Canon Thursday: Importance of the Great Hiatus

I’m a big fan of two cult-hit television shows that are, in retrospect, considered to have been far ahead of their times and cancelled extremely prematurely: the sci-fi western Firefly and the understated high school memoir Freaks and Geeks. Both of these shows died early deaths and went on to great posthumous acclaim.

Sherlock Holmes very nearly suffered a similar fate when Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, famously annoyed and bored with his hero, decided to off the detective at the Reichenbach Falls. As most Sherlockians should know, the outcry agains this act was as fierce as any outcry against a tv cancellation and resulted in Conan Doyle bringing Holmes back, first with The Hound of the Baskervilles and finally for good, allowing fans to imagine Holmes living forever with his bees.

I can only imagine an alternate universe in which the same thing happened to my beloved television shows–a world in which someone realized that a mistake had been made in killing them through cancellation and rectified it by recommissioning them. (This has been known to happen, famously in the cases of Chuck and JAG).

Here’s the point and question: Would Holmes have been as popular if he had never died and been reborn? Some tv shows never face cancellation and therefore never reach the level of mythical veneration that something like Firefly has attained. If Conan Doyle had continued to write Holmes stories constantly, without any tragic hiatus, might the detective have failed to become quite the icon he is today? After all, the heartbreaking death of a hero is a story arc that thrills humanity wherever it occurs, and the added resurrection makes the story even more captivating.

What do you think? How important is the Great Hiatus to the ongoing popularity of Sherlock Holmes?

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