed as bad as those first few episodes, and I was right. Carter really does start out looking like a Macho Sue, doesn’t he?

  • Ursula L

    While I’m always pleased to hear others are jumping on the fan wagons I love, I confess myself bewildered by someone who would declare a show “horrible” from Ep 1 but stick around through Ep 9. If something about the ep intrigued me despite the horribleness, I might watch the 2nd and 3rd to see if the balance of intriguing to horribleness improved, but nine whole episodes? 9 eps times 45 minutes per episode while thinking “This is horrible” the whole way through? I’d be outta there, no matter what my FB friends were screaming.

    Starting with S1E9 is exactly what I did.

    Tor.com, a few years ago, ran a series of essays about “Moffat’s women.”  I was fascinated.  And I sought out the stories in question (The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances, The Girl in the Fireplace, Blink, and Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead, about Nancy, Reinette, Sally Sparrow and River Song respectively.)  

    I was hooked, and went back and watched everything.

    The first eight episodes are, in no way, bad.  When I went back and watched from the beginning, I liked them.  But The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances are excellent and one could do much worse than to start there.  

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    I picked up Doctor Who right around the start of Matt Smith’s run.  I saw a few Tennant episodes here and there and maybe one Eccleston episode.  Last weekend I was sick, so I decided to watch Doctor Who on Netflix.  Between Friday at about 8 am and Saturday when I went to bed I watched, I think, 30 episodes.

  • dj_pomegranate

    I inhaled the Ninth and Tenth doctors–just loved them both– and now I
    am around the end of season 6 with Matt Smith and I just cannot keep my
    momentum up.  Eleven is so manic, and Amy is such a ham, and they keep
    starting sentences (and plot devices!) and not finishing them
    …watching Eleven just makes me tired.  Where before I could watch Who
    marathons, now I need long breaks between episodes. 

    When I bring this up, everyone says “No, I promise it gets better!  They’ll
    grow on you!” Plus, I feel an allegiance to it now, and, let’s be real, I
    will probably keep watching forever.

  • Magic_Cracker

    My enthusiasm for 11 has definitely flagged. How many times has Amy (or Rory) Pond died now? I’ve lost count and stopped caring. In general, I’m tired of Very Special Companions. Why isn’t it good enough any more for the Doctor encounter someone who is clever and adventurous and leave it at that, you know, like they did from, oh, 1963-2007? No, for some reason we have the Sassy-Girl-Who-Waited (and waited and waited and hey, did we mention that she’s the girl who waited? Yes? Too bad, we’re going to mention it again), Reverse-Backwards-Meet-Cute-Redux-Tredux-Quadux-Time-Paradox-Sassy-Love-Interest, and now, apparently, (spoilers) The Sassy-Lost-In-Time-Girl-Who-Cannot-(Permanently)-Die! /rant

  • dj_pomegranate

    Bwahaha!  Reverse-Backwards-Meet-Cute-Redux-Tredux-Quadux-Time-Paradox-Sassy-Love-Interest.   Right!?

    My other complaint is that Eleven is not very good at angst.  As mushy as they sometimes were, I really enjoyed Ten’s regular “Who am I and what am I doing!?” introspection where he actively struggled with fate and his role in, you know, war and unnecessary death and suffering.  Eleven often seems to be thinking, “Oh, it’s really sad that you all have to die…NEXT ADVENTURE!”

  • Magic_Cracker

    I agree re: angst. He also has this annoying habit of getting caught up by his own big, self-congratulatory speeches about how awesome he is and how he’s the “DOCK-TOR!” and how the villain doesn’t stand a chance, thereby giving the villain a chance.

  • stardreamer42

    Perhaps someone should give him a copy of the Rules for Evil Overlords.

  • fraser

     I was not a fan of 10–I enjoyed it, but Tennant doesn’t fascinate me the way he does most of my friends who are fans. Eccleston and Smith work better for me.

  • http://twitter.com/mikailborg Michael O’Brien

    That’s a feature, not a bug. Different Doctors have different personalities. If all Doctors from now on were Ten with different faces, that would be the end of the show.

    For my money, I was good and tired of Ten’s angst by “Waters of Mars”, which existed solely so Tennant could make as many mopey faces as possible in one episode.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     I’ll be honest. I did not like Matt Smith until ‘A Christmas Carol’ (In order. In retrospect, he comes into the character in The Big Bang, but if you’re watching in order, it’s not clear that it’s a real development of his character or just another momentary manic spasm until later)

    However, the Matt Smith era seems intent on just doing the same damned character arc over and over with the Doctor growing arrogant, having a fall that costs him dearly, then swearing off doing the whole ‘Premise of the show’ thing only to immediately change his mind and go back to the status quo.

  • Gloria

     I know the feeling.   Hopefully since they’re getting a new companion, or investigating one anyway, it’ll be less annoying….if that’s the word for it.

  • Ross Thompson

    I have to admit, I don’t like Sherlock‘s  version of Moriarty, regardless of whether or not he deserves to be included. Hopefully, now that they’ve gotten the Reichenbach Falls out of the way he’ll be a minor character at best.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     I wouldn’t count on it. As far as most people are concerned, Sherlock Holmes as a story is about Moriarty. It’ll turn out that he’s not really dead or that was never really him or there was some other even secreter moriarty behind him.

  • http://twitter.com/mikailborg Michael O’Brien

    I’m confused, because the Oxford comma in “red, white, and blue” seems perfectly natural and appropriate. Ah, well.

    My biggest problem with Moriarty in Moffat’s Sherlock is that he’s a coward and a bully. I have no respect for him, so I’m not invested in whether Sherlock can defeat him.

  • http://tobascodagama.com Tobasco da Gama

    I think the thing about “red, white, and blue” comes from idea that punctuation must be pronounced. So that it would be read as “red (beat) white (beat) and blue” if written with the Oxford comma but “red (beat) white and blue” without it. Hence the reference to songs whose scansions (supposedly) get screwed up by the Oxford comma.

    Of course, nobody I’ve ever heard of insists on explicitly pronouncing punctuation in this way, so it’s a pretty silly argument.

  • Baby_Raptor

    So you’ve never met anyone named La-A? (It’s pronounced LaDashA.)

  • spinetingler

     “Of course, nobody I’ve ever heard of insists on explicitly pronouncing punctuation in this way”

    Victor Borge

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    If I were to start watching Dr. Who, should I and could I indeed skip the first 8  episodes and still have things makes sense?  Because I agree, I really don’t feel like spending 6 hours of my life waiting for something to get good.

    (I’ve sometimes thought that if nothing else I should watch “Blink” so I understand my Facebook feed, but I’m not sure if that would make sense without watching the previous episodes, either.)

  • http://twitter.com/mikailborg Michael O’Brien

    B said: “If I were to start watching Dr. Who, should I and could I indeed skip the first 8  episodes and still have things makes sense?  Because I agree, I really don’t feel like spending 6 hours of my life waiting for something to get good.”

    “Blink” makes perfect sense standing alone. There’s nothing important to know about Who that the script doesn’t tell you.
    The stand-out episodes of Who’s first (new) season are episode six: “Dalek”, and the two-parter episode nine and ten, “The Empty Child” and “The Doctor Dances”. If you watch those four episodes, I think it will tell you whether you have an interest in watching any more.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    Thanks!  I think Netflix has Dr. Who streaming, I’ll check those out.

  • Random_Lurker

     And for the love of all that is Wholy, do NOT watch “The Idiot’s Lantern.”  Ever.  Unless you want to know how low Who can sink.  Which can be amusing, actually.

    Who is amazing because it’s so free-form, which allows for amazing bursts of creativity and genius.  Unfortunately, it also allows for detestable bouts of pure schlock, so be prepared for both in equal measure and be willing to laugh a bit :P

  • Turcano

    That’s not how you spell “Fear Her.”

  • http://stealingcommas.blogspot.com/ chris the cynic

    Blink would make perfect sense without seeing anything else.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    I’ll second the “try-out episodes” of “Dalek”, “The Empty Child”, and “The Doctor Dances”.

    “The Girl in the Fireplace”, “Gridlock”, and “Blink” are strong standalone episodes as well. 

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    “red, white, and blue” seems fine to me, as well. Which perhaps just marks me as someone in the grip of a pernicious ideology. (shrug)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    As an aside, I do enjoy the storylines that the more serial nature of TV shows today make possible, but it actually discourages me from watching said TV shows.  With a movie I’m in for 1.5-3.5 hours, starting a TV show is much larger commitment.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_FRDTPMBW7IBKWIU3763AI6FYOM Steve

    @B  “it actually discourages me from watching said TV shows.”

    This.

    Every single series now seems to be what would have been referred to in my youth as a soap opera:  A continuing story that never ends.
    I have certainly watched some of these shows.  They are very good; well crafted and involving.
    But I don’t have the energy. 
    I want there to be a conclusion; an arc that goes somewhere; closure.
    Much as I enjoyed, for instance, teh first few episodes of ‘Game of Thrones’, I simply couldn’t bear the thought of watching it in bits and pieces essentially forever and never getting anywhere on the narrative treadmill.
    I own the box sets of HBO’s ‘Rome’, one of the orginators of this trend and love the show, but I can’t watch it unless I have a whole day to commit to it.
    And only because it does sort of end.

    YMMV.  Not judging, just speaking for me.
    I’ll take a movie any day.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

     That’s actually one reason the first DVD of Game of Thrones from Netflix sat on top of my TV for months untouched.  I just don’t have the energy.  ROME at least was only two seasons long (and IMO only the first one was really good).

  • Carstonio

    As a huge Holmes fan, I agree that Moriarty is a superfluous afterthought. But I wouldn’t label this the Joker Problem. The best examples of the character use him as an effective contrast to Batman, and my personal favorite is Alan Moore’s harrowing Killing Joke. Similarly, the tycoon version of Lex Luthor is perhaps the perfect villain for Superman. Just as Clark represents power used to inspire and to serve the common good, Lex represents power used to exploit and to serve only himself, aiding others only when it benefits him to do so. Doyle never gave Holmes an opponent with a long shelf life, and it’s disappointing that both modern TV series haven’t thought about what type of villain would contrast Holmes most.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    But I wouldn’t label this the Joker Problem.

    FWIW, my understanding of “the Joker Problem” here is the problem of telling an ongoing story where the villain’s primary reason for existing within the fictional universe is to challenge the hero.

    Of course, we all understand that in the real world the primary reason for writing  a villain in the first place is to challenge the hero. But when that motivation slips into the fictional universe itself, rather than the villain having motives independent of the hero that the hero then thwarts, it creates the unfortunate implication that if the hero weren’t there, the villain wouldn’t be either. That if Batman didn’t exist, the Joker wouldn’t be killing anyone in the first place, and therefore all the Joker’s victims are in some sense the consequence of Batman’s existence. Which can be troubling.

    That said, I realize that you are looking at it from the POV of villain-as-narrative-tool, rather than what-would-the-implications-be-if-there-were-real-people-involved, which is also a perfectly legitimate stance.

  • Carstonio

    When a story defines a villain as solely a challenge for a hero, it can be not only troubling but also limiting. I think of Batman/Joker and Clark/Lex as yin-yang dualities. Fans often say that Batman doesn’t represent order in contrast to the Joker’s madness, but instead a different type of madness, and in paraphrasing this I apologize for the slight to people afflicted with mental illness. Well-crafted heroes and villains can together evoke complementary or opposing aspects of the human personality.

  • fraser

    Well Sherlock’s idea of Moriarty as “consulting criminal” works for me. And Elementary really hasn’t (so far) used him too much for my taste–he’s solving other crimes, and his obsession has seriously hurt his relationship with Gregson.
    Of course, this isn’t unique to Holmes. Thoth-Amon was a minor background character in the Conan books but he got elevated to Big Bad in most later versions. And SPECTRE was never as big in the Bond novels as it is in the films.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    IIRC, the Bond films couldn’t use SPECTRE after the Thunderball flap. They get built up as this big bad in the Connery films and just sort of disappear, save for an inexplicable trip down a chimney in Moonraker, no?

  • fraser

     Correct.  Which is why Blofeld isn’t identified as Blofeld in Moonraker. Of course, he’d taken out Blofeld in Diamonds Are Forever, so that works pretty well as the endgame.

  • flat

    I like the idea that the main hero and villain are stronger than the people who are allied with them.

  • Magic_Cracker

    I felt that Holmes’s deduction of a single invisible spider at the center of England’s criminal web was a case of Tell, Don’t Show. Holmes just tells use he’s deduced the fact, but it’s one of the few cases where he doesn’t explain the deduction, step-by-step. Just what was Moriarty doing (wrong) that allowed Holmes to find a connect among , say, Whitechapel whores, Highland poachers, and Red-Headed Leagues? And why was he micromanaging the crimes rather than letting his the corrupt machine he’d created siphon off his cut from others’ enterprises?

    Also, how is it Moriarty come to be in a position to offer protection (from the police as well as rivals, I assume) for most of England’s criminal enterprises (I believe that was was the service he provided to justify his cut). Rogue police/government agent/official? Natural-born criminal mastermind who worked/wormed his way up through the underworld? Charismatic interloper who created a devoted criminal following? 

    So yeah, he smacks of Plot Device in his creation. As to why he’s being the third most important character in the Holmesiverse, perhaps it’s because those unanswered questions are just too enticing to leave alone.

  • Carstonio

    As to why he’s being the third most important character in the
    Holmesiverse, perhaps it’s because those unanswered questions are just
    too enticing to leave alone.

    That’s probably part of it. The other part may be the very long tradition of heroes and villains in fiction, compared with other traditions such as the hero against hirself.

  • Chris

    I personally like how Sherlock handled Moriarty, both in not making him a professor (which wouldn’t have fit with the show’s style) and not making him central to the plot of most episodes. He was big in both season finales, and had a minor role in episode 1 of the second season, but other than that Sherlock does what Sherlock does without the “looming specter” in the background. He is mentioned once, almost in passing, outside the episodes in which he appears.

    I think this has to do with the fact that the writers of the show have actually read the stories that the episodes are based upon. In the behind the scenes you get to see how much the creators of the show actually admire the source material and wanted to put their spin on it. Most of what they do is “paying homage” or plagiarizing depending how you look at it.

    I haven’t watched Elementary but I haven’t heard too many good things about it. I probably haven’t tuned in because “Elementary” is in “Elementary my dear Watson”, a phrase Sherlock has never said, and it bugs me when people say it.

  • http://jamoche.dreamwidth.org/ Jamoche

    I also like that in Sherlock we didn’t get the name Moriarty immediately. We had a villain and then we learned who he was. Elementary has it backwards; we got the name first so now we know what’s going to happen.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

    >  Elementary has it backwards; we got the name first so now we know what’s going to happen.

    In a show with characters called “Sherlock Holmes” and “Watson”, that seems appropriate.

  • Magic_Cracker

    In a show with characters called “Sherlock Holmes” and “Watson”, that seems appropriate.

    And inevitable.

  • stardreamer42

    Except that we got the name Moriarty at the end of the very first Sherlock episode, which might not be “immediately” but is close enough for jazz.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    I think I read somewhere — I’m not sure where — that they initially HADN’T said anything about Moriarty at the end of first Sherlock episode but the test audiences were all, “Wait?  Where’s Moriarty?”  So for good or ill, it’s apparently basically expected at this point.

  • Launcifer

    What’s quite strange for me, reading that, is that the exact moment when I went from finding the show to be an enjoyable update of the source material to swearing at the television screen and wanting to melt things with my mind was the precise moment that Moriarty made his first proper appearance (third episode?) in Sherlock.  I actually feel rather bad about that because, although I’ve often had such a reaction to writing I dislike for whatever reason, I’ve never had such an immediate and visceral negative reaction to an actor either before or since.

  • stardreamer42

    I think you’re right. I’ve seen the original (un-aired) pilot, and IIRC Moriarty’s name is not mentioned in it — the only motivation the murderer seems to have in that version is “because I can“. In that version, he comes across as a total sociopath; I prefer the aired version because it gives him and his actions a human motivation. But that’s also where Moriarty comes in.

  • Magic_Cracker

    I haven’t watched Elementary but I haven’t heard too many good things about it. I probably haven’t tuned in because “Elementary” is in “Elementary my dear Watson”, a phrase Sherlock has never said, and it bugs me when people say it.

    Ms. Cracker and I both prefer Elementary to Sherlock. We find Sherlock to be pretentious and vapid, while Elementary is merely vapid, plus it has better, cleverer mysteries week-to-week. Also, I like Elementary‘s Watson more. She’s actually integral to solving several of the mysteries (because doctors are not dummies), whereas Sherlock‘s Watson is mostly there to be an Eyewitness to Genius.

    Anyway, I don’t think there’s any way to bring Sherlock Holmes into the modern day without shitting on the source material a little, but Moffat’s Sherlock demands that we pretend it’s chocolate mousse.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Elementary definitely has the better Watson, but the pacing is just too frenetic for me.  And I find Elementary’s Sherlock to be too empathetic — in Sherlock, you can really believe that Holmes acts the way he does because he’s got some cognitive limitation that keeps him from knowing better than to treat people like that. In Elementary, there’s quite a lot of moments that reveal that Holmes is entirely capable of empathy and just chooses to be a douchebag.  It’s like the difference between someone with asperger’s and an asshole on the internet who claims to be an undiagnosed aspie to excuse his being a jerk.

  • Magic_Cracker

    It is interesting to see how Sherlock and Elementary grapple with the source material’s portrayal of Holmes. My read on 1.0 is that he is quite empathetic — he’s quite interested in the well-being of his clients and is outraged by any injustice done to them — but he’s also a Victorian and the source material is Victorian, so it doesn’t show empathy in ways we readily recognize these days.  Somehow, that gets translated into the Aspergers or asshole? trope we see in modern incarnations (including  Dr. House). I think Gil Grissom from Original Recipe CSI comes closest to the source material — he’s empathetic but focused, and in fact, it’s his empathy that fuels his focus at the same time his focus makes it appear as if he lacks empathy.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    My read on 1.0 is that he is quite empathetic — he’s quite interested in the well-being of his clients and is outraged by any injustice done to them — but he’s also a Victorian and the source material is Victorian, so it doesn’t show empathy in ways we readily recognize these days.

    The thing is, Conan Doyle had based Holmes on a professor of his — Dr. Joseph Bell.  According to a documentary I saw some years ago, Bell used scientific knowledge to help solve a murder which the police would have otherwise written off as accidental death.  He knew that Conan Doyle had used him as inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, and while this was a source of some pride for him, he was concerned that people would think that he was as cold-hearted as Holmes.

  • fraser

     That was one criticism of Jeremy Brett’s portrayal I read–precisely because he portrays Holmes accurately, he comes off to cold and unpleasant, whereas the stories have Watson to explain Holmes is a better man than he may appear (I love Brett myself).

  • Carstonio

     The stories show Holmes through Watson’s eyes, and I suspect that the literary device is difficult to recreate on the screen. Most products focus on Holmes to the exclusion of Watson, who became a bumbler in the Rathbone and Bruce film series. Sherlock shows the two as more of a team, with Watson almost speaking for the audience with his frustrations at Holmes’ quirks. (I chuckled when I found out that Freeman and Cumberbatch will be reunited as Bilbo and Smaug.)

    I haven’t seen the Robert Downey portrayals, because everything I’ve read suggests that they’re period action movies.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    The Downey/Law movies were a great deal of fun, but not exactly Holmes.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    To me, Holmes and Watson will always be Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke.

  • Isabel C.

    This.

    I was re-reading some of the stories the other day, and Holmes does, in the context of Victorian manhood, get pretty emotional: he threatens to horsewhip the villain of one piece, he clearly worries about and is fond of Watson, he actually spends a lot of time brooding about human nature and injustice and so forth. He’s occasionally pretty blunt in the declarative speeches, he’s not romantic, and there is the whole drug addict/monomaniac thing going on, but he appears to get human emotion as much as the next late-19th-century guy. 

  • LL

    Eh, I like both of them well enough. For different reasons. Which makes sense because they’re both quite different. I kinda like Watson being a lady. And Jonny Lee Miller is interesting to watch. As is Benedict Cumberbatch. 

  • fraser

    There’s other ways that keep the original material. Return of the World’s Greatest Detective in the 1970s has Larry Hagman believe he’s Holmes in the present day; 1994 Baker Street was the better of two movies that thaws Holmes out of suspended animation (plus Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century of course).

  • http://www.facebook.com/swbaxter13 Scott Baxter

    I haven’t watched Elementary but I haven’t heard too many good things about it. I probably haven’t tuned in because “Elementary” is in “Elementary my dear Watson”, a phrase Sherlock has never said, and it bugs me when people say it.

    Holmes has said it many times. You probably mean that Doyle didn’t write it, which is true for that particular phrase, but Doyle did write Holmes saying “Elementary” in response to one of Watson’s exclamations, for example in “The Crooked Man.” So it seems to me a perfectly cromulent title.

    For me, Sherlock and Elementary both have strong and weak points, and they’re somewhat complementary. The big advantage I’d say Elementary has over Sherlock is that Elementary does a better job of portraying Holmes as the smartest guy in the room while preserving the basic competence of Watson and the police. In Sherlock, the mysteries Holmes solves are usually fairly obvious, but Holmes is portrayed as the only one with any clue what’s going on. In Elementary, the mysteries are bit more convoluted, and generally it’s clear the police would eventually figure it out, Holmes just gets there more quickly.

  • Carstonio

    Even though Jonny Lee Miller is English, do any UK fans feel like the US is appropriating one of their cultural icons? Taking ideas from British television is a tradition here – Till Death Do Us Part, Steptoe and Son, The Office.

  • fraser

     However, he did use the word elementary more than once, so it fits. It’s not up to Sherlock but I like it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=9700052 Joseph Parmalee

    While I agree that use of the serial comma ought to be determined by context, I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make by bringing up Scarborough Fair. As far as I can tell, the commas are there between the relevant spices but don’t change the rhythm of the song noticeably. Also, Wikipedia seems to render it “Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.”

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/KFUKAWBDAYTHSSEK266OWG5FNA Brian

    The Oxford comma debate is just silly because commas should be avoided for parenthetical information.  “A picture of her parents, the president and vice president” clearly includes four people and “A picture of her parents–the president and vice president” clearly includes two.

  • http://profiles.google.com/cappadocius Ian Cunningham

     A picture of her parents, the president, and vice president can be three individual pictures in total.

  • Gorgias

    What people often overlook is the fact that even in Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories about Holmes, Moriarty was a mere plot convenience.  Doyle invented him because he wanted to kill Sherlock off (mainly because he was sick of being famous only for the Sherlock Holmes series), and he needed some kind of ultimate criminal mastermind to be the one to bring it about rather than comparatively petty thieves or common murderers who happened to stumble onto a brilliant way of committing their crimes.  Hence Moriarty, this “big bad” who’s suddenly exists and is apparently the “Napoleon of Crime.” (“Napoleon of Crime?”  Really?  Why do I get the feeling that if Doyle wrote his books today, he would call Moriarty the “Hitler of Crime” or the “Bin Ladin of evildoer-ness?”)

    Point is, any depiction of Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes adaptations, both period and modern, are putting more effort into defining the character than Doyle, who literally intended Moriarty to be a franchise-killer.  And Moriarty couldn’t even get that job done!

  • Magic_Cracker

    I think the “Napoleon of Crime” refers to Napoleon’s genius as a general, not a politician, so even though the “Hitler of Crime” doesn’t work for me. For all the advances in military technology in the 20th century, I’m not sure there’s a single general  in the 20th or 21st century (so far) who had as much a revolutionary impact on how wars are fought as Napoleon had in his day. Vo Nguyen Giap maybe?

  • Magic_Cracker

    Blergh. Needs me some editing.

  • http://profiles.google.com/marc.k.mielke Marc Mielke

    I would think a pretentious genius such as Holmes would be all about making allusions nobody else gets, so “The Vo Nguyen Giap of crime” would be perfect. Especially followed by a withering stare as if you should have gotten it…you idiot. 

  • Carstonio

    Holmes prefers to impress clients with a sense of his deductive powers, and has little interest in knowledge that has no practical use for his profession. He probably wouldn’t know about Vietnamese generals unless they were involved in crimes. I liked how Sherlock reversed the Rache/Rachel concept from the original Study in Scarlet.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    He probably wouldn’t know about Vietnamese generals unless they were involved in crimes.

    Unless a serial killer turned out to be basing his murders on the history of some obscure Vietnamese general, at which point he would turn out to retroactively have studied obscure Vietnamese military history.

  • Magic_Cracker

    I absolutely think Modern Holmes would be interested in any general who operated espionage and smuggling networks on the scale the Vietnamese did and who trained and maintained a guerrilla army AND a conventional army, all of this through not one, but two hot wars, defeating two world powers (back-to-back World War Champs, no less) one after the other, while courting the aid of, but maintaining independence from, two other world powers (also World War Champs) who were desperate to extend their spheres of influence.

    That Giap doesn’t happen hold the same place in military history in the West that Napoleon holds speaks more to our ethnocentrism and sore-loserism than to his not being an person of interest to Holmes.

  • Carstonio

    While I would have assumed that your description applied to Ho Chi Minh, having never heard of Giáp until today, you have an excellent point. I had lumped the general into the Politics category, which Watson says in Study in Scarlet is an area where Holmes’ knowledge is feeble. But the detective did understand the political implications of the Second Stain case.

  • fraser

     That was his original statement to Watson–that he was only interested in relevant data–but the subsequent stories show his knowledge is encyclopedic indeed, and not on relevant subjects. Most probably he was amusing himself at Watson’s expense (“Copernican theory? Why no, I’ve no idea what that is.”)

  • http://profiles.google.com/cappadocius Ian Cunningham

    *sigh* As a First Doctor fan, it makes me a little sad that there are so many people who not only have only seen Doctors Nine through Eleven, but are ONLY INTERESTED in those Doctors.

  • Magic_Cracker

    As a Second Doctor fan, I feel your pain.

  • LC

     As a 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th (especially 5th), and 7th Doctor fan, so do I.

  • vsm

    What’s wrong with the sixth?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    The sixth doctor starts his tenure by trying to strangle a woman to death with his bare hands. And not an evil woman or anything: his sidekick.

    Colin Baker is as it turns out a perfectly competent actor who could have played a perfectly fine Doctor. But instead, the production team decided to produce highly distilled “Everything that has gone wrong with this show” for two years. (It’s seriously not without its occasional nice bits, but even those are tainted by a sort of ugly rot at the core of the show)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

     I confess, I dated a guy in grad school who was a big Dr. Who fan and the first episode he showed me was First Doctor episode — and pretty much put me off the whole Dr. Who thing.  “Wait, you mean the guy who abandoned his own granddaughter in a dis-utopian future because he’d decided FOR her that she should stay with the man she loved is the GOOD guy?  I’ll pass, thanks.”  I’m sure it’s not representative of the older series as a whole but I’m thinking it probably wasn’t the best episode he could have picked to introduce a liberal feminist to Dr. Who. :-)

    Actually, besides the fact I’m now one of the few people on my FB feed who don’t watch it, the fact that I *do* like Sherlock is one of the reasons I would think about watching Dr. Who, since I gather there’s at least one person who’s heavily involved with both series?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Well…. “Companions are unceremoniously dropped in whatever situation they happened to be in at the time when the production team decides it’s not working out with this character” is indeed representative of the older series as a whole. Susan’s replacement just up and decides to change her name to Cressida and marry Troilus as they flee the sack of Troy. And the next one, um. Just sort of decides to go home halfway through the story.

    But it’s a mistake to try to read the Doctor of this era as “The Good Guy”.  In this era, the Doctor isn’t a hero yet; that happens later. The Dalek Invasion of Earth is pretty much the exact moment that the Doctor *starts* to turn into the hero of the story.

  • fraser

     On the other hand, Barbara comes off remarkably competent and independent, for example bluffing the Daleks about the Earth resistance after she’s captured.
    Dalek Invasion of Earth has an extra soft spot for me because it mentions my home town in England, which is incredibly small and obscure.

  • Aeanagwen

     I was pulled into Doctor Who briefly by my boyfriend’s mother, but I couldn’t forgive the show/the Doctor/Moffat for what they did to Donna Noble, by leaps and bounds my favorite character.  Both as someone who liked her character and as a feminist, it left a completely wretched taste in my mouth.  (The Doctor’s continuing incarnation as a white dude just compounds this, really.)

    As far as Elementary vs. Sherlock goes, I haven’t actually seen more than one episode of Sherlock (the Moriarty intro, as it happens), but I must confess I watch Elementary because a) Lucy Liu is boss, b) subverting traditionally male dynamics by putting awesome ladies in them is boss, and c) the impotent fury of misogynist slash fans on tumblr is hilarious.  It is, sadly, not a very noble impulse, but one that entertains me all the same.

  • Diona the Lurker

    Moffat wasn’t responsible for what happened to Donna – Russell T Davies was the executive producer on the Tenth Doctor episodes, and it was he who decided what would happen to her (and wrote her final episodes as well). Nothing to do with Moffat at all.

  • Diona the Lurker

    As someone who’s a big Classic Who fan, and first got interested in it decades before New Who, I feel the same. I have to also admit that I like the Eleventh Doctor stories much more that the Ninth-Tenth ones. Moffat Who feels much more like the classic series. For that matter, Eleventh Doctor is so much more like the classic Doctors. Plus he’s kind and lovely, but an edge that reminds me of my beloved Seventh Doctor. No, he’s not good at angst, but as someone who rather despises angst, I find that a plus, not a minus. (Angst isn’t entirely absent from the classic series, but it’s presence is mostly severely muted, and I like it that way).

  • Nenya

    Hey, if there’s ever an easy (read: not $40 a pop for a VHS version without subtitles) way to get *ahold* of the pre-Eight Doctors, I’ll be there in an instant. Don’t blame me for my lack of access/accessibility, eh. (I suspect quite a lot of the Nine/Ten/Eleven-only fans would be a lot more interested in the earlier ones if they were as easy to get one’s hands on as the current stuff is.) 

  • vsm

    There’s always BitTorrent.

  • Nenya

    There is always BitTorrent, to which I’ve few moral objections (none that stop me, anyway), but I can’t seem to find subtitles online. Alas. :( 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Between subtitleseeker and addic7ed I usually manage to snag subs for things <_<

  • Nenya

    *blinks* *checks addic7ed.com* Dude! It has things for “Doctor Who (1963)”! Lots of them! :D

    Thank you! :D

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Also there *are* DVD collections available. I saw a picture of someone’s bookshelf just PACKED with every last DW episode they could get their mitts on. Netflix, perhaps? (^_^)

  • http://willbikeforchange.wordpress.com/ storiteller

     A lot, albeit not all, of the old episodes are on Netflix Instant now.  Almost all of them are on Netflix through the mail.  The Netflix Instant ones have been on there for a while, but they were labeled really weirdly, so they were hard to find.  Now they are all labeled “New Who.”

    As for Old Who episodes to check out, here are some of my favorites (all from Netflix Instant):
    – 2nd Doctor: The Mind Robber
    – 4th Doctor: The Ark in Space; The Horror of Fang Rock; City of Death
    – 7th Doctor: The Curse of Fenric

    Also, for those who are interested in the cultural and social implications of Doctor Who, TARDIS Erudorium is an awesome blog: http://tardiseruditorum.blogspot.com/

  • Diona the Lurker

    Being severely deaf myself and unable to watch things without subtitles, I sympathise.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    Being also hearing impaired and loving subs, the one thing I’d love to vote for is more comprehensive recaptioning of older movies, especially more obscure ones. I have a Sherlock Holmes collection from the set produced in the 1930s and 1940s and they’re basically unwatchable because I can’t understand the thick English accents AND there are no closed captions.

    Also, what really gets on my tits is when there are oodles of non English subs for a movie and no English subs. What, do they think people who hear English are all 100% possessed of crystal-clear hearing?

  • Nenya

    Also, what really gets on my tits is when there are oodles of non English subs for a movie and no English subs. What, do they think people who hear English are all 100% possessed of crystal-clear hearing?

    Oh, God, yes, this. I don’t begrudge speakers of other languages their subtitles–God knows I’ve watched enough foreign movies subtitled in English–but it’s like whoever makes the subs has a complete blank in their minds sometimes on the issue of using subs for reasons other than not speaking the language. 

    See also, special features on DVDs not being subtitled even when the main movie is. My girlfriend’s watching the new Sinbad show right now, and we’re all, “We have to watch the special features even though they are very silly, because they have subs, oh frabjous day!” 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    See also, special features on DVDs not being subtitled even when the main movie is.

    OMFG instant angrycakes. (>_<)

  • Makhno

    Sometimes also in a different language. I bought Chimes at Midnight back when the only DVD available was the Spanish one – an English-language movie, with a variety of available subs, but all the bonuses were in unsubbed Spanish.

  • Diona the Lurker

    Yes, older movies without subtitling are really annoying. It doesn’t seem to occur to people that if a DVD carries subtitles, it’s more likely to be sold. I can’t understand what’s on screen without the subtitles, so I won’t be buying a DVD if it doesn’t carry them.

  • Nenya

    Same here–if it doesn’t have subs, it doesn’t get watched. Though the advent of subtitle sites on the Internet has absolutely revolutionized my movie-watching. The first time I realized that I could make words happen on my screen even if the version I had didn’t come with subs, if another version did and had been uploaded–that was a landmark day in my life. Joy and relief!

    High-fives to all the other hearing-impaired folk on this thread, btw. You all Get It. <3

  • walden

    Please — the Fourth Doctor is the one true doctor.

  • Magic_Cracker

    I won’t get into who the One True Doctor is, but I will note that Fourth Doctor is kind of a jerk. I’m not judging, mind you, just noticing.

  • walden

     “kind of a jerk”
    Actually, most of them fit this description — which is why it is always a mistake for companions to become attached to any of them….

  • Diona the Lurker

    You know, the idea that the Doctor is a jerk is one that annoys me. More precisely, I agree that the Doctor’s a jerk – but he’s far from being just a jerk. He genuinely cares about other people, and that includes his companions; he’s mostly friendly towards and concerned about other people. In fact, he’s someone who likes and cares about people in general. Yes, he has a dark, selfish side that battles against this, but when push comes to shove, the caring wins out – in the Classic Series at least.
     
    And this is what I didn’t like about the Tenth Doctor stories – his concern for other people seemed very superficial. Yes, he’d get outraged when people were treated badly, but it never seemed entirely genuine, especially considering how badly he treated people himself. I was able to view this as a plot point – that the Time War had damaged him so much that he was no longer the person he’d been in the classic series, and was trying, with variable success, to go back to being that man. Except that he never really became that man. And that’s why I never really liked him. In the end, no matter how much he tried, he was never much more than a jerk. And I find it hard to love a Doctor who is just, and no more than, a jerk.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     I tend to think of the Tenth Doctor as “The man who loved the universe,” but only in the abstract. Whenever he tried to love it on a more personal level, it all went horribly wrong. I think that’s meant to be the the big turnaround with the eleventh Doctor, that he loves the universe in a much more personal way than his predecessor.

  • Diona the Lurker

    Yes, I agree, which is part of the reason I think Eleven is more like the classic Doctors, who did have that personal connection to the universe. I would have like Ten more if he’d slowly been made to reconnect again to the universe on that level, but it never happened.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    I would have like Ten more if he’d slowly been made to reconnect again to the universe on that level, but it never happened.

    Ten’s arc was almost the exact opposite of that. From the moment he regenerates, he’s moved firmly into being thoroughly smitten with Rose, then he loses her, and every attempt he makes to connect on a personal level with someone ends up with someone’s life in shambles and the Doctor retreating into “Lonely God” mode. And thus, the final and thematically appropriate ending for his character is that he saves first the Earth, then the Multiverse, then Physical Existence itself, and he gets away with it. But the thing that ultimately kills him is saving *one man* who is emphatically *no more or less important than any other ordinary man*. And his “reward” is that he gets a chance to go back and see the *specific individual people* who have cared about him.

    (This is one of those emergent recurring themes in Doctor Who, as it turns out. The First Doctor, whose approach was to try to run away from trouble and failing that, to try to reason with the bad guys and talk them into compromising, dies because of his encounter with Mondas and the Cybermen, who, importantly, *make a better logical and moral argument* for their way of life — and he emerges as a man who believes that there are things in this universe that must be fought. The second Doctor is an inveterate anarchist who shows up, smashes existing social structures, then leaves, and he dies because he ends up in a scenario where, having smashed down the villains’ plot, he can’t just walk away and leave thousands of abducted humans on an alien planet — and he comes out of it as a man who is willing to work for the military and stay in one place where he’ll have to deal with the consequences of his actions. Later, the fourth Doctor, who basically made the show work for seven years largely through the sheer dominating force of his personality, gets saddled with a companion set that is, essentially, a bunch of distracting children, and the man who basically stole every scene he was in gets destroyed by the only thing that could stop the man: the impending heat-death of the universe. He emerges as an unassuming, unintimidating, “smaller” sort of man, and he doesn’t die from some bold and brave adventure — he spends four episodes dying from something small that happens back in episode one. And likewise, the seventh Doctor, the master manipulator, gets randomly shot because he happend to randomly crash in the wrong alley.)

  • Diona the Lurker

    Hmm… I see your point, and I agree with it in theory, but in practice… well, I just wasn’t very impressed with Ten’s behaviour in regard to Wilf. I really can’t see any other Doctor refusing to die to save someone like that, and throwing a hissy fit over it to boot. Yes, Ten won his internal battle and sacrificed himself, but his behaviour before that was so appalling for me that it didn’t really change my opinion of him. And his seeing all his past companions -both those from New Who and the classic series – seemed a symptom of his weird, mistaken belief that he’d somehow no longer be him when he regenerated. I suppose that, when it came down to it, he just didn’t seem any more sincere in his change of heart than he had in most of his previous behaviour. In fairness to him, Eleven’s behaviour does suggest that he learned his lesson, but I’m left with the feeling that if Ten had found a way to save himself without regenerating after saving Wilf, he would have reverted back to his bad habits very quickly.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     I’m one of the few people who really liked the way Ten went out. The last thing in the world I wanted to see was another “The Doctor nobly sacrifices himself, with a stiff upper lip in true british tradition, because after all it’s not like he’s a real person, not even a real fictional person, he’s just a custodian of a role that will continue after this actor regenerates.”  FOr me, it was exactly perfect — the thing that I’d been wanting to see for DECADES — that when his time came, he faced it like a real person who was really facing real death. Not “Oh, I’ll just change,” but “Everything that makes me me, everything that makes up my sense of self is going to die, painfully and while a man will walk away from this calling himself “The Doctor”, that man won’t be ME anymore.” 

    There is never any doubt that he’s going to sacrifice himself to save Wilf. Not for a second, and that’s not the point. The point is that, even though he’s going to do it, he’s still *pissed* because he’s going to *die*.

    And at the very end, his last words aren’t some uplifting speech about life going on, or some noble sentiment about his brave and bold self-sacrifice, no, because in the end, there’s no one there for him to reassure: he’s alone. So he tells the truth, at that last moment: he is going to die, and he doesn’t want to.

  • Diona the Lurker

    Not all Doctors regenerated nobly. The First Doctor went out protesting, making it clear that he’d been trying to delay his regeneration for ages. Two’s behaviour was similar. Four arguably committed suicide. Seven begged and pleaded as well, although admittedly he was more concerned about the Master than himself.
     
    As for realism – well, that’s fair enough. The thing is, though, the Doctor’s never not felt ‘real’ to me. He has faults and flaws enough to ensure that. As such, any ‘stiff upper lip’ behaviour on his behalf just seems… well, as utterly necessary, to stop the character from becoming unlikeable. Yes, maybe complaints and whining are more realistic; but uncomplaining noble sacrifices are so much part of what the Doctor is, that Ten’s ranting and such didn’t make me feel the sympathy – or at least empathy – that it seemed intended to.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=659001961 Brad Ellison

    Third, dammit!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jess-Goodwin/28602067 Jess Goodwin

    This is why I’m so fond of The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. It’s the only explanation of Moriarty that ever worked for me. ;) 

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Even seeing it coming a mile away, the line “Tell them I was murdered by my math teacher.” had me in stitches.

  • http://thatbeerguy.blogspot.com Chris Doggett

    As for the “one true Doctor” debate, I’ll just punt with the same answer I give when asked about who was the best Bond, or whether I’m a Mike or Joel fan:

    “You always remember your first, and they’ll always have a special place for you.”

  • Magic_Cracker

    The best way to short-circuit a One-True-Doctor debate is to declare yourself for Peter Cushing. He doesn’t even have a number. He’s basically the George Lazenby of Doctors.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     As I always say when Cushing’s Doctor comes up, there is, in fact, one good thing about the Dalek movies:

    The pacing is much better than the originals.

    It’s basically impossible to watch most of the Hartnell era without reciting to yourself over and over “Your memories of part 1 are supposed to be two months old when you watch part 8.”

  • http://flickr.com/photos/sedary_raymaker/ Naked Bunny with a Whip

    If you shove an Oxford comma into a simple list that doesn’t need one — “red, white, and blue” — the only thing you’re communicating to readers is that you have a rule and you’re going to follow it no matter what it does to the rhythm of a sentence.

    Funny. I put the comma there precisely because, to me, not having it throws off the rhythm of the sentence, running together the last two items. It’s certainly not because I’m following some “rule” that I only heard about some 30 years after learning how to write.

    If there’s any arbitrary punctuation rule that I consciously follow simply because I was told to a long time ago, it’s not putting hyphens after words that end in “ly”.

  • http://flickr.com/photos/sedary_raymaker/ Naked Bunny with a Whip

    I also just realized that the “throwing off the rhythm” thing is only true when I’m writing. I don’t even notice whether or not others are using serial commas, any more than I notice if they’re putting their commas inside or outside the quotation marks.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    I watched Who and loved the Ninth Doctor.

    I’m actually sad that he left, because what kind of irked me about the Tenth Doctor is that he doesn’t seem to have as good a grasp on humans as the Ninth did. And so he pettily struck out at a Prime Minister who’d had good reason to upbraid him, and that kind of soured me on watching any more episodes.

  • everstar

    I saw someone on Tumblr who said, “If you skipped Nine and went straight to Ten, don’t even talk to me.”  It might be somewhat hyperbolic, but I can’t help but agree.

    (It took me ages to feel warmer towards Ten because he just seemed so chipper after Nine and it irritated me.  Then by the end he was so angsty, I was actually relieved when he died, which I felt rather guilty about.)

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    The fundamental theory of Doctor Who that I’ve built up recently is that each Doctor really only makes sense in terms of his predecessor. Eleven as this sort of child playing at being a grown-up who latches on to people the way a child would only makes sense as a reaction to Ten as the Lonely God Who Carried The Weight Of The World, Ten as this manic, chipper man who loved the universe, but only in the abstract only makes sense as a reaction to Nine as The Grim Survivor who can see life only as an inescapable march toward death

  • Tom V

    And don’t forget to thank your parents, G-d and Ayn Rand.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     That was one weird orgy.

  • LL

    Most of the sentences that people insist require an Oxford comma in order to avoid confusion don’t  need another comma. They need to be rewritten. Not sure why that isn’t usually offered as a solution, other than lots of writers seem to believe they’re incapable of writing a flawed sentence. As someone who corrects punctuation for a living, I can tell you: all of them are very capable of it. 

  • Cathy W

    I’d go the other way – if I wanted to make it sound like Nelson Mandela was an 800-year-old demigod, I would use parentheses rather than commas. Maybe I’m alone in this, but when I see items separated by commas, I think list, not parenthetical expression. 

    Or, if I were delineating list items which individually contained commas, I’d use a semicolon: “the commodore; the fleet captain; the donor of the cup, Mr. Smith; and Mr. Jones.” In the original, punctuated with only commas, I read it as a list of five people. Knowing it was a list of four people, I might have easily come up with “the fleet captain was the donor of the cup”  as “the donor of the cup was Mr. Smith”

  • LL

    So, to illustrate my point, this sentence: “She took a photograph of her parents, the president, and the vice president.”

    Should be rewritten: 

    “She took a picture of her parents standing with the president and vice president.”

  • rrhersh

    “I’m a converted New Whovian, drinking from a firehose.”

    The beauty of this is that as an Old Whovian (not exclusively so, of course) I get the double pleasure of a new convert, while maintaining a smug sense of superiority over someone who doesn’t appreciate the Jon Pertwee years.

    “If you shove an Oxford comma into a simple list that doesn’t need one — “red, white, and blue” — the only thing you’re communicating to readers is that you have a rule and you’re going to follow it no matter what it does to the rhythm of a sentence.”

    This is utter nonsense.  It assumes that the correct rule is “Do not use the Oxford comma except when you have to.”  The actual correct rule is “Use the Oxford comma or not as you prefer, except when its use or non-use is necessary to avoid ambiguity.”  This is a most excellent rule that works under all circumstances, except when confronted by a copy editor more intent on following a house style manual than on intelligible writing.

  • banancat

     I have mixed feelings about Elementary.  It seems like a cross between House and Psych.  I am so over these asshole-hero characters in general.  It’s one thing for a protagonist to have flaws, but it’s too much to just make him a completely arrogant asshole.  I guess people like those characters though.  Holmes isn’t quite as bad as House and I’m still watching it because I really want to like it.  If there’s another season though, I’m not sure I’ll follow it.

  • Carstonio

    Haven’t seen Elementary but I’ve seen the first season of Sherlock. Doyle’s original was arrogant yet vain in the beginning, but matured somewhat over time, and I hope both shows go down that path as well.

  • vsm

    I’ve watched a few episodes of the new Doctor Who and just don’t get it. It feels like an off-puttingly dark and gruesome children’s show. Was it always like that or is it just Moffat and co. grittying up their old favorite show for the 21st century?

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    The era most often cited as the high-point of the series drew a lot from Hammer Horror. It probably felt less gruesome at the time because TV values being what they were, you’d react to characters being horribly tortured, mutilated, and killed with a shrug and a one-liner before forgetting they had ever existed, but yeah. Pretty much the classic image of Doctor Who is of a show that scares the crap out of small children.

    (However, if your reaction to Who is ‘I enjoy this stylistically but it’s a bit dark and gruesome’, definitely try ‘The Sarah Jane Adventures’. Possibly ‘Wizards vs Aliens’ too, though I personally couldn’t quite get into it)

  • vsm

    That does sound fun. What about the old series, is there some universally agreed place one should start with those? I rather like Hammer films.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Okay, if you like Hammer, you’re going to want to start with Tom Baker’s second season (Though his first also has ‘Genesis of the Daleks’, which is often counted the best single serial, but the rest of the season is kind of weak as they’re still finding their feet) and work your way forward until it gets more hit-or-miss (Fair warning: The Talons of Weing-Chiang is incredibly racist. For some reason, it was apparently okay to be incredibly blatantly racist toward asians in british television).

    The Pertwee era alternates between glam rock sensibilities and 70s spy-action sensibilities (Imagine if they tried to update Danger Man or The Avengers to compete with Roger Moore’s Bond), and can be quite nice if you’re into that sort of thing.

    Hardly anything exists from the earlier eras, but they can be enjoyable if you frame them properly. They’re not written or paced like modern television, more like theater or radio drama. The Troughton era has this sort of anarchist thing going on, while the Hartnell era does a kind of neat thing where you really get the sense that literally anything can happen in this show, without regard to the constraints of genre or style or really even if it is a remotely sane idea. Like there’s this one with giant termites played by men in black tights carrying paper maiche ant-upper-bodies, and the whole thing is filmed with vaseline on the lens. It’s just *nuts*. If you approach it as a Sci-Fi nerd, you’ll likely go “This is stupid and makes no sense. Worst. Episode. Ever.” but if you’re in the right mindset for it, you’ll be more like “This is crazy and makes no sense. Best. Episode. Ever!”

  • vsm

    Ross:
    Thanks, I’ll check out Mr Baker’s tenure. He’s the one with the scarf, right?

    arghous:
    I hate that song so much.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2CUJHSQSQYTYT4DPZSKTVESYNQ B

    (Fair warning: The Talons of Weing-Chiang is incredibly racist. For some
    reason, it was apparently okay to be incredibly blatantly racist toward
    asians in british television).

    Which, interestingly, is the other of the two episodes of the old Dr. Who I’ve seen.  Maybe that’s why I didn’t up very enthusiastic about it. :-)

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

     Well, the racism or the giant rat. The giant rat is one of the classic series’s biggest moments of “Who in their right mind looked at that prop and said, ‘Yeah, this’ll work’?”

    The other racist-against-asians story is either better or worse depending on your point of view; Talons at least has a compelling story, while ‘The Celestial Toymaker’ really has NOTHING good about it, and while it’s a straight-up Fu Manchu-style yellow peril sort of thing, the racism is coded in such a specifically 60s sort of way that if you’re not familiar with that, you might entirely miss the fact that it’s racist (Like, the “asian” character is a guy called “The Celestial Toymaker”, who’s played by Michael Gough (Alfred from the Burton Batman films) wearing a robe and speaking in clipped tones. If you aren’t primed to know that “celestial” is old-timey slang for ‘chinese’ or that a white actor wearing a robe and speaking in clipped tones is meant to mean “chinese villain”, you’d never actually figure out that it was racist.)

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    The era most often cited as the high-point of the series drew a lot from
    Hammer Horror. It probably felt less gruesome at the time because TV
    values being what they were, you’d react to characters being horribly
    tortured, mutilated, and killed with a shrug and a one-liner before
    forgetting they had ever existed, but yeah. Pretty much the classic image of Doctor Who is of a show that scares the crap out of small children.

    I have never, ever understood this. I was pretty easy to scare as a child, but none of the supposedly scary things in Doctor Who did.

    As an adult, I was astonished to learn of the “hiding behind the sofa whenever the Daleks came on screen” cultural meme because the first time I saw them as a six-year-old I thought they looked incredibly stupid.

    I think I was about eight when I swore off Doctor Who after watching “The Silver Nemesis,” where the Cybermen were played up as a big scary threat and responded to a teenager with a slingshot by standing around panicking.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    The era most often cited as the high-point of the series drew a lot from
    Hammer Horror. It probably felt less gruesome at the time because TV
    values being what they were, you’d react to characters being horribly
    tortured, mutilated, and killed with a shrug and a one-liner before
    forgetting they had ever existed, but yeah. Pretty much the classic image of Doctor Who is of a show that scares the crap out of small children.

    I have never, ever understood this. I was pretty easy to scare as a child, but none of the supposedly scary things in Doctor Who did.

    As an adult, I was astonished to learn of the “hiding behind the sofa whenever the Daleks came on screen” cultural meme because the first time I saw them as a six-year-old I thought they looked incredibly stupid.

    I think I was about eight when I swore off Doctor Who after watching “The Silver Nemesis,” where the Cybermen were played up as a big scary threat and responded to a teenager with a slingshot by standing around panicking.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ann-Unemori/100001112760232 Ann Unemori

    On the question of Professor Moriarty…
    Macavity, Macavity, there’s no one like Macavity,
    He’s broken every human law, he breaks the law of gravity…

    Well, some human has to tend to the True Napoleon of Crime, that long and thin ginger cat with sunken eyes… someone recognizes his real worth.

  • arghous

    And who doesn’t automatically punctuate every song he hears?  

    Are, you go wing, to Scar: Borough Fair?
    Parsley/sage, rosemary and thyme.
    Remem-ber me-e, to one who lives their air;
    she, once was, a true love of mine.

    That makes it much better!

  • MikeJ

    1) The only time the Oxford comma doesn’t work is when you  mix nominative or adjectival clauses with a list.  the examples where it failed would have been better punctuated with some semicolons thrown in there, or better yet, rewritten completely.

    2) Call me a heretic but I always preferred the MotW eps of X-Files to the main storyline. I think this is related to the Joker Problem.

    3) I would love to watch a show of just Pond and Martha and leave the alien out of it.

  • everstar

     I wanted to see Donna and Pond together, myself.  Gingers unite!

  • Magic_Cracker

    Gingers unite!

    Don’t forget Turlough! New and Old Whovians unite!

  • Magic_Cracker

    Still no love for Patrick Troughton? Not even for “The War Games”?

    Re: First Doctor: I’m not a big, big fan, but I liked companions Ian and Barbara. (The Sarah Jane Adventures where they teased that both of them are still alive and teaching at Cambridge (and haven’t aged since the 60s) has me wanting a cameo (at least), but only if someone not-Moffat is writing the episode). “The Aztecs” was a pretty good serial. However, I was always disappointed at Susan’s portrayal. I mean, the girl’s goddamn Time Lord too and all she ever does is twist her ankle. I can see why the actress quit.

    Pertwee is fun, as rrhersh noted above.

  • Ennid

    I was intrigued by the suggestion that there might be cases in which *including* the Oxford comma would produce absurdity. Then I went to the article and the only cases of that were cases of sentences which were just terribly written and could easily be rewritten (and absolutely should have been, no matter your position on Oxford commas) to avoid the ambiguity. Color me unconvinced!

    The complaint about singing “Scarborough fair,” or saying “red, white, and blue” with the Oxford comma, also seems misguided to me. When you sing “parsley sage rosemary and thyme,” you don’t really sing as if there are ANY commas. But of course you write them. Similarly, we say “red white and blue” as if there weren’t any commas at all, but of course there are. These aren’t reasons to avoid Oxford commas in particular. They’re reasons to either allow artistic liberty not to write any commas at all even when they are grammatically required, or to acknowledge that a comma in the written form doesn’t imply a pause in the spoken form.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=659001961 Brad Ellison

    I sometimes feel weird about the fact that I think of Tom Baker as Puddleglum first, and the Doctor second.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    I sometimes feel weird about the fact that I think of Tom Baker as Puddleglum first, and the Doctor second.

    Me too! And the funny part is that I was exposed to him in both roles at about the same time.

  • Isabel C.

    This post has gotten “Scarborough Fair” stuck in my head again. And, while the tune is quite catchy, I’m pretty sure it demands a response ballad called There Are Plenty of Hot Guys At This Fair, Buddy, and Most of Them Supply Their Own Damn Wardrobes. 

    Or:

    Lady, Your Ex is a Goddamn Fruitcake. 
    (According to Wiki, the impossible challenges are apparently imported from older songs, in which the guy issuing said challenges was a creepy abduction-and-murder-style elf or Satan. This is probably not a *better* situation for anyone, but it does make the requests for impossible clothing* and liminal beachfront property less incongruous: you expect that sort of thing from your evil supernatural forces.)

    *Although, “without seams” suggests you might be able to punch holes and lace the shirt together. Or staple it in the modern world.

  • Carstonio

    Sounds like the theory that the flower myths in Greek mythology were retcons of older stories about sacrificing youths. I confess that I’ve never listened to the lyrics of the Simon and Garfunkel version beyond the first verse.

  • Isabel C.

    They didn’t really sink in for me until I started teaching myself to sing: it’s one of the songs the software got the rights to, so I’m going through and boggling when I get to the bits about making cambric shirts without seams and sowing non-ocean non-strand bits of beach with seeds and so forth.

    “Complete this arduous if not impossible challenge for no reason and you’ll be a true love of mine!” …and? That’s it? I don’t get occult power or vast wealth or a broken curse or even a toaster oven? The effort/reward thing there seems unbalanced.
    Someone later wrote in a bunch of verses about how, well, the point is that the girl should at least *try*, and love imposes impossible tasks. Which: hoarf, and also,  who are you in love with in this model, Charles Manson? 

  • EllieMurasaki

    I think the string-through-holes thing is a seam.

    Nancy Werlin’s Impossible is about this song. It’s a good read. Mind the rape.

  • Isabel C.

    Ooh, I’ll have to check it out. Thanks!

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Hannah Fury did write a response ballad, called “Scars”:

    Please don’t go to Scarborough FairViolets, roses, thistles and vinesRemember me, I am still hereHe was not a true love of minehttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5IUYll9XrI

  • DorothyD

    Hannah Fury did write a response ballad, called “Scars”:

    I know the two songs aren’t in the same spirit (bitter swain vs. hopeful swain), but for some reason that brings to mind one version of a response verse to Bicycle Built for Two:

    “Richard, Richard, here is your answer true
    You’re half crazy, if you think that will do
    If you can’t afford a carriage
    There won’t be any marriage
    Cause I’ll be switched if I’ll get hitched
    On a bicycle built for two.”

    In this case, it’s the lady who’s being a jerk…

  • Fusina

    Mmm, regarding the Moriarty essay, it explains why I stopped watching the new Kevin Bacon tv show two episodes in. It is one thing to watch a mysterious death being figured out (a la CSI, Criminal Minds, etc…) and quite another  regarding this show. The first episode was okay, the second squicked me out enough that I discontinued watching. I like an explanation that clues me into my subconscious thinking.

  • The_L1985

    The Who conversion happened rapidly to me as well.  I started watching last summer.

    I just finished season 5 last night, and I’ve also watched a few episodes of Classic Who (Doctors 1 and 2, so far).

  • Launcifer

    Huh. Now I’m pondering the lyrics to Scarborough Fair and it’s  curious – and potentially related to my own gender – but I always presumed that it was more about the man essentially telling his friend to inform his former ladyfriend that, if she could do the impossible, then he might forgive her for whatever the hell it was she did (maybe we could combine the two interpretations for fun and profit?).

  • Isabel C.

    That could also work, yeah. For whatever reason, I’d assumed firstly that this one was the first communication between them since they broke things off, and second that the guy going to the fair didn’t know either of them, which made me hope he was getting paid. Otherwise, it’s just a weird conversation all around:

    “Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Can you say hi to this chick I know, lives around that way?”
    “Sure, glad to!”
    “She’s my ex!”
    “Well, it’s good that you guys are still friends…”
    “…and if she completes fifty-seven impossible things, I might take her back!”
    “Oh. Kaaaaay.”

  • EllieMurasaki

    Hey, thought–change pronouns in some places, then sing it as a duet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Patrick-McGraw/100001988854074 Patrick McGraw

     

    Hey, thought–change pronouns in some places, then sing it as a duet.

    IIRC, that’s been done a number of times. It turns it into the two ex-lovers one-upping each other with how much the other has to prove, making it quite entertaining.

    My favorite version of the song is the one by Leaves Eyes.

  • Launcifer

    Actually, the Simon and Garfunkel version is sort of a duet, with a call-and-response thing going on, albeit the second part’s half-buried under the melody. If you factor those in as well, then things get incredibly confusing incredibly quickly. Hell, after hearing that I wouldn’t be entirely unconvinced if someone told me that the guy speaking in the verses is dead and trying to haunt his ex-ladyfriend.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Simon and Garfunkel is not the definitive recording. Song’s centuries old, S&G aren’t.

  • Launcifer

    Please don’t take too much offence if I put on my schocked face and say “no shit”. I was just musing on that one because I happen have the lyrics to that one on the same desk as my computer. If I somehow conveyed the notion that it was definitive then I apologise. It certainly wasn’t my intention.

  • Carstonio

    I suspect most US listeners aren’t aware of the song’s history and know it only from the S&G version.

  • http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/ Dave

     

    Otherwise, it’s just a weird conversation all around

    Y’see, that conversation is what  S&G’s Canticle should have been.

    Tell her to make me a cambric shirt

    (I didn’t know she made garb, hey that’s cool)

    Parsely, sage, rosemary and thyme

    (Didn’t quite follow you… say that again?)

    Without no seams nor needlework

    (Wait, what was that, dude? I must have misheard you)

    Then she’ll be a true love of mine

    (Geez you’re a dick, I can see why she left)

    Tell her to find me an acre of land

    (Wait let me get a chair, this is gonna be good)

    Parsely, sage, rosemary, and thyme

    (You keep repeating that, I don’t know why)

    Between the salt water and the sea strand

    (Did you perhaps forget your medication?)

    Then she’ll be a true love of mine

    Tell her to reap it in a sickle of leather

    (Give me your number and I’ll have her call you)

    Parsely, sage, rosemary and thyme

    (If you keep saying that I’m gonna scream!)

    And to gather it all in a bunch of heather

    (Hey it’s been fun but I think that I’ll be going)

    Then she’ll be a true love of mine

  • http://www.oliviareviews.com/ PepperjackCandy

    Tell her to make me a cambric shirtWithout no seams nor needlework

    I’ve always figured she should just glue the damn thing together.

  • http://twitter.com/mikailborg Michael O’Brien

    The Donna thing was completely unnecessary and confused the heck out of me. Why even do that? I begin to wonder if Russell T. Davies was suffering from overstress or something, because in that same episode he tried to tell us that while Davros had just been prevented from melting down every universe ever, somehow the Doctor was the big destructive meanie person.

    But yeah, in my head-canon the business with the Master in “The End of Time” fixed Donna so she could safely remember her travels.

  • Diona the Lurker

    From his interviews, it seems like he did it because he just likes overblown tragedy, and also because he’s a born troll. He didn’t do what he did to Donna because he ran out of ideas – he did it because he wanted the viewers to weep.

  • DavidCheatham

    Wow, I have never read an article that made such a clear argument _for_ the Oxford comma before, and find it astonishing that Fred apparently thinks it makes the opposite point.

    I mean, seriously, the example given in favor of it is: Those at the ceremony were the commodore, the fleet captain, the donor of the cup, Mr. Smith, and Mr. Jones.

    Except, uh, that’s an absurdly contrived example, because under the ‘logic’ of that sentence being confusing, almost any _other_ order of the sentence is confusing regardless of the Oxford comma: Those at the ceremony were Mr. Smith, the commodore, Mr. Jones, the fleet captain and the donor of the cup.

    In fact, that sentence is ‘confusing’ _as is_. On the original sentence, how do we know that ‘the fleet captain’ isn’t an appositive phrases explaining who the commodore is? That is perfectly valid grammar under the dubious logic we’re operating in, and is completely untouched by the Oxford comma or lack thereof.

    Of course, in reality, that sentence is not confusing at all, either way. This is because you don’t put noun phrases with a comma in the middle of a comma-delimited list. Um, DUH? This is a rule that is in effect regardless of the Oxford comma, because doing so is _always_ confusing. If you wish to write things with a comma in such a list (Not just appositive phrases but anything at all with commas in it.) you use _semicolons_ to delimit it.

    So, apparently, the article has conceded that there are no actual places where there are _legitimately_ two interpretations of a sentence using Oxford commas, and so it is forced to venture to dumbass land where people don’t know about semicolons. While failing to notice that pretty much _all_ comma-delimited lists of any sorts, regardless of Oxford comma, are subject to multiple interpretations in dumbass land. Which is why we don’t _allow_ commas in such a list.

    I actually can think of some sentences that sound odd for a split second if you’re expecting Oxford commas, like ‘I went to see Frank, my friend, and Bill had left us some run so we got drunk’, where you misinterpret ‘Frank, my friend, and Bill’ as a list while scanning it. But this just causes the sentence to sound odd and make you reread it to realize what it actually said. You can’t actually read an Oxford comma sentence _wrong_, because no one says ‘noun, apposite phrase, and unrelated noun’.

    Meanwhile, leaving it off produces so many absurd sentences it’s not funny. People say ‘noun, apposite phrase containing and’ all the time, which reads exactly like a non-Oxford comma list.


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