Today is New Year’s Eve and people all around the world are excitedly waiting for the biggest event in the calendar. Yes, we are a few hours away from the Sherlock special. The first episode in almost a year, which is admittedly less time than we’ve been kept waiting in the past. An episode that take us back to the world of the books and places Tumblr’s favourite Otter in Victorian England. It’s an exciting concept and has allowed Martin Freeman to sport a much more impressive moustache than the last one. Now, I’ve not always been on board with Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ modern Sherlock and still only really like a couple of episodes in seasons 1 and 2 and all of season 3. I just feel like they keep mixing up Arthur Conan Doyle with Doctor Who and it’s really fucking annoying. I understand the logic: you want to persuade your already loyal Whovians to follow your new series so you make it so fucking familiar its like their watching the same show. It makes sense. It just doesn’t always feel right to me. I know it’s a modern interpretation but Sherlock is sometimes too quirky for my liking. I like my Holmes to be more stiff-upper-lipped than bouncy.
Still, back in 2010 I eagerly watched the first episode along with the rest of my family. Being major fans of the books, my father and I felt like we had a lot riding on this. To be honest, I liked the first episode. It struggled from the usual first episode problems but was promising. It was the second episode that stopped me watching. In fact it wasn’t until a good couple of years later that I finished series 1 and series 2. The scene in where Sherlock looks for clues in the office just pissed me off. That’s not Sherlock: that’s the Doctor.
It’s not even the fact that I’m a stubborn purist, The idea of modernising Sherlock Holmes was a fantastic one and the casting was superb. I’ll forget about any original material when something well-written and enjoyable is on offer, ‘The Blind Banker’ is one of the shittest things I’ve ever seen. You know how Star Wars purists feels about the prequels? Yeah, that’s how I feel about series 1 episode 2 of Sherlock.
Anyway, I’ve since changed my mind… at least partially. It’s all thanks to Mark Gatiss really. His Hounds of the Baskerville episode is the best thing in the entire fucking series, That man is one of the best television writers we have at our disposal and I always look forward to anything he’s helped to craft. It’s equally telling that the best episode of series 1 is also written by Gatiss. I dread to think what Sherlock would have been like without him.
But I digress. Before we see a more traditional version of the character we have come to know and love, I think it’s prudent to look back at the Cumberbatch’s first outing as the great detective. There was a lot of pressure all round when ‘Study in Pink’ first aired. How well would the modernisation work without the whole thing feeling like a bit of a gimmick? How well would the stories translate into a modern setting? And, most importantly of all, who would play the wiseman?
‘Study in Pink’ may not have fully proved that the new series was destined for greatness it certainly showed there was great potential. The use of social media and new mobile technology were used greatly and the graphics on screen allowed them to fit into the narrative. It is no new idea that Sherlock liked to be ahead of the times and loved to play with gadgets. It fits in with his character that he would utilise the internet and smartphones in his investigation.
As for the story, the plot isn’t the greatest crime mystery ever crafted but it works. There are few unanswered questions and a few dodgy moments but, in the end, it holds up. Obviously, the first episode of any series has the awkward task of introducing the concept and the characters. It had to bring our main characters together and create the dynamic duo. It had to quickly allow the audience to get to grips with Sherlock’s character and his history with the supporting cast. The actual case is neither here nor there but it has all the hallmarks of a traditional Holmesian tale.
What really made the series great was the casting. The supporting cast is amazing with Lousie Brealey, Mark Gastiss and Una Stubbs standing out. Although, for my part, I’ll always have a soft-spot for Rupert Graves’ Lestrade. Not only is he astoundingly handsome but is a bloody good actor. Of course the main event is in the casting of Holmes and Watson themselves. Bringing together Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman is quite honestly the greatest thing that Steven Moffat has ever done. It’s no wonder that Tumblr have accept the pair as a tried and tested ship. You can tell the success of a television pairing by the number of people drawing pictures of them in romantic situations and writing fanfiction about them adopting children together.
‘A Study in Pink’ deserved a much better follow-up than ‘The Blind Banker’. It’s a smart and stylish episode that showcases the talents of its actors. It is a strong opening episode that hinted at great things to come. You can tell that Gatiss and Moffat know their stuff in terms of Conan Doyle law and truly enjoyed updating the tales. It’s just as obvious that all the actors involved relish their roles and loved making the series. I’ll never be truly convinced that this is absolute greatest adaptation of the tales we’ll ever see but I’ve come around to the idea that it’s the best we’ve got at the moment.