July 2013

 

Elementary, My Dear Sherlock!

MFTJuly13-1 I’ve been noticing a lot of stuff on Facebook recently about how great Benedict Cumberbatch is as the villain in the new Star Trek movie. That doesn’t surprise me at all. Thanks to my friend Annie West, I’ve already discovered this fantastic actor in his star-making role as Sherlock Holmes in the very 21st century BBC version of the Conan Doyle stories.

So far, there have been two seasons of this clever, sardonic, surprising take on the classic character. Series 1 came out in 2010 and series 2 in 2012. To my mind, series one was better than series two, but that might have just because of the delightful quality of surprise when I discovered this show.

Each episode is a movie-length take on a theme from the originals so, for example, we get “A Study in Pink” as the first episode of series 1 as a loose take on the original “A Study in Scarlet”. The last episode of the second series is “The Reichenbach Fall” – if you’re a Sherlock Holmes aficionado, you’ll immediately twig that Sherlock Holmes supposedly died in the original version by falling over the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. So does Sherlock die in “The Reichenbach Fall” (which in this episode is actually a painting by Turner)? You’ll have to watch to find out! Seriously, watch this show, you won’t be sorry!

MFTjuly13-2Benedict Cumberbatch plays Sherlock a bit like a super-clever version of Grumpy Cat. He has very little tolerance for the slower members of the human race, and let’s face it, that’s basically everyone. I’m not quite sure why this is sexy, although it is. Perhaps because he has such utter confidence in himself and because he’s so all-knowingly competent. Or perhaps it’s because beneath all the arrogance, there’s a hint of vulnerability. Sherlock is actually pretty lonely! Cumberbatch’s performance is so layered, you never quite feel that you get to the bottom of this character and of course, that’s part of the endless fascination.

Surrounding this high-tech, lightning-brained detective is a fascinating cast of supporting characters. One of the things I really like about this version of Sherlock Holmes is that Watson isn’t nearly the dull dog he’s usually painted. Martin Freeman gives us a human insight into Sherlock. The show wouldn’t be nearly so effective without him. He’s an ex-army doctor back from Iraq and when the series starts, he’s suffering post-traumatic stress disorder. He’s far from stupid and sometimes his human insight and worldly experience outdo even the detective’s cold logic when it comes to solving a crime. It’s nice to see more of a match of equals between Watson and Holmes than we usually get.

One of the ongoing jokes is that in this day and age, two single men sharing a flat are assumed to be gay. And poor old Watson just can’t get a girl to save himself! See what I mean about the sly humor?

Other significant supporting characters include a to my mind under-used Rupert Graves as Inspector Lestrade, executive producer Mark Gatiss as Sherlock’s Machiavellian brother Mycroft, a dotty Mrs. Hudson, and Andrew Scott as a surprisingly young Moriarty. I’m not 100% convinced that Moriarty works in this particular incarnation but, hey, the rest of it is so good, I’ll forgive that.

If you want some clever, suspenseful, beautifully acted TV, I don’t think you can go past SHERLOCK. I’ll bet you a top hat to a deerstalker that you love it!