Sunday, 25 July 2010
If you didn't see it, the first episode of the new BBC1 series Sherlock is now available on BBC iPlayer. I rather expected this modern reworking of the Sherlock Holmes mythos to be good, given the writers behind it (Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss), but it was well up to expectations.
Today's episode, A Study in Pink, was loosely based on Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet, in which Holmes and Watson (played by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman) first meet. It managed to faithfully retain many aspects of the original - for example, London still has cabs, and Watson is still an Afghanistan veteran - while using up-to-the-minute phone and Internet technology, and modern perceptions of the characters. Holmes naturally has a website and Watson blogs: the personalities of both are shown as damaged, Watson with PTSD and Holmes described as "a high-functioning sociopath". It's not, however, plain grim but full of witty touches, such as when Holmes (updated to a modern non-smoking ethos) refers to "a three-patch problem". It was nicely filmed - Gatiss says in the Guardian feature that they tried to make modern London "just as exciting as a London full of fog and hackney carriages" - using presentational innovations such as on-screen text and graphics to show phone messages, Holmes's deductions on looking at a corpse, and the route of a chase; these didn't jar in the least. Moffat and Gatiss know their mythos intimately, finding interesting ways to spin some trivia (for instancem, Conan Doyle's inconsistent detail of where Watson was shot) and brought in some pleasant allusions to other works such as The Princess Bride and The Vanishing.
PS Further reading. See Wikipedia: A Study in Scarlet This is the kind of topic that Wikipedia does well. As I just said to Felix in the comments, I know A Study in Scarlet but have completely blanked the middle section with its excursion to Utah and its lurid Mormon plot (a point of controversy in its time).
This is also a good excuse to recommend again Neil Gaiman's rather excellent A Study in Emerald, in which an ex-soldier who has been injured in Afghanistan teams up with a brilliant detective to solve a murder.