12:16 pm - 12/19/2012

Elementary: Female Watson 'Started as a Joke'

Rob Doherty's choice to pair Jonny Lee Miller's Sherlock Holmes with a woman resulted in fall's No. 1 new series, and inclusion in THR's 2012 Rule Breakers portfolio.

"It started out as something of a joke," creator Rob Doherty confesses of his decision to make the Watson in his Sherlock Holmes tale a woman. When he began to research the story's original characters, he came across a handful of experts who had written up psychological assessments of Sherlock; one of them had noted an aversion to women.

"I thought to myself, 'What would make Holmes crazier than taking the figurative rock he has in Watson and making him a woman?' I scribbled it down and then went back to my research," the 38-year-old Elementary showrunner continues. "The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to try it."

The result: casting Asian-American film star Lucy Liu as the first female Watson opposite Jonny Lee Miller's Sherlock and an impressive 13.9 million viewers tuning in weekly, making Elementary the No. 1 new series with total viewers this fall. (Among the key 18-to-49 set, the series ranks No. 2 behind only NBC's breakout Revolution.) And come February, the CBS drama -- one of the season's few hits with critics and audiences alike -- will get the coveted post-Super Bowl slot.
The show's stars, Liu, 44, and Miller, 40, still are making sense of the series' success, particularly rewarding because the show colors outside the lines in a way that excites both of them.

"To me, one of the best things you can do in this profession is to take a risk," says Miller, whose co-star plays sober coach to his recovering-addict Sherlock. Liu says the tweak in formula can liberate the story in other ways as well: "There's an endless supply of unpredictability that we can delve into and we can change and add. It will still be a pound cake, but it could be marble, it could be lemon, it could be poppy seed."

fauxkaren 19th-Dec-2012 07:15 pm (UTC)
I disagree that the Doctor was leading Martha on.

I think he was pretty oblivious to her feelings and that Martha FELT like she was being led on, but he wasn't intentionally leading her on. At the end of the very first episode he tells Martha that she's not replacing Rose. And when Martha is all "I GUESS THERE IS SOMEONE FOR EVERYONE, ISN'T THERE? EH???", the Doctor is all uh "yeah, I guess." It's pretty obvious that he's not interested in her romantically.

He kissed Martha once and he was pretty clear that it was a genetic transfer, but Martha still got a bit swept away by him. And yeah, he shared a bed with her, but he was also kind of a dick in that same moment. He was obviously not doing it to be flirty, even if Martha took it that way. I mean as they are in bed, Ten is musing about how Rose would know what was up. And uh... Martha told Ten that she loved him precisely once, in "Family of Blood".

Yeah it was obvious to the audience that Martha had a thing for the Doctor, but it wasn't obvious to him. He was kind of dealing with his own issues and wasn't really tuned into Martha or how she was feeling. So I think it's not really far to characterize that as the Doctor leading Martha on. Martha misread his cues because she was crushing on him, but that doesn't mean he was leading her on.

And uh, I don't think he "took it out on Donna". When he is talking with Donna in 4x01, he says "it got complicated with Martha and that was my fault." He recognizes that his obliviousness and his lack of dealing with things after she admitted her feelings in Family of Blood were part of the problem. And then Donna isn't interested in him either? So like, they are just reaffirming that neither of them wants to bang the other??? I really don't understand how that is "taking it out on Donna"
sarahvma 19th-Dec-2012 07:28 pm (UTC)
I don't think he was purposefully leading her on the whole time, but I don't think he was quite as oblivious as he claimed to be. I mean, he just had to be forcibly removed from the woman he loved and he's clearly dealing with the pain of that, and the Time War, etc.

But I also think that his enduring loneliness caused him to seek out someone who wasn't going to leave him. And he does like showing off and being adored.

My biggest issue came after Family of Blood when she does the whole, "Didn't really mean that I love you, haha!"

And he gave her a look that made it clear that he knew full well that she did. That would've been a good time to reinforce the whole, "It's cool if you want to tag along as a friend, but nothing else will happen" statement.

And the comment about replacing Rose early on... she might've felt that he could change his mind, or that she wouldn't want to be a "replacement," but rather something new.

I guess my thing is that whether he led her on on purpose or not (and you do make a compelling case for "not"), there did come a point where he was aware of her feelings and allowed them to continue.

But more than anything, I just have an issue with fans blaming Martha for this. No matter who's responsible, it just strikes me as misogyny to claim that Martha is some kind of evil vixen trying to steal Rose's dude.
fauxkaren 19th-Dec-2012 07:38 pm (UTC)
I don't know that the Doctor was intentionally looking for someone who would be loyal to him and not leave him (I mean as late as 3x06 he is still planning to ditch Martha after the one trip he had planned to take her on as thanks for her help in 3x01.). So it's not something he planned. But I think that Martha ended up being exactly the kind of person he needed in series 3. Martha is eternally patient and loyal and he needed someone like that who would look after him and put up with his self-destructive nonsense after losing Rose. As much as I love Donna, she would not have put up with that. But Martha (probably as a result of being the peace keeper within her own family) is extraordinarily patient and that was the kind of person he needed. But I don't think he sought her out.

And yeah, I obviously agree that fandom doesn't understand Martha and they blame her for all sorts of things that aren't her fault. I don't think it's there in the writing though. I think the writing portrays Martha as someone who is crushing hardcore on a guy who is oblivious to her feelings and as a result unintentionally says things sometimes that encourages her feelings. And the audience is meant to sympathize with her because who HASN'T crushed on someone who only sees you as a friend? And who hasn't clung to every look as some sort of hope that their feelings might be changing? etc etc.

As far as for the Doctor's actions in Family of Blood and the fact that he didn't say anything, lol. I think he was just avoiding the issue. It would be an awkward conversation (and one that Martha clearly wanted to avoid too since she was the one who said that she was just saying anything to get the Doctor to save the day), so the Doctor just went along with what Martha said and they kind of mutually and silently agreed to just ignore it and continue on as normal. Yeah it was total avoidance, but I don't think it makes either the Doctor or Martha bad people.
sarahvma 19th-Dec-2012 09:32 pm (UTC)
I definitely agree that Martha should've been sympathetic, since her relationship with The Doctor should be relatable for just about anyone.

I'm not necessarily saying it makes the Doctor a bad person, but I still think he enjoyed the attention and knew exactly what it was. So it doesn't make him a good person, either.

And I do disagree on one point -- I feel like Donna was much, much better for him than Martha. Mostly because she was just a friend, but also someone who would call him out on his shit. Plus she was someone who didn't need him -- at least not when he first offered to take her.

The odd "haha, you're old and not gorgeous" comment that the writers threw at Donna aside, she was made to be much more of a "companion" than a hanger-on the way Martha was.

Martha was brilliant and capable and smart, but with the way they wrote her, she would happily have said anything to make him interested in her. And again, that ruins any virtue of her intelligence for me.

Donna, meanwhile, is portrayed as being less intelligent overall, but really sticks to her guns and has no problem tooting her own horn when it comes to her skills with numbers or understanding the innerworkings of an office, etc.

Overall I think Martha was just a really odd character. Even though we knew more about her home life than we did Donna's, I felt like I knew her far less.
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