"Sherlock" - BBC TV's Sherlock Holmes for the 21st Century
The Mystery and Romance of Sherlock Holmes
Every generations or so, a writer will concoct a character and a plot, or series of plots that completely captures the public imagination. The reasons for this are many, but usually the character fills some need for a hero - not just any hero, but someone larger than life, who resonates with certain, particular aspects or ills of his or her time - someone we can look up to and admire, who could either solve our problems, were he/she only real, or who offers us a satisfying escape from our problems, while seeming, somehow, to address them. Katniss Everdeen, the charismatic heroine of Suzanne Collins' novel, "The Hunger Games" is one example of such a contemporary hero.
Every decade or so, some clever writer will come up with a new spin on a hero of another era, and will re-make the hero to suit the current, contemporary view. Sherlock Holmes, one of the great fictional detectives of all time, has been resurrected more times than most. Something about this character continues to captivate us, both his returning fans and the many new ones he acquires with each outing.
One of my favorite scenes
Part of the charm of the Holmes and Watson sagas is the enduring and endearing nature of the characters. No matter how ham-fisted we may consider a particular director's or actor's approach to the roles, the characters of Holmes and Watson survive.
With each successful and popular retelling of the tales, even greater luster is added to tales. Each successive actor who adds his own stamp to the role, his own "take" on the character and his relationship to his partner.
One of my favorite teamings of Holmes and Watson occurred in the 1979 film, "Murder By Decree" which starred Christopher Plummer as Holmes, and James Mason as Dr. Watson. Though this plot, tracking down Jack the Ripper, is not one of Conan Doyle's original tales, it does pit Doyle's detective against one of the great villains, and one who was much in the public mind, and a popular film subject, at the time of the film's release.
The Best Doctor Watson
Who is your favorite Dr. Watson?
The London Telegraph picks...
It's a small world...
This clip from the Granada TV series, which ran originally from 1984 to 1994, features a very young Jude Law as the jockey, Joe Barnes.
You just never know where a talented actor is going to pop up again, do you? Jude Law's impressive cinematic career now includes two more outings in Holmesian adventures, this time as Dr. Watson.
Just as one cannot imagine a Holmes story without an interesting case, some tricky plot twists, dastardly villains, and the occasional damsel in distress, so too, it is difficult to think of Holmes without his faithful Watson - honest, trustworthy, and staunch friend.
Though many have ably portrayed this character over the years, those actors who succeeded best in the role did not settle for the easy way out - for making Dr. Watson into a buffoon. The versions that have down-played Watson's intelligence have done a disservice to both characters.
The Holmes character's blazing intellect would have made any reasonably intelligent person seem a bit slow, so in my mind, there has never been any need to "dumb down" either character. You either believe in them as they are, or you don't.
Nigel Bruce's endearing portrait of a man clearly in over his head was a brilliant foil for Rathbone's cerebral Holmes, but I can't help wondering how much more fun the pairing could have been with a slightly brighter light in Dr. Watson's belfry.
For my money, those who best served the role played Dr. Watson as an intelligent, real man, who was often exasperated by Holmes' antics, but always his firmest supporter and true friend.
The Best Sherlock Holmes
Who is your favorite Sherlock Holmes?
The London Telegraph picks...
Which actor is your favorite Holmes?
Every actor who has played the part of Sherlock Holmes has brought his own interpretation to the role - that goes almost without saying. The very best of them have captured the essence of the man, and the icon - no mean feat, given the vastly talented actors who have taken on the role.
Those who are probably most familiar to us now had already carved out careers in film and television before essaying the part of Sherlock Holmes.
Christopher Plummer was already an established star with an impressive list of credentials for his work in films, on Broadway, at Stratford Shakespeare Festival productions, and on the London stage.
Peter Cushing, who played the detective in many black and white films of the 40s and 50s, had an equally impressive career on stage, and was already the acknowledged master of horror films.
Robert Downey Jr. has followed up his successful outings in Iron Man and Iron Man II with two highly enjoyable and well-received turns as the great detective, while both Jeremy Brett and Benedict Cumberbatch came to their roles with equally illustrious film pedigrees.
Cumberbatch has accrued a list of lead roles in top-grossing, popular films, including the part of Paul Marshall in Atonement; Peter Guillam, George Smiley's right-hand man, in John le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy; and Major Stewart in Steven Spielberg's War Horse.
The current sleuthing partners
Jeremy Brett as Holmes
Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock
Interviews with Cast and Writers
Sherlock Holmes for the 21st century
As one would expect, this new incarnation of Holmes embraces technology. He prefers to text, rather then telephone, and is fascinated by all the marvelous toys and gadgets science has to offer a new-age consulting detective.
He still has the utmost respect for the human mind, and uses his keen powers of observation to accurately profile witnesses and suspects alike. Like his Victorian counterpart, he is used to being the sharpest mind at the table, and this new Holmes finds a similar glee in tackling a worthy opponent.
The plots for this new British series are cleverly devised updates of Conan Doyle's stories, but certainly not slavish reproductions. There are many twists and turns that pay homage to the originals, but there are sharp, new tangents that take advantage of technology, and modern ways of delivering thrills and chills.
The relationship between the two men is every bit as satisfying - brilliant but manic sociopath meets upright, ex-military doctor - except this Dr. Watson has some fresh and intriguing wrinkles. His therapist asserts that he misses the war - the adrenalin high, the danger. Their felicitous pairing casts a new light on Watson's partnership with Sherlock Holmes. Watson needs the danger and physical challenge almost as much as Holmes needs the mental stimulation.
Their dialogue crackles with wit. This Watson finally gets to say some of the things you've always had a sneaking feeling some of the other Watson's desperately wanted to say, but were too bound by the conventions of their day to voice. Take this exchange from "The Reichenback Fall" as quoted in the London Telegraph:
Watson: “Don’t try to be clever. Intelligent is fine, but let’s give Smart Alec a wide berth.”
Holmes: “I’ll just be myself.”
Watson: “Are you listening to me?”
The second season of the new series has come to a close, ending with Conan Doyle's penultimate cliff-hanger - the supposed death of his world-famous detective.
For a time, speculation about a third season filled internet chat sites and blogs dedicated to the new show. Finally, the series' creators relented and released the news that a third season was set to be filmed, leading to even greater speculation about how this Sherlock faked his death.
A Few Famous Pairings
Dr. John Watson
BBC TV's 2012 Sherlock"
Billed as "smart and sexy" this fast-paced series is all that and more, without losing the essential humanity of the leads
Robert Downey Jr.
Films - "Sherlock Holmes" and "Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows"
This Sherlock is a brawling, Victorian James Bond, but the interaction between the two is spot-on; ripping good yarns
David Burke, 1984 - Edward Hardwicke, 1985 - 1994
BBC TV series
Viewed by some as the quintessential Holmes, this series returned to the original plots, meticulous recreations of the Victorain era for its considerable impact and appeal
Film - "Murder by Decree"
Though a non-canonical plot - it doesn't appear in the canon of Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle's work - this is one of my favorites; Plummer's Holmes is by far the most emotional portrayal to date
BBC TV series 1968 and Hammer Films
Each 50 minute episode was reasonably true to the original stories, but I find them a bit stiff in that unmistakeable 60s BBC style
Film series (13) 1939-46 mainly for Universal Studios
After the first 2 films, and the US entry into the war, Holmes and Watson were given a serious update to pursue modern terrors and foil Axis (Nazi) plots
Where is 221B Baker Street?
A Sherlock Christmas Special - teaser
Sherlock Christmas Special
The game's afoot...
Whichever Holmes or Watson you prefer, and whichever series or film most perfectly epitomizes your notion of Sherlock Holmes, you can be sure that sooner or later, someone else will come up with yet another version, plot twist, or variation on the theme.
Certainly the leagues of fans have created a fascinating body of homage to the current BBC series.
I know that I am anxiously awaiting the fourth season of this new series. Mark Gattis' long-awaited third season heralded the "return from the dead" of this 21st century Sherlock.
We already know how Conan Doyle brought him back, and we have seen the Granada TV version. It was equally fascinating to see what this series creator's added to the Holmes legend.
And now it appears we are in for even further treats, judging by the provocative trailer from the BBC - is BBC's modern Sherlock about to be launched backwards into the 1800s? After watching these two clips, you'll certainly appreciate why they are called "teasers." That certainly looks like Tom Hiddleston - is he reincarnated here as Moriarty's brother? The game, as they say, is definitely afoot...
One more happy find...
I recently came across this little gem while looking for updates on the BBC Sherlock - Season Four teaser. I have been a fan of The Doctor for many years, having first come across him in the 60s. It's always fascinating to track the various incarnations, (or regenerations, to use the correct term) of The Doctor with regard to his current real-time social and political milieu, and though Matt Smith is not my absolute favorite Doctor, he is one of the top, in my opinion, and make an awesome pairing with Benedict Cumberbatch.