It’s Elementary- How Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman helped make the perfect Sherlock

It seems to me like this is a pretty odd time to be looking back on and writing about Sherlock. It’s already one and a bit seasons in, and this isn’t a review of an episode, or a specific season, and the whole of season two hasn’t even aired yet to review the show as a whole. So why then? Quite simply because, for what it’s accomplished already, and what it keeps on giving, it deserves praise.

I remember about a year and a half ago, when I first saw A Study in Pink. At that point I’d had little contact with Martin Freeman; I only really knew his face. I certainly had no experience of Benedict Cumberbatch. It was pretty marvellous then, to be watching a show for which I expected something very ‘Holmesy’, and to come away from it with a very different experience. It was refreshing to see two actors so perfectly suited to their individual roles, and to have such great chemistry. These two made, remade, and remade again characters were transformed into something so fresh, intelligent and even comical.

There’s always been something about Cumberbatch’s Holmes and Freeman’s Watson that made me think there’s no possible way I would have enjoyed the show as much had the duo not been cast. They complement and play off of each other when thrown together, but are still so loveable, clever and charismatic in their own way. In relation to Benedict (who I think will be forever more stapled into my head as Sherlock), Martin provides the quiet companion, who is by no means weak, and certainly not as clueless and dumbstruck by his ‘friend’ as the original Watson was.

But it’s not just their portrayals that make this show; it’s the attention to detail. I’m sure Sherlock would be proud. The smallest tweaks and changes, like Afghanistan being Watson’s war, and the use of mobile phones and the internet for the flow of information, really propel these beloved stories into the modern world, whilst retaining their charm and the details that make them recognisable and faithful to Conan Doyle’s stories, and, most importantly, unmistakably the same treasured characters.

The ‘blogs’ of the characters of the show, like The Science of Deduction and The Blog of Dr. John H. Watson, help to really stamp this show into the modern day- not that it really needed help, but it just gives another reason for the skeptics in our technological world why these stories should and could still be relevant and enjoyed. All they need are skilled writers like Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, a TV giant behind them (score one for BBC Wales!) and an audience willing to accept them.

And acceptance it has found. As if a show rating of 9/10 on IMDB wasn’t awesome enough, viewing figures for the premiere of A Scandal in Belgravia, also starring Laura Pulver, were somewhere between nine and ten million. Okay, so the Daily Mail kicked up a fuss about the pre-watershed ‘nudity’. How surprising. While I’ll admit it did make for slightly uncomfortable family viewing, it was hardly a reason to take the sentiment of the episode title so literally. And anyway, going back to my earlier point, what Irene Adler of today would get significant political power and ‘protection’ from a single cutesy little photo of her relationship with foreign royalty? Not in this day and age. A modern Sherlock needs a more modern woman.

It’s not even just a case of this being enjoyable, modern, and arguably more accessible for today’s audience than an older man with a pipe and deerstalker (though the reference to that in the most recent episode was brilliant, bravo.) It seems odd to write, but the show is very ‘realistic’, and also very believable. The concept has always been interesting, fast paced, and exciting, an update was much needed, and the stories that form the basis so brilliant to begin with, what’s not to love?

This Sunday sees the premiere of The Hounds of Baskerville, based on one of my favourite of the original stories. I’m not sure how it will have been adapted, but I’m anxious to see the results. While I don’t think we’ll see Sherlock camping out in a cave as Conan Doyle envisaged, there’s a good chance this could be the most unsettling, eerie tale yet for our two protagonists.

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1 Comment

Filed under Television

One response to “It’s Elementary- How Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman helped make the perfect Sherlock

  1. Michael Samuel

    this was enough to make me reconsider Sherlock. I will rewatch

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