One of literature’s oldest and most distinguished characters has received a major revamp, and with a surprisingly fresh outcome. Benedict Cumberbatch plays Sherlock Holmes, and he breathes new life into him with every quip. The concept is as simple as setting Sherlock Holmes’ adventures within a modern day setting, and seeing how it would translate. The answer is: surprisingly well. The first episode of the miniseries is a little heavy handed in its use of technology (one side character won’t stop texting throughout the entire scene). But it is ingenious in the way that the show uses its source material as a commentary on how some things never change. For instance in the original story, Dr. Watson was a returning Afghanistan war veteran who served as a surgeon in the British Army, and it’s the exact same situation in this version. This version simply expands on that archetype with modern day sensibilities because Dr. Watson (or “John” as he is more commonly referred to as) is possibly suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and a psychosomatic limp.
The miniseries is only three episodes long, devoting each episode to a single case. But it’s the quality that counts here, not quantity. There are some remarkable sequences sprinkled throughout the series that fully utilize modern day film-making, as in the pilot when Sherlock is observing a crime scene and the audience becomes privy to his mental process as words flood the screen highlighting exactly what he’s thinking without giving away the deductions. Without spoiling too much, the show has a master plan in mind that ties all three episodes together nicely and will leave the viewer satisfied as well as wanting more. The sense of continuity is wonderful and leads to a more polished series.
The first season (or “series” since it’s a British show) is available now on DVD (check our catalog), and I can not recommend it enough. The second season is coming to American airwaves at the beginning in May as part of the PBS Masterpiece Mysteries series, so now is the perfect time to start this fantastic miniseries. Sherlock takes a premise and cast of characters that was growing stale (mostly thanks to poor choices that recent adaptations have made – I’m looking at you Guy Ritchie), and updates it for the modern world while delivering a Sherlock Holmes adaptation that fans deserve. Whether you’re a diehard Holmes fan who will enjoy picking up on the references to the original stories, or if you’re not as familiar with this undisputed classic as you’d like to admit, Sherlock is a fantastic series that’s worthy on its own merit, source material notwithstanding.