Too clever for its own good?
With a stinging twist, Sherlock’s feature-length seasonal romp through Victorian London ultimately feels like but a teaser for the full season we’re all still waiting for.Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’s Sherlock TV series revitalised the classic detective for a new generation with much the same style and panache as Guy Ritchie’s Big Screen reboot (at least first time out), and managed to prove diverting across its first two excellent seasons, struggling somewhat with the third to get over the Reichenbach Fall reinvention that provided such a climactic cliffhanger at the end of the second. Before fully addressing the seeming return of archnemesis Moriarty, The Abominable Bride takes the modern-day incarnation back to Victorian times for a seemingly disparate tale of classic crime which still finds a way – however contrived – to weave itself back into the broader Sherlock mythos.Ultimately, however, the ‘contrived’ part of it may outweigh its character-developing worth, with only devout fans prepared to revisit this feature-length special repeatedly in order to lap up all of the subtle hints peppered across the runtime that give viewers a clue to the ultimate reveal. Those less prepared to forgive the wanton sleight-of-hand will struggle with the innate lack of worth to these 86 minutes of glorified filler, and feel instead that it smacks of little more than an extended promo for the full season that we’ve all actually been waiting for. The Abominable Bride probably doesn’t truly fit either category, and may well end up becoming an integral part in the overall Sherlock TV franchise; only time will tell.
Video QualityThe UK Region B-locked Blu-ray has an impressive video presentation that matches up to the release of the previous seasons.
Presented in its 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition guise, framed in the feature’s original aired aspect ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen, the Sherlock special boasts striking period flourishes that oftentimes lap up the more monochromatic palette but still provide plenty of rich tones, often even more impressive than we would have normally expected from modern day Baker Street duties. Detail is frequently outstanding, with striking black levels maintaining this even when shadows dominate. Overall it’s a great, highly cinematic presentation, all the more impressive for a TV series.
Blu-ray Sound QualityThe Abdominable Bride boasts excellent audio and, in first for a UK TV series, even has a Dolby Atmos soundtrack.
Cas Harlow reviewed the audio using a standard 5.1-channel setup - The Dolby Atmos soundtrack delivers an impressive Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core which provides clear and coherent coverage of the dialogue – remaining dominant across the track, disseminated across the front and centre channels. There's an engulfing, engaging score which allows for some excellent surround action and LFE input that's further displayed by the acute observation of the effects, which provide precise environments across the surrounds, sweeping you up in the period mystery. It’s likely as good as Sherlock has ever sounded, and amidst the best we’ve ever heard from any TV production.
Beyond the impressive video presentation, Sherlock gets an Atmos upgrade this time out.Steve Withers reviewed the audio using a 7.2.4-channel Dolby Atmos setup - Sherlock: The Abominable Bride was mixed in Dolby Atmos for a countrywide cinema screening, that was held simultaneously with the BBC1 broadcast, and the sound designers have taken full advantage of their new toy box. Sherlock has always had a very active and decidedly amped up sound design and this new mix takes it to the next level. The all-important dialogue remains anchored to the front three channels and is both clear and well balanced. Whilst the musical score is equally as well rendered, filling out the front soundstage and often moving to the sides and above as well. There are plenty of bass moments that punctuate the narrative; whilst the use of surround effects is just as impressive.
A scene where the disembodied voice of 'The Bride' moves around the entire 360 degree soundstage is highly effective and the sound designers also take advantage of the overhead speakers to immerse you in the period drama. In fact the sound design plays an important part within the story itself and is frequently used for scene transitions; sometimes in a very obvious way and other times in a more subtle way that might be missed on a first viewing. Although Game of Thrones might have been the first TV series to be re-mixed in Dolby Atmos, Sherlock is the first to be originally mixed in the format and it definitely pays dividends; adding to the overall viewing experience and ushering in a new era of TV production.
ExtrasA second disc provides a host of extra features to further explore the background to the show. Mark Gatiss: A Study in Sherlock provides the meat with a 30-minute Featurette hosted by the writer/creator , who reflects not only on this Seasonal Special but also on the previous three seasons building up to it, with cast snippets from current (and previous) players. A further short Mark Gatiss: Production Diary offers a 5 minute on-set look at filming, the 4-minute Writers Interview has Gatiss and Moffat talk about their creation; and Creating the Look provides a collection of 8 mini-Featurettes – totalling half an hour of footage – looking behind various designs to embellish the period style. The disc is rounded out by a 20-minute Q&A segment with Moffat and some of the other crew answering questions from the Sherlockology fan site.
Blu-ray VerdictSo, when's the next season?
Sherlock: The Abominable Bride is equal parts clever and contrived, and may eventually sit well in the grander scheme of things even if, right now, it feels a little bit like a feature-length teaser for the full season that we were all waiting for. Thankfully the UK Region B-locked Blu-ray release boasts excellent video and audio, with nothing short of a Dolby Atmos track on offer, as well as a whole second disc of extra features. Fans certainly won't go wanting in this respect.
Our Review Ethos
To comment on what you've read here, click the Discussion tab and post a reply.