A few years ago I got to a chance the watch the new Sherlock Holmes movie with Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law. What I found myself watching wasn’t the Holmes I had expected or even wanted but instead just found mumbling Downey in an another choppy, overblown Guy Richie film that had a tad too many links of chain dangling in every scene. I grew up reading Sherlock Holmes and loving Holmes, but Richie’s vision of Holmes was not what I wanted. I see the ads for the new Sherlock Holmes film starring Downey and again I say to myself, “What is this?” and try to shrug it off. Thankfully, thanks to the wonderful world of an Internet streaming movie service that most of you have, you can enjoy what Sherlock Holmes really should be like.
I’d like to introduce you to Sherlock, a BBC mini-series from the writers of Doctor Who, that really had me hooked in no time. It is the classic tale of Sherlock Holmes and Watson set in modern times. Watson is a military doctor and veteran who finds himself being impossible to live with. Not being able to afford his own flat, Watson moves in with another man who is impossible to live with– a deductive reasoning specialist named Sherlock Holmes. Watson begins to befriend Holmes even though every one tells him that Holmes doesn’t seem to be right in the head and loves to play “parlor tricks” on people to claim he is an expert. But Watson sees the true benefit and a strange obession with Holmes and begins to tag along (and blog about) Sherlock’s strange cases.
What I found so loveable about this mini-series is the way that they have taken a timeless classic character and dropped him into modern times. The way they almost seamlessly do this is near perfect. Holmes seems almost even more powerful than before with electronics, phones and a wealth of information at his fingertips. He can tell someone that they arrived from India because of mud on their shoes, a broken umbrella and the power of a weather channel app at his finger tips. What I love about his Holmes as well is that while you love rooting for him, you almost kind of question his true sanity. In fact, some of the cops in the series point out that while Holmes is brilliant, they fear he will get bored and turn sides and become a psychopath just to prove that he can be one step in front of every one. For Holmes the hunt becomes an obsession and trying to stave off boredom by solving impossible crimes with ease is the adrenaline rush he needs to keep living.
Unlike many other Holmes adaptations where we have to put up with his “ah ha!’ moment where all is revealed, the makers of Sherlock give us a bit of insight into his thought process. For example, upon arriving at a crime scene we see what goes through his head as we get a first person view of what area he is focusing on (accented by random artful captions of what is running through his mind) before he simply gives his analysis. It is almost like a race for the viewer to try and see what Holmes is seeing and get to the same conclusions as he can. Sadly enough, many times there is no way that we could do that but we always get a logical reasoning behind it all.
The relationship between Watson and Sherlock is so much fun to see unfold on screen. Watson certainly finds Holmes to be one of the most frustrating people he has ever dealt with and yet Sherlock simply can not understand for the life of him why. On the flip side, Sherlock is always 3 steps ahead of everyone and it pains him to think that his new partner and friend could be so unobservant and unable to conclude the same things he can from a scene. Because of this the banter between these two characters is some of the better “TV” I have seen in a while.
The first Series of Sherlock is divided up into 3 mini-movies each being about 1 hour and 20 minutes long. Sherlock starts off strong right out the gate and solves a serial murder case that no one thinks is the work of a serial murderer, and introduces all the characters. I guess you could call it a Sherlock “origin” story if you will. The second installment leads you on yet another case that somehow just doesn’t seem to dazzle quite as much as the first but it still has its moments of brilliance. The final section in series one has Sherlock Holmes trying to outwit a mad bomber who always seems to be one step ahead of him. It was kind of like watching Sherlock Holmes and Watson trapped in the plot to Die Hard 3. There were more puzzles, more deductive reasoning and more fun than perhaps the first two installments combined. Each of the installments is a throwback to the original Sherlock Holmes mysteries. The first, “A Study in Pink” is based on “A Study in Scarlet”, the second “The Blind Banker” is based on “The Dancing Men” and “The Sign of the Four” and the third, “The Great Game”, adapts “The Bruce-Partington Plans” as a subplot, and lifts from various other stories for plot points.
If you haven’t had a chance to check Sherlock out, you need to. As a good mystery lover, I had a fantastic time watching this unfold and fell in love with the characters, the production value and the thought put behind this series. With more Sherlock on the horizon I can’t wait for my Internet streaming service to hook me up with more Sherlock. In the mean time, join me on this adventure and skip that horrendous Guy Richie created mess of a Holmes character that Downey plays. You won’t be sad that you did.