In 1887, readers of the popular periodical Beeton’s Christmas Annual were to receive quite a special treat. There wasn’t much fanfare or hype to the event. Inside the pages of the magazine was a story called A Study In Scarlet. It was a detective story, perhaps like many published before, except for the detective himself, a certain Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Together with his faithful companion and chronicler Dr. Watson, Holmes would win the hearts of those holiday readers. It might have been an ordinary day, but the world was about to change. Sherlock Holmes would become the most famous detective in the world. His stories would remain in print nearly 130 years later. Over 100 films would be made featuring the character. There would be television shows and cartoon spoofs. No other character has appeared in more productions. When his creator dared to kill the beloved detective in order to move on to newer stories, his very life was threatened. It would seem that Doyle was on the verge of becoming a victim much like those in his stories. There was only one man who could save him from such a grim fate, and he did just that. It was Sherlock Holmes himself.
Today, Holmes has enjoyed a bit of a resurgence. There’s been a stage production of Hounds Of The Baskervilles. Robert Downey, Jr. played a more modern action-figure version of Holmes in a very successful blockbuster film. A sequel is on the way. It seems that Holmes has more lives than a cat.
Enter the BBC and a couple of blokes from the new Doctor Who series. Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat have resurrected the famous fictional detective and decided to place him squarely in the 21st century. In this version John Watson writes an internet blog and Sherlock himself runs a website he calls The Science Of Deduction. This Holmes would rather use text messages rather than talk on a phone. I guess that does fit his socially awkward character. He works for the police as the world’s first consulting detective. Of course, that was true of Holmes in his Victorian form, but you really can’t make that claim and stick him in 2010, now can you? Instead of a 7% solution of cocaine, this Holmes uses nicotine patches when he’s presented with a problem. Make that three patches for a particularly stubborn problem. The stories have their parallels in traditional Holmes tales as written by Doyle.
Benedict Cumberbatch is quite young. He looks like he’s about 16. That might actually be a good choice, given that Holmes has a knack for being underestimated. The youthful appearance will certainly feed into that. Martin Freeman is a bit more straightforward as Watson. This Watson is certainly impressed with Holmes, and he absolutely falls under his spell. But this series also adds a bit of tension between the characters. Watson finds his matter-of-fact attitude toward human life a bit frustrating and isn’t above scolding Holmes for it. This Holmes is quite resented by most on the force who consider him a psychopath who will eventually murder. Holmes corrects them and willingly refers to himself as a sociopath. The two share just enough chemistry but newness with each other that I found the relationship to be the highlight of the series. There are hints that Holmes is gay. I’m very much against the idea. Before you condemn me as a barbarian homophobe, think for a moment how such a fact would effect the Holmes/Watson relationship. It doesn’t matter if Watson reciprocates or they are attracted to each other or not. It will effect the dynamic, and I would be saddened should that occur.
There are only three 90-minute episodes to start this first season. You’ll find them on two Blu-ray discs. It’s obvious the show will continue. Get a look at it now before the next episodes become available.
Each episode is presented in its original broadcast 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The episodes look rather nice in their 1080p high-definition image presentations made possible through an AVC/MPEG-4 codec with solid bit rate numbers. There is a coldness to the color temperature, so look for more blue-dominated hues. The image looks quite realistic. Faces offer plenty of detail, as do the crime scenes. Black levels are solid. You’re going to get the image presentation you need to make this modern version of Holmes work for you.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 is dialog-dominated and offers excellent audio reproduction. The theme is actually quite a good one, and it comes across very nicely in this audio presentation. It’s all crystal clear. No real sub action to speak of, but this isn’t an explosive film.
Unlocking Sherlock: (32:37) HD The series creators talk about the years that went into finally doing the show. The feature covers casting, locations and set design. You’ll see behind the scenes footage and rehearsal material. Jolly good show, actually.
Original Pilot: HD This is the unaired pilot. The show was originally going to be an hour. When the show was moved to a 90-minute format, they decided to reshoot the pilot. This is not just the same footage with added scenes. They reshot the entire thing as an hour. That means some different cast members, although most return. And it means some different sets and locations as well as some different scenes completely.
This is not the first time Holmes has been modernized. Remember that those beloved Rathbone movies were updated as well. Holmes became a spy catcher during World War II. While those films appear dated to us now, they were modern when they were made. That is not the traditional Victorian Holmes from the stories. Those films went on to become definitive for the character. So give this idea a chance, won’t you? You might find it “just so”.