No shift, Sherlock

Sent by Michelle, as a LOL/OY maybe (she says “Love this one!”). But it is sort of unclear to me! Yes, of course I recognize the underlying pun on the modern expression for dismissing something as obvious. But I don’t quite get the “No shift” as applied in context to this scene.

Sadly, I’m missing something. I don’t see what the mystery or investigation is here – when Holmes says “We must get to the bottom of this”, what is the *this*? And if “no shift” is meant to be part of the answer, is it that the car was built leaving out the transmission; or that the transmission has been stolen; or just that the driver failed to shift when they should have? Also, why are the wheels splayed? Is that just his stylization of “very old model car”? Or is it meant to show there was an accident?

Maybe I’m just expanding on “Comic I don’t understand” to carp on aspects of the cartoon. Sorry, but that happens sometimes, I guess.

BTW, there are no spoilers for my questions at the Tomversations blog entry, but there is an amusing background note about his previous attempt to use this idea, and reliance on a different meaning of “shift”.


  1. I think the condition of the car is just meant to indicate that it is not in pristine working order, otherwise Holmes and Watson would be standing around a perfectly ordinary looking car and none of their dialog would make sense.

    I think it’s just the obvious pun, I don’t think there’s anything more to it, but would be interested in others’ theories.

  2. The car doesn’t work. Which means you could say it’s “shiftless”. The reason the car is missing its gearbox (or the driver failed to engage it) is opaque, but doesn’t matter.

  3. They must get to the bottom of the CAR in order to repair it, but they can’t, because it is splayed/sploot on the ground. Watson chiming in could just be stating another problem he notices with the vehicle, but whatever the reason, it’s just to invoke the obvious pun

  4. Talking of Sherlock, I saw a circular something online yesterday that tickled me.

    In the 21stC BBC TV reboot Sherlock, starring B. Cumberbatch and M. Freeman, in Season 2 episode “The Hounds of Baskerville,” the modern Sherlock Holmes, in line with his original Victorian intextation, says, “Once you’ve ruled out the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be true” and Watson says to Sherlock, “Alright, Spock, just take it easy” – referring to the fact that in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Spock says, “If you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the solution” – and Spock credits an ancestor for maintaining that idea (presumably Conan Doyle rather than Sherlock).

    It isn’t the thing I saw (which was an image with photos of the various characters saying it), but here is a site on Sherlspock overlaps I found while looking for it : (it includes scriptwriters working on both characters, for instance).

  5. My parents had a manual transmission car that myself and siblings learned to drive on. At some point the clutch failed and my mom commented she thought it was because my sister was too hard on the clutch. I turned to my mom and said, “So she beat the shift out of your car?”

  6. “The assassination attempt against our Prime Minister was undertaken by a member of His Majesty’s armed forces, recently returned from the field at Dunkirk; obviously considerably mentally disturbed — what in the Great War they would have called ‘shell shock’ — I would venture that this subject will turn out to be that same soldier who was unable to be evacuated yet managed to make a harrowing crossing himself on bits of flotsam; In the end, we we will find this tragic turn of events all having been precipitated by one unfortunate circumstance….”

    “No ship, Sherlock.”

  7. The car collapsed. Sherlock wants to get to the bottom of why it just stopped running & collapsed. Watson suspects there is something wrong with the shift – the gear shift or stick shift in the vintage auto. It’s shot. ie “No shift Sherlock!”

  8. In 1976, a few years after Star Trek, Leonard Nimoy played Sherlock Holmes on stage. I heard that there was one line in the play that he hated, but the director wouldn’t let him cut the line. So he mumbled the line hoping it would not be clearly heard.

    The line: “But that wouldn’t be logical.”

Add a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.