You are on page 1of 6

Jingyao Shi Professor Lynda Haas Writing 37 3/12/2014 The Growth of Forensic Science In mystery genre, a detective solves

the crime based on logic and science. Arthur Conan Doyle who wrote the Sherlock Holmes stories during Victorian Era set the foundation of the mystery genre conventions, many of which can still be seen in modern-day Holmes stories Some of these conventions include the smart and eccentric detective character, the loyal sidekick, the clues, the ignorant police, and the use of a scientific method to solve the crime. However, the genre is not static. Conan Doyle has established the classical stage, but as the time goes by, the mystery genre gradually changes to match the interests and the values of the audience. Back in Conan Doyles Holmes stories, because of some random conclusions, the police force did poorly in solving the crimes, so they could only rely on Sherlock Holmes to do so. Similarly, in modern Holmes series, the police are still helpless overall in solving crime, which basically follows the convention that has been established by Conan Doyle. For examples, in Psych which is another modern-text Holmes series, even though the police did not like Shawn Spencer, who was the Sherlock Holmes inspired character in Psych, they still rely on Shawn to solve the crime. Also in Sherlock series, Greg Lestrade needs the help from Sherlock Holmes as can be illustrated in the end when he calls Sherlock back for Jim Moriarty. However, the genre convention of police force has been updated. Since the technology is developing rapidly in modern days, the forensic science becomes matured gradually which makes the investigation easier than it was during Victorian Era. The Sherlock TV series, introduced as Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watsons

adventures in 21st Century London, is a thrilling, funny, fast-paced contemporary reimagining of the Arthur Conan Doyle classic(BBC). The series was created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss and premiered in 2010 on British Broadcasting Corporation and later on co-funders Public Broadcasting Service. Sherlock series is one of the modern-day version of Conan Doyles Holmes stories that gives the audience a new idea of genre convention about police; in particular, in both Conan Doyles Holmes stories and Sherlock series, the police are quite equally ignorant, but in Sherlock Series, the police can still help Sherlock Holmes solve the crime because of the development of the forensic science. The mystery genre conventions of police can be found in both modern Sherlock series, and one of Conan Doyles Holmes novels The Sign of the Four. In the third episode of season two in Sherlock series, The Reichenbach Fall, when the ambassador Rufus Bruhls children Max and Claudette were kidnapped, the police Greg Lestrade and Sergeant Donovan come to Sherlock Holmes place and ask him for help as always. When Sherlock is analyzing what the little boy would do in the room, all police stand there, follow Sherlock with their eyes, and ask questions. Also, in chapter six Sherlock Holmes Gives a Demonstration of The Sign of the Four, after detailed examination, Sherlock determines that two people entered from the hole in the roof and removed the treasure. However, when the police Athelney Jones arrives, he wants to arrest Thaddeus Sholto for murdering Bartholomew Sholto, based on very few evidence. Both scenes illustrate that the police in detective stories have no idea how to solve the crime by themselves. In the scene of Sherlock series mentioned previously, the police could not observe many clues in the crime scene and they are always less important than the actual detective who is Sherlock Holmes. After Sherlock talks to the house mistress Miss Mackenzie, Sherlock walks

out from the camera and the focus of the camera turn to Watson with the police being blurry at the side. The filmmaker uses shallow focus, or a restricted distance through which elements in an image are in sharp focus, to keep only Watson in sharp focus(Film Analysis). This editing technique tells the audience that even though Watson is not as smart as Sherlock, he still prevails everything else in the scene. Police, in this case, are shown to be incompetent outsiders in the crime scene. Moreover, when Sherlock Holmes observes for clues and evidence, the police characters are positioned behind Sherlock, which emphasizes the importance of Sherlock over the importance of the police. However, the sound of police talking still presents in the scene. The director chooses to use off-screen sound, or the simultaneous sound from a source assumed to be in the space of the scene but outside what is visible on screen(Film Analysis). According to this filming techniques, the audience can see how the conversation between police are way less important, or even irrelevant comparing to what Sherlock can observe in solving the crime. Lastly, when Sherlock tries to simulate the crime scene, the police stand aside, watch Sherlock deducing and ask few questions. The camera follows Sherlocks movement and sometimes shoots from the back of Lestrade. This illustrates that just like the camera, the police are only able to follow Sherlock. However, when Sherlock found the chemical glass bottle underneath the bedside table, he said, Get Anderson, who was a forensic scientist. Sherlock needed Anderson to set up the props that might be needed to find the clue that had been left using the chemical. In this case, only the police could help him so efficiently by using the forensics science. Later when Anderson tried to conclude that the clue from that chemical was not helpful, Sherlock described Anderson as brilliant impression of an idiot. As limited as this one minute scene of police being helpful, the ability of police that can be used in crime scene investigation is still lacking. Till here, the police are brought back to the place where they can do nothing. In this whole scene

in The Reichenbach Fall, the police are still incompetent as what Conan Doyle portrayed in his stories, but this convention is updated since even though they cannot solve the crime directly, they are able to assist Sherlock Holmes by using forensic science. The revised convention that is shown to the modern-day audience is that with the development of forensic science, the police in mystery genre are not totally helpless. In the scene in the Sign of the Four that is mentioned before, the word pompously was used to describe police Jones actions (Doyle 74), and Conan Doyle describes that Jones usually talked to Sherlock Holmes in a sneering voice(Doyle 77). However, Sherlock later described Jones in French, Il ny a pasdes sots si incommodes que ceux qui ont de lesprit which means it is even harder to be with a fool who has no wit (Doyle 75). Jones overconfidence, in comparison to Sherlocks harsh but accurate critique, serves as a foil to his ignorance and superficialness in drawing conclusions. The police in this story are incompetent, helpless and disruptive. However, even though the police in series Sherlock are still foil characters for Holmes, comparing to the police in Conan Doyles hand, the police in series Sherlock are more helpful, as Anderson could at least help Sherlock find clues by using the forensic science. During Victorian Era, Unlike today, the police of Victorian London did not have access to the type of criminal forensic investigative techniques we are used to. Instead they had to rely on simple clues, circumstantial evidence, and their past experience to solve a crime(Criminal Forensic Science in The Victorian Era). The impossible forensic investigative techniques to Victorian London police were mostly accessible to the police in modern-day detective stories. The police have some ability of crime scene investigation, but it is still lacking. The change in forensic field has subtle influence on the convention of mystery genre. Following the footstep of the time, the convention is gradually updated.

All in all, the context of one era will have some effects on the conventions of mystery genre. According to a short response from the citizens in the article How safe was Victorian London?, We never tell the police, said one tradesman in the Gray's Inn Road area, it's no good(Banerjee 3). During the Victorian Era, the public did not trust police and had very little confidence in them, but nowadays, people tend to go to police more when they have problems. The ability of police has been changed and developed overtime as the forensic sciences developed. Echoing the change of the times, the police convention of mystery genre is updated too. Even though the police are still the one who cannot solve the crime without relying on detectives and who take all the credit eventually, they could actually help the detective during the process of solving crime. The police have the all the devices, technologies, and information bases to assist the detective in the mystery genre. Despite the fact that the police are still always the seemingly outsiders in each case, they become more recognizable in modern-day detective stories. This new way appeals to the modern audience since it makes people feel more familiar, real, and engaged with the texts.

Work Cited 1. BBC News. BBC, n.d. Web. 19 Feb. 2014. <http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b018ttws>. 2. "Criminal Forensic Science in The Victorian Era." Forensic Science. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2014. <http://myrealms.net/otherrealms/london/forensic_science.htm>. 3. Banerjee, Jacqueline. "How Safe Was Victorian London?" The Victorian Web. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2014. <http://www.victorianweb.org/history/crime/banerjee1.html>. 4. Doyle, Conan. The Sign of the Four. United Kingdom: The Strand Magazine, 1980. Print. 5. "The Reichenbach Fall." Sherlock TV Series. BBC. United Kingdom. 25 Jul. 2010. Television. 6. Prunes, Mariano, Michael Raine, and Mary Litch. "Film Analysis." Yale Film Study. Yale University's Film Study Center, 27 Aug. 2002. Web. 12 Mar. 2014. <http://classes.yale.edu/film-analysis/>.