Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 

It's Technology, My Dear Watson: Sherlock for the 21st Century

Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Monday, Oct 11, 2010
Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as Doctor John Watson
The famous detective now texts and surfs the net while Watson writes a blog. This is not your mother's Sherlock Holmes.

Sherlock

A Study in Pink
Cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman
Regular airtime: Wednesday, 9PM

(BBC One, PBS; US: 24 Oct 2010)

Forget the clothes and the present day London sets, the sign that BBC One’s new series Sherlock, is not your mother’s Holmes is the mobile. More precisely, it’s the texts that the famous detective sends in the opening scenes of the first episode.


Faced with a series of suicides that appear related, the police are holding a press conference. While Inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves) discusses theories on the case, the journalists’ phones begin to buzz and the word “wrong” appears several times across the screen as a sort of floating subtitle. Sherlock doesn’t like what he’s hearing and he’s embarrassing the cops, sms style.

  
The use of subtitles—they appear whenever Sherlock is texting or searching the Internet on his phone—is gimmicky but it’s also a fun (if not obvious) way to update the Holmes’ stories. Another way the series makes the detective current is casting Benedict Cumberbatch whose energetic performance takes Sherlock from gentleman sleuth to self-admitted “high functioning sociopath”. When this Sherlock is bored, he grabs a gun and uses his living room wall for target practice. When he’s not, he conducts experiments on corpses. Nicotine patches have replaced the pipe and 221B Baker Street is more shabby than chic.


Of course, Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t be the same without his diary-writing companion Dr. Watson. In the updated version, John Watson (Martin Freeman) is now a blog-writing ex-Army doctor recently returned from a tour of Afghanistan who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He meets Sherlock through a mutual acquaintance and, in need of a roommate and some distraction in his life, joins the manic detective on his cases. Watson is alternatively amazed by Sherlock’s insights, delivered by Cumberbatch with both speed and arrogance, and frustrated by his roommate’s lack of empathy. Responding to the suicides in episode one, Holmes gleefully remarks: “Four serial suicides and now a note? It’s Christmas!”


While the suicides in the first episode are an interesting plot device, the solution to the mystery feels like the writers dropped the action into an episode of Fringe. Still, Sherlock is fast-paced and the chemistry between Freeman and Cumberbatch works to keep this darkly amusing version of Holmes from becoming unlikeable. By the third episode, the last of the 90-minute episodes of season one, Moriarty (Andrew Scott) enters the picture. Again, the plot feels like something else, this time it’s Die Hard 3, but the promise of more clashes between the consulting detective and Moriarty’s “consulting criminal” is more than enough to keep me interested in season two. Maybe by then, Sherlock will be Tweeting.


For viewers in the United States, Sherlock will be shown on Masterpiece Mystery! on PBS, 24 and 31 October and 7 November, at 9PM EST.


Rating:

Media
Related Articles
11 Feb 2014
The third season of Sherlock becomes much more meta and challenges the very concept of who Sherlock Holmes is, and suggests change is indeed in the (east) wind.
12 Jun 2013
A survey of Sherlock fans supports what broadcasters have long suspected: international viewers won't wait for new episodes on cable when the Internet is oh, so close to home.
5 Mar 2013
Designing a web site for Sherlock dominatrix Irene Adler, or developing Wizard vs. Aliens’ alien language, is all in a day’s work for artist/designer Dale Jordan Johnson.
By PopMatters Staff
16 Jan 2013
Thanks to imports and cable channel choices, the year in TV was very interesting indeed. Where else can classical detectives meet with their updated complements, or sullen 20-somethings smirk at their ancient societal/criminal betters? Oh, and don't forget squid.
Comments
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.