First Aired: 25th July 2010
Martin Freeman Doctor John Watson
Benedict Cumberbatch Sherlock Holmes
Rupert Graves Detective Inspector LeStrade
Vinette Robinson Detective Sergeant Sally Donovan
Una Stubbs Mrs. Hudson
Louie Brealey Molly Hooper
Phil Davies Jeff the Cabbie
Plot: Doctor John Watson is having nightmares. After discharge from the army, he’s having trouble adjusting to civilian life. Elsewhere an apparently happy man takes his own life. Days later, a young man does the same as does a middle aged woman does and there seems to be no connection to these almost identical deaths. The police are now involved, but they are being trolled online by someone known as SH.
The next day, John runs into an old friend Mike, who points out that he knows of a flat-share. He leads John to Sherlock Holmes, who deduces lots of information about John and arranges to meet him at the flat 221B Baker street.
The two meet there, meet Mrs Hudson the landlady and almost immediately Sherlock is invited to a crime scene, there’s been a 4th death.
Sherlock assess the scene, determines that the four deaths were in fact murders and then he disappears. Trying to get back to Baker street, John is whisked away to meet with an unnamed man, who asks for frequent updates on Sherlock’s activities as he worries about him. John is adamant that isn’t going to happen and is dropped off home after collecting his handgun. Texting the last victim’s missing phone, Sherlock sets up an ambush, but after chasing across the city, find it was a wild goose chase. When the pair get back to Baker street, the police are waiting. It all starts to come together as the victim’s phone seems to be at the flat as an unnamed cabbie arrives to collect Sherlock. Outside, the cabbie admits he’s the killer and offers to surrender, or explain what he has done and why. John works out that this has been done and follows.
At a nearby college, Holmes and the cabbie are locked in a game of chess with a side of Russian roulette. The cabbie offers a pair of pills, one will kill and one won’t. Whatever Sherlock takes, the cabbie will have the other. There’s back and forth between the two, playing on Sherlock’s ego that he can work out which is which. In the end a shot is fired from the opposite building, saving Sherlock’s life and ending the cabbie’s. The police have no explanation, but Sherlock realises it was John Watson, but doesn’t say anything. As the pair leave, the unnamed man from earlier interrupts and it turns out it’s Sherlock’s older brother Mycroft. The pair walk off together, partners in crime…..fighting.
Notes: It’s a concept so simple it’s genuinely surprising that it took til 2010 to get made. The original Sherlock Holmes stories were not period pieces, they were written as contemporary stories. They were written during Victorian times, so any subsquent retellings were set during Victorian times, but why can’t you set them in current day? This is that idea, same characters, same setting, same idea, but a different year. So the premise is solid, consulting detective and cohort solve crimes for overworked Inspector and we’re off. We’re not interested in the police characters, despite the decent performances of underappreciated coppers who resent Holmes’ presence almost as much as they need it. So the lion’s share of work is done by the rest of the cast. Una Stubbs is a tremendous Ms Hudson, compassionate, but mostly because she knows that life can be harsh. Phil Davies is a relatable, making his scenes more chilling. You get where he is coming from, making him a more sympathetic character than Holmes. Martin Freeman is playing against his usual comedy type and makes Watson more hard-nosed and level headed than the usual bumbling foil that you get as Watson. He genuinely takes to Holmes as a friend and they bond over the danger they both end up in. This is a man who left war too soon and seeks that adrenalin surge once more, a fact that’s noticed by Mycroft playing with camp menace by Mark Gatiss, who seems to be having the time of his life playing Sherlock’s enemy/brother with some sparkling lines well delivered. But we all know that this show would rise and fall on the lead. Benedict Cumberbatch seems to have a good line in making very unlikeable characters compelling. His Holmes is a high-functioning sociopath that solves mysteries because it’s fun, rather than to save lives, or punish wrongdoers. He’s the smartest person in most rooms he’s in and see’s no harm in making sure people know that. He’s abrasive and arrogant and rubs almost everyone the wrong way, except Watson. His ability to see what no one else does isolates him, but he prefers to be isolated from the majority, than be one of those people and so sets himself apart from people, apart from the murders they commit.
The banter between Holmes and Watson is snappy, without the confrontation based stuff you often get with procedurals. This is more character based, concentrating on the partnership as it forms. This is not a romance, but a true bro-mance, with two incomplete men being made better by knowing one another. It’s well shot, with London rarely looking so good and editing to give the drama maximum impact in terms of pacing. This was the beginning of something and it was something well worth getting into.
Does it work? Yes, Sherlock Holmes has been part of the entertainment landscape for over a century for good reason.
Does much need fixing? With most of the set up done, all you need is more bad guys.
Does it stand up? Better than most adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s most famous creation.
Do I want to watch the next one? Yes I did and was quite happy to find that a few short, but well made seasons followed.
Did I enjoy it? Yes I did, it was lots of fun and I am glad that I gave it a chance.
Overall: 5 out of 5. I needed to be convinced and I most certainly was.