Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Holmes Away From Holmes

Typical. You wait years for a decent version of Sherlock Holmes and then two come along at once.

Whilst the Guy Ritchie version of Holmes was essentially an action packed re-telling of the Holmes stories, this new BBC series is a full on re-imagining. Spearheaded by Steven 'Doctor Who' Moffat and Mark 'League of Gentlemen Gattis', this is a modern re-telling of the Holmes character.

The characters remain the same, Sherlock Holmes, John Watson, LeStrade are all present and correct. The setting remains London. Only now Watson blogs about the adventures of Holmes, who has no problems searching the internet to solve a crime.

Benedict Cumberbatch is a superb Holmes. With Moffat in the driving seat of the series the concern would be that it would be too close to The Doctor. It isn't. Holmes' borderline sociopathic tendencies are brought to the fore expertly by Cumerbatch. He's ably assisted by Martin Freeman, in probably his best role since The Office. His crumpled face is perfect for Watson, constantly trying to keep up with Holmes' logic. The support characters, especially the police who don't necessarily like Holmes sticking his nose into their business, don't let the side down either.

The series rests with Watson and Holmes. If they don't work as a team then everything collapses. It's what made the recent film so good and it's the heart that keeps this series on its feet. Their back and forth is a joy to watch. The other relationships built up in the series work just as well. The world of the series fits together very well. This is something interesting about a modern Holmes, as there would be no Sherlock Holmes stories in popular culture. No deer stalker or pipe jokes or anything like that.

This problem however, is this. We have three episodes in this series. The first, written by Moffat, is a great setup show, expertly introducing the characters. The third, written by Gattis, builds to a superb climax. The second, whilst not a mess, seems to leave behind everything that makes the other two episodes so good. The interesting police characters, gone. The plot nicely convoluted but without a decent villain. Watson reduced to the role of a passenger. The writer here, Stephen Thompson, seems to really drop the ball.

It's a shame. It doesn't bring the whole series crashing down but it is a noticeable drop in quality. There remains however a great deal still to enjoy in this show. Gattis' cameo role is a top notch, the final scene in the first episode is only bettered by the superb cliffhanger of the last episode.

Well worth buying when it comes out on DVD. You could also say buying it was an ELEMENTARY decision.

Phil Doyle is one of the creators of and co-host of the podcast. His real job is in insurance which he hopes won't be forever. He also has a complete set of Marvel 2099 first issues, even Ravage 2099.