I admit it, I was skeptical.
Well, in truth, skeptical isn’t exactly the right word. My heels were dug in, and in one hand, I waved the banner of Tradition! Literary Accuracy!! Truth!!!
No, no, no . . . I did not like the thought of the BBC and Masterpiece Mystery producing a new take on the Sherlock Holmes stories set squarely in the 21st Century.
Holmes and Watson on cell phones? Using GPS to solve crimes? Speaking in (heavens!) modern tones?
Oh yeah. Skeptical. Big time.
And then I watched "A Study in Pink," the first episodes in the new series.
It took a while for me to get pulled into the story. Like maybe 10 seconds or so. And then . . .
Good heavens, gentle reader, dare I say that I (who love all things Victorian and think that Jeremy Brett is the god of all Sherlockian actors) was smitten.
The show is smart, clever, and twisty-turny enough to keep any mystery lover engaged. Holmes (played by a young fellow named Benedict Cumberbatch) is an odd-looking creature, all planes and angles. He’s quirky and incredibly rude, wondering aloud at one point, what it’s like inside the heads of "ordinary" people. According to one of the police detectives, he’s a psychopath, but Holmes disputes this theory, telling her that he is, instead, a high-functioning sociopath. His mind is lightning-quick. His tongue is sharp. And it is sometimes firmly in cheek, like the evening Dr. Watson shows up and finds Holmes laid out on a couch. Watson fears drug use, but Holmes announces that it is, instead, a "three patch problem" (remember the three pipe problem from the original stories?) and he’s using nicotine patches to amp his thought processes.
As much as Holmes is the intellectual center of the stories, it’s Watson (played by Martin Freeman) who is the heart and soul. "A Study in Pink" opens with a flash of combat in Afghanistan and for those who cherish the stories, you’ll see how perfectly appropriate that is. Conan Doyle’s Watson was injured in Afghanistan and this modern Watson follows in his footsteps. He thinks he’s suffering from PSTD and his therapist has suggested he start a blog and write everything down. As it turns out, this isn’t PSTD at all. He’s bored, and it’s Holmes and his adventures who add the excitement back into Watson’s life and make him forget that he’s supposed to be an invalid.
The two characters play well off each other and the supporting cast is less cartoonish than in some versions of the stories (not the Brett ones, by the way, but then, those were perfect!). The writers refuse to go with the stereotypes and have given us a competent, serious Lestrade (not the usual bumbling old guy), a woman assistant, and a flighty coroner who clearly has eyes for Holmes but can’t seem to put her lipstick on straight when he’s around.
Skeptical? Not anymore. My only complaint is that there are only three episodes scheduled for this year and we’ll have to wait until next year for more.
You can find out more about the series–and go to Sherlock’s website and Wastson’s blog–here: