Before our son was born, we got into the habit of me reading a book aloud, one chapter a night. After he was born, we continued, and he grew up hearing all the Tolkien books, Jack London, biographies, and a wide variety of books about people. One of our favorites was the Sherlock Holmes series, written by Sir Arthur Conon Doyle. We read through it several times, along with a few of the spin-off books (such as one about Irene Adler).
I wasn’t too fond of the Holmes as played by Sir Basil Rathbone (1939-1946), but when Jeremy Brett played the part in the BBC series in 1984, I thought they had found the ultimate Sherlock Holmes. When played in period (1880-1914), Brett is still the best Holmes I have ever seen (though Robert Downey Jr. does give him a run for the money, and seems far more “real”).
Enter the new “Sherlock” series by the BBC. It came out last Autumn (2010, three 90-minute shows), and they will be releasing the next three shows sometime this Autumn. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Holmes, and Martin Freeman (“Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”) plays Dr. John Watson. These two are outstanding! (More on that in a moment.) But the real kicker in this series is that instead of being a period piece, it is set in modern London. And it works! Sherlock is techno savvy. Dr. Watson is an Army doctor who returned from the war in Afghanistan (back in the original books AND in this series). The writers don’t follow Doyle’s stories exactly, but they reinterpret them into how they would look in modern times. There are still plenty of Doyle’s lines, and if you know Doyle’s stories you can make the connections. But you don’t have to know the original Sherlock Holmes stories, because these episodes stand on their own — quite brilliantly!
[I couldn’t find a photo of these actors in character that wasn’t copyrighted with a lot of legal language, so PLEASE go to the BBC site above and see them. 🙂 ]
Cumberbatch plays a Sherlock you admire and hate at the same time. Sherlock always seemed to me a misogynist, but in this series you understand it’s not that he dislikes women, but rather that he doesn’t have time for the niceties of life and what he considers foolishness — whether it is males or females. Someone calls him a psychopath, and he corrects them: “I’m a well-adjusted sociopath — do your homework.” Watching how Cumberbatch plays Sherlock, I finally understand him, even if he does piss me off.
Dr. Watson always seemed to get the short end of the stick in most portrayals of this series, but not here. We meet him first, and see as much through his eyes as through Sherlock’s. Martin Freeman does an outstanding job in this role, of a returning, injured vet who is trying to re-adjust to civilian life. Freeman helps me understand why Watson puts up with Holmes.
We bought the DVD set of the first season, and watch it regularly. We have seen clips of the upcoming episodes, and eagerly await their release. 🙂