The Game Is On: Essay questions

FIRST ESSAY (1500 words, due date 7th September)

Choose a single short sequence from any episode in the first season of Sherlock (not a sequence we’ve covered in class) as the focus for a technical and narrative close analysis. Write a detailed account of this scene, paying attention to the ways in which its technical staging (framing, lighting, design, music, etc) furthers the show’s particular interests in narrative and characterisation. You are attempting to answer the questions, “What is the show trying to do with this sequence, why is it here?”, and “How do they achieve that goal?” While you will need to contextualise the sequence in the episode and the show overall, your focus should be on the specifics of the piece, not on general commentary.

SECOND ESSAY (2000 words, due date 17th October)

Choose one of the following topics:

  1. Adaptation. In a close comparison between an episode of Sherlock and the Doyle story (or stories) on which it is based, analyse the adaptation choices which have been made by the BBC series. You should suggest how the inclusions, omissions and alterations of the BBC version are integral to its modernisation project, and to its re-imagining of the primary characters. You may find it useful to look at some moments in the Granada version of the same story for purposes of comparison.
  2. Representation. In a close analysis of key scenes from Sherlock, explore the technical elements – framing, focus, lighting, editing, sound-track, costume, set detail, etc. – which consistently construct and define one of the following:
    • one particular character
    • the relationship between two particular characters
    • a particular kind of interaction
    • a particular kind of action
    • the representation of the deductive process.

    Your discussion should attempt to link the technical aspects of the particular instance you have chosen to your sense of the overall project, tone, genre, etc. of the series as a whole, and in particular its modernisation of Doyle’s characters and stories.

  3. Characterisation. In a close analysis of key scenes from Sherlock, discuss the series’ construction of one particular character in terms both of their function in the series as a whole, and of the relationship between Sherlock’s version and Doyle’s original. If you’ve chosen a character such as Molly who is not represented in the Doyle stories, your analysis should suggest why you think this character was introduced, and what overall function they fulfil in the series. Your discussion should pay some attention to issues of genre, expectation and audience identification.
  4. Genre. This is “a show about a detective, not a detective show”. With particular focus on either a specific episode or a specific genre, discuss the show’s play – in scripting, acting choices, cinematography, staging, etc – with the conventions of another genre or genres. How do these other conventions interact with the expectations of the detective procedural, and what particular purposes are served by these generic intertexts?

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