Friday, March 1, 2013

Professor Moriarty: Out of the Shadows, part 2

Sherlock: "She used a fountain pen.  Parker Duofold, iridium nib." 

John: "She?" 

Sherlock: "Obviously."

Professor Moriarty is a woman.1

The question asked several times about Moriarty, always referred to as "he" in the episodes when identified by gender at all: "Why is he doing this?"  Lestrade asks and so does John in "The Great Game."  Sherlock, himself, asks Moriarty through the old woman in the same episode, "Why are you doing this?"

Moriarty's answer: "I like to watch you dance." 

Sherlock's answer to John after the old woman is killed: "I think he wants to be distracted."
But when Sherlock and the audience first hear the name "Moriarty," it is from the mouth of the Killer Cabbie. (Tale of the Killer Cabbie.) Supposedly, Sherlock's "fan" and the cabbie's "sponsor."  Yet, neither the fan nor the sponsor are ever referred to by gender. ("I have a sponsor," the cabbie tells Sherlock, "For every life I take, money goes to my kids. ... The more I kill, the better off they'll be.")

Fascinated by the novel.
Sherlock hasn't yet met Irene Adler, and as a man who decided long ago to be "married to his work" and eschew romantic attachments, he is missing a possibility.  Even though it's been made quite clear to him by Moriarty through the victim intermediaries, he still doesn't suspect the real reason behind these bizarre tests: Moriarty is seducing him.

And it's working.  When John describes people going to Moriarty to have their crimes and murders arranged, "like booking a holiday," Sherlock's comment is the fascinated observation: "Novel."

How Do You Seduce This Man?

Seduction is a straightforward process: offer someone what they want, believe they need.2  Become the source of the thing that gives them the most pleasure, the thing that makes them feel powerful, stimulated, validated.  But they only get that thing by drawing close to the source, acting in partnership, by dancing with you.    

Being delighted.
When Mycroft texts Sherlock repeatedly about finding the missile plans, Sherlock's response is:

"The only mystery is this: Why is my brother so determined to bore me when somebody else is being so delightfully interesting?"

The victim isn't interesting; as Sherlock says, "no lead there." The one who has caught his interest is the one who sent him the shoes, gave him a puzzle, took a hostage, wrapped her in a bomb and threatened to kill her.  The interesting one is the one who's first words to Sherlock, sent through a pager and delivered by mobile phone through the victim's voice were:

 "Hello, sexy.  I sent you a little puzzle, just to say hi."

Moriarty is delightfully interesting.

Taking a personal call.
After the rescue of the first victim, Sherlock, impressed by the modus operandi of the bomber, terms it elegant.

When the next puzzle is given him in Lestrade's office, Lestrade asks for the first time "Why is he doing this?  What's the point?"  Sherlock answers, "I can't be the only one who gets bored."  Sherlock identifies with the bomber.  He then gets a phone call from Moriarty through another victim, but  doesn't walk the phone back into the office where John and Lestrade are.

Instead, he walks away, actually glancing over his shoulder to be sure he is not overheard.  "Is this you again?" he asks quietly.   Moriarty tells him:
"This is between you and me."

It's personal, private.  Intimate. 

Who is Moriarty?

What facts do we know about Moriarty?  Soft voice, per the old womanKnew and was laughed at by Carl Powers, revealed by Moriarty, personally.   A woman who uses a Parker Duofold fountain pen with an iridium nib, as Sherlock told us.

We also know Moriarty has special access to Sherlock's personal history.  Moriarty, through the killer cabbie, says to Sherlock, " ... still the addict..."3   Sherlock's addiction to drugs isn't openly referred to in any episode, so far, though it can be presumed from what the viewer has seen in the first two series.4 But how would Moriarty know?  Moriarty is a stalker.  In "A Study in Pink," Moriarty may have just wanted Sherlock out of the way, due to some pre-Series One interference by him.5  Afterward, Moriarty may have turned from stalking game, to personal pursuit. 

Conversely, Moriarty may have been a fan of Sherlock's for quite a long time.  As long ago as Carl Powers' murder, when the young Sherlock tried to get the police interested.
"Carl Powers, John.  It's where I began." 

Perhaps it's where it all began, in the childhoods of the key players: Moriartys, Mycroft, Sherlock.6 We know little of Sherlock's childhood or why he and Mycroft have such a strained relationship.  It seems to have something to do with Mycroft saying while pouring tea at the palace,  "I'll be  mother," a phrase to which Sherlock responds, "And there is a whole childhood in a nutshell."  As  for Mummy, something upset her, and more than once.

It's possible to speculate a wide variety of scenarios involving the two sets of siblings, but without more data it is only likely to lead to twisting facts to fit theories, according to the Sherlock of the Canon.  However, we can ask questions:

How old is she?   Older women become enamoured of younger men, so the fact that she is obsessed with Sherlock shouldn't make us assume  anything about her age. She will most probably be a contemporary of Carl Powers, which would make her a contemporary of Sherlock's, also.  What female person in his life would a young Carl laugh at?   Possibly a disrespected teacher, but then, one presumes others would be laughing as well.

John asks Sherlock about the link to Carl Powers after the old woman is killed.  Sherlock says all his living former classmates check out and John suggests perhaps he was older than Carl.  Sherlock says, "The thought had occurred."  Had it also occurred that the murderer could be younger than Carl?   Our culture is unfortunately become used to the idea of men in their early teens being capable of murder, but girls as young as, say, 12 or 13? 

Where did she get the pen?  She is using a fountain pen only made from 1929 until 1932 which was stamped "Made in U.S.A."  James Moriarty did seem to have something of an American accent, although the pen was sold all over Europe and certainly in England where the Parker Company was located.  It's unlikely Moriarty is the original purchaser of the pen, it would make her very old, indeed.  How did she acquire it?  It may have been passed down to to her. This can make her either James' sister or mother.

How is she related to James?  There is the dim possibility she is James' wife, in which case he has been made to compete with Sherlock Holmes and is losing spectacularly so far, which accounts for his rage.  But we don't have a model for this in any previous episode and it has been the writer's M.O. so far to mine the scripts with precursors of later action. Because SHERLOCK often echoes the Canon, her being his sister seems most probable. Any more distant relationship makes it hard to justify her faith in James as she is so determined to hide her identity.  It also is consistent with the parallels theme that Mycroft and Sherlock share the same type of intellectual a talents and lack of emotional investment, both on the side of the angels, while they would face siblings who share the same murderous traits on the side of evil.

How did Moriarty obtain botulinum virus as a child, herself?  If she were as young as Carl Powers, how would she know about clostridium botulinum and where would she get live virus to put into his eczema medication?   In the Canon, the name of the archvillian is "Professor Moriarty."  Perhaps the Moriartys came from a medical family.  Or one that manufactured canned foods, a common source for the bacteria.

Is Moriarty her real name?  Women marry and take the surnames of their husbands which they retain after divorce or widowhood.  Children who's mothers divorce, take the names of step-fathers.  Archcriminals have easy access to false ID.

Could Sherlock be wrong and Moriarty be a man, perhaps gay and obsessed with him?  We saw early on that Sherlock gets things wrong: "There's always something!" he says after John explains that "Harry" is short for Harriet.  And the show is certainly rife with sexual preference references.   

Sherlock taking his turn.
But a gay man is still just a man and they already assumed the bomber to be a man.  This leaves no mystery or point to Sherlock identifying the writing on the envelope as belonging to a woman and less point to the writer moving past that point so quickly.  It doesn't explain why the writer was so careful to omit any gender-specific pronouns from the killer cabbie's lines when referring to the fan/sponsor.  The killer cabbie tells us, "'re just a man and they're so much more than that?"  

A woman is more than a man?  Sherlock assumes the cabbie must mean an organization.  But Moriarty may have given him the line and mean it quite literally, a woman is more than a man.  Much more, in one area:  Women have more genes.  Women have two X chromosomes, each with about 2000 genes.  Men have one X and one Y chromosome, the Y comes with a paltry 78 genes.

"More than a man" might also refer to a family: brother and sister.  

Have we already seen Moriarty?   Perhaps. Probability is in favor of it.   There are three good candidates.  Or the writers may just surprise us.  It wouldn't be the first time.

1What does Sherlock need? See Psyching Sherlock: Married to His Work
2 See "Jim" is Not Moriarty for the explanation as to two Moriatys - one who dies on Saint Bart's roof whom we know as James, and the true master criminal archenemy of Sherlock Holmes, acting behind the scene. 
3 See Journey to Reichenbach - One for the cabbie's complete statement
4 See Sherlock Backstory: still the addict.  
5 See The Tale of the Killer Cabbie
6  In Nicholas Meyer's 1976 novel The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, Professor Moriarty is portrayed as Holmes's childhood mathematics tutor.  wiki link  SHERLOCK's writers doesn't use only elements from the Conan Doyle Canon as source, the deerstalker hat was never mentioned in those writings, it became associated with Holmes first through the imaginative rendering of the detective by illustrator Sidney PagetCombined with the reference to Sherlock getting his start with the Carl Powers case from his own youth, it's reasonable to expect a childhood connection between Sherlock and Moriarty more direct than his interest in her murder of Powers. 


  1. "James Moriarty did seem to have something of an American accent"

    Moriarty had a very specific type of modern upper class Dublin accent, not exactly like young D4 people, but very much like it. This particular accent, unlike most Irish accents, has strong similarities to American but these are superficial - similarly, South Africans do seem to have something of a New Zealand accent.

  2. This is good to know, thanks for sharing!

  3. You really have some strong points :)

    1. Thank you. It's one way of looking at it, anyway. Sorry it took so long to get back here, I was kind of buried in life and work for a while!

  4. How do you feel about Molly, an employee at the medical school (possibly a professor) being the second Moriarty? She does, after all, introduce Sherlock to Jim...

    1. Back from a long hiatus writing a film script. Sorry! I've always thought Molly made a good candidate for the other Moriarty. Especially now, after Series 3, when Sherlock says all the men she's taken with can't be sociopaths and she says "Maybe it's just my type." But, was she dating her brother for real? Does she know, herself, they were related? Did he? How would she feel about Sherlock being responsible for his death?

  5. what if john watson is moriarty. he is a doctor. only friend to sherlock. has access to all his personal files. sherlock referred to moriarty as 'she', and evryone thinks john is gay... marries a woman with untold history...

    1. The only problem with that is ... if John is Moriarty, who'll write up the rest of the stories! Srsly, I think it would stray too far from canon.

  6. The old woman said " He was so— his voice. He sounded so soft...". I don't think Moriarty's a woman.

    1. Okay. Though a woman would be more likely to have a soft voice, certainly a man can affect one. So, why do you think she was killed?