It was probably inevitable that somebody was going to do a modern version of Sherlock Holmes at some point, and when they did they were going to have to figure out how to:
1. Deal with some of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s less than charming Victorianisms;
2. Incorporate Sherlock’s forensic genius into a world already well saturated with forensic geniuses. My grandmother knows how to detect strangulation in infants, juveniles, and adults. Thank you, Kathy Reichs;
3. Make him funny, because smart, socially-inept people are hilarious and you certainly don’t want him to compare unfavorably to House, that shoddy American upstart version of Holmes.
Luckily, at the helm of this adaptation are two gentlemen very familiar with following in intimidating and well-trod footsteps. Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat have both written for Doctor Who, of which Moffat is now the executive producer since Russell T. Davies faffed off to do whatever it is Russell T. Davies does besides write awesome television series.
Moffat wrote the first episode, “A Study in Pink,” which is a play on the Holmes short story A Study in Scarlet, aka The One With the Confusing Mormon Subplot. Thankfully, Moffat cut out all that nonsense and went with a straightforward how-do-you-do introduction to the characters.
The first important character we meet is Dr. John Watson. Depending on what kind of person you are, you may think of Watson as a limping, hot Jude Law type sublimating his desire for adventure by gambling and playing nursemaid to a man with a personality disorder. Mustache optional. You might have watched older versions on PBS and think of him as a chubby, inept tweedy sort of man…or mouse. Or maybe you don’t remember him at all because he didn’t show up in Wishbone’s “The Slobbery Hound.” Either way, there are a few traits that are universal in John Watsons: he’s kind of fussy, he’s been injured in a war, and he’s usually puzzled by life so when Sherlock makes his amazing discoveries and simultaneously insults everyone’s intelligence, he can be properly impressed instead of telling Sherlock to go stuff himself.
Sherlock’s version of him is played by Martin Freeman, best known to Americans as the porn star guy from Love Actually, or Arthur Dent from the adaptation of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that everybody hated but me (excuse you, there were singing dolphins and Bill Nighy), or, to a subset of Americans, the guy who’s going to play Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit. Freeman brings a certain slightly pathetic, nebbishy sort of quality to Watson, by which I mean he wears a lot of sweaters and corduroys and sighs a lot to indicate that he’s lonely and has PTSD. He also has a blog, a therapist, a psychosomatic limp, and an alcoholic sibling named Harry who’s in the process of a divorce. He meets Sherlock through a former medical colleague, and Sherlock diagnoses him with all of the above on their first meeting, simply based on the fact that his tan doesn’t go above his wrists (desert war veteran), his cell phone is of a higher quality than his income allows (a gift), but the cell phone’s engraving is to Harry Watson (a regift from a sibling, indicating sibling is in the middle of splitting up), and the area around the charger is scratched (indicating the previous owner, the sibling, is an alcoholic). The only thing he misses is that Harry is actually Harriet. It’s a nice reference to the original story, in which Sherlock says basically all of those things except in that pip-pip-jolly-good-show-old-chap Sir Arthur Conan Doyle kind of way.
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