Brit Picks: “Sherlock”

Written by Sarah Townsend July 28, 2011

“The game is on!”

Sherlock is a series that is both exactly what one might expect from the title, and completely surprising all at once.  It is Sherlock Holmes living in London, in our time. The first series came on the BBC in 2010 and is a smash hit, with Series 2 expected later this year.  I can’t wait!

Now, if you have read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries and love them I say it is absolutely worth watching, but I also understand those who believe that Sherlock Holmes should not be modernized.  This may be a good time to stop reading if this is your view – or perhaps I’ll convince you otherwise?

Opening titles

The men in charge of modernizing the characters and the tales know the stories forwards and backwards and have aimed to keep Sherlock true to character, just roaming around a more modern 221B Baker Street flat than we’re used to.  Co-created by Steven Moffatt and Mark Gatiss, it couldn’t be in better hands.  Basically, if either of these names is attached to anything, your expectations should be high.

Now I must confess that while I do know some of the tales of Sherlock Holmes I am by no means an expert; I’m just writing from what I do know. The series is entertaining even if you’ve never read the originals. The stories are altered slightly for the sake of modernization, but the mysteries themselves remain essentially the same.  The series begins with the audience being introduced to Dr. Watson as he’s just come home from Afghanistan after serving as an army doctor.  His psychiatrist believes that writing his thoughts in a blog will help him recover from the trauma he’s experienced.  For those of you know of the original stories, they are supposedly written down and narrated by Watson so we are then able to read them – see what they did there?  Watson of course needs a flatmate and who should he end up rooming with at the now immortalized 221B Baker Street but the loveable, cuddly, high functioning sociopath, Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

221B Baker Street

"And since yesterday you've moved in with him and now you're solving crimes together. Might we expect a happy announcement by the end of the week?"

Sherlock is essentially still a mystery drama but the characters aren’t too shabby either.  The supporting cast of characters at the morgue and in the police allow Watson and the audience to determine that while Holmes is not well liked, he does return results. This Holmes acts out of boredom and there’s a worry within many of the characters that perhaps one day he may be the owner of the murder weapons rather than the man trying to solve the murders – a worry that the audience can’t help but uneasily agree with at points.

This Sherlock acknowledges Watson as a useful member during investigations. Not as brilliant as Holmes of course, but he isn’t ignored as much as he is in some movie or television portrayals (I don’t mean the new movies – those are action movies with Sherlock in the title).  This is a Sherlock where an odd sort of friendship between Holmes and Watson forms. Holmes needs someone who understands people beyond what he is able to copy but not often feel, and Watson needs the excitement that his life has lacked since returning from war.

Sherlock and Watson

"Don't make people into heroes, John. Heroes don't exist and even if they did, I wouldn't be one of them." -Sherlock

Benedict Cumberbatch (Atonement, the voice of Smaug in the upcoming Hobbit movies), possibly one of the best names ever, brilliantly portrays an unforgiving Sherlock Holmes with a sharp tongue, who hides that he actually does have a heart of some sort.  Martin Freeman (British version of The Office, and the future Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit movies) plays a steadfastly loyal, clever and challenging Dr. John Watson with both excellent dramatic and comedic timing.

Series 1 is composed of three episodes, each 90 minutes long.  It is available in Canada on both DVD and Blu-ray.  Entertaining upon repeated viewings, this is definitely worth owning.

My Rating: 9/10

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About Sarah Townsend

Sarah Townsend

Sarah Townsend: Senior Television Editor of We Eat Films and writer of the Brit Picks column. A fourth year English and History student at UWO, future plans include travelling with the Doctor in his TARDIS whenever he finds me. I'm still waiting...

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