A Study In Wholock: Reviewing Doctor Who (the 2005 Reboot) vs. Sherlock (2010)

For anyone who wants to know a bit about what Sherlock and Doctor Who are about before watching them, here is a (pretty much) spoiler free critical Review for my language class about my two favorite shows!


1. A Study In Wholock

Disclaimer: I do not own Sherlock, Doctor Who, or the background base image of the cover!

Italics = words I didn't put in actual essay for language class due to my teacher makes us read these aloud instead of grading them at home like a normal teacher so I can't make this too long

Sidenote as of 3-23-15: I did an inquiry project for bio class and basically copied a few paragraphs from this (since I didn't feel like rewriting) so yeah if anyone from my school does the research and thinks I plagiarized, nope, this was and is all mine! 


If one was to ask about what British television programs are quite popular and well loved in this day and age, the shows Doctor Who and Sherlock would most likely come up. As of right now, the showrunner of both of these BBC hits is Steven Moffat. The great factor about both shows is that they teach meaningful lessons and can be enjoyed by viewers of any age group. 

Classic Doctor Who originally ran from 1963 to 1989. During this era, Doctors One through Seven had their times. Doctor Who was brought back in a 1996 movie featuring  Paul McGann as the Eighth Doctor and was then was brought back as a TV show in 2005, with Russel T. Davies as its showrunner and Christopher Eccleston as the Ninth Doctor. It still runs today, and is presently on hiatus in anticipation for the Twelfth Doctor, Peter Capaldi. 

Doctor Who is a science fiction show on the BBC about a man called the Doctor, who is a member of the alien race called Time Lords from the planet Gallifrey. He travels throughout all of time and space in his TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space), which looks like a blue police box from the 1960’s. He takes companions with him in his travels, most of which tend to be female. Back when the show started out in 1963, Doctor Who was meant to be an educational show, with the episodes set in the past to teach history and those set in the future to teach science. The show still works somewhat like that today. In fact, if I didn’t watch the show, I wouldn’t know about Madame de Pompadour or happy prime numbers!

However, beyond what the show literally teaches the viewers, it also that it shows us the value of friendship, compassion, and the little things in life. An episode that’s a personal favorite of mine is, “Turn Left,” because the plot takes the twist of a “What if?” scenario. In the episode, one small choice that a companion named Donna Noble made in the past is changed, and the world deteriorates into a state of mass crisis from there, with resources being scarce. The episode demonstrates how we shouldn’t take basic necessities like living space, food, and materials for granted. In another three-parter finale for Season Three, the Doctor’s arch-nemesis called the Master commits horrible crimes against humanity and planet Earth in general. Despite all of what he did, the Tenth Doctor forgives the Master in the end. He wasn’t going to let the Master get off without punishment, but he gave a literal demonstration of “love your enemies”.  His various companions throughout all three of his incarnations in the Reboot have done countless acts that involved selflessly putting themselves in danger for the greater good of others, and sometimes entire civilizations. In addition, some Doctor Who quotes are just so inspirational for those who aren’t going through the best of times. For example, the Eleventh Doctor stated, “In 900 years of time and space, I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important.” That one profound line tells the viewers that even if they think they’re worthless, they still mean something to someone. That and so much more is what makes Doctor Who such a long lasting and brilliant show!

Sherlock is also a BBC show. It premiered in 2010 and was a brainchild of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, both of which were working on Doctor Who at the time. Both men were long-time fans of the original canon works of Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and had been pondering the idea of what the stories would be like if set in the 21st century. Although the fans only have gotten three episodes every two years, it is still a show loved by many right from the start.

As the title suggests, the show is about a modern-day consulting detective named Sherlock Holmes who solves crimes with his Afghanistan-war-veteran friend John Watson, who then blogs about them.  For the most part, each episode takes elements from several canon Sherlock Holmes stories and parodies them or takes direct aspects from them to form one big plot for each episode. For example, in the first episode called A Study in Pink, the entire plot mainly follows the plot of the first half of the Conan Doyle novel, A Study in Scarlet. However, some points are changed, such as the police thinking opposite of what they thought about the “rache” clue in the novel, which supposedly meant revenge or was short for Rachel.  Another example is the episode, “The Reichenbach Fall”, which is based off the short story, “The Final Problem” as its title suggests. Many other characters from the original stories are also included, such as Mycroft Holmes, James “Jim” Moriarty, and Charles Augustus Magnussen (Milverton in canon).

The lessons that Sherlock teaches its audience is more literal than with Doctor Who. When we see each deduction Sherlock makes, it shows us how to be a bit more observant about the little details in life. However, most of us fail at accurately connecting those details to deduce things about people. On a more metaphorical level, Sherlock teaches us about friendship and how true friends will go through anything with or for each other. Without saying anything to spoil anything, Sherlock does something very big at the end of the second season to protect John and his other friends. Even though he claims he’s a high functioning sociopath who doesn’t have friends, Sherlock really cares for others deep down. He will stop at nothing to protect them and ensure their well being, which is a good lesson to teach viewers.

Doctor Who and Sherlock both share in the fact that the shows and their characters are loved worldwide. Last year, Doctor Who won a Guinness World Record for largest ever simulcast of a TV drama, when it aired its 50th Anniversary Special, “The Day of the Doctor”!  It was broadcast in 94 countries, 1,500 cinemas, and across six continents. In addition, fans of Sherlock in China had convinced the British Prime Minister David Cameron to lobby for more episodes, albeit unsuccessfully. In my opinion, Doctor Who is the better show; if not just for that fact it airs more often then three times every two years. With Sherlock, three episodes, which are 4.5 hours total, just isn’t enough to develop a good overall story. The beauty of Doctor Who is that since the Doctor can regenerate into a whole new person, and his companions can find someway to exit his life, the show’s producers can completely change the actors every few years and still have basically have the same show. This means it can run indefinitely!​ Moffat once stated, "But when they made this particular hero, they didn't give him a gun--they gave him a screwdriver to fix things. They didn't give him a tank or a warship or an x-wing fighter--they gave him a box from which you can call for help. And they didn't give him a superpower or pointy ears or a heat-ray--they gave him an extra HEART. They gave him two hearts! And that's an extraordinary thing. There will never come a time when we don't need a hero like the Doctor.” 

When one thinks about it, the characters of the Doctor and Sherlock Holmes are like two sides of the same coin. Both men are geniuses in comparison to those around them, although they go about showing their abilities in opposite ways. In the words of Steven Moffat himself, “The Doctor is a god aspiring to be human. Sherlock Holmes is a human who aspires to be a god.”  


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