The lives and times of Professor Moriarty : investigating the otherness of Sherlock Holmes's arch-enemy
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One of the most intriguing characters in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories is the "Napoleon of Crime", Professor James Moriarty. Originally a one-story villain devised to kill off Holmes, Moriarty has transformed over a century of adaptations and retellings into a much more prominent part of the franchise, a byword for "arch-enemy", and – it might be argued – a prototype for other pop-culture nemeses such as Batman's Joker and James Bond's Blofeld. His most iconic incarnation in later years is likely the homicidal maniac portrayed by Andrew Scott in BBC's Sherlock (2010), interestingly enough a version that differs considerably from Doyle's original. This thesis attempts to explain this rise in prominence, and the chancing nature of the character, by viewing Moriarty through the lens of Otherness. A philosophical concept related to Hegel and Sartre, as well as Said's Orientalism, this theory states that we perceive ourselves in contrast to others. On the assumption, described by Neil McCaw, that Sherlock Holmes represents the interests and standpoint of the audience – a symbol of both good and law, but also (due to his origins) England and the West – it analyses some of the most prominent Holmes adaptations to discover what Moriarty represents in turn. The answer differs with each adaptation, according to historical context, but Moriarty is always more than a simple academic turned rogue. During Doyle's day, the time of the British Empire, he is ultimately a dangerous nuisance. Immediately prior to World War Two, he channels Hitler and the spectre of war. During the Cold War, there are shades of the KGB and international espionage, and in Sherlock (2010) Andrew Scott portrays one of two Moriarty analogues who offer equally nefarious opposites to today's values of peace and freedom. Whatever their nature, however, they all share one thing: a burning hatred for Sherlock Holmes, and everything he, and the audience, stand for.