Ever since I received Anthony Horowitz’ The House of Silk as a Christmas gift, I’ve been on a Sherlock Holmes kick (The House of Silk is the first SH novel written by someone other than Doyle that has been officially authorized/endorsed by the Doyle estate). Part of that kick included watching the new BBC series “Sherlock,” an updated version of the stories.
Instead of the murky London of the 1800’s, Sherlock (he goes by his first name now) is in high-tech, fast-paced 21st century London, and has adapted to suit it. He texts often, and instead of writing pamphlets about his various studies related to his method, he has a blog/website (What is nice about the texting is that whatever he texts shows up in subtitles on the screen; the same thing happens when we are following his observations: very helpful). He is still Holmes, however, and even a bit more so: instead of being brusque yet still often tactful as he was in the books, he is openly arrogant and unkind. For example, take this conversation between Holmes and Lestrade:
[both men are standing, silent, staring at a dead body]
Holmes: Shut up.
Lestrade: I didn’t say anything.
Holmes: You were thinking. It’s annoying.
Or this one:
Holmes: Anderson, don’t talk out loud. You lower the IQ of the entire street.
Despite the show’s magnification of his least admirable qualities, his character is rather true to Doyle’s original version of him. Also, the new Sherlock’s overt arrogance does provide a certain amount of humor.
There is also a change in James Watson. Instead of simply being a wounded, discharged soldier, he is a wounded, embittered, discharged soldier. Rather terse at first, he becomes a more likable kind of person, and certainly admirable in some ways. It will be interesting to watch his character deepen.
Yet another change is Mycroft Holmes. Instead of the sedentary government operative who rarely leaves the Diogenes Club but gets on tolerably well with his brother, he is still extremely influential in government, but doesn’t appear to frequent any club at all (perhaps he will in future) and Sherlock maintains a hostile attitude to him, for reasons as yet unexplained.
There are, in the midst of these changes, nods to the original stories aside from Holmes’ amazing methods of observation. For one, in the title of the first episode is a big nod: “A Study in Pink,” instead of “A Study in Scarlet.” The letters “rache” carved into the wood by the dead woman also come from ASIS. Holmes’ observations about Watson’s cell-phone come from “The Sign of Four,” except in the story it was a watch. Some of the dialogue from the book also features in the series, including a few lines during the cliffhanger ending of “The Great Game.”
Overall, I’m very much enjoying this series: so far, it has kept relatively true to the spirit of the books while taking liberties that are for the most part acceptable and even likable. I look forward to seeing Season 2.
*Thanks to imdb.com for providing the quotes*