Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sherlock Holmes in the 21st Century!!!

As a Sherlock Holmes fan and having posted a couple of blogs on the Victorian sleuth I’m almost embarrassed that I missed this one. BBC has launched a new Sherlock Holmes series of mysteries, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin John C. Freeman as Watson set in the London of today.

The idea of making a modern day Holmes is nothing new. Basil Rathbone had a career of playing Holmes in what was in the 1940s’ the modern era. Roger Moore even had stint in the 70s’ with a female Watson. There have been a couple of instances of waking Holmes from a deep freeze into the present day.

The first of these new Holmes adventures is called A Study in Pink, an adaptation of A Study in Scarlett, followed by The Blind Banker, which I am not sure, but appears to be a take on The Adventure of the Dancing Men . Holmes is still a Consulting Detective, a occupation he created and is the only one of his kind, as he told Watson. Holmes is very tech savvy, utilizing GPS, text messaging, and other modern mean of information gathering as easily as his Victorian counterpart did with his Baker Street Irregulars. Watson is a returned war veteran looking for lodgings in London, having been wounded in the leg in Afghanistan, a very strong and historic parallel.

The character of Holmes and Watson are as much as they are in Doyle’s original prose. Holmes is distant, sharp, insulting, and flawlessly observant, Watson, a man of action, amazed in Holmes’ ability, with a sharp eye for the ladies. They are well fleshed out men in their own right, yet complete and compliment each other.
The acting is top notch Cumeberbatch makes Holmes his own, yet stays true to the heart of the character, giving him new quirks and nuances so different from Rathbone and Berrett’s interpretations. Freeman is a great Watson, he can’t help but like Holmes and be annoyed by him at the same time. His participation in the war has left him an adrenalin junkie, he, like many warriors and soldiers, needs action--danger, to feel alive. The opening of A Study in Pink has Watson with a therapist discussing his blog. It is not going well as Watson cannot bring himself to write down those inner most thoughts and feelings that the therapist feel will help him heal from his experiences in war. This should be a foreshadowing of Watson becoming Holmes’ Boswell.

Mycroft and Moriarity are both introduced immediately into the story. Mycroft Holmes keeping security tabs on his younger brother and Moriarity being a shadow figure chatting with other villains via computer. Though Moriarity seemed to be a device by Doyle to lead up to Holmes’ demise, the series starts with Moriarity immediately setting himself as Holmes’ arch nemesis. This promises to be the underlying plot for the series.

These adventures of Sherlock Holmes are as cerebral as Doyle’s narrative, yet add the action and flash of Guy Ritchie’s vision from 2009, even the music has strains that hearken to that film’s period soundtrack.

Of course the adaptation suffers from the modern era’s political correctness as well. The two episodes I watched are rife with homosexual reference to the two characters, an “are they or aren’t they?” kind of thing with dating references, sharing rooms and beyond. One of the creators, Steven Moffat, stated that he thought it just shows how acceptable that lifestyle is now in society. Be that as it may, the constant reference gets old, and appears to be used for cheap laughs. Not exactly an enlightened perspective that Moffat suggests. Let it go…..Watson’s four marriages within cannon, and Holmes avowed dislike of women as cunning creatures and his cerebral asexuality are enough to work with. One almost expects such juvenile references from Saturday Night Live.

A second is Holmes’ use of nicotine patches instead of smoking his pipe. “it’s a three patch problem…..” as he says. This is lame (My own personal enjoyment of a good pipe aside) because Holmes basically laments his inability to be able to smoke anywhere in London, yet there are strong references that the character is a drug user, as he was in Doyle’s stories. It would seem to me, as unconventional a man as Holmes would fire up a pipe to aid his thought process should he want to. New social mores be damned!

The overall production and performance are great and have had me wanting to watch the next episode. It also shows the resilience and power of great writing. Despite one hundred and twenty five years passing Holmes and Watson are still relevant and entertaining in a modern venue. As Shakespeare, Shelly, Wells, and others who wrote in their own eras the stories they told are easily and smoothly adapted to the modern age and sensibilities.


  1. Benedict Cumberbatch sounds like a Victorian Age detective in itself! I will have to track this show down and give it a go. The homosexual thing is for rating I suspect, but I agree, we have heard this kind of thing forever now in reference to Holmes and Watson. It is time to move off this and grow up.

  2. Click the Sherlcok banner at the top of the post, its a link to the Master piece page. Hurry! The episodes are only available thru Dec 7 I think!
    Thanks for the read and comment Shane!

  3. Yeah I agree they are over playing the "inside joke" on the sexual preferences of the characters. It was ok has a nod to random speculation people make, however continuing it further will be annoying.

    The only real nit I had to pick with the series. Joani was not impressed with their choice for M, but I had no issue with it.

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