Monday, August 20, 2012


Written by Joe the Revelator

Ever since reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arther Conan Doyle, I've had an affinity for British sleuths from Baker street- crusaders with an eye for detail and a magnifying lens in their waistcoat pocket. After watching Robert Downey Jr. nail the role of Sherlock Holmes with a twist of humor and a slice of hyper-vigilance and aspergers, I thought; who could possibly do better?

Enter Benedict Cumberbatch. (War horse,  Atonement) Young-looking for a Sherlock, modern, and plays the classic detective a bit on the fussy side. But with the success of the show riding on the strength of his portrayal, I say he nailed it. His need to be validated, to show he's always 'right' takes precedence over all else, even going so far as to risk poisoning himself to prove it. Downey's character was fastidious. The new Sherlock is downright anal.

Cumberbatch's Sherlock is accompanied by Martin Freeman (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) as Dr. Watson. He's a friendly, personable, salt-of-the-earth type. A battlefield medic just come back from the war. He's introduced to Sherlock through a mutual acquaintance when John expresses his need to find a roommate, and it's love (for sleuthing) at first sight.

Digital Detective

As it has always been in any adaptation of Sherlock, the diaries of the detective's conquests are kept by the good doctor. But to add a modern twist to Watson's storytelling, the trail of cases are kept on a blog that steadily attracts more clients and crime investigations. Sherlock's methodology has also gotten a kick in the cummerbund by the modern boot. He uses cellphones and text messaging, crime labs and microscopes, laptops and card readers. Instead of coming off like a cheap CSI knockoff, this digital era Sherlock manages to enhance his repertoire in ways that would make his horse-and-carriage predecessors jealous.

To say the hour-and-a-half episodes are humorous might be an understatement. Dry wit is plentiful in the most British of ways. And a tip of the hat is made to both written works about Sherlock Holmes and movies. One of Watson's blog entries is titled "A Study in Pink", which is a reference to the original Study in Scarlett. Hounds of Baskerville are actually H.O.U.N.D.S, a fictional elite unit of soldiers. And Holmes' sexuality is brought into question more than once, as it has remained questionable in almost all adaptations. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows was one long gay joke.

Long Format

My only complaint about Sherlock might be the length of the episodes. As I mentioned, each episode is around 90 minutes, which makes it difficult for someone with a busy schedule to enjoy it all in one sitting. At least compared to most 50-60 minute serials that have cropped up.

Also be prepared for lulls and long moments of deep contemplation. The clues and deductions may be fast paced, but the action is not. Doyle's Sherlock hardly ever got into any scrapes at all. It feels to me that modern adaptations of the character go around picking fights, just to show he can locate someone's liver with his knuckles.


  1. I liked this review although, like you assessed, 90 minute episodes are a little offputting.

    This is totally tangential, but did you know that this Benedict Cumberbatch fellow is supposed to be the voice of Smaug, the dragon in the Bilbo movies? Just looking at this guy... I can't see it. But then again, I haven't actually seen a single movie or TV show with him in it yet. Do you think he would pull it off with aplomb? Or fail utterly like the skinny nerdy white guy he appears to be? I say that because one would expect a freaking dragon to be voiced by someone like James Earl Jones or Michael Clarke Duncan.

  2. There are brief moments during the series when he's required to affect emotion other than snobbish and omnipotent. These moments he handles quite well.

    But on the whole, no, not without severe voice modification from the sound department. Unless they're going for a whole different Smaug than what was presented in the Hobbit.

    My vote for Smaug: Christopher Walken at his zaniest.