Who hasn’t heard of Sherlock Holmes? Alright, you, go and get the books and have a read,you’re missing a treat. You can finish reading this review first, though, because Sherlock doesn’t actually require you to have read them.
What Sherlock does require you to do, though, is sit still, pay attention, and stop lowering the IQ of the whole street. Oh – being good at waiting helps, too, but I’ll get to that in a minute. Taking Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic stories into the 21st century (the earlier of two recent TV shows to attempt the feat), Sherlock is the story of a bored man in a fancy coat who can tell you your life story by looking at you, and an army doctor who thinks that’s brilliant. Alternatively, it’s the story of a broken man who’s seen the battlefield and the irritating new flatmate who’s going to drag him straight back into it. This is, in fact, the story of Sherlock Holmes (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) and John Watson (Martin Freeman), as it’s never been seen before.
The first episode – brought into being by the now infamous combination of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss and aired on the BBC – is an adaptation of Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet, but with rather more digital technology brought to bear. It would be easy for a Holmes story to become embroiled in forensics and GPS tracking, but Sherlock skilfully dodges those traps by giving us a Sherlock who’s disdainful of the poor SOCOs [that is, Scene-of-Crime Officers -Ed.] and who only conducts the experiments he, personally, finds worthy. This is no CSI rip-off; the science our beloved Consulting Detective favours is the science of deduction – which is indeed the name of his blog. Nobody reads that.
Meanwhile, Watson’s traditional role as chronicler is artfully translated – John runs his own blog. People do, much to Sherlock’s annoyance, read that. Having been invalided home from Afghanistan, John will never admit to missing the war, but Sherlock’s elder brother Mycroft (Gatiss) is all too keen to point it out. When you run with Sherlock, though, London is a warzone, and you’re on the front line – as John finds out very personally in the first series’ finale.
Several recognisable characters from Conan Doyle’s work appear – Irene Adler (Lara Pulver), for one, James Moriarty (Andrew Scott) for another, not to mention of course the well-intentioned Inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves) – but there are also some characters who either never appeared or barely made an impression in the books, like Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) and Mrs Hudson (Una Stubbs).
Right, now earlier I mentioned waiting. Here’s why: a series of Sherlock is three episodes long. Each series is followed by about a year or so’s hiatus. The second series was definitely worth the wait and those who’ve seen the gripping finale to that same series can be in no doubt that the third series could be hand-drawn by a four-year-old and made into a flickbook and it would still be something we desperately need to see. However, photos coming from the set as pre-production begins on series three suggest that production values will be as high as ever, so there’s no need to fret on that account. Fear not, fandom, go back to your wild Reichenbach theories and your doodles of jam-bombs and otters.
The Sherlock fandom itself is a thing of wonder, actually – it’s taken to hiring itself out to other fandoms (Sherlockians are widely, though inconclusively, credited for realising that Tony Stark of The Avengers spots the famous schwarma joint while falling out of the sky) and generally going slowly insane. Or quickly insane. At this point, even Moriarty would probably be a little creeped out by the madness in the fandom. And that’s OK – especially since the fandom has allied with the fandoms of the original stories and numerous other adaptations to get involved in the Save Undershaw campaign, which is pretty productive, really.
I’d recommend checking this out if you’re bored of predictable crime shows or if you just want a bit of a mental workout. It’s way more fun than sudoku.
I’d give this show a 4.5 out of 5 – if they really wanted a 5, they’d have given us more of it.
Eleanor Musgrove (Let’s have dinner)