Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Sherlock Holmes and the Lack of Perception

with one comment

I was looking forward to watching the new “Sherlock Holmes” on PBS last night. I was greatly disappointed. I will leave aside most of the things that got in the way – after all like most fiction one has to engage in a suspension of disbelief. But last night much of the action revolved around the notion that a bomb could be installed under the seats and floor of an Underground train, then one car detached, parked under the Houses of Parliament and then detonated on November 5. All co-ordinated apparently by a member of the House of Lords.

Throughout the program the abilities of the great detective are demonstrated. He can, for instance, conduct a forensic examination of human hair inside a toque without even a magnifying glass. But he cannot apparently tell the difference between a tube train on the Jubilee Line and the subsurface stock on the District Line.

96117 Stratford Jubilee Line 2006_0525

Jubilee Line tube train
my photo on flickr

D Stock, Wimbledon

District Line train
Ryan Taylor photo on flickr Creative Commons license

There was actually quite of lot of UndergrounD geekery in the script: a member of LUL’s staff responsible for wiping cctv footage recorded on platforms, much to and fro about unused track and stations (well documented in reality) and also the bizarre notion that a car from a train could be detached while in service and parked in secret, without anyone noticing. But while it was repeated more than once that the train was between Westminster and St James’s Park stations on the District, and some footage from the District Line was used, the critical bit utilized the Jubilee Line train. And Sherlock apparently does not notice that the large squarish “surface stock” used on the cut and cover District has become a small round tube train used on the bored tube Jubilee. Which does indeed have a disused section in the general vicinity dating from the days when it was diverted from Charing Cross to its present route under the South Bank. Just not under the Houses of Parliament.

Actually this is not the first time just such a cock-up has occurred in recent years. The James Bond movies “SkyFall” and “Die Another Day” both seem to confuse tube and surface lines.

It is possibly forgivable that people making movies tend to lean heavily on artistic license. But when the main character is a savant who is capable of rapidly scanning huge amounts of evidence – including in this case noticing the length of the underground train on the cctv footage – but misses the difference between a large train and much smaller one then the whole premise collapses. Or it did for me anyway.

Written by Stephen Rees

January 20, 2014 at 12:48 pm

One Response

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  1. It was disappointing to see the show deviate so far from fact, but I know there aren’t many disused tunnels and platforms that are deemed safe for film crews. The D stock used at the end might have been a tip of the hat to accuracy, but I believe it was chosen so the lead actor could stand up without hitting his head.


    January 20, 2014 at 3:31 pm

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