Not being fans of Arthur Conan Doyle and having literally only watched the Robert Downey Jnr version of Sherlock Holmes last night, we tuned in this evening for the first showing of BBC One’s reimagining, Sherlock.
The Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss-produced remake sees Holmes and Watson united for the first time…in 21st Century London. Hmm, how much of that is down to budget constraints and trying to distance itself from comparisons with the Downey Jnr film?
The series features Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as John Watson. Watson, in this instance, is a former paratrooper from Afghanistan with post-traumatic stress disorder and an injured leg.
This first episode centers around a series of “Impossible Suicides”: a bunch of unconnected people in London have died after taking the same type of pill. But Holmes and Watson haven’t even met yet! So Sherlock has the dual purpose of establishing the main characters, and it does so beautifully, with Watson getting introduced to Holmes by a mutual friend and finding himself suddenly sharing a flat with the obnoxious detective.
I won’t recap the episode tonight – as I usually do with telly reviews – but I will say that 90 minutes of spectacular programming was the end result. Not only was there a delicious dynamic between Cumberbatch and Freeman as Holmes and Watson, but the quick-witted quips and fascinating observations of evidence from Sherlock had my jaw trailing on the ground.
The actual mystery, who was the killer that was somehow persuading random strangers to take a lethal pill, was cleverly thought out and had me scratching my head throughout. And even when the identity of the killer was revealed, boldly visiting 221b Baker Street, there was a further riddle: would Holmes risk his own life to find out which one was the lethal pill?
After seeing Holmes using his amazing powers of observation throughout the episode, I was ready to get my red pen out when he faced down the killer. But to be fair, Holmes scrutinised his adversary to within an inch of his soon to be very shortened life, giving us the killer’s motives and revealing that there’s a more sinister figure lurking in the background, sponsoring London’s psychopaths and serial killers.
As a non-fan of Sherlock Holmes, I got the impression that there were a stack of shrewd Holmes references being made in the background that I was missing.
On the other hand, as a [[Doctor Who (TV Series)|Doctor Who]] fan, I was playing spot the similarity. A hyper-intelligent protagonist who gets all the best lines and is intellectually miles ahead of his companions? Check. In fact, there was one line of dialogue where Sherlock exclaimed “This is Christmas!”, a direct lift from The Doctor’s dialogue in [[Vampires Of Venice (Doctor Who episode)|Vampires of Venice]]. And the little sections of ‘revise the clues’ were also used during [[Doctor Who Series 5|series 5]] of Doctor Who, notably in The Eleventh Hour.
Still, I’m not going to moan about that. I didn’t think Sherlock could possibly work in a modern context, and there are place where it feels forced. For example, who the hell has an arch-enemy in the 21st Century? But, minor grumbles.
On the whole, Sherlock is a resounding success – a smart reimagining of the Sherlock Holmes story. If my Sky planner is correct and this is only a 3 part series, we’re all going to be lamenting its loss in little over a fortnight. (Even if I did initially think Watson had been abducted by David Cameron – it turned out to be Sherlock’s brother Mycroft in the end).
Pick of the quotes: A Study In Pink
- Sherlock: “The game, Mrs Hudson, is on.”
- Female officer: “One day we’ll be standing round a body and it’ll be Sherlock Holmes who put it there. Because he’s a psychopath. Stay away from Sherlock Holmes.”
- Mycroft: “And since yesterday, you’ve moved in with him and now you’re solving crimes with him. Might we expect a happy announcement by the end of the week?”
- Mycroft: “You’re not haunted by the war, Doctor Watson. You miss it. Time to choose a side, Doctor Watson.”
- Sherlock: “Nicotine patch. Helps me think. Impossible to sustain a smoking habit in London these days.”
- Sherlock: “Did he offer you money to spy on me?” Watson: “Yes.” Sherlock: “Did you take it?” Watson: “No.” Sherlock: “Pity, we could have split the fee. Think it through next time.”
- Sherlock: “I like company when I go out and I think better when I talk aloud. The skull just attracts attention…”
- Watson: “That was the most ridiculous thing I’ve done.” Sherlock: “And you’ve invaded Afghanistan.”
- Sherlock: “I’m not a psychopath Anderson, I’m a high-functioning sociopath. Do your research.”
- Sherlock: “Anderson, don’t talk out loud. You lower the IQ of the whole street.”
- Cabbie knows Sherlock’s weakness: “I don’t wanna kill you Mister Holmes. I wanna talk to you. And then you’re gonna kill yourself.”
- Cabbie: “One thing about being a cabbie, you always know a nice quiet spot for a murder.”
- Cabbie: “I’ve outlived four people, that’s the most fun you can have with an aneurysm.”
- Cabbie: “There’s a name. That no-one says. And I ain’t gonna say it, neither.”