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Wednesday, 28 of October of 2020

Sherlock – “A Study in Pink”

I’m not a psychopath. I’m a high functioning sociopath. Do your research.”

I had to leave Sherlock, the new BBC series created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, during the last 20 minutes due to dinner plans, so I left the episode’s climax hanging. But it gave me time to start thinking about the episode before I sat down to write, something I appreciate having depending on the show. The conclusion I came to was that I was surprised that it has taken this long for Sherlock Holmes himself to fully return to popular culture.

For a while, the Sherlock Holmes format has been used in a variety of other shows recently, like House, Monk, The Mentalist, and to an extent, CSI and Law & Order: Criminal Intent (specifically Goren). House is probably the clearest example, as Gregory House is essentially Sherlock Holmes (at least in the first couple of seasons)  but with a prescription pad. But where was Sherlock? Why hadn’t anyone decided to bring him back to TV or film?

Yes, recently, Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law came out, with a could’ve-been-more-interesting reinterpretation of the characters, and a sequel is no doubt forthcoming, but I was surprised, given how many shows have borrowed from Sherlock Holmes that the extent of Holmes actual presence in visual culture was the reruns of the excellent Jeremy Brett series on PBS. And while the Brett series is great, it’s not going to motivate younger audiences to seek out more Holmes (as much as I enjoy it, it can be stuffy and slow by today’s standards).

So here is Sherlock, set in the current day with texting and GPS and women police officers. Very little else had to be overly altered, which shows how versatile the Holmes franchise is. Watson still fought in Afghanistan, but this in the on-going Afghanistan War instead of the Second Anglo-Afghan War. Holmes is still a cluttered mess who plays the violin and is addicted to drugs, but this it’s time nicotine (specifically nicotine patches because it’s increasingly difficult to smoke in London) instead of opium (though illegal drug use on Holmes’s part is implied).

Holmes’ relationship with the police is tweaked a bit, with other members of the force, not just Lestrade, being overly hostile toward Holmes. Such an adjustment makes sense given the increasing professionalization of the police force since Doyle’s day, and that they would be less than thrilled with arrogant and socially awkward consultant. It creates a more humor than tension, especially Holmes’ loathing of the CSI Arthur.

These changes are not really anything new to the procedural genre as we’ve gotten used to it. But what the contextual changes, and these changes are essentially contextual, prove is that the Sherlock Holmes formula works. Procedurals all draw heavily from it, whether it be in terms of characters or cases, and it have Holmes reset in a modern time showcases just how well Doyle’s continues to work. This is why Sherlock is a show to have on the air. It points us, as contemporary viewers, back to older formats, to remind us of our history and where it comes from. Sherlock‘s brilliance really don’t belong to Moffat: it belong to Doyle for being so very good that he can withstand the test of time.


  • Deciding whether or not Mark Gattis was portraying Mycroft or Moriarty was tricky. As Mycroft is significantly lesser known than Moriarty, the obvious conclusion would have been that Gattis was playing Moriarty, and I’m sure many made that leap. But his use of government cameras and access to nearly any phones indicated to me that it was more likely Mycroft, who, in the stories, occupied some ambiguous, but important, role in the British government, a role he occupies in Sherlock as well. The contentious relationship between the two, however, is a nice addition.
  • I really love the use of graphics and words to give us insight to Holmes’ process, and how varied they could be. While it doesn’t give us much to go on as an audience, it still does allow us a chance to get a sense of how Holmes’ brain works. Much better than a clue face.

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