Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot

I’ve decided that today, I’m going to write about a genre which I have a bit of a soft spot for but, unlike science fiction and fantasy, I don’t think I have looked into on this blog.

That genre being detective stories.

I’m particularly a fan of whodunits, That is, the standard murder mystery where the detective tries to find the true culprit.

I admit, however, that I prefer them in movie form. As far as written stories go, the only ones I’ve ever gotten really invested in are the ones written by Isaac Asimov, an author which I have mentioned before, when I wrote about I. Robot. Many of his short stories, like Little Lost Robot or Runaround, skirt the border of thriller and detective stories, but the novels The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun and The Robots of Dawn are proper whodunit detective stories, and I really enjoy them.

In fact, with the exception of Frankenstein, The Robots of Dawn is perhaps my favourite sci-fi novel of all time.

But I’m getting sidetracked. Like I said, I like televised detective stories a lot. I’m not ashamed I really enjoy Sherlock, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, but my favourite detective is, without a doubt, Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, played by the amazing David Suchet.

So is this all this article is, you might be wondering? Is it just me gushing about a genre?

No, of course not. I’m a pedantic nitpicker, so I’d like to share an observation about these two particular detectives.

You see, there is a word that is often repeated in their respective stories.

Both Poirot and Holmes regularly refer to their methods for ascertaining the truth as deduction.

The problem is, as some of you might be aware, that neither of them actually uses deduction.

Short lesson in terminology here:

Deduction, or deductive reasoning, is a form of logical reasoning, the other two being inductive and abductive reasoning. The latter two are lesser known, but they are very different things.

Deduction is to reach a logical conclusion that has to be true. The classic example is “Man is mortal. Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is mortal”. If the premises are true, the conclusion has to also be true.

Induction is trying to establish a rule based on patterns, and drawing a conclusion based on that. For example, all eggs we have seen are ovoid (oval with one end rounder than the other, AKA egg-shaped), therefore we can logcially assume all eggs are oval.

That is a reasonable conclusion that doesn’t have to be correct. After all, there are eggs that are oval or, rarely, perfectly spherical.

Finally, Abduction is the process of reaching a likely explanation, based on a conclusion. For example, a page from a book has been ripped out. There are the remains of a piece of paper in the fire place. The paper is of a similar quality to the pages in the ripped book. Therefore, it’s likely that the paper in the fireplace is the missing page in the book.

As you can tell, Sherlock Holmes and Herclue Poirot both use abductive reasoning, rather than deduction, to solve mysteries. The more observations they make, the more likely their conclusions become.

But that leads me to an interesting question. Both these characters are very intelligent. So surely, they should know that difference, right?

So why then, do they carry on using the term “deduction” when that isn’t the correct term, and one of the two should be able to tell the difference?

Obviously, it could most likely just be explained as the authors making a mistake, with the terms of induction and abduction not being quite as popular. However, I actually have an in-universe explanation of my own. It has to do with something very crucial these two have in common.

Now I’m not going to pretend that the two characters are identical, because they’re really not. For example, their motives are very different. Hercule Poirot solves crimes, ostensibly to expose the guilty and catch the killer and make sure justice is done, whereas Holmes seemingly solves crimes and riddles simply because they were there.

It’s a known trait that Holmes is also an addict, both of cocaine and morphine. The reason is that, in his own words:

My mind rebels at stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my proper element. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants.

But more than that, one major reason both solve problems: The thing the two really have in common, is that both solve problems to feed their egos! They may be main characters, but they’re not very nice people to be around.

They’re both condescending, arrogant and vain. Holmes is incredibly dismissive and dispassionate about most of his clients, beyond their function for the mystery.

And as for Poirot, there’s the entire idea of the denouement, where the detectives connect all the dots and tie the whole mystery together.

After all, the classic Agatha Christie moment when Poirot gathers all the suspects and explains how it all happened?

That is all there just for the benefit of Poirot!

They both love showing off how clever they are to everyone around them. Of course, it’s more apparent with Poirot than with Holmes, with the stories of the former usually being more straightforward whodunits, although that characterization is also there in BBC’s Sherlock, as well as Guy Ritchies movies, starring Robert Downey Jr.

In fact, with Poirot, they even point it out in one episode, after exposing the murderer.

-Whatever you choose to call yourself, Monsieur, you adore the flourish that is theatrical.
-You’ve got a nerve!
-Comment? [How/What?]
-All this! You’d already worked out where I was! You could have sent the police to arrest me at any time! But instead, you wanted your grand finale, show everyone how clever you’ve been!

And this, the way I see it, is also why they both use the term deduction so often. Like I said before, deduction leads to a conclusion that HAS to be true. And both these characters are so arrogant and conceited, they use the term deduction, knowing full well what it means, to describe their own methods, because they assume they are always right!

Again, Poirot brings this up himself at one point, talking to a suspect.

-The question is, can Hercule Poirot possibly be wrong…
-Nobody can always be right.
-But I am! Always, I am right! It is so invariable it startles me! And now it looks very much as though I may be wrong, and that upsets me, and I should not be upset because I am right. I must be right because I am never wrong!

There is nothing that bothers these two as much as the possibility of them being wrong, so much so that they can’t even accept that their methods of reasoning could be flawed. So, instead of calling it Abduction, a form of logical reasoning that is, by definition, fallible, they use the term deduction, a form that is infallible.

Of course, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea from this. I know that I keep referring to both Holmes and Poirot as arrogant and vain and selfish. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love both of them. They are so much fun to watch, and I honestly can’t say I see the two as unlikeable.

Strangely enough, all the things that should make them horrible and unlikeable, all the reasons that Agatha Christie herself actively HATED the character of Hercule Poirot? All those things are what I find so entertaining about both of them. They’re condescending and vain and all that, but both also have very good reasons to be, because both really are much smarter than people around them.

And I’m not the only one who thinks this. After all, there is a reason Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot have survived and remained popular for 137 and 98 years, respectively.

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Doctor Who (Pt. 2)

It’s about time I did some more nitpicking of Doctor Who, I feel. But not only will this be quite brief, but unlike last time, I can guarantee there will be no discussion about people shoving things up their colons.

(I can’t quite believe that is a sentence I had to write. This show is a bit weird sometimes…)

Similarly, there won’t be any discussions about the quality of later seasons, nor of Jodie Whittaker being cast as the next Doctor.

If these are things you’ve come to read about, you’ve come to the wrong place.

Now, as for this article, I had originally planned something much simpler and shorter. But then I looked a bit closer at the subject, and realized there was much more to it than I thought.

But enough vague descriptions, and onto the article proper.

It all started with the episode “The Shakespeare Code”, wherein the tenth Doctor references Harry Potter. This is where the confusion begins.

See, now we have established that, within the Doctor Who universe, Harry Potter is a franchise. But the tenth Doctor is played by David Tennant, who also played Barty Crouch jr. in the movie adaptation of “The Goblet of Fire”. So that begs the question… who played Barty Crouch Jr. in the Doctor Who universe?

Obviously, I know the real behind-the-scenes reason. I know I’m probably reading way too much into it again. It wouldn’t be the first time. But I’m just wondering what it means in-universe.

Was it still David Tennant? Is there a David Tennant in that universe? If yes, why doesn’t anyone recognize the Doctor as David Tennant? Did the Doctor play Barty Crouch? If so, when he meets Kazran Sardic in “A Christmas Carol”, played by Michael Gambon, who also played Albus Dumbledore, shouldn’t the Doctor recognize him?

Of course, one could maybe suppose that this universe is different from ours, in that some people simply don’t exist. Butterfly effect and all that. An alien kills someone or holds someone up 70 years ago, and as a result, David Tennant was never born. It’s possible.

However, then I looked into other examples of this, and I found one that I have to call out.

Freema Agyeman, known to most of us as the actress playing Martha Jones. And she also appears in a previous episode, “Army of Ghosts“, playing a woman named Adeola Oshodi.

Why is this important? It is because it is mentioned that Adeola was the cousin of Martha Jones.

To which I say: No.

No way, absolutely not, there is no way you can convince me that these two women:

DW
Adeola (Left) and Martha (Right)

are just cousins!

There are a great many things I am willing to accept in this show. Nonsensical technobabble, artificial intelligence, time travel. None of these test my suspension of disbelief. But this is where I draw the line.

There have been other instances of actors appearing in the show as different characters, not counting clones or doppelgängers. Colin Baker (6th Doctor), Karen Gillan (Amy Pond) and Peter Capaldi (12th Doctor) among others.

But in all those cases, the characters at the very least lived in different time periods. And in Capaldis case, the 12th Doctor took on the appearance of a man he saved from the destruction of Pompeii, Lobus Caecilius, to remind himself of his purpose: to save people.

Here, however, we have two characters, living in the same time period, in the same country, working in the same city, outright stated as part of the same family and, because they’re played by the same actress, look completely identical.

And I’m supposed to believe that they’re just cousins?!

Sorry, but I don’t buy that. They’re twins, not cousins, and someone (most likely Martha’s parents) have a LOT of explaining to do.

And again, I know the behind-the-scenes reason. Freema Agyeman did a good job in her role as Adeola, and was approached for the role as Martha. I don’t question that.

But that doesn’t change the fact that, in-universe, they’re quite clearly identical twins. And there’s no explanation. Were the two separated at birth? Who was moved to a new family, Martha or Adeola, and why? Did an outside force like Torchwood have something to do with it?

And perhaps more troubling: Martha knew of Adeola, though to what extent isn’t made clear. At the very least, she knows they looked “a bit alike”. Does Martha know the truth? Did Adeola?

So many questions, but no answers to be found. Mostly because this is just me being overly pedantic and nitpicky for no good reason…

But on the bright side, it is much more intriguing fodder for fan theories than Donna Nobles name. So there’s that, I suppose…

 

 

In Memoriam: David Ogden Stiers

Because of my pedantic nature, there might be those that believe that I dislike everything. That I find faults with everything and nothing is ever quite good enough. It is a valid assumption.

But while it may be valid, it is not actually true. There are a few things I love. One of those being my absolute favourite tv-show: M*A*S*H.

And on march 3’rd, one of the central actors from that show, the great David Ogden Stiers, died from cancer.

And so, I write this, because he was an actor I respected and admired. I genuinely regret, to an extent, not growing up in an english speaking country, since that meant I didn’t grow up watching him play Cogsworth in Beauty and the Beast or the Archdeacon in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, as they were of course dubbed to swedish. I have of course seen the original versions in the years since, and unsurprisingly, the swedish actors cannot compare with him.

But while I may not have a childhood nostalgia memory of him, I am closely familiar with his role as Maj. Charles Emerson Winchester III, and his time with the 4077’th MASH.

And some of the best episodes of the entire show, in my humble opinion, involve the ordinarily pompous and arrogant Charles showing how caring and sentimental he could be.

His close heart-to-heart with Hawkeye regarding their different relationships with their fathers, or helping a crippled pianist finding meaning after his injury are two examples that immediately spring to mind, among the many other such moments. And David Ogden Stiers delivered those performances perfectly.

His character was such a different experience to that of Major Frank Burns. Both could be arrogant and condescending, but Charles was also competent and intelligent. Behind all the snootiness, there was a warmth and care and, above all, potential for growth that Frank Burns never had. And as such, Charles character grew over the course of the show, giving us an enjoyable, multilayered person, rather than the far more comical and inept Frank Burns.

And I think it’s safe to say that, while other actors might have played the role, few except David Ogden Stiers could have walked that line as excellently.

Obviously, I won’t presume to make claims about his personality. I leave that to the people who knew him. But in terms of his acting performances, I think very few can compare.

Rest in Peace, Sir. You left too soon, and you will be missed.

winchester.jpeg
1942-2018

In Memoriam: Adam West

I have decided to postpone this weeks planned fan theory article. Instead, I’d like to say a few words about the recent loss of the legendary Adam West, and what he meant to me, personally.

It will come as no surprise to you that, being a big Batman fan, I am familiar with Adam Wests portrayal as the caped crusader. However, it may surprise you to know that, despite growing up in the 90’s, his portrayal was in fact the very first introduction I ever had of the character, in the form of the 1966 movie. I remember we had it on an old VHS tape that also contained recorded episodes of Tom & Jerry.

Obviously, I was very young at the time, and I won’t pretend that I understood anything of the plot beyomd “those are the good guys, the others are the bad guys”. But this meant that I grew up, being familiar with Batman. From there, I moved onto the 1989 movie (that is, when I was old enough to read subtitles) and the animated TV-Show.

It’s true, the Batman West presented wasn’t dark and gritty, it wasn’t necessarily deep or thought-provoking. It was campy and silly, but above all, it was fun. And at the heart of it was a man, playing something so absurd, in scenarios that were so ridiculous and insane, and played it perfectly seriously throughout. His portrayal sparked an interest and a love for the character that has continued to this day, and hopefully will continue for many, many years to come.

And for all that, he will forever have my thanks, my admiration and my respect.

Rest in peace, you marvel of a man.

West
1928-2017

Top 5: Sci-Fi Handguns

I’ve mentioned, time and time again, that I am a fan of science fiction. So today, instead of dissecting and nitpicking some sci-fi movie, I’d like to take this opportunity pay tribute to the creativity and style that this particular genre has produced over the years.

And since I also have a soft spot for good looking weapons, I figured we’d kill two mutated birds with one laser blast. With that in mind, I present to you:

Travis Tee’s Top 5 Sci-Fi Handguns

Now, before we begin the list proper, let me clarify a few things.

Firstly, while I will make arguments to support my choices, this is in no way an objective list. It’s all my personal opinions and preferences, and you are more than welcome to disagree.

Secondly, my criteria is practicality and appearance, rather than how iconic or powerful the weapons are, and how good or bad the user is.

So, let’s begin.

5: Deckards Gun (Blade Runner)
Gun 5

This pistol, unofficially known as the LAPD 2019 Blaster, the M2019 Blaster or the Steyr Pflager Katsumata Series-D Blaster, is the signature weapon of Rick Deckard (and presumably the LAPD in general). As for its placing on the list, it gets high marks for its unique, interesting appearance, so much so that accurate replicas and reproductions can sell for hundreds of dollars. However, it does suffer from firing cartridges, which is odd, considering how it’s almost universally referred to as a “blaster“. I’ll get into this in more detail later, but suffice to say that this makes the gun somewhat impractical, compared to other entries on the list.

4: Moses Brothers Self-Defense Engine Frontier Model B (Firefly)
Gun 4

We move from a gun where nobody seems able to agree on an official name, to a gun with a name nobody can be bothered to remember, with most just calling it “Mal’s Gun“. Seeing as Firefly was pretty much a space western, it’s not surprising that a custom made weapon for the show would be similar to an old west revolver. And seeing as I am a big fan of old west weapons, it’s equally unsurprising that this should inch ahead of the LAPD Blaster. Of course, it suffers from the same problem, being loaded with cartridges, which prevents it from climbing higher.

3: DL-44 Heavy Blaster (Star Wars)
Gun 3

Interestingly, another weapon used by Harrison Ford on the silver screen. The DL-44 carried by Han Solo is one of the most iconic handguns of the entire genre. Its easily recognizable silhouette is a result of it being based on the Mauser C96, also known as the ”Broomhandle Mauser”. And unlike the previous entries on this list, this is a genuine blaster, in that it fires energy projectiles (in this case plasma) rather than bullets. This means that shots fired from it are, if not outright unaffected, at least far less impaired by gravity, cross winds or drag than bullets fired from a normal handgun. For all intents and purposes, they keep going until they hit an obstacle or they dissipate. This makes them more accurate, with the only drawback probably being that they are slower. This, coupled with the rugged style, lands the DL-44 on third place.

2: A180 Blaster Pistol (Star Wars)
Gun 2

Another weapon from the Star Wars franchise, this time the A180 Blaster Pistol from the spinoff/prequel/sidequel Rogue One. Keen-eyed readers will notice that, much like the previous entry, it is based on a german handgun. In this case, it’s the Luger P08. The A180 is a less powerful blaster, compared to the DL-44, but is more compact as a result, while shots fired retain the same positives. All this, and the horribly unfair fact that I prefer the Luger over the Mauser C96 on a simply aesthetic level, means that it snatches the second place on the list.

Now, before we reach the #1 spot, let’s look at a few honorable mentions, handguns that I’d like to spotlight, but which didn’t quite make the list, for one reason or another.

Westar-34 Blaster Pistol (Star Wars)
OM 1

Carried by Jango Fett, these pistols, despite a uniqe look, simply never caught my interest in the same way the other entries did. They also seem an odd choice for a famed bounty hunter. I guess it makes sense that, despite his flaws, his son Boba Fett at least had the good sense to switch to a rifle.

The Samaritan (Hellboy)
OM 2

An incredibly impressive looking handgun, but it did not make the list for three reasons. Firstly, it’s too big for anyone other than Hellboy to use. Second, it only holds four bullets, which is a bit impractical. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, while there are a few sci-fi elements, Hellboy doesn’t really count as Science Fiction…

(But really, when else will I get a chance to talk about it?)

Zat’nik’tel (Stargate SG-1)
OM 5.png

This is a handy-dandy, if rather unattractive little piece. It can stun, it can kill, and it can disintegrate enemies. However, from an aesthetic point of view, it’s very much hit and miss for me. It just never impressed me enough to consider it for a place on the list, I’m sorry to say. That said, I know for a fact others like it, so it deserves at least a mention among the others.

Noisy Cricket (Men in Black)
OM 3.jpg

This unassuming little thing is perhaps the antithesis of the first spot. Not so much impressive as odd looking, the noisy cricket is powerful enough to blow up… pretty much anything you aim it at. The downside is that it’s so powerful, it launches the shooter backwards at high velocity. This makes it, to put it simply, effectively useless.

Phaser (Star Trek)
OM 4

One of the granddaddies of sci fi weapons, this is essentially the swiss army knife of the genre. It can stun, it can kill, it can blow stuff up or even be made into a makeshift bomb. So why is it not on the list, you may wonder?

Well, just LOOK at it. It’s absolutely hideous. It doesn’t matter which version you pick. They may get plenty of bonus points for practicality, but the fact remains… it’s a tool. No care or concern or passion has gone into their design. Function over fashion, which disqualifies them from this list.

So, with the honorable mentions and snark out of the way, let’s get to the first spot.

1: Particle Magnum (Stargate Atlantis)
Gun 1

This gun, carried by Ronon Dex, who we have discussed once before, is resting at the number 1 spot for a very simple reason: This is what happens when Mal’s gun fucks a phaser. It has a stun setting, a kill setting, a blow-stuff-the-fuck-up setting… Even that impromptu mine aspect could probably be done by overloading the energy cell. Speaking of, according to concept art, the energy cell is rechargeable, though the method isn’t made clear.

But what it has over the phaser is its appearance. It looks great! Its design brings to mind an old black powder revolver, specifically the colt 1860 Army. And like I said earlier: I’ve a soft spot for old west weaponry.

Practicality and style. Both criteria, and the Particle Magnum aces both of them. I think Teal’c said it best about the gun.

I would very much like to have a weapon such as this!

So those are my personal picks when it comes to Sci-Fi handguns. Like I said, you are free to disagree with my picks, and I would love to hear of your handguns of choice, and the arguments for why you prefer them.

In Memoriam: Carrie Fisher

Todays planned article has been suspended, in light of the recent passing of the great Carrie Fisher.

Now, there’s really nothing I can say about either her career or her life that has not been said by other, far more eloquent and knowledgable people. However, I would like to pay my respects, with a little anecdote from my youth.

When I was very young, around 4 or 5 years old, my mother managed a movie theater. During the weekends, my brothers and I would visit the theater, generally running around and being stupid.

One day, my mother, in an attempt to get some peace and quiet so she could work, gave us each a bowl of popcorn, stuck us in an empty theater and started a movie they’d only recently received for screenings.

The movie in question was the special edition of Star Wars Ep. IV

To this day it remains one of my most cherished memories, five years old, sitting in a private screening of A New Hope, along with my brothers.

Whenever I thought about Carrie Fisher, that memory would instantly spring to mind, and with her death, a big part of my childhood is gone.

I know that I am not alone in feeling like this and that I am certainly not the one most affected by her passing, but all the same, I am sad that she is gone, and my sympathies go out to her friends and family.

She will be missed.

Carrie.jpg
1956-2016

In Pace Requiscat

TaleSpin

As I’ve mentioned before, I grew up during the Disney Renaissance, and as a result, Disney was a big part of my childhood. Obviously, this love for Disney wasn’t just limited to the movies, but many of the TV shows that were produced in the 90s. And today, I’d like to talk a bit about one of those beloved shows.

TaleSpin

In case you are unfamiliar with the show (in which case you’d better be about 40 years old, or I weep for your childhood) the show features Baloo from The Jungle Book, as the pilot for “Higher for Hire” an air freight business in the fictional city of Cape Suzette. The show itself is centred around the adventures of Baloo, his boss Rebecca Cunningham, his navigator/protégé Kit, as well as Rebecca’s daughter Molly and the mechanic Wildcat.

From The Jungle Book, along with Baloo, the show features Louie as the owner of a motel and nightclub, and Shere Khan as a shady, ruthless businessman (and voiced by Tony Jay, who voiced the terrifyingly dark Frollo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame).

Now, I really enjoyed the show in my carefree youth. So why am I writing about it now? Am I about to point out logical flaws in it, in some deranged bid to destroy my own childhood, along with countless others?

No, of course not. I’m pedantic and nitpicky, but I’m not evil. I’m just going to talk about one, somewhat confusing detail about it, which occurred to me as I was reflecting on the show.

And that detail is this: Why wasn’t Bagheera in the show?

It just seems strange to me not to have him appear. After all, in The Jungle Book, Bagheera and Baloo not only shared the spot of deuteragonist, but also served as character foils to one another. Where Bagheera was stoic and serious, Baloo was happy and carefree.

Maybe this is just me, but surely, such a dynamic would be easy to carry over to a tv-show?

I grant you, some of the personality conflicts between Rebecca and Baloo does present them as foils for one another at times, but I think adding Bagheera to the story would have been a really good move.

Here, let me brainstorm for a bit. Suppose, for a moment, that Bagheera was put in the show, as a business man. Perhaps as a rival to Shere Khan, reluctantly having to employ Higher for Hire to counter Shere Khans more ruthless methods, despite his frustration with Baloo. From there, you can have a friendly conflict of character between Baloo and Bagheera, as well as an interesting professional relationship between him and Rebecca, both being professional business people.

From a character standpoint, Baloo is portrayed as lazy and impulsive, whereas Bagheera, by contrast, would be serious, by-the-book and more level-headed. And perhaps, it could be revealed that Bagheera has past experience as a cargopilot. That way, you’d have his frustration and disdain being due of Baloo’s more lax attitude towards a job Bagheera has respect and fond memories of, while in still managing to be an excellent pilot.

Or he left that life behind, making enough money and connection to help him going into business, coming to viewing it as just another job, and forgetting the excitement and freedom that soaring through the sky brings, not beholden to anyone, whereas now he’s certainly more successful, but having more responsibility, leading him to be slightly jealous of Baloo?

Now, I’m not saying that Bagheera should have been a main character in the show. But a recurring spot, like Louie, would have been nice.

And really, considering their role regarding Mowgli in the movie, his dynamic with Kit could follow a similar course.

With that, you’d have a setup for character development for Baloo, Bagheera, Kit and Rebecca. With just that premise, you’d have at least three ideas for episodes!

So I have to wonder… why didn’t that happen?

Now, like I said, I enjoyed the show despite this. And I’m not alone in this, of course. But still, it just seems so strange, when they added both Louie and Shere Khan to the show, to not add Bagheera and take advantage of that potential, all those stories they could have told, and just leave that avenue unexplored.

Not to mention that, by doing so, they essentially robbed us of the possibility of Bagheera crossed with Howard Hughes!

 

aviator
Look what you denied us, you bastards!