Newest take on iconic Sherlock Holmes character hits the mark June 4, 2012
By G. Michael Dobbs
If you have not yet discovered "Sherlock," now is the time to do so.
BBC Home Video has recently released the second season of this updating of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's venerable detective and if you're a mystery fan or a Holmes fan, you need to see it.
I have to admit that I viewed the new show with some trepidation. Sherlock Holmes has been one of the sturdy literary characters when it comes to adaptations into other media, but not all of the actors or adaptations have worked.
I will readily admit that I'm definitely a Basil Rathbone/ Peter Cushing/ Jeremy Brett enthusiast, but I'm open to other interpretations of Holmes. I've always preferred depictions of Dr. Watson that were not comic relief.
So I came to this new show wondering if the approach was going to be straight or campy, retro or ironic. I'm happy to say that Conan Doyle himself would probably see how well his character could fit into the 21st century.
Dr. John Watson's original backstory is that he is an Army doctor who has been injured in a war in Afghanistan and the new show has maintained it, as it is frighteningly appropriate today. Martin Freeman, best known to American audiences from the original production of "The Office," plays Watson as a bright, competent man who is trying to deal with his post-war life. His involvement with Holmes is accidental and has more to do with finding a place to live than anything else.
The only reason Watson seems a bit thick at times is because Holmes is such a genius. Conan Doyle always characterized his hero has someone seeking a puzzle to solve, afraid of being bored and, despite his general lack of concern for the human race, needed someone to act as a companion and humanizing agent.
These are all qualities the new show has brought to its stories. This Holmes is described as a "highly functioning sociopath," and yet with Benedict Cumberbatch's performance he is still a likable hero. Physically, Cumberbatch is also perfect, although his Holmes is a bit more physically agile than earlier versions.
The strength of the Conan Doyle stories and characters is evident in the new show. Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock's older brother, was a high level government official involved with secrets. That fits in perfectly today. So does crime genius Professor Moriarty.
I was curious how a story such as "The Hound of the Baskervilles" would work today. One of the most horrific of the Conan Doyle stories and one with a genuine monster, the new adaptation brought these elements along and they fit perfectly as Homes and Watson investigate sightings of a horrendous beast near a government research facility.
The pacing of these shows is brisk and I like how there is a visual device to show how Holmes thinks.
My wife and I found these shows to be pretty addictive and wanted to watch one after another. In a summer filled with re-runs and derivative reality shows, "Sherlock" on DVD is a must-see.