"The Doctor's Case": A Short Film Review by Mimi Okabe

On Saturday February 23rd, the Bootmakers of Toronto held a very special screening of The Doctor’s Case (2018) co-directed by James Douglas and Leonard Pearl at the Toronto Reference Library. The film has won several awards and is based on the short-story by Stephen King but with a twist ending!

Both directors and Joanna Douglas, who played the role of Tabitha Hull, made a special guest appearance and they shared their experience of the production process, which Douglas had described himself as “serendipitous.” The story about the anonymous, mysterious cat that made a cameo appearance at the beginning of the film was, perhaps, the funniest of them all--and probably a clear sign that the film was meant to be.

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As a crowd funded project, the film had a limited budget and a tight deadline. It was also Douglas’s first film. Despite these limitations (or because of them) we learned that the cast and crew worked tirelessly, and their devotion and love for this project clearly paid off as the film was produced with such great integrity. Everything from the music to the actors’ performance was so cleverly executed. J.P. Winslow’s performance of Sherlock Holmes was interesting and refreshing. Unlike Basil Rathbone or Benedict Cumberbatch who exude an air of confidence in their performance of Holmes, I felt that Winslow presented a more “down-to-earth” version of the Great detective. We got to see a slightly more vulnerable and human side to Holmes and this was evident not only in the fact that Holmes was not able to solve the case (due to his severe allergy to cats) but I was impressed by how Holmes genuinely supports Watson (played by Michael Coleman) throughout his investigation of the crime scene. One of my favorite moments in the film was when Holmes describes Watson deduction as “first class.” The pairing of Holmes and Watson was done so tastefully and their friendship was conveyed in a compelling way.

There are many aspects of the film that I really enjoyed and learning about the process made me appreciate the film all the more. Small details such as the song that Holmes plays on the violin at the end of the film, which was an homage to Douglas’s aunt who is a pianist, were really touching. I also found the Captain Norton’s role (played by Denise Crosby) in the film so intriguing and can’t wait to see if there’s going to be a sequel!

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Unfortunately, due to copyright reasons the film can only be viewed at certain events and is not available for sale. However, Douglas had mentioned that they hope to make it to the big screen, and when that day comes, I hope the Bootmakers can make a field trip out of it.

Interested in the film? See the official homepage of the “The Doctor’s Case” here.

Join the Bootmakers for more special events here!




❤Happy 2019 to Sherlockians Near and Far❤ by Mimi Okabe

January has been such a festive month! For me, it began with celebrating the Japanese New Year (Oshōgatsu), followed by Sherlock Holmes’s birthday on the 6th. To top it all off, the Bootmakers of Toronto held its annual Blue Carbuncle Awards Dinner on Saturday January 26th. This year, it was changed to a luncheon and it was held at the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club.

As one of the newest members, this was my first time attending the event and I was pleasantly surprised at how well organized and just how fun it was.

The Awards luncheon began with a series of toasts by fellow members of the Bootmakers, which were all  delivered with wit and humor, especially the toast to “A Certain Gracious Lady” (aka. Queen Victoria) by Margaret French who was perfectly dressed for the part. Doug Wrigglesworth also said a few words in tribute to Peter Calamai.

 
👏Our guest speaker: Mattias Boström 👏

👏Our guest speaker: Mattias Boström 👏

After a (surprisingly) tasty meal, we put down our forks and knives and all waited in anticipation to meet our special “virtual” guest—Mattias Boström—Swedish writer, Sherlockian and winner of the 2018 Agatha Award for his book entitled From Holmes to Sherlock (2013). Mattias gave an insightful talk about the extensive research that went into writing his book, and his hopes that it will connect new Sherlockians to its long and varied history and tradition(s). At the end of his talk, three lucky members won a copy of Mattias’s book. If you don’t own a copy you can purchase yours here!

Mattias’s talk was followed by a fun quiz created by Donny Zaldin based on the illustrations (mostly by Sidney Paget) in the Canon. We had to guess the name of the story and the characters shown on the slides--and some of them were a bit challenging! Apparently, there's a quiz every year, so I’ll be prepared for next time.

Finally, the event ended with honoring fellow members for their contribution to the Bootmakers—it is an awards luncheon after all! A special plaque was made for Mike Ranieri without whom there would be no lovely program and exciting events. (To view details about last year’s events and award recipients, see here).

One of the most rewarding things about being a member of the Bootmakers (or any Sherlockian society for that matter)  is being able to connect with locals and Sherlockians from around the world. The Blue Carbuncle Awards luncheon was such a great way to end the first month of the new year and I look forward to all the upcoming events scheduled this year! (P.S. I’ll be a giving a short talk at our next meeting on February 23rd 2019).

If you want to learn more about who we are and what we do, check us out here.

Not yet a member? Why don’t you join in on the fun by registering here!!




The Adventures of Detective Pikachu and His Strange Case of Identity by Mimi Okabe

In anticipation of the film, Detective Pikachu, which will be released in May 2019, fans of Pokémon turned to Twitter, celebrating the epic collab of Pikachu and what appears to be Sherlock Holmes through fan art, hilarious memes and even a countdown to the film. It was time for me to investigate what all this hype was about, so I finally played the video game.

Hurray! Christmas came a little early this year!

Hurray! Christmas came a little early this year!

Detective Pikachu was released in North America on March 23, 2018, which was a little over two years after the game was released in Japan. It was developed by Creatures Inc., and made for the Nintendo 3Ds, although you can’t play the game in 3D mode... (T_T)

Without giving too much away, the game begins with a boy protagonist named Tim Goodman who travels to Ryme City to investigate the mystery behind his father’s disappearance. His father, Harry, was a detective who went missing after a car accident during one his investigations. Tim joins forces with his father’s partner, Pikachu, who miraculously survived the accident but has no recollection of it, and seems to have lost his thunderbolt powers. It’s hinted at throughout the game that something about detective Pikachu isn’t the same as before. What happened to Pikachu? Where did Harry go? And what’s the connection between the accident and the rise of violent pokémon that threaten the pokémon world order? To answer these questions, you’ll have to play the game where you’ll work alongside Pikachu to solve a series of mysteries that’ll lead you one step closer to uncovering the truth about Harry’s disappearance and the strange case that he was investigating.

The game itself is pretty entertaining although it’s mainly targeted for a child player. As a result, the mysteries are incredibly easy to solve and luckily, I was able to clear the game in two nights. I was disappointed at the fact that Tim is the only playable avatar and it’s too bad that there’s no option to pair detective Pikachu with other characters in the game.

Detective Pikachu is marketed as an action/adventure game on Nintendo’s official website, but it goes without saying that the cover of the game, which invokes an image of Sherlock Holmes is a telltale sign of it also being a mystery (not to mention the word Detective gives it away as well). Pikachu’s attire—his deerstalker cap, cape and magnifying glass—might suggest that the game adapts Conan Doyle’s Victorian sleuth, but I think it makes deceptive use of a British pop culture icon with superficial attachment to the original character. In fact, Pikachu himself comes across as a character who should be dressed in a fedora and trench coat like Sam Spade as the game playfully renders elements of the hardboiled detective fiction genre. Pikachu’s “tough” image, indicated by his preference for black coffee, his attraction to beautiful women, his unusual low, husky voice and his use of colloquial Japanese all pay homage to an image of the hardboiled detective and not necessarily that of the gentleman detective, Holmes.

Although the game seems to invoke qualities of the hardboiled in the characterization of detective Pikachu, it steers away from a world that is defined by cynicism and violence, which is quintessential to the hardboiled genre of detective fiction. This is probably because the game is rated “E” and therefore has to keep content kid-friendly. Consequently, this results in a strange, but interesting blend of tropes and conventions from both the hardboiled and classic genres of detective fiction. For example, detective Pikachu is unlike the typical hardboiled detective who often works alone and is depicted as the story’s anti-hero. In fact, the lone wolf detective character type is replaced with the dynamic duo Pikachu and Tim, and this pairing is reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes and Watson to some degree. Throughout the game, detective Pikachu guides the player to make correct deductions whereas Tim keeps hand drawn records of the crime scene, which is similar to how Watson kept a written record of his adventures with Holmes—though I’d argue that Tim is far more involved in the actual investigative process than Watson is in Doyle’s stories.

I think the creators of the game had some awareness of the world of Sherlock Holmes and its television franchise. Names of places such as Baker Detective Agency and the jingle at the beginning of the game, which reminded me of the soundtrack used in BBC’s Sherlock, are but two ways that Detective Pikachu repurposes canonical material and popular adaptations of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. At the same time, and to put it bluntly, the Pokemon/Pikachu and Sherlock Holmes mashup is profitable because it brings together two pop culture icons from the East and West, and it’s clear that the game utilizes the iconic image of Holmes as a major selling point but transforms the character of Sherlock Holmes beyond recognition—and perhaps for good reason—so as to avoid having to secure copyright permission with The Conan Doyle Estate (?).

Aside from this issue, the most memorable thing about the game by far, for me, was Pikachu who is a coffee connoisseur and lover of sweets. If pokémon were to exist in this world, then, I’d definitely search far and wide for a detective Pikachu. One of the things I really like about the game is how the cute, little Pikachu that I remember from the original Pokémon series is transformed into an おっさんキャラ (ossan kyara: old man character type) who loves coffee, sweets and not to mention beautiful women. While I’m not surprised about the representation of most women in the game, I found Pikachu’s love for coffee and sweets quite relatable. I love how at the end the game, you can access the gallery of “Pikachu’s Coffee Memo” and replay selected chapters of the game to collect them all! If anything, I learned some valuable lessons about how to enjoy my coffee.

“Ha— —!! Shadow clone!” …. wrong anime Pikachu lol

“Ha— —!! Shadow clone!” …. wrong anime Pikachu lol

If I was asked to rate this game out of five stars, I’d give it a 5/5. The story is compelling, the gameplay is fairly easy and I love how Pikachu is revised in slightly humorous and unexpected ways.

"Down, Boy!" The Charming but Cunning Beryl Stapleton in Craig Hall's "The Hound of the Baskervilles" by Mimi Okabe

On Sunday October 21st, I went to go see The Hound of the Baskervilles adapted by R. Hamilton Wright and David Pichette and directed by Craig Hall at the Shaw Theater in Niagara-on-the-Lake. And what a show! If you haven’t seen the stage play then you must! Absolutely everything—from the performance; to the visual and sound effects; to costumes and to props—the play brought to life the world of Sherlock Holmes as depicted in Doyle’s story, however, with a twist ending. I was impressed by how almost each cast member played more than one role. Actor Damien Atkins who played the role of Sherlock Holmes, as well as the man on the Tor and the reverend, executed his performance with finesse. Specifically, his reinterpretation of Sherlock Holmes’s character brought humor, wit and a little more madness than expected. In Act III, during Holmes’s and Watson’s debriefing over breakfast, Holmes stuffed his face with bacon and to my relief he didn’t choke on any of it. In fact, I was surprised to see that food and drinks were actually consumed on stage. Ric Reid’s performance of Watson was equally brilliant. Often, Watson’s role in other adaptations is severely undermined as he is rendered as Holmes’s comic foil but the play reminded me of just how important Watson’s presence is in the story. He is a caring doctor, a clever “spy,” and a friend who carries out Holmes’s plans with honor. My favorite line in the play by Watson was: “The Game is afoot! I’ve always wanted to say that!” which is obviously not mentioned in the novel—at least to my knowledge.

While there are many other memorable moments in the stage play, the ending struck a chord with me as it took a radical departure from Doyle’s original story…

Here come the spoilers! You’ve been warned. Dun Dun Dun!

In Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, Jack Stapleton is the criminal mastermind behind a double murder, and the one who devises a plot to murder Sir Henry who stands in his way of inheriting the Baskerville fortune. Although his plan is ultimately intercepted by Holmes, Jack goes to great lengths to achieve his goal. Specifically, he uses women as pawns in his own game, deceiving, for example, Laura Lyons with the promise of marriage when he is already married to Beryl, a Costa Rican woman he met during his travels in South America. Beryl, however, initially appears in the story as Jack Stapleton’s sister, which was contrived by Jack himself as part of his scheme.

Throughout the story, readers aren’t given much information about Beryl other than facts about her physical appearance. According to Watson, “she was darker than any brunette whom I have seen in England—slim, elegant, and tall.” Like in other stories, Watson doesn’t fail to remind us of his attraction to women. Often women in the Canon are limited to the following roles: they appear as helpless damsels-in-distress, victims of folly, murder, or are utilized as a mere plot device. Of course, Irene Adler stands as the only exception. In the novel, Beryl is physically and emotionally abused by Jack who eventually locks her up at the end of the story in fear that she will jeopardize his plans. She is eventually rescued by Holmes, Watson and Lestrade. The scene in the novel is described as follows:

 The room had been fashioned into a small museum, and the walls were lined by a number of glass-topped cases full of that collection of butterflies and moths the formation of which had been the relaxation of this complex and dangerous man. In the centre of this room there was an upright beam, which had been placed at some period as a support for the old worm-eaten baulk of timber which spanned the roof. To this post a figure was tied, so swathed and muffled in the sheets which had been used to secure it that one could not for the moment tell whether it was that of a man or a woman. One towel passed round the throat and was secured at the back of the pillar. Another covered the lower part of the face, and over it two dark eyes—eyes full of grief and shame and a dreadful questioning—stared back at us. In a minute we had torn off the gag, unswathed the bonds, and Mrs. Stapleton sank upon the floor in front of us. As her beautiful head fell upon her chest I saw the clear red weal of a whiplash across her neck.

“The brute!” cried Holmes. “Here, Lestrade, your brandy-bottle! Put her in the chair! She has fainted from ill-usage and exhaustion.”

She opened her eyes again.

“Is he safe?” she asked. “Has he escaped?”

“He cannot escape us, madam.”

“No, no, I did not mean my husband. Sir Henry? Is he safe?”

“Yes.”

“And the hound?”

“It is dead.”

She gave a long sigh of satisfaction.

“Thank God! Thank God! Oh, this villain! See how he has treated me!” She shot her arms out from her sleeves, and we saw with horror that they were all mottled with bruises. “But this is nothing—nothing! It is my mind and soul that he has tortured and defiled. I could endure it all, ill-usage, solitude, a life of deception, everything, as long as I could still cling to the hope that I had his love, but now I know that in this also I have been his dupe and his tool.” She broke into passionate sobbing as she spoke.

 —Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Project Gutenberg

This passage creeps me out! Readers aren’t told about what happens to Beryl after this ordeal. All that matters, I suppose is that the sadistic psycho, Jack Stapleton, met his end (it’s suggested that he fell into a mire as he fled towards his hideout), and Beryl will never again be a victim of his jealous rage. And, so the story concludes on a very happy note with Holmes and Watson getting ready to embark on their next adventure. Hip hip hooray for our heroes!

Taken during intermission.

Taken during intermission.

The representation of Beryl in the stage play adaptation is quite different. Performed by actress Natasha Mumba, Beryl is as Holmes describes, “charming” but she takes on a role of a femme fatale rather than a damsel-in-distress.

In Act III of the play, Sherlock Holmes reveals that Beryl is Jack’s partner in crime, which is unlike the novel. In the play, Beryl is an accessory to murder as she was the one responsible for releasing the hound that went after her “brother,” accidentally killing him, instead of Sir Henry. To Beryl’s relief, the secret about her marriage to Jack was as good as dead until Holmes revealed the truth. It was at that moment that Beryl reached for Watson’s revolver. I remember how the audience fell into an awkward silence at this moment, but I couldn’t help but grin. With poise and defiance, Beryl held the revolver, pointing it at Sherlock Holmes, as she demanded him to get on his knees. The image of Beryl standing in front of three powerful men, whose lives were at her mercy, was one of the most evocative moments in the play that I’ll never forget. “Look at you,” she said, as she held the revolver in front of Holmes, Watson and Sir Henry. “The three of you men, pathetic, self satisfying weaklings forever at the mercy of your utterly predictable desires.” She was in such control of the situation that she even told Sir Henry, “Down, boy!” which the audience got a chuckle out of. But her moment of defiance was short lived because she was trapped in a bog that eventually swallowed her whole. As Beryl sank into depths of the bog, so too did the feminist vision of the play. While a sigh of relief could be heard among some of the audience members, I rolled my eyes at Beryl’s unfortunate fate. I wish Hall had thought of an alternative ending to Wright’s and Pichette’s version.

Indeed, unlike the novel’s representation of Beryl as a helpless victim of abuse, in the play, she displays a considerable amount of control and agency. Beryl is assertive and employs her cunning intelligence to get what she wants. She has Sir Henry wrapped around her finger, and he becomes her means of securing the Baskerville fortune after Plan A failed. But Beryl’s death is symbolic of the restoration of moral and patriarchal order that is typical of Doyle’s stories. In other words, if we can consider Sherlock Holmes as a personification of patriarchal authority itself, then we can begin to understand why women who pose a threat to this social order are silenced. Like Irene Adler, Beryl is intelligent and manages to overpower Sherlock Holmes, however briefly, but neither Irene or Beryl live to tell their own tales. So, what appears as a feminist revision of the play’s ending is in fact complacent to the genre’s conservatism. Women are thus empowered to the extent that patriarchy allows. Perhaps, this view is not so “old-school” because myths about women in positions of authority and therefore power persist in our society today.  

There is one other issue that I would like to address. I’ll never forget the conversation that I overheard during the second intermission of the play:

 Man: “I’m not convinced that Beryl is Mr. Stapleton’s sister. I mean she’s Black, and in the 1850s or whatever that would’ve been unlikely”

Woman: “I think she’s supposed to be White.”

While much can be said about their sheer ignorance, their comment made me think about the racial implications of Doyle’s stories. Throughout the Canon, there are numerous examples of cultural Othering, and although some will argue that Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories are a product of a Victorian/Edwardian historical moment, it doesn’t justify racism. Knowing this, I found the casting for Hall’s play quite refreshing because it not only adds a really interesting layer for critical analysis (which is beyond the scope of this blog), but it shows alternative ways in which Sherlock Holmes is re-imagined on stage for a contemporary audience. Perhaps, Hall’s stage play adaptation holds a mirror up to society, but what each of us sees in the reflection of this mirror is something different. Perhaps it’s a hidden fear? And if it is, ask yourself why you are so disturbed?

I hope that the Shaw Theater brings back The Hound of the Baskervilles because it’s a play that I think is worth seeing more than once! But book your tickets in advance as they tend to sell out fast. We were lucky to have sat relatively close to the stage and the cost for two people was around $275.00 total.

 For more information about the Shaw click here.

To read Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles click here

Read more about the world Sherlock Holmes adaptations:

  1. Poore, Benjamin. Sherlock Holmes From Screen to Stage: Post-millennial Adaptations In British Theatre. 1st edition London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017.

  2. Porter, Lynnette R. Sherlock Holmes for the 21st Century : Essays on New Adaptations. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2012.

  3. Stein, Louisa Ellen, and Kristina Busse. Sherlock and Transmedia Fandom : Essays On the BBC Series.Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2012.

  4. Vanacker, Sabine, and Catherine Wynne. Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle : Multi-media Afterlives. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

Knock, knock! Holmes, are you home? by Mimi Okabe

Visiting the Sherlock Holmes museum in London, England is probably every Sherlock Holmes fan’s dream. Even if you’re not a die-hard fan, you should find it amusing!

For starters, if you’re in London, take the metro to Baker Street Station where you’ll find the iconic silhouette of Holmes smoking his pipe along the walls of the station. Then, head down to 221b Baker St, Marylebone.

There used to be an online system where you could purchase tickets in advance but for whatever reason that service has been discontinued. To get tickets, you’ll have to walk into the gift store, which is right next to the museum. The tickets cost £15 each (around $26.00 CAD) for adults. Once you’ve obtained your “golden key,” line up in front of the door to 221b, which is guarded by men from the Scotland Yard, but have no fear because they aren’t real police. In fact, they’re super friendly and funny. Don’t forget to snap a few photos with them too! For details about the museum click here.

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I visited the museum on a weekday sometime during the first week of September in the late afternoon, and the cue wasn’t very long. The museum allows a large group of people (I think 10-15) to enter at once, so even if there’s a long cue, you won’t wait that long. The tour begins in the famous study, and if you haven’t read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, it might seem underwhelming since many of the small details in that room—the violin, chemistry set, the wall covered in bullet holes—speak to Holmes’s hobbies and habits that any aficionado would pick up on. Luckily, there’s a guide who’ll explain the significance of each room, and because we’re all squeezed in a small space, there’s no way you’ll miss anything s/he says.

For me, the study represents an iconic space. It’s the place where Sherlock Holmes met many of his clients and where many of his adventures with Watson began. Unfortunately, when I went, there was rope barricading me from sitting on the chairs so I couldn’t role play as Holmes or Watson and snap a few pics (as I have heard others have done), but the museum showcases other really interesting artifacts. What stood out for me was a bound collection of fan made works and letters sent to the museum from China, and a framed, leaflet-like-poster titled “Holmes’s supporting cast” featured in both Japanese and English. This speaks to the sustained influence and popularity of Sherlock Holmes in Asia (and on a global scale) as Doyle’s work have been adapted across linguistic borders and cultures.

I’ve also been to the Sherlock Holmes exhibit in Kobe, Japan, which I visited in 2011, where the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton was also highly anticipated (as you can see in the photo below). The study was set up in a slightly different way than at the location in London, but I love how the wax doll of Sherlock Holmes was placed in the study at the Kobe location. Is Holmes peering out the window because he spotted something suspicious? Is he waiting for his next client?

Upstairs in the London location, you’ll find a wax exhibit. I was most intrigued by the wax dolls of Holmes and Watson standing in the graveyard because it reminded me of a scene in a video game called Dai Gyakuten Saiban 2: Naruhodou Ryuunosuke no Kakugo (Great Turnabout Trial 2: The Resolve of Ryūnosuke Naruhodō), which adapts Doyle’s famous detective. It’s possible that the creators of the game had visited this museum (as well as Madame Tussauds), or it’s also possible that they utilized images of the museum(s) through online sources. Either way, it was cool to see how elements from the Sherlock Holmes Museum were integrated into a Japanese video game that not so many people know about (but now you do!). I presented a paper on this game at the British Association for Japanese Studies, which you can read about here.

Of course, all great tours end with a visit to the souvenir store (the so-called tourist trap), which I usually bypass at other museums, zoos and aquariums. Not this time. Like any fan girl, I felt like being in a candy store and at the end of the day, I paid for a watch, a book, a postcard and a pin as tokens to remind myself of my little adventure in Holmes’s abode.

BUT WAIT! Your adventure shouldn’t end here! Don’t forget to check out the bronze statue of Holmes and if you have time, go on a Sherlock Holmes tour, which you can find more information about here. There are many more attractions that you can indulge in, so here’s to many more fun adventures as you explore the world of Sherlock Holmes in London!

The game (is always) afoot!