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Sunday, 25 July 2010


Tonight saw the début of BBC1's SHERLOCK, in which the world's greatest detective (apart from Batman) and his genial cohort Watson are transplanted from the fog-bound streets of Victorian London smack-bang into the 21st Century, complete with mobile phones, internet and witty banter.

"OH HORROR!" you cry. "And Holmes' role of consulting detective makes him Jessica Fletcher to Inspector Lestrad's [Google Chrome's built-in spell-checker suggested I was actually trying to write 'Legstraps'] Sheriff Amos Tupper [I could have gone with Sheriff Mort Metzger but I've always had a soft spot for Tom Bosley]?!" you also, rather laboriously, cry.

Yes indeedy!

Thankfully, turning Sherlock Holmes into the so-overdone-it's-gone-black-in-the-middle 'maverick agent who has an insight into crimes that the police are just too thick to notice by themselves' archetype actually works because he IS that archetype. However, this doesn't necessarily mean it's any good.

As it 'appened, the story around the plot was a lot more interesting than the plot itself, which may have been intentional, seeing as the first episode of any new series typically sets up the major players and gives hints of what's to come.

People are committing suicide, possibly under duress but the police are of course baffled. Is this the handiwork of a twisted new serial killer? Of course it is! Who's doing it and why?

Unfortunately, we're not supposed to be able to out-detective the world's greatest detective (apart from Batman, and maybe actually Quincy, in a round-about way) but that's exactly what the first episode of SHERLOCK let happen. Who's the killer? A cabbie. Why's he doing it? Terminal illness. Yawn. I'm going to be lenient though, and guess that Holmes was so intent on figuring out some diabolical mastermind that he couldn't see the wood for the trees. And speaking of diabolical masterminds, Mr Murderous Cabbie informs Sherlock that he's being "sponsored" to do these peculiar killings. The plot thickens! Speaking of which...

Watson (played with a sort-of grudging humour by Martin Freeman) is headed home when someone calls telephones as he nears them. When he answers one, a voice says he's being watched by the nearby CCTV, and that he should get in a waiting car. He's then taken to meet a thin man in a suit, who talks a lot of mysterious nonsense about being Holmes' "archenemy". "Ah-ha!" cry the loyal Sherlock afficionados, "that can only be one person...


Except we're supposed to believe Mark Gatiss is the new version of Holmes' legendary nemesis? The guy's as fearsome as mouldy cheese (and yes of course I know what he's from, but his character in SHERLOCK is two steps above 'simpering' and no number of veiled, sibilant threats can make someone who looks like he does in this scary). Plus, I'm almost certain the voice on the phone to Watson was an elderly gent (my money's on the guy who played the evil doctor in the last series of Being Human)...

Incidentally, Mark Gatiss is credited as being the 'co-creator' of SHERLOCK, along with the main brains, Stephen Moffatt. Who, if you're hip and have used your own deduction skills on this post's title, is the new big cheese behind the current Dr Who. You'd never guess that he was that guy, though, not with the way he writes Sherlock as a hyper-talkative weirdo who wears strange clothes and is intensely bright...oh hang on. He's tweaked Matt Smith's Doctor and put him in a new show. Cheeky! (Sherlock's even played by a weird looking guy with the has-to-be-made-up-for-the-sake-of-attracting-roles name of Benedict Cumberbatch).

All that aside, this new show pays tribute to the proper Holmes by sticking him and Watson in 221b Baker Street, and giving them Mrs Hudson as a landlady (not housekeeper, as she amusingly keeps reminding them), and insinuates Holmes has a drug problem (apart from going a bit crazy with nicotine patches). Plus, his violin gets mentioned, but he never gets it out. Boo!

And Moriarty is actually name-checked, effectively, since we've spent all episode waiting to hear his name spoken aloud. And who's Mark Gatiss actually portraying? Why, MYCROFT HOLMES of course!

SHERLOCK was filled with crazy/witty banter, dizzying chases through London's backstreets, snazzy visual tricks (Holmes' thoughts are displayed as text on the screen, which ends up being a little redundant because he then goes on to explain to whoever's with him exactly what we just read) and very little violence/blood. There was a feeling of fun and adventure more than threat and terror, which made for a welcome change from every single other godawful cop show on telly at the moment, but it did ask a question I'm not sure even this Sherlock could answer:

Who is this actually aimed at, and why did it appear at 9pm when it was no worse than anything shown at 8pm?


  1. I only caught bits of it, but I did enjoy it. Agree that not an awful lot of anything really happened and it was more about introducing characters, but thought that was done quite effectively. I like how Sherlock was painted as a sociopath and some of the cops are extremely wary of him. The dialogue I also thought was strong. I hope the plot picks up for the next one though, now the scenario has been introduced.

    I certainly found it a lot better than the recent film though - I feel asleep while watching that!

  2. I've yet to see that film...I haven't heard that many good things about it so I'm not sure if I can be bothered to :D

    I *am* looking forward to tonight's Sherlock - people are seeing weird symbols and then dying - sounds very interesting. Though I'm not entirely convinced by the 'updating', I think if anyone can make it work it's Stephen Moffatt. I also really, really hope they make Moriarty much, much older than Sherlock. I never liked how the new Master in the new Dr Who was a middle-aged man.

  3. I'm too young to remember much of the original Doctor Who, but I do like the idea of updating Sherlock. I suppose only time will tell whether it's working or not, but agree, Stephen Moffat is probably the man for it. Good to see BBC is giving him other projects to get his teeth into as well as Doctor Who. I did like the new series, it took a while, it was clearly different to RTD, but he made it his own and quite successfully too I thought.