Monday, 26 July 2010

Sherlock, BBC One

As usual, here's a quick review of Sherlock that I wrote for Orange.

As I say below, I found it bold and enjoyable but thought the plot didn't offer much to chew on. I don't know A Study in Scarlet, so maybe it was just remaining close to its source. 

I really appreciated the way they disguised Phil Davis's appearance, though - instead of waiting for him to make his entrance, it was a very nice surprise when he turned up.

Someone tweeted afterwards that no-one writes clever people like Steven Moffat, and it was easy to see parallels between Holmes and the Doctor as his racing thought processes erupted in the form of verbal diarrhoea (Christ... you should have seen my first attempt at spelling that...)

Writer Steven Moffat must have some of the hardest-working fingertips in showbiz. As well as taking the reins for this year's revamp of Doctor Who, he's also been hard at work giving a twenty-first century makeover to another classic fictional character – Sherlock Holmes. 
However, the modern-day version of the supersleuth, played with energetic relish by Benedict Cumberbatch, has ditched his deerstalker, pipe and cocaine habit, and is instead much happier pinging out text messages. As a freelance “consulting detective”, he sticks his nose in whenever the police get stuck.

Naturally you can't have the great detective without his trusty sidekick, so enter – via a mutual friend – Dr John Watson (Martin Freeman), an army medic who was wounded in Afghanistan and is struggling to settle back into civilian life. Captivated by Holmes's intellect and looking for a challenge, he is soon drawn into “the game”.

The plot of this opener, involving a suspicious series of sudden and apparently unrelated “suicides”, was actually a bit skinny. We saw the detective show off his formidable powers of observation and deduction, but just as he was making a bit of headway, the villain – a bitter, terminally ill taxi driver (Phil Davis) – came to find him and launch their final battle of wills.

It was more about the character of Holmes, who Cumberbatch captured perfectly as a self-confessed “high-functioning sociopath”. Despite – or because of – his brilliance, he's a bit of a smarta*** and a show-off. We're presumably supposed to forgive him, what with him being an genius an' all, but a lot of the time I just wanted to lean into my goggle-box and give him a bit of a slap.

Anyway, the show whipped along with a lot of energy and visual flourishes, like captions on the screen showing Holmes's observations as his mind raced ahead of everyone else, and the strong cast didn't take long to make the roles their own. But to me Sherlock was a bit like the mythical Chinese takeaway: very enjoyable at the time, but lacking a bit of substance. Shortly afterwards I fancied a few slices of toast.

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