I’ve raved about it a little before, but let me rave again.
The BBC did a a really really good job here. I liked the first season a great deal and the second season was just as good – though I still feel having a second season rather detracted from the awesome ending of the first. (That may have been just about the only time I actually liked a hanging ending and thought it a great way to end.)
The (major) characters were portrayed in ways that were either really spot on and/or believeable. Perhaps Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman’s portrayals of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson aren’t exactly unique since the cinematic version of Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law have a similar sort of counterpoint harmony going on there – the terrifically brilliant, sarcastic, eccentric and almost emotionless Sherlock with the calmer, more tactful Dr. Watson who gets pushed around somewhat by Sherlock but isn’t a stupid pushover at all. However, I think I prefer the BBC version to Hollywood’s. Cumberbatch brings a certain distant coldness to the role that seems to suit more than Downey Jr’s more manic version (hilarious though that is). As for Jude Law and Martin Freeman, I’m not sure I can say which I like better.
But oh, the difference in Moriartys! In the Guy Ritchie movie versions, Moriarty is more like I envision him in the books – more classy, almost snobbish, very cultured and power-hungry. In the BBC series, Moriarty is basically… psychotic. I don’t even know if I can call him “power-hungry” because he treats it all like a huge game solely for his benefit. The change really works. I don’t think it would have been as effective in the movies but here, in the BBC version, it works magnificently. He’s a mad genius and that adds an edge to the show, increases tension; you feel like you never know what he’ll do next because he has no morals and he has no rules and he simply doesn’t care about anything except proving himself smarter than everyone else.
Nearly forgot about Mycroft. In that case, BBC wins hands down. I really didn’t like how the movies (especially the recent Game of Shadows) made Mycroft a bit silly. The BBC did much better. He’s as quick as – if not quicker than – Sherlock, has the same penchant for odd behaviour but also is not fallible.
How Sherlock Thinks
Another thing I liked a great deal about the BBC series was the way Sherlock’s thought processes are shown on screen. Sudden close-ups, freeze frames, little words and phrases appearing in appropriate places. (The two recent movies do it well too – with the sudden slow-motion and the narration. But the BBC’s version feels slightly more unique.)
I think it’s a pretty good way of taking the viewers through Sherlock’s thinking process at a relatively rapid pace. It shows you where he’s looking, what he’s looking at and tells you what he deduces in a matter of seconds.
The Modernisation of Sherlock Holmes
Shifting the great detective to our time was a bold move and fortunately, it worked out excellently. Holmes and Watson are tech-savvy – websites, computers, the internet, smartphones… they all show up one way or another on the show. I like that they actually make use of the technology. The gadgets don’t just sit around for nothing. Watson using his phone camera to take a photo of a clue to the mystery somewhere back in the first season is a good example of it. Of course, there’s also their websites. Holmes uses his to write intense stuff like pieces on the 240 different types of tobacco – sorry, make that 243 types; haha – or perfume differentiation, whereas Watson… writes about Holmes solving mysteries. Obviously. (And his blog is way more popular than Sherlock’s page, of course.) I liked that a lot. A clever transfer of Watson’s writings into the 21st century.
Another rather accurate touch (in season 2) was how Watson can’t seem to hold on to girlfriends for long. Given how he’s always running around from one mystery to another with Sherlock, it’d be astonishing if he managed to sustain a relationship with most modern girls. It makes sense that the poor guy would find it extremely difficult – or rather that most women would find it extremely difficult to be competing with Sherlock Holmes for attention.
Adaptation and References to the Books
It was highly amusing to see Watson typing blog entries (in season 2) about various other mysteries Holmes solved and seeing the titles for his entries – The Geek Interpreter, The Speckled Blond, The Navel Treatment? Really made me crack up.
“Geek Interpreter? What’s that?”
“It’s the title.”
“What does it need a title for?”
I find the episode titles really amusing. Well, the title of episode 1 in season 1 and all episodes in season 2 anyway. Episodes 2 and 3 of the first season didn’t have particularly striking titles in that they weren’t reminiscent of any Sherlock Holmes story. “A Study in Pink” was the title of episode 1, season 1. Most appropriate since Arthur Conan Doyle unleashed the genius detective on the world in the novel, A Study in Scarlet. In season 2 you have: “A Scandal in Belgravia”, “The Hounds of Baskerville” and “The Reichenbach Fall”. Fans of the books would probably know the original story titles and recognised all those titles at once (as well as what each episode was likely to be about). I particularly like the titles “The Hounds of Baskerville” and “Reichenbach Fall” because with just a tiny alternation to the title, the whole thing changes. The English language is awesome. haha
Having Holmes become an internet sensation was… actually a very likely scenario if Sherlock had lived in this day and age. It made absolute sense that he would garner a lot of attention in print media and online.
Ah, that reminds me. It was fun how they made a joke out of that deerstalker hat (i.e. Holmes grabs it out of a stage dressing room and uses it to shield his face from the photographers and after that always complains that that’s always the picture they use) which never appears in the original books, but is more a result of Sidney Paget’s (lovely) illustrations for the stories.
I like the music. I like the art direction. I think some of the transitions between scenes are really nicely done – simple techniques well-deployed. Generally the scripts are good – the stories work, bringing the original plots into the modern world and mixing them up a little, with some references here and there to other stories (mention of the Bruce Partington plans in season 1, for instance; and I’m still debating whether “Hounds of Baskerville” was meant to be something of a cross between Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot… probably not but it’s somewhat plausible).
I don’t think there’s anything I severely dislike about this BBC adaptation. Kudos to them and I think everyone ought to watch the series – especially people who are fans of the books. People who haven’t read the books ought to read them first because they’re great.