Monday, January 9, 2012

"Sherlock" (Season 1)

Moffat has shown a great adeptness at taking and adapting popular characters to today’s sensibilities. His “Doctor Who” stories have consistently been the best of the revived series. He had critical success with his reimagining of “Jekyll.” It was only logical that he should turn to one of the most popular characters in all of English Lit.

Bringing Holmes and Watson into the 21st Century had its risks. So many Sherlock Holmes fans are only fans of the traditional interpretations that have stagnated for decades. This series and the new Holmes movies have shown that there is a lot of range and wiggle room contained within the text. Some can’t handle Holmes being as unlikable as he was in the stories. Some have an inexplicable need for Watson to be an idiot.

“Sherlock” is a fun and intelligent new take that stays true to the spirit of the stories, showing that good sleuthing and compelling mysteries are still possible even after more than a century of content in the genre.

Just a couple observations on the individual episodes from the first season:

“A Study in Pink”

The introduction to Watson is so fresh some may think it deviates too far from the original stories. It does not, go back and read them. You may be shocked with how much is lifted from the stories. The use of modern visual effects such as floating text to indicate what characters are reading or thinking is a perfect match for Holmes. This “comic book” effect should be used in more visual story-telling, at least for a while yet.

“The Blind Banker”

This episode is an effective update of the sort of thing that cropped up often in Victorian stories: the Chinese Tong Caper. It works because it is contemporary and believable, but not stereotypical or racist.

“The Great Game”

This story explores one of my favorite aspects of the original Holmes that has not always made its way into the adaptations because it could be construed as a weakness of Holmes’: the fact that he does not know that the Earth revolves around the sun and other such “common knowledge.” That and the fact that it finally brings Holmes and Moriarty into direct conflict AND ends the season on an excruciating cliffhanger… it is wonderful stuff.

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