I'll start with a confession about BBC Sherlock's 'A Scandal in Belgravia' - it is my favourite Sherlock epsiode. Out of all the episodes of all seasons.
I've read A Scandal in Bohemia - the original story on which A Scandal in Belgravia is loosely based - and I like it a lot.
But I absolutely love A Scandal in Belgravia.
The screenplay is rivetting. The humour is well..ridiculous. The dialogues have been finely crafted and chiselled. And I haven't even spoken about the mystery yet...
It's worth at least two watches. One - to be blown away by the storyline, and another, to savour the dialogues and the excruciating attention paid to details.
Here's how I would rate A Scandal in Belgravia:
Irene Adler is a dominatrix. Which is fine.
She's smart, incredibly intelligent and she loves playing games. Which is great.
The problem is: She's got some embarrassing photographs of herself and a royal 'family member.'
The bigger problem is: She just refuses to part with them. She's not even saying anything like, "Give me 100,000 pounds and you'll have the photographs."
She's just hidden the photographs and no one has been able to recover them.
This is where Sherlock comes in. Mycroft - a powerful man in the British Government and Sherlock Holmes' brother - wants Sherlock to recover those photos.
Again, one might think: Just how difficult can recovering photographs be for a man of Sherlock's abilities?
Quite difficult if you consider that...
So, will Sherlock finally get those photographs? And will he fall in love? Or not? The way it all unfolds is...
This has to be one of the funniest moments out of all Sherlock episodes!
Sherlock's been brought forcibly to Buckingham Palace to solve a royal case. But then, you can't force Sherlock, right? He wants his space.
So, he refuses to change into formals. He comes covered by exactly one piece of garment: a bedsheet.
John's sitting beside Sherlock too and they both suddenly burst out laughing. It goes a bit like this:
When Mycroft comes in, the scene becomes even more ridiculous. He says:
And Sherlock replies saying:
Of course, the scene is hilarious. It's also a befitting reply from Sherlock for being forcibly taken anywhere without his consent.
There are these moments when you're shocked out of your wits. That's what happened to me when I first saw Irene Adler appear.
Sherlock's sitting there in Irene's house - disguised - when in she pops.
What is amazing in this scene is not that she's naked.
It's her confidence, her complete ease in the moment, the mind-blowing self-belief that radiates from her.
She's not showing off. She's not naked to seduce anyone. She's just who she is in the moment. That inspires respect. And shock!
Sherlock and John are both stunned out of their wits. Sherlock tries...and tries - but he can't deduce one thing about Irene. Which is again - shocking.
When John enters the scene, he's like:
A napkin? He's really shocked out of his mind.
To this Irene replies:
This scene's a job that's been done really well.
In fact this scene inspired me to look within myself and ask some deep questions like:
How would I feel if I were physically or emotionally naked - what fears would I have?
If I were completely naked even before myself what would I see and deny?
... Sherlock's phone moans 'Ahhhh...!' at exactly that moment!
Sherlock can be rude.
OK, that's putting it mildly. Sometimes, Sherlock can be horribly rude.
When Molly comes to visit him for Christmas, he makes some condescending deductions about her and rips her apart. That's when he sees that the terrible deductions he was making were about a romantic gift for him - Sherlock.
Molly's on the verge of tears when Sherlock says:
Then he kisses her on the cheek. It's a special scene because Sherlock doesn't generally apologize to anyone. Nor does he generally kiss anyone on the cheek.
It becomes even more special, however, when just at the instant when Sherlock's finished his 'peck,' a voice says:
It's a moan - 'that' kind of moan, you know...
...And of course everyone's eyes are on Molly Hooper!
(Here's an edited picture that shows how John, Mrs. Hudson and Lestrade may have felt at that moment...)
It's incredibly funny seeing Molly look at everyone and say:
It's actually Sherlock's phone's ringtone - but the way it comes at just the moment after the kiss is - awesome. :-)
Irene Adler's there.
John and Sherlock are there.
And there's an American guy with guns and more armed men who's threatening to kill John unless Sherlock opens the safe.
This safe has Irene's phone - the phone with the scandalizing photos of a royal family member.
Sherlock cleverly figures out the code to the safe and he's just about to open the door when he shouts:
That's when the magic begins.
John ducks as a gun fires from inside the safe. Irene's already on the floor, so she's safe.
This scene is astonishingly well shot in slow motion. From the moment when Sherlock says 'Vatican cameos' -a Phantom HD camera gets into action capturing the whole sequence at 400 frames per second.
In case you're wondering what that number means: compare it to the normal Sherlock scenes which are shot at 25 frames per second.
The effect is awesome!
Frame by frame, you get to see everyone ducking slowly - and you even see the gun slowly firing. And then, Sherlock snatches the gun from the American guy and gives him one on the cheek with his elbow.
The game's over in a second - but the way it's shown with a splendid score playing in the background is superb.
Here's the scene again:
This is that moment which turns the episode on its head!
Irene Adler has won. She's disrupted Mycroft's secret plans to foil a terrorist attack. She's not given Sherlock any of the royal photographs he wanted. And she has an ocean of state secrets in her phone...
...All because Sherlock can't crack the code of Irene's phone. The phone with all the secret info.
The code that needs to be entered is simply this:
But there's just one attempt remaining and Sherlock's tried every intelligent combination he can think off. The phone is mind-numbingly security proof.
Sherlock has to get that code right or - Mycroft and he and the British Government - will all feel like losers.
And then he cracks it!
And he doesn't just guess it. He cracks it as he deduces that Irene loves him. She also loves playing games.
It is a splendid moment because Irene's winning the game throughout the episode and then...
...Sherlock wins it!
Who wrote A Scandal in Belgravia? In which cities was it shot? When was it first aired?
Here's the vital info:
A Scandal in Belgravia starts with a completely unexpected twist: it starts with Moriarty's phone ringing as he's threatening John and Sherlock.
In fact, here's the scene if you haven't watched it (in a while):
It's a pretty fun song to have here because it so, so - represents the opposite of what's going on in the scene. Sherlock and John are worried about 'being dead' here - and that's when this very 'alive' song plays!
In fact, Sherlock's producer Sue Vertue was at a funeral when she heard this song suddenly disrupt the whole scenario. That's how the idea first bloomed...
...So, what is this song that is Jim Moriarty's ringtone?
Turns out it's a song by the pop band - the Bee Gees. The name of the song is 'Stayin' Alive'.
The video sounds a bit...dull by today's standards but it was a crazy hit when it was released on December 13, 1977.
How crazy a hit was it?
For starters, it was number 1 for four weeks on the Billboard Hot 100. It's one of the songs in Rolling Stone's 500 greatest songs of all time, it's on the American Film Institute's top 100 songs list, it's even on Time's list of all time top 100 songs!
OK, now that we're on a roll talking about this song - here's yet another fact about this song...
...Stayin' Alive has been featured in at least 30 TV shows (nope, Sherlock's definitely not the first one).
It was even played during the Summer Olympics in London in 2012.
Irene Adler's phone is one of the most important things out there in A Scandal in Belgravia.
The whole episode is about cracking the phone's code.
So, which model was actually used to show that phone?
The model used in the show is:
The Vertu Constellation Quest
Just in case you've not heard of Vertu, it's a 'luxury' phone company that sells handmade phones.
The Vertu Constellation Quest was a handcrafted beauty that looked like a Nokia E 72 phone - but according to Sherlockology, it cost (hold your breath) 17,300 pounds at that time!
That's around the money to rent a 3-bedroom apartment in the center of London for five months (in 2015)!
(Thanks to gsmarena.com for that picture.)
The operating system this phone used was Symbian - Nokia's ex-operating system.
I've been talking in the 'past tense' about this phone because the Vertu Constellation Quest is no longer being sold. It's been replaced by newer models.
A Scandal in Belgravia features some fascinating locales.
Irene Adler's house: where were those interiors shot?
Where did John punch Sherlock?
Where was that scene - that one where a guy looking at another guy in the car just drops dead - where was that filmed?
Here's an interesting guide to the important locations mentioned in A Scandal in Belgravia (hover over the picture):
(Hover over those 'blue and white' circles you see to learn more about those locations. That main map above is a map of London.
The map at the bottom-left indicates the locations in Wales, the United Kingdom. )
Sherlock uncovers the British Government's plan to foil some terrorists' plans to bring down a plane.
The plan is to already fill the plane with dead people. This would make the terrorists think they succeeded. It wouldn't let the terrorists know the UK Government knew about their plans.
When Sherlock talks about this uber-cool plan of the UK Government to Irene Adler, he mentions 'Coventry.'
What in the world - is the link between this 'flight of dead people' and Coventry, a city in the UK?
The connection is this:
There's a rumour that during World War II, the British knew that Coventry was going to be bombed on November 14, 1940.
Yet, they let it happen anyway.
That's because they didn't want to let the Germans know they had cracked their codes...
...This is exactly what Mycroft and the British Government are trying to do in A Scandal in Belgravia - through the 'flight of the dead.'
After all, they know a flight is going to be blown up. And they are letting the flight be blown up. A flight full of dead people.
Now my question when I heard of this was:
Is the Coventry thing true?
Did the British really let an attack happen in November, 1940 - though they knew it was happening? Or was it just a rumour (as Sherlock puts it)?
Well, after some extensive research, here's what I've got:
Nope, it's not true.
Yes, Coventry got bombed on November 14, 1940. But - the British didn't knowingly let it get bombed.
During World War II, the British had a code-breaking machine called the British Bombe. This machine did crack German codes on November 11, 1940 (3 days before the Coventry bombings). The codes talked about future German attacks, yes.
But, and that's a big BUT- records in the UK National Archive show that while there was info about an attack in the cracked code, the British couldn't figure out where and when the attack would occur.
Yet another cracked code talked about Wolverhampton, Birmingham and Coventry - but mentioned no dates.
So, nope - the 'Coventry conundrum' is an interesting name for such a situation - but the situation didn't actually occur in World War II.
It's a rumour.
Here's how Sherlock finds out that Irene Adler's in love with him:
Now we've always heard these things about falling in love but...
...is it true?
Does your pulse really race and do your pupils really dilate when you're with your loved one?
The short answer is: yes, what they say is all true!
After some 'delve until you hit the sea-floor' kind of research, I've found that when you're in love, more adrenaline, norepinephrine and dopamine get released in the brain.
Now this chemical - adrenaline - increases the heart rate and dilates the pupils. Norepinephrine is a good 'friend' of adrenaline - it doesn't let you sleep, it makes you feel all awake and also anxious.
By the way, there's this guy who actually monitored his heart rate while proposing to his girlfriend in Rome!
Here's the eye-opening graph he shared:
(Thanks to Sesipikai for this picture.)
That graph shows the change in his heart rate with time. See how the heart rate is the highest at the moment he starts proposing?
I know it's all geeky but here's a secret admission: I wish I did this in my own life too. I loved this!
'Vatican cameos' has to be the most famous phrase from A Scandal in Belgravia.
Sherlock says this when a gun inside the safe he's opening is about to fire.
And when Sherlock says this, John immediately ducks to avoid whatever's coming.
Now when I saw this and then saw this again, I was like: What, in the name of Doyle, is Vatican cameos?
Does it mean something special in the real world?
Well, some people say it's a phrase that was used in World War II - a phrase which tells you that someone in front of you has a gun.
But when I delved deep-deeper-deeper-still, I realized there wasn't really much basis to the claim. It's not true.
What has more basis though, is Vatican cameos' mention in the Sherlock Holmes novel - The Hound of the Baskervilles.
In that novel, Sherlock Holmes mentions a case that dealt with 'Vatican cameos.'
So, my guess is that Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat - the creators of Sherlock - just wanted to have fun with the term.
They may have thought something like this:
"There's this cool looking case mentioned in the original stories and novels. Let's use this phrase as a special signal between John and Sherlock - when there's danger and you need to duck."
And so: they used it!
Here's what Mark Gatiss, one of the creators of Sherlock - had to say about this:
And here's what Steven Moffat - 'creator #2' - and writer of A Scandal in Belgravia, said in an interview:
So, there - you have it: Vatican cameos is just a secret code word between John and Sherlock - and that's it!
When Sherlock says those words, John knows he's got to duck. And the words are cool because they're from The Hound of the Baskervilles.
OK, one last thing: Are you wondering what 'cameos' are anyway?
Cameos are oval shaped objects - generally pieces of jewellery - which have carvings.
These carvings have the portrait of a person/face raised over the background. The background is of a different colour compared to the portrait.
This picture you see is that of a cameo, apparently from the 16th century.
What, you're saying you haven't watched any BBC Sherlock episode yet?
Buy the DVD set that has all episodes of BBC Sherlock on Amazon here!
You can also watch A Scandal in Belgravia on Amazon Instant Video.