Saturday, 23 June 2012

Spoiler Alert: Don't read further if you haven't seen BBC's Sherlock. There are no plot giveaways, but it may ruin some surprises.

I was fifteen when I first saw a rerun of E.R on Hallmark. One episode and I was hooked. It used to air at five in the evening, and I meticulously planned my day around that one hour episode. It didn’t matter if I had an exam the next day. Or tuitions or social engagements. Five o’ clock on weekdays, I was unavailable. And weekends meant withdrawal symptoms.

Seven years later, the same thing is set to happen again. With BBC’s Sherlock.

When a friend told me about the series, I was sceptical. A modern adaptation of Holmes seemed a bad idea, especially since the Americans had disappointed me with their version of a gun-toting, testerone charged Holmes. But I knew my scepticism was ill founded as soon as Sherlock introduces himself to John Watson for the first time, and tells him the Central London address of the flat he wants to show him. 221B Baker Street.

The name is Sherlock Holmes and the address is 221B Baker Street

Sherlock is modern, yes. But he is still the detective I grew up reading about. Yes, he texts instead of using the wire. But still loathes legwork unless the “case is at least a seven”. Nicotine patches may have replaced the pipes, but he is as careful as ever, to delete trivial information from his‘hard drive’, lest the brain get needlessly crowded. And he doesn’t wear the deer stalker as comfortably as ACD might have hoped, but his condescension for Watson’s (and the Scotland Yard's) lack of observation is intact. Happily, so are his supreme deductive powers, whether he is using that to solve a case, or simply to show off. Technology is important to the extent that these are tools to help our hero (though he scoffs at the term himself) along. Not to forget the street urchins who continue to provide useful service.

Sherlock puts on the deer stalker as Watson looks on

What also keeps Sherlock from getting too new-agey to digest, is London. The famous black taxis step in for the hansom cabs. The buses, the roads, the buildings are a beautiful amalgam of the modern with the old-worldly. The sets evoke the same idea. The background score too, is pitch perfect, adding mood to every scene.


An adaptation such as this, always runs the risk of being labelled spoofy or silly. And if I said there was none of this on the show, I would be lying. In fact if I were to use one word to describe it, I would probably use 'fun'. But this does not take away anything from the clever dialogue, the well thought out characters (and their development), each with a back story of their own, and most importantly the relationships that the characters forge in the course of the series.
Freeman as Watson is perfect- intelligent, patient and staunchly loyal. When he meets Cumberbatch's Sherlock, he is first wary, then intrigued and then completely fascinated by the latter. But you can see that he is never awed. He is the friend, the reliable assistant, but never a sidekick. Together they share the best moments in the series, helped along by natural chemistry as well as wonderful dialogue.
In a particular scene set in the Buckingham Palace (with Sherlock dressed in a bedsheet),
John: Who are we to meet here? The Queen?
Sherlock (seeing his staid elder brother walk in): Apparently yes.
Both break into giggles.
They aren't even shy of giggling at crime scenes, though Watson does from time to time, attempt to rein in his flatmate's absolute jubilation at the occurrence of an intriguing crime. It's not just the frothy bits. Towards the end of the second season, when Sherlock accuses John of harbouring doubts about the former's integrity, John reassures him saying, "Nobody could pretend to be an absolute dick, all the time".
There are other important relationships as well- each of which, as in real life, evolve. Mrs Hudson, the kindly landlady (not housekeeper) and her 'boys'. Sherlock's uncomfortable relationship with his brother Mycroft, Watson's uncomfortable relationship with Mycroft. Sherlock and much of the Scotland Yard. In fact, after the last episode, I also began to appreciate the potential that Sherlock and Molly, the non descript lab assistant had.
Maybe this is where the movies went wrong. A two hour movie can never hope to have its characters grow on you, as a leisurely paced episodic series can. I will have to admit, that when I saw the first episode, my favourite character (and actor) was Watson. However by the end of it, I was well and truly a Cumberbitch. A discussion about Sherlock is grossly incomplete without a shout out to the actor who brings the titular character to life, with all his brilliance, his arrogance and his idiosyncrasies. For some reason, Cumberbatch's beautiful voice also lends credibility to the character. (Also, completely as an aside, he is extremely good looking, but as in the case of the character, you have to let that grow on you)
Probably my only issue with Sherlock, is that there is so little of it, with the shooting of season three slated to begin only in 2013. Till then of course, we have to settle with the repeat viewings of the previous seasons, not a completely unpleasant idea, come to think of it.


  1. YES! You have finally discovered all the joys of Sherlock :D Perfect review :)

    I crack up at that Buckingham Palace scene every time :D

  2. I can't wait for you to watch Doctor Who.