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Are the Doctor and Sherlock Mary Sues?

Doctor and Sherlock

I linked to an article making the case that the Doctor and Sherlock are Mary Sues on our Facebook page yesterday and the reaction was mixed, so I thought it be worth sharing here to guage opinion and perhaps discuss.

I can see where the author is coming from. Both characters are awesome, perhaps too awesome that they’re bordering on superheroes, and don’t have a lot of much-needed flaws. A clear sign of a “perfect” Mary Sue character perhaps?

But maybe that’s fine? They are the protagonists in their own stories. In a roleplay you can’t have every character being awesome, or everyone will get jealous.

It depends of course what we mean when we use the term Mary Sue (which gets so often mixed up in my mind with godmodding). We’ve posted a breakdown of what a Mary Sue character is here. And don’t forget there are many different types of Mary Sue (Marty Stu, Jerk Sue etc – There’s an article about these here).

So what do you think? Are the Doctor and Sherlock Mary Sues? Does it matter if they are? Comment below.

  • Silent Hunter

    It’s worth pointing out that neither character was *created* by Steven Moffat… indeed, he was still a toddler when Doctor Who began!

    • Very true! The modern incarnations of the characters are so far removed from the originals though

  • Author of the article here — Thanks for the link! I’ll be interested to see what people say about this. (I’ll just say in response to your thoughts, my main concern is less that these two characters are “awesome,” because they are. I’m more concerned about the way other characters are written as responding to them.)

    • Thanks for popping by Hannah!

    • I definitely agree. Other characters’ reactions to the Doctor border on nauseating, and in some cases gleefully overrun that border in tanks made of sugar and retching. Giving your character flaws isn’t enough *if every supporting character jumps in and defends those flaws*.

      Watson, in Holmes canon, has a bad case of hero worship for Holmes, but that doesn’t translate too well into a modern setting with modern script-writing, where you have lots of interactions outside the duo and your various Lestrade-type figures are fulfilling a more nuanced role than Conan Doyle’s stock straw dullards. It’s good that Moffatt derives humorous moments from Sherlock’s social ineptitude, but it doesn’t actually seem to slow him down when it counts, which is a shame.

      What a different episode you’d have if someone occasionally said “Excuse me, Doctor, but you’re being very arrogant and making overblown speeches and not making any effort to approach this situation in a considered way.” And other characters, instead of going “BUT BUT BUT THE DOCTOR IS JESUS”, said “Well, sorry, mate, but you kind of are, actually.” Bring back Donna from her refrigerator, I say!

  • Thayr

    Sherlock……we can admit he has flaws. Social disorders, I would say (I’m talking of the Robert Downy Jr. version, by the way). He understands situations factually, and only understands people when it concerns a murder, or some-such crime. However, he is brilliant and deductive, and so, could be considered a Stu.
    Dr. Who, however……he simply cannot be anything than a Marty Stu. He has the whole of Time and Space to explore, and so, is experienced in factual natures of nearly everything. He is old, and so, understands people. He is feared, or revered depending, by his enemies. He is, simply, the Doctor.

    • I’d like the Doctor if he used his intelligence and experience as the deadly weapons they ought to be. He’d make cleverness and maturity look cool, and that’d be… er, cool. And much needed. But in fact he *doesn’t* display any of the experience or understanding of people you’d expect him to have accrued over 900 years. He just postures and threatens and moralises and makes annoying remarks about his own brilliance and occasionally whines about how hard his life is.

      He could be a balanced, keen, focused instrument of problem-solving. He’s actually semi-regressed from a man into a teenage boy. He could be deadly-smart and appear harmless. In fact he’s a buffoon who thinks yelling “I’m the Oncoming Storm” and “I have no plan” will make everyone bow down in awe.

      (I should clarify that I haven’t seen the later Eleventh Doctor episodes, but at the point when I stopped watching because I’d stopped enjoying it, I saw no signs that he was going to improve, so I’d honestly be surprised if he has.)