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31Dec/102

21st Century Sherlock

What if Sherlock Holmes had been born in modern times? The BBC's series, "Sherlock" gives you a good idea of how the greatest detective of them all would be different.

I have to admit being apprehensive of the new series and not really sure I'd enjoy it. However, there's little chance that Benedict Cumberbatch will replace Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock definitely has some merit.

The idea of doing Sherlock Holmes in modern times is hardly a new one. The Rathbone-Bruce series for Universal did it fairly well. And sixty years later, what is old is new again.

Of course, moving Holmes into the 21st Century is fraught with perils. Done wrong and it becomes a fish out of water comedy. Overdo it and you risk losing sight of the character.

Thankfully, the producers avoiding doing this.  Cumberbatch's Holmes is a driven deductive genius. Martin Freeman is his able friend and companion, Dr. Watson, who is a British Veteran of the Afghanistan campaign.

Cumberbatch Holmes' more than anything else embodies the genius' sense of boredom in Holmes and the desire for intellectual challenge. Holmes expressed this in the Red Headed League, "My life is spent in one long effort to escape from the commonplaces of existence." 

This desire was expressed in the Holmes stories themelves in Holmes' drug use. Also, in the 1939 Fox Movie, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Moriarity preys on Holmes intellectual curiosity by giving him a fascinating crime to solve, so that Moriarity can commit a far larger crime.

Given that this Holmes is part of a particularly bored generation, his boredom is amped up to the nth degree in this portrayal. The effect is somewhat hyperactive and occassionally intense.

One of the highlights of Sherlock was its very effective use of modern video methods to highlights Holmes' deductions. When Holmes explains a complex deduction, the camera does a close-up on the physical clues Holmes observed to form his deductions, a kind of Sherlockovision that's quite appealing.

The pacing is exciting, albeit a tad too quick at times, but not when compared to other modern programs.

There are a couple bones to pick with Sherlock and the episode, "The Great Game."

The one thing really off to me about Holmes in this story is Holmes'  handling of the Bruce Partington Project (based on the Bruce Partington Plans story.) Mycroft comes to Holmes to ask him to find the missile plans and even though Holmes is incredibly bored, he refuses the commission and ignores Mycroft's repeated requests for help even when he has no other work pending. Apparenting, some sibling rivalry with a heavy-duty dose of angst has been added to the plot and Holmes is willing to risk British security over it.

Also in this episode, the portrayal of Professor Moriarty was done poorly.  We're left with no real clue as to the practical motivation for his crimes. Andrew Scott's performance of Moriarity was reminiscent of Heath Ledger's joker, although not nearly as well done.

Beyond this though, Sherlock is an intriguing take on the most famous detective of them all and I'll be eager to see the second series next Fall.

Rating: 7 out of 10

Parental Advisory: In terms of its content, it earns TV-14 rating with quite a bit of violence and some adult situations, as well as a handful of cursewords.

Sherlock Availability:

Sherlock is available as a DVD from Netflix also is available as either a digital download or a DVD from Amazon.

This post contains affiliate links, which means that items purchased from these links may result in a commission being paid to the author of this post.

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Comments (2) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I watched the first run of “Sherlock” on Masterpiece Mystery. IMHO, it’s one of the better British imports of recent years. The spirit of the Doyle stories is captured perfectly – far better than the Rathbone/Bruce films which cemented the unfortunate caricature of Dr. Watson as a bumbling baffoon rather than able assistant. The allusions to the Holmes canon (the meaning of “Rache” in “A Study in Pink;” Holmes’ use of nicotine patches and his description of a case as a “three patch problem”) were well placed. Most importantly, in this era where so many TV sleuths are Holmes-inspired (“Monk,” “The Mentalist”), “Sherlock” truly gives us Holmes instead of an imitator. I’m more a fan of the Doyle stories and the Jeremy Brett Granada series than the Rathbone films, so that could also account for my enjoyment of the Cumberbatch/Freeeman series.

  2. Jeremy Brett is the definitive Holmes.


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