I had heard a while ago that the BBC was making a new television series called 'Sherlock'. It had grabbed my interest but I'm not much for television so I hadn't planned on watching it or was even excited. Plus, I had seen the film from 2009 with Robert Downey Jr. and I really don't mixing up stories and characters. If I'm going to have to commit Sherlock to film/television it will be in one consistent carnation. That's just me.
However, about two hours ago, I discovered that Steven Moffat was the writer for 'Sherlock'. He is also the head writer for Doctor Who. This, I could not pass up. The man who puts the words in The Doctor's mouth was now doing Sherlock Holmes? I had to see it.
Fuck Robert Downey Jr.
Don't get me wrong. His film is entertaining and I enjoyed it. But there was something off. It was too Hollywood. His Sherlock felt more of a reclusive playboy than a man married to his work. Too much of the mystery and tension was lost in favour of action. I like action. But Sherlock Holmes is about mystery.
Steven Moffat is a master at creating tension. The Doctor Who episodes 'Blink' and 'The Empty Child' are two of the most frightening and stressful things I have watched. Here are some trailers:
That's getting a bit tangential though. On to 'Sherlock'. The pilot episode is titled 'A Study in Pink' - an homage to the first Sherlock Holmes novel 'A Study in Scarlett'. While the series takes place in modern day, it remains resoundingly faithful to the books. Dr. Watson's introduction and initial relationship with Sherlock play out identically to 'A Study in Scarlett'. I always enjoyed their first interaction and Watson's subsequent fascination with Holmes. It's through his fascination that the reader can see Holmes for the brilliant man he is, rather than an arrogant show-off.
As well, something I thought Moffat did splendidly well on was the mystery itself. It takes a good writer to craft a mystery worthy of Holmes and he does just that. How he does it though, is the most exciting. Moffat took elements from the mystery in 'A Study in Scarlet' and rearranged them, sometimes even subverting them. The best bit, I think, is when Sherlock comes across the dead girl with 'Rache' scratched by her nails into the wooden floor. Inspecter Lestrade, declares that the girl is German as 'rache' is the German word for revenge. Holmes unexpectedly refutes this claim as preposterous and instead says that she was spelling 'Rachel'. This is reversed from the exact same scenario in 'A Study in Scarlett' - it was Holmes who believed it was German.
The only fault I had came early on in the episode. Watson is escorted to a man who describes himself as 'Holmes archenemy' and offers Watson money to spy on Holmes. I felt that this inclusion of Moriarty so early in the story was unnecessary. Many of the Holmes adaptations focus on the rivalry between Sherlock and Moriarty but in Doyle's stories Moriarty appears but once in 'The Final Problem'. The fascination stems from the fact that this is the story in which Sherlock meets his end, at the hands of a rival. Television and films insistence on including Moriarty diminishes the character. In the stories, he appeared shortly and was fleeting - much like Holmes. That is what he draws his effectiveness from. That same mysteriousness surrounding Holmes now working against him.
Thankfully, before the episode is over, Moffat pulls yet another beautiful subversion, and I am forced to forgive him as Moriarty is left as an abstract threat. Certainly real, yes, but for now invisible.
As a side note, I'd like to declare my love for Steven Moffat. After watching 'A Study in Pink' I looked him up on imdb and realized that not only did he write that brilliant re-imagining of Holmes but he has also written some of the best Doctor Who episodes to date as well as the entire Coupling series. He has also written a tv series based on another of my favourite books: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. I will for sure check it out once I'm done with the rest of Sherlock.