Saturday, 23 October 2010

Sherlock (BBC1, July 2010 “A Study in Pink”)

Not content with claiming top dog status at Doctor Who, writer-producer Steven Moffat has turned his talents to a contemporary reimagining of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective. Transplanted to modern-day London and given a shot in the arm (not of opium, mind) Sherlock sets out to prove that the science of deduction cannot be beaten, whatever the century.

The wonderfully-named Benedict Cumberbatch is superb as the modern-day Holmes, who with just a hint of Jeremy Brett totally captures the frustrated, arrogant and almost autistic genius at the heart of the character. Martin Freeman does a convincing enough job of playing Martin Freeman, the script wisely avoiding the idiot Watson of many of the prior adaptations. Everyone else fits neatly into their pre-set roles, the bumbling Lestrade, the busybody Mrs Hudson and assorted red herrings, victims and obstructions.

But while the characters and setting have been updated fittingly, the episode is filled with great clunking references to smartphones and blogs and GPS navigation that are not only unneeded, but guarantee the series will date appallingly. A lot of the charm of Holmes comes from its turn-of-the-century flavour and vague gothic trappings, and curry houses, office blocks and laptops simply aren’t as evocative or exciting.

With Moffat at the helm and with sometime Who contributor and League of Gentlemen alumni Mark Gatiss both writing and acting, comparisons with the Time Lord are inevitable and in this case deserved. A Study in Pink (a riff on the Doyle novel A Study in Scarlet) feels like an episode of the newest seasons of Doctor Who; the breathless pace, the seemingly-compulsory running around, the self-glorifying exposition and even the awkwardly inserted gay undertones feel at times like a fan fiction cross-over . And it’s hard not to imagine Cumberbatch himself playing either role; Moffatt’s incarnation of the great detective is only a short step and a few regenerations away from the modern-day Doctor himself.

A 2010 Sherlock Holmes could have been a disaster, and while far from perfect, Sherlock reigns in its sensibilities, pays due respect to its source material and manages to be a little funny and a little scary at the same time. Logic dictates we won’t be waiting long for a second season.

1 comment:

  1. It's definitely an entertaining jaunt down baker street, to be sure. The occasional riffs on suspected homosexuality, insults slung at the police, and actual compliments towards Watson make this a 'different sort of Holmes' though far from a bad one.

    I did actually LOL when Watson Googled 'Sherlock Holmes'.