Thursday, May 10, 2012

“A Scandal in Belgravia” (Story and Adaptation 1)

An adaptation is a special delight. There is something about taking a great plot and beloved characters and tweaking everything to suit another setting, time or culture. A skilled adaptor must stay true to the spirit of the story they are telling, but also find ways to communicate that story more effectively to their new audience.

Steven Moffat has already revealed himself to be superb at this task. Adapting such well beloved characters and stories as Doctor Who, Jekyll, Hyde and Sherlock Holmes in some of the best teleplays written. In the second series of “Sherlock,” now finally airing in the United States, he rises to new heights. He and co-creator Gatiss have chosen to tackle what may be considered the three most famous Holmes stories.

“A Scandal in Belgravia” only loosely adapts “A Scandal in Bohemia” for the first half of the episode and then moves on to an original story. However, the whole exercise is one of adapting the whole cannon of stories to the present day. The way they incorporate modern ideas such as blogging and smart phones into the story continues to be a delight. This time around they also play around with some of the other cases from Doyle’s stories to great comedic effect.

For the most part it belongs among the great episodes of TV ever. Some may be put off by the mature sexual themes in the beginning. I personally was disappointed that they felt the need to explain some things that should have been clear to the audience, like Adler’s safe combination. And, the final scene might be a bit of a stretch. (However, that ring tone was so very effectively used in the plot several times.)

All of this gets one thinking about the importance of story, and more specifically the importance of adaptation, in human culture. There are stories (and not simply entertaining escapes like this one) that shape human culture. Some are events that really happened and some merely were created to illustrate a point. Either way, the manner in which the story is told or adapted carries huge implications. It can be more than an art-form and it should be taken seriously.

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