“Sherlock” Season 2, Episode 1 – ‘A Scandal in Belgravia’ DVD commentary, part 1
This is not a direct transcript, nor have I written up every single comment made. This is just a selection from the commentary which I personally found interesting or fun.
Further extracts may be added in due course.
Please remember that some of the comments made by people may look serious in plain print but were frequently meant sarcastically or humorously.
If you quote extracts from this, especially if it includes bits which I wrote myself rather than transcribed, a link back to this page would be much appreciated!
Sue Vertue – “the producer”
Mark Gatiss – “co-creator of Sherlock”
Steven Moffat – “the other co-creator of Sherlock and the writer of this one”
Benedict Cumberbatch – “I am the Sherlock”
Lara Pulver – “playing Irene Adler for this episode”
MARK: This is the reprise of the climax of The Great Game, episode three of last year.
BENEDICT: Due to budget cuts, we had to repeat it.
MARK: Obviously we had no idea how the show was going to take off at that stage ...
STEVEN: ... or how to get out of this place!
They shot the pool scene very early in the filming of the episode [although this episode was filmed last of the three].
Mark says that ideally they would have known what they were doing [i.e. that they had been commissioned for a second season] and would have shot the resolution while filming The Great Game but they had to come back almost eighteen months later. Sue used to phone the swimming pool [in Bedminster, Bristol] and ask if they’d changed anything. They told her they’d had a renovation, which worried her, but in fact they’d simply put in a disabled ramp. The production team did have to re-make a poster that had been on the wall and had since been removed.
STEVEN: If you’re all feeling very cruel watching this, you are about to see people age eighteen months.
BENEDICT: My face will suddenly inflate!
SUE: Martin’s hair is how I was trying to dodge things.
MARK: It’s very cleverly framed out, because we did actually put a wig on him, didn’t we, but it’s left out.
Using Stayin’ Alive as the ringtone was Sue’s idea. The three writers (Mark, Steven and Steve Thompson) were in a restaurant when they came up with the idea of a phonecall interrupting the stand-off, deciding that after all this, a phonecall would be so funnily lame. Steven told Sue the idea and she told him a sad anecdote about a funeral where someone’s phone had gone off with the ringtone and he thought, “Well, that’s it! That’s the one we’ve got to use!”
This commentary was recorded the day after the press launch and the ringtone had got a huge round of applause from the audience.
Mark asks Ben how he felt going back to the pool location after eighteen months.
BENEDICT: Very, very hot.
He says that the corduroy suit wasn’t a lot of fun to wear in August.
LARA: And there I am ... oh, rather more of me than you might have hoped for!
STEVEN: Your first close up – literally cheeky!
The revamped titles now include the characters’ faces.
STEVEN: We kept the faces out last time.
MARK: Well, it was all to do with how episode one began because the first reveal of Sherlock was gonna be upside down through the zip of the body bag and we said, ‘Well, we can’t show him first.’
There was a definite decision to front-load the post-credits sequence with everything that people had been missing and to have a good dose of fun, particularly the Conan Doyle in-jokes about the different stories, like The Geek Interpreter (for the ACD story The Greek Interpreter) and The Speckled Blonde (for The Speckled Band) [and The Navel Treatment (for The Naval Treaty)].
MARK: That doesn’t mean by any means there won’t be a story with a snake in it one day.
STEVEN: Absolutely – or perhaps A Sandal in Bohemia! We can do anything!
MARK: Someone suggested last night rather brilliantly The Copper Britches – a pair of metal trousers!
BENEDICT: I was worried about the fact that I decided to eat something – always a mistake, both as an actor and possibly as Sherlock who obviously, as we know, doesn’t eat; he just kind of gets his nourishment from air!
Mark asks Steven where he got the idea for the Flight of the Dead. Ben promptly starts giggling over Steven’s reply which eventually he explains: This is like An Interview with Mark Gatiss! ‘I’m moderating,’ Mark replies. Steven says he got the idea from a cut scene that he read about from the James Bond film On Her Majesty’s Secret Service where there was going to be a train full of dead people and Q saying, ‘You can always get dead bodies somewhere.’
During the scene in the theatre, Sue says that she will never forget whoever was doing the steadicam that day who kept falling over all day. Ben dissolves in giggles again as he adds, ‘I’ll never forget Rupert falling over in the shot!’ ‘Only one of two great comedy falls in this episode, it has to be said,’ says Steven.
STEVEN: And here it is!
LARA: The magic deerstalker moment!
STEVEN: We did the first series of this and everyone was saying, ‘Oh, obviously he’s not ever going to wear a deerstalker,’ and Mark and I were thinking, ‘Of course he is!’
Mark says that North Gower Street, where they film the exterior of 221B, is a really good match for upper Baker Street. If you go across the road from the busy touristy part, the top of Baker Street is very like that.
Sue remembers the pizza delivery man who was walking up and down trying to find a number and suddenly saw 221 on the door and they watched him going up and down the road with his pizza trying to find the right address!
MARK: The great Una – beyond a national treasure.
STEVEN: If you listed all the hit series she’s been in – she must have been in more television shows ...
LARA: I remember that the first day we had the script read, and literally you were ticking series after series off.
MARK: But it’s such a wonderful warm relationship. Mrs Hudson in the stories really is just a mention. Over the years in different versions, she’s generally a sort of Mrs Pepperpot figure because Holmes and Watson are usually much older, but it’s so nice to have that kind of maternal feeling there in the household.
LARA: And she’s so like that to all of us.
STEVEN: Well that’s where it came from, really. Even if you read the script of A Study in Pink, there’s no real indication of that at all. It was just Benedict giving her hugs and kisses all the time ’cause it was Una, so we just started writing it in there.
Lara says that the valley in Wales in which they filmed the backfiring car and the hiker was beautiful, but she and Sue agree that the only problem with it was the midges.
MARK: I thought they were nanogenes!
STEVEN: Gatiss, you’re on the wrong show! Bond and [Doctor] Who now – hurray! Let’s just geek out forever!
MARK: I’ve got some pictures I took of the crew moving the fireplace into place for the scene where the deduction is happening. People of course were driving past going, ‘What?’!
BENEDICT: ‘Someone is fork-lifting a mantelpiece and a fireplace and a mirror ...
LARA: ... and a sofa ...
BENEDICT: ... into a field’!
LARA: And here we have Benedict Cumberbatch as Caesar!
SUE: Costume loved that sheet, didn’t they – over the moon about trying to get the continuity of your sheet(!)
Lara asks how they did the Skype camera thing. Ben explains that either he was carrying the camera itself or Dai Hopkins, the Grip, was carrying the camera and Ben was holding onto the end of it. He assumes that Martin did similarly in the field.
MARK: Now, as with last year with the Van Buren Supernova [in The Great Game], we of course exist in a world where Skype connections never break or you can’t get a signal on your phone!
SUE: ‘Cause we know there was no signal [at the field location] at all!
Mark says that Steven has had the Skype idea for some time. Steven agrees that he pitched it twice to Mark: once for an episode of Doctor Who which Mark was writing (Night Terrors) and then again for Baskerville but Mark didn’t want it either time. Steven finally said to himself, ‘Okay, I’ll stop trying to get Mark Gatiss to write it; I’ll write it!’
(As Sherlock turns around to speak to a previously-unseen Phil sitting in John’s chair)
LARA: I love that moment.
MARK: Yeah, it’s a cool one, isn’t it?
SUE: ’Cause I always forget he’s there!
STEVEN: It’s horribly cruel, but it’s also ... we do try and move the character on [and] now Sherlock is trying a little bit to be nicer to people. He does in this episode, [but] he assures the man so badly; tells him that he’s a dying porn freak!
LARA: With halitosis!
STEVEN: And here’s [Sherlock’s] instant deductions [on Plummer from the Palace], some of which are slightly more obscure than others. These are the best ones he never had to explain!
BENEDICT: The best ones he never had to learn!
The aerial shot of Buckingham Palace is stock footage, but the Sherlock production team put the reflection onto the glass of the helicopter.
The interior of Buckingham Palace was filmed at Goldsmith’s College.
Lara says that the scene in the palace is her favourite from the whole episode. She says that the boys seem to have so much fun.
BENEDICT: Well, it’s interesting, isn’t it – we’ve moved on and although there are patterns of behaviour which are still tiresome to both of us as characters ...
LARA: You’re enjoying each other!
BENEDICT: [We’re] really actually beginning to enjoy it ...
LARA: Look at you both!
BENEDICT: ... as is just about to become apparent! I don’t know what [John’s] looking at!
STEVEN: He’s thinking it through. ‘How bad is this? ... It’s pretty bad.’ It’s one of the ambitions that Mark and I had – but it’s quite hard to do in the ninety-minute versions – is them having fun.
MARK: They are so bonded as friends but they have such a good time, and that’s something you rarely see – not just in the thick of a fight or a chase or the action; it’s actually just that they have a good laugh.
STEVEN: It’s also, that’s how they would look to other people; they would look like a couple of schoolboys.
Lara especially loves what she describes as the ‘enter the Queen’ moment.
MARK: Outrageous. I don’t know how I allowed you [Steven] to get away with that. The implications!
STEVEN (laughing): Not only wrote it in but made you perform it!
Sue says that this is the kind of location that Paul McGuigan, the director, loves – all long symmetry and mirrors.
STEVEN: There was one terrifying moment when someone was threatening to move one of the sofas.
SUE: Yes, Martin said, ‘Well, wouldn’t I sit on a chair?’
STEVEN (as Paul): ‘No, no, symmetry, symmetry!’ Look at every shot – in some way or other, something balances something else. That’s why it is always so beautiful to look at.
BENEDICT: The other comic fall was at this point. I over-stepped my sheet’s limit and just fell.
STEVEN: Fell like a tree! Because he couldn’t move his arms; he couldn’t move his legs!
BENEDICT: I was dedicated to the moment.
LARA: Do I dare ask what broke your fall?
BENEDICT: Er, the carpet!
STEVEN: And the thing is, he falls over obviously quite painfully but because it is so funny, everyone just laughs! You hear him go hwnnk, crunching onto the floor and there’s Martin [laughing].
BENEDICT: I’ve had quite a year of falling over with very little clothes on, and so – to be honest – it was a very soft landing.
MARK: Where’s the Gag Reel?
BENEDICT: Where is the Gag Reel?
STEVEN: We’ve gotta get those two great falls onto this DVD somehow.
LARA (as we see Irene being driven home during the Palace scene): That was a stunning car.
SUE: I don’t think anyone was looking at the car, to be honest with you!
The white dress Irene is wearing in that scene is by Alexander McQueen. Lara says that the designer did a wonderful job of putting together Irene’s wardrobe.
STEVEN: In those scenes where you have one!
MARK: She has a wardrobe – I’ve seen it!
LARA: Whether I choose to wear it is another thing!
STEVEN: It was a tricky part to cast, Irene, because she’s such a terrible person. If you actually look at what she actually does in this show, she’s quite abominable.
LARA: It’s so much fun!
STEVEN: You have to be so caught up in the fun that Irene has that you sort of forget that she’s pretty terrible.
Lara saw the first episode of season 1 on PBS while living in America and thought ‘it was the most intelligent, witty, mischievous piece of television that I’d seen.’
STEVEN: That’s why she got the part. I remember she rang me and said ...
MARK: Praise! That’s how it’s done!
LARA: But the amount of people that go, ‘Why do you only make three? Why? Why?! Don’t tease us!’
STEVEN: To keep them wanting more.
MARK: Also because there aren’t enough months in the year, as we sit here having not actually finished all three yet, when they’re broadcast in three weeks!
When Sherlock’s looking at the equerry, Steven threw in the half Welsh deduction at the last moment because he suddenly realised that dog lover had been repeated.
‘How we’ve managed to cover everything, I’m not entirely sure!’ says Lara as Irene, wearing a negligee and not much else, opens the doors to her walk-in wardrobe. The shot of her doing that and then going inside the wardrobe was done in an insane last fifteen minutes of a day when about four scenes were being shot at once. Across the studio, Martin was going into the ‘pipe room’ in the lab for Hounds.
BENEDICT: I had no reason to walk between the two studios, yet I still found one.
SUE: It was a closed set, wasn’t it?
BENEDICT: Yes, closed-ish.
SUE: And I’ve never seen so many electricians saying they had to go and put that light up. All the chippies loitering around.
LARA: The best was when a gent walked in and one of the ADs said, ‘I’m really sorry, it’s a closed set,’ and he said, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry,’ and instead of turning round and walking back the way he came, he decided to walk to the completely diagonally opposite exit door!
The interior of Irene’s house was shot in Newport.
STEVEN: For scheduling reasons, this was all [filmed] in the dead of night, wasn’t it, with big lights at the windows to make it look as though it was day time, which really does cure you of being tired, somehow.
BENEDICT (tiredly): Does it?!
Sherlock dressing as a vicar was a nod to the original Scandal in Bohemia where Holmes dressed as an elderly clergyman and let off a smoke bomb to get Irene to reveal where the photograph was.
STEVEN: And d’you know there’s an awful lot of other versions, I regret to inform you, viewers, of that shot [of Irene’s arrival with all her rude bits perfectly blocked from our view by Sherlock] where it didn’t all work out quite so perfectly!
MARK: This must have been a curious time for you, Lara.
LARA: It came about three weeks in. In hindsight I think I would have preferred it if it was out of the way quite soon. However, after Take 1 of being in nothing but Louboutin shoes, Martin and Benedict were both so unbelievably supportive – as the whole crew were – that it no longer became a challenge and, in a weird way, it became really empowering.
MARK: What listeners don’t know is that Lara is naked as she speaks now. She was so empowered by it, she’s carried it through! In fact, we all are!
LARA: But at one point I was literally straddling your [Ben’s] thigh, naked, with my boobs in your face!
BENEDICT: I remember. (He laughs.) It’s not an easy thing to do and even though it was a controlled situation it takes an awful lot of guts to do it. It’s brilliant, because it utterly works. He [Sherlock] has no idea what to do.
LARA: And that’s the main thing. If it’s nudity for nudity’s sake, then you kind of ... yeuch, but this completely serves the story.
MARK: It’s also a very neat parallel that they’re both trying to work out what to wear to meet each other. Sherlock eventually decides on one tiny detail ...
BENEDICT: It’s like every first date, then!
STEVEN: The funny thing about this scene is, I had real trouble writing it ... and it wasn’t until I put John into the scene that it worked. If you just have the two of them meeting, with no-one to witness how preposterous it is, it’s just these two fantastically exotic creatures, and you sort of feel left out.
MARK: And Martin, of course, who is the king of reaction here, is gonna make that work.
STEVEN: Yes; the moment anyone’s done anything funny in Sherlock, you wait to see what Martin thinks of it.
LARA: I remember in one take standing in front of Martin when you [Ben] say, ‘I don’t think he feels entirely comfortable,’ and I would not move and say the next line until he’d looked at my boobs. I just stood there going, ‘Come on, Martin Freeman, I’m gonna make you do this’!
BENEDICT: It’s funny you had to make him do it; that’s so different from his normal behaviour(!)
BENEDICT: I do love the only moment [Sherlock] verbally stumbles – and I sort of did it deliberately – was because [he] sensed a bit of competition in Watson starting to turn on the charm, and in trying to desperately get in there to impress you, I went, [he talks gibberish].
Benedict frets a little about the transition from him standing up in the sitting room to him squatting down beside the car. He feels that, having had a fairly neutral expression for the rest of the scene in the sitting room, as he squatted down he frowned too much in anticipation of not being able to have his eyes as wide in the fresh air and wind at the roadside.
One of the decisions they had to make during the switch from the sitting room to the exterior scene was which soundtrack to use – and nobody can now remember which one they did use.
MARK: D’you think we should market a lady version of the Coat?
MARK: It was taken in, wasn’t it, so it didn’t swamp you completely.
LARA: It was adjusted. It was mainly the length of your arms.
BENEDICT: Yeah, sorry about that. I have long limbs.
BENEDICT: I really like this bit [the super slo-mo fight sequence with the CIA men] coming up. I have to say the boy in me was thrilled. I’ll be proud to show this one to my grandchildren. It’s just a lot of fun to be asked to do stuff like this.
LARA: And the special effects with the hydraulics of the mirror moving.
BENEDICT: That was not so much fun because there’d be times when it’d get stuck or it would go at an angle.
LARA: When you’d just nailed your take.
MARK: Three stuntmen were actually killed.
BENEDICT: But [the fight] was all over in about two seconds so it was thrilling to have a look at the monitor afterwards, ’cause the Phantom camera’s an extraordinary thing.
SUE: ... expensive thing!
BENEDICT: It’s really expensive.
LARA: And all of a sudden you see how your jaw makes the worst, most unattractive shapes!
BENEDICT: Yeah. You talk about having a ... let’s say a sexually heightened face; you also apparently have a kind of combat/fight face as well!
LARA: And they’re not dissimilar!
BENEDICT: Wow! (In a quiet voice) I hope they’re not [the same].
LARA: Well, I’ve yet to see your sex face, Ben, so you’re fine!
MARK (as Sherlock flips Neilson’s pistol): Here’s a little jiggery-pokery here.
BENEDICT: The gun twist. I am a sucker for picking things up and twiddling them in this. I must calm that down next time! It’s not in the books; it’s not in the scripts – it’s just me having fun with props. It’s lovely just to show him being incredibly at ease with things that are surprising, and I think that’s what’s wonderful about the book.
STEVEN: What, you’re talking about the gun twist? I love that. It just looks so cool.
BENEDICT: And actually he does need to train it on the person he’s just coshed with the butt of it – there is a practical element to it ... (He trails off and laughs, clearly not even convincing himself!)
BENEDICT: We had a lot of trouble being able to film in this location. Am I allowed to talk about that?
SUE: ... Er ...
BENEDICT (giggling): Maybe not! ’Cause they might be listening! But I was very charming to some very uncharming people when there’d been a bit of a ... bit of a ... yeah, just a confusion.
LARA: Do you think at the screening last night when that [image of the lock on the phone] first came up, anyone put two and two together with the ‘I am SHERlocked’?
MARK: I don’t.
STEVEN: I think that’s why we got the round of applause on ‘I am SHERlocked’ [when it was finally revealed at the end of the episode].
MARK: Just for a moment I thought, ‘I wonder if anyone’s gonna shout it out.’
STEVEN: Not at all, because by the time it came round it was such a moment.
BENEDICT: I completely agree: the minute I saw it on the screen [in Irene’s house] I thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s obvious!’
LARA: I thought that too!
SUE: But it’s only obvious if you know it.
LARA: Look how beautiful the design of [Irene’s] bedroom is.
STEVEN: Where’s all her stuff?! That’s what I wanna know.
LARA: You haven’t seen under the bed.
STEVEN: And here’s an idea resurrected from the pilot. It was in the pilot originally when he went after the taxi driver, and the taxi driver drugs him with a hypodermic.
MARK: What it doesn’t have, because she takes it out, is the absolutely horrible thing of the syringe hanging from him, which ... it really made me feel funny.
STEVEN: When he was trying to reach for it, yeah.
STEVEN: And one of the things that really worried me – and I said to Mark – ‘I haven’t got the really important line in: “She’s the woman who beat him”,’ – and of course in the end she doesn’t, so I wrote this bit in ...
MARK: ... literally just for that!
BENEDICT: She really did literally beat me that night.
LARA: But I recall you saying to me, ‘It’s okay, you can go harder on me, Lara, I can take it,’ and I was like, ‘Oh, okay! There we go!’
MARK: Famous last words – literally, for many people: ‘Is that the best you can do?’!
BENEDICT: It was ... yeah. I had welts.
MARK: I absolutely love you [Lara] backflipping down that rope. It’s so audacious. It’s like something from a sixties spy film.
STEVEN: Oh, she goes very Diana Rigg here, doesn’t she?
BENEDICT: I just love the feet; I love the little bit of ankle. It’s very sexy. (He watches the footage for a moment.) Oh, actually, more than a little bit of ankle!
MARK: Yes, that’s an interesting view of the ankle you’ve got there!
STEVEN (as Irene flips out of the window): And there she goes.
LARA: Being caught by two stuntmen.
Benedict enthuses about how great it is to work with Paul McGuigan – and with Fabian Wagner the Director of Photography – and their ways of using the camera. Lara agrees that it’s like dancing with the camera.
BENEDICT: I’m no technical expert but I do love trying to dance with the camera, and he knows I’m a tart for it, so he facilitates that in most fantastic ways. This was a case in point: when the bed comes up [in the field] we got a round of applause [from the crew].
MARK: It’s also wonderful because it’s an in-camera effect: a hydraulic bed, Danny [Hargreaves, the Special Effects Supervisor] and the boys.
BENEDICT: It’s one of the best special effects I’ve ever seen. This is a bed on hydraulics being raised up from a normal position to horizontal with the pillows and the duvet and everything attached.
SUE: I remember Paul saying that to Danny in that meeting: ‘That’s what I want,’ and Danny going, [calmly] ‘Okay.’
MARK: I remember the first run-through, it was absolutely perfect and it was like, ‘It’ll never be that good again,’ but it was.
MARK: Now I love this bit [when Sherlock wakes up in his own bed], principally ...
BENEDICT: I know what you’re gonna say ...
MARK: ... because ...
BENEDICT: Don’t say it!
MARK: ... theatre fans ...
BENEDICT: Don’t say it.
MARK: ... this is a little bit of Benedict’s monster ... creature from Frankenstein preserved for all time.
BENEDICT: It’s not supposed to be.
MARK: I know! I don’t mean that in a bad way.
BENEDICT: This is my favourite line: ‘The woman woman.’
Mark gave Arwel Wyn Jones, the Production Designer, a list of things they wanted in Sherlock’s bedroom, and the room was changed several times, including the wallpaper. As well as the periodic table on the wall, there’s a little picture of Edgar Allen Poe – as Sherlock Holmes was inspired by one of Poe’s creations, C. Auguste Dupin. Steven says that in this alternate universe, Poe would probably be the writer of the most famous detective. Above the bed are the rules of bartitsu, the Japanese martial art which got Holmes out of the situation at the Reichenbach Falls in The Final Problem. With the periodic table, Mark felt that if Sherlock had any art in his room, it would in fact be science. Sue says there was also Sherlock’s collection of tobacco but we never saw it on screen.
MARK: We’ll see it next time ... if there is a next time.
BENEDICT: Oh, look: ‘Refit for Historical Hospital’ [as a headline in the newspaper which Sherlock is reading]. Hmm!
(He and the writers snigger.)
MARK: Some scaffolding that never happened!
BENEDICT: Can we talk about that? Turn off your commentary guide now if you haven’t yet seen episode 3, but if you have ...
MARK: The climax of episode 3 is on the top of Bart’s Hospital and [the newspaper headline] was a sort of seeding for the idea that there was some building work going on, which actually didn’t happen.
LARA: And, Steven, what brought about the whole orgasmic text noises?
MARK: That’s his usual one.
Steven says that during the scenes where Sherlock and Irene don’t meet but were just thinking about each other, communicating by text would be fun but even putting the messages on the screen wasn’t very interesting, so he thought of a funny noise, and a little orgasm noise in the middle of 221B would be so inappropriate.
LARA: So, at ADR, Sue and I ... How many did I give you?
SUE: Lara’s in New York, I was in London ...
LARA (as Sue): ‘Could you climax for us, Lara?’! ‘Could you make it a bit longer and bit more oozy?’!
MARK: ’Cause the temp one actually sounded like someone in terrible pain!
STEVEN: [Like] someone had just been gut-punched!
Ben worries that the text alerts didn’t sound very loud at the screening last night; Sue thinks that they couldn’t hear some of them because the audience was already laughing.
On to Part 2