I’ve loved the Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories ever since I first read them. I loved the old London settings, Holmes’ brilliant deductions from observable phenomena, and the relationship of Holmes and the ever-loyal Dr. Watson. The movie adaptations, however, have been a bit uneven — and I’ve particularly detested the kind of superhero Holmes depicted in the Robert Downey, Jr. movies.
So it was with some trepidation that Kish and I began binge-watching the BBC TV series Sherlock, with Benedict Cumberbatch as the iconic consulting detective and Martin Freeman as Dr. John Watson, set in modern day London. I’m relieved to report that the show not only is faithful to the characters and concept of the original Holmes tales, it also very cleverly updates the stories and adds in little references that only true Sherlockians would get. So rather than serializing Holmes’ exploits for The Strand magazine, Watson writes a blog about their adventures. Watson’s new journalistic efforts frequently are variations of the titles of the old stories, such as A Study in Pink rather than A Study in Scarlet and The Speckled Blonde rather than The Speckled Band. And Holmes now craves cigarettes rather than the strongest shag for his pipe, but when he needs that tobacco fix he still looks in the persian slipper by the mantelpiece. And now Holmes uses some of that uncanny deductive ability to figure out passwords to computers and smart phones.
Cumberbatch and Freeman have wonderful chemistry, and the cast of regular supporting characters is great, with Una Stubbs as the plucky Mrs. Hudson, Holmes’ landlady at 221B Baker Street, Rupert Graves as the dogged Detective Inspector Lestrade, and Mark Gatiss as the umbrella-toting, British-to-the-core Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s equally brilliant older brother who is a kind of one-man British government. But one of the greatest updates is Andrew Scott as Holmes’ arch-nemesis “Jim” Moriarty, a “consulting criminal” who is every bit Holmes’ match in the intellect department but gleefully, psychotically twisted as well. (I’m not quite as keen about Irene Adler as a dominatrix, but we’ll let that pass.)
We’re in the midst of season two, with the episode entitled “The Reichenbach Fall” dead ahead. It’s another great allusion to the old stories, because one of the most famous of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s efforts, The Final Problem, had the great detective falling to his death in a final struggle with Professor James Moriarty at the Reichenbach Falls. Doyle wanted to kill off Sherlock Holmes, because he had tired of writing the mysteries and wanted to try something else, but the character was so immensely popular that Doyle ultimately relented to popular demand and brought him back to life.
Holmes fans the world over were glad he did — and I’m glad I’ve found this latest version of the great detective to enjoy as well. New episodes of Sherlock are currently being filmed and are supposed to be released around Christmas.