Saturday, 18 February 2012

#Sherlock - a few thoughts

As something of a Sherlock Holmes aficionado, I am often wary of new television or film adaptations.  As such, I am only just getting around to watching the BBC television series Sherlock (created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman) which has received so much attention in the media.

Having only seen the first two episodes of the first series, I don't feel I'm really qualified to write a review.  I am, however, going to write a few thoughts on the subject - which explains the title of this Blog post.

I will start with some positives…  The acting is superb.  I think Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of Holmes, in particular, is spot on; eccentric, arrogant, detached, and alternating between frenzied activity and all-consuming lethargy - just as Conan Doyle wrote the character.  Martin Freeman also makes an excellent Dr Watson, and works very well playing the part opposite Cumberbatch's Holmes.

In general, I feel the production works well (although I am yet to make up my mind quite how I feel about the letters-on-the-screen effects, where Holmes' thoughts appear as graphics, seemingly floating in mid-air) and the "modernisation" of the stories isn't grating on me anywhere near as much as I thought it would.  The action is fast-paced and intense, keeping the viewer interested, but without distracting him from the cleverness of the plot lines.

Overall, I have so far found them enjoyable to watch, interesting and exciting.

However, there are also some negatives…  It has been difficult to get used to the use of first names in dialogue between Holmes and Watson.  This may seem like a small point, but being so used to the more formal style of address, in the books, it is proving something of a sticking point, for me.  I hope I will be able to get used to it as the series go on, but for the time being it is still a surprise for me to hear these characters address each other in this fashion.

My main gripe with this adaptation, though, is the increased involvement of certain minor characters.  I didn't like the introduction of Holmes' brother Mycroft so early on in the series, for example, nor the way he was portrayed.  Conan Doyle's Mycroft is a recluse - a founding member of the eccentric Diogenes Club, with even greater powers of observation and deduction than his brother, but with none of the passion or energy for turning those talents to the purpose of solving crime.  He is first introduced in The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter, and he appears again in The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans and The Adventure of the Empty House, as well as playing a minor role driving a cab in The Adventure of the Final Problem.  His increased involvement in this adaptation seems wrong, to me, and I didn't agree with the way he was played.

The worst example of this, however, is in the case of Moriarty.  I suppose it is an easy mistake to make, but Moriarty is not a major character in the Conan Doyle stories.  Criminal mastermind and Holmes' arch-enemy he may be, but he is only ever involved in a few of the many cases tacked by Sherlock Holmes, and chronicled by Dr Watson.  To try and link him in with every case and every crime, as the writers of Sherlock are trying to do, seems irrelevant and facile - the links are tenuous, and it feels as though he is just being shoehorned into an already perfectly good storyline, just for the sake of it.

As I said, I have enjoyed watching the first couple of episodes, and I am looking forward to seeing the rest.  I find them exciting and engaging adaptations, and much of the spirit of the original stories has been captured by the makers.  I hope that I can get used to the minor issue of the use of first names, and cease to be irked by them - however, I cannot foresee that I will be able to stop being infuriated by the unnecessary inclusion of Moriarty, and I can only hope that, as the series goes on, this flaw doesn't ruin the otherwise pleasurable viewing experience for me.

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