I feel a little guilty, actually, like I’ve been cheating on Jeremy Brett, but over the course of three 90-minute episodes, I have fallen head over heels for another actor’s Sherlock Holmes. This latest BBC production stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the iconic consulting detective and updates his Edwardian surroundings to modern-day London. (Watson has a blog; Sherlock has a smart phone. He taunts Scotland Yard by text message with the same fervour that Holmes sent telegrams.)
With looks that are alternately angelic and alien and a voice that the Times describes as “like a jaguar hiding in a cello,” Cumberbatch settles into the role of Sherlock Holmes like he was born to it. Brilliant and petulant, dangerous when bored, Sherlock depends on the puzzling and the forensic to distract his high-performance brain from the tedium of daily life.
Fortunately, roommate John Watson is there to remind him that at the other end of his latest delightful puzzle is a terrified human being waiting for rescue. Now, I’ve always had a thing for Holmes, but this is the first time I’ve been quite so smitten with Watson, whose past portrayals have ranged from merely self-effacing to utterly incompetent. Martin Freeman’s Watson, alternately admiring and exasperated, provides exactly the counterpoint, in head shakes and eye rolls, that Sherlock deserves. It’s some kind of feat of acting that Freeman easily holds his own, with the most minute gestures and facial expressions, against Sherlock’s grandstanding dramatics.
Elements of “A Study in Scarlet” and “The Bruce Partington Plans” are just the jumping-off point for these new mysteries, which fly by just slightly faster than the speed of logic. For those who know their Conan Doyle, there are plenty of in-jokes and nifty twists (the identity of Sherlock’s archnemesis, for one). The supporting cast includes Rupert Graves as longsuffering DI Lestrade and Sherlock’s exceedingly swirly, dramatic coat, which all but earns its own line in the credits.
Sherlock was concocted by Doctor Who writers Stephen Moffat and Mark Gatiss, and if you’ve watched any New Who, the rapid-fire dialogue and the chemistry between a brilliant eccentric and his loyal companion will seem quite familiar. I wouldn’t have been particularly surprised to see Sherlock pull out a sonic screwdriver along with his magnifying glass, or to find that there were Daleks lurking behind Reichenbach Falls all along.
Check the WRL catalog for Sherlock.