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Sherlock, for those of you haven’t been paying attention, is the BBC’s latest take on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Set in the modern day, it re-casts the iconic British crime-fighting duo, with Holmes as a high-functioning-sociopath and Watson as a war-veteran turned blogger (Rather than the classic Gentleman Detective and bumbling doctor friend that has become the cliché.)

Each episode is a 90-minute mini movie and is at its best when it reworks classic Sherlock Holmes stories with a modern twist. Every show is laced with references to original works1, and all are clearly labours of love. Though the individual cases are intricate as well as interesting, and even though the weakest episodes have a strong detective story at their core, the show is actually about the relationship between a genius and the rest of the world.

There is a certain amount of cross-over appeal between Doctor Who and Sherlock. Though this is, in part, because Steven Moffat is involved in both, I’d like to think that it’s more to do with it being character-centred adventure drama. Both shows centre on a brilliant person who can perform miraculous feats of mental agility and yet has difficulty relating to other people, and though they are set in entirely different worlds with utterly different legacies and goals2 it is the lure of the brilliant maniac that compels us to keep watching.

Smaug and Bilbo Baggins, together at last

The true genius of Sherlock is the way it draws on the wealth of history surrounding the stories to create a unique tale every time. Though the show misses the mark on occasion3 , it avoids formula. Sherlock will never be a genius centred procedural drama such as House (which is also a re-imagining of Conan Doyles famous creation).

My only criticism is the fact that we only have a limited number of Sherlock stories left. The two main actors are now both much sought after by Hollywood and the shows producers are also involved with big budget projects. This is actually a good thing; like Fawlty Towers and The Prisoner it will stay on our screens long enough to enter the hall of fame. And quite right too.

1: So many references and nods, in fact, that you could probably write many scholarly papers on it. The love and care devoted to show is right there on the screen. The producers love the fans, and the fans love them right back. There’s even a shout-out to the fanfic community, if you know where to look.
2: For example, Sherlock’s cynicism has no place in Doctor Who . The Timelord’s adventures are romantic and impossible, whereas Sherlock goes out of its way to place us slap bang in reality. We can almost taste the smog and sweat that is unique to modern London.
3: The episode The Blind Banker is noted by many of the fans as the weakest episode. It isn’t weak, it just draws upon source material that is not as interesting as it once was.

Categories: TV
  1. mikey
    January 23, 2012 at 8:37 am

    I’m not sure it recasts the two as something particularly new, Holmes was a high functioning sociopath in all but name in the original work, and Watson’s blog is just a medium for his writing brought up to date. This is not a criticism, it’s an excellent adaption.

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