Who is the better Sherlock?
I am not a big fan of mysteries and police procedural shows. For me, that genre has become formulaic and dull: find dead body, question a bunch of emotional characters, reveal bad guy.
However, I enjoy stories about Sherlock Holmes. Not too long ago, I went to the Rockland Public Library and took out a book of the original Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and found them quite amusing. I was surprised to discover that Holmes was a cocaine addict. I also thought that it was interesting that Dr. Watson had been injured in a war in Afghanistan, making the modern updates to the stories easy since there always seems to be a war in Afghanistan. (Tangent: We seem to learn nothing from history, reminding me of my favorite quote from The Princess Bride: “You fool! You fell victim to one of the classic blunders - The most famous of which is never get involved in a land war in Asia - but only slightly less well-known is this: Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line!”).
Anyway, back to Sherlock. It’s worth noting that Sherlock has influenced the entire genre to this day, and yet, somehow modern mystery shows seem to focus only on plot, when what was really enjoyable about Holmes was getting to know this eccentric character. He’s smart, a bit devious, a rascal, and funny. But you don’t really see that in most CSI shows.
You do see it in the BBC series, “Sherlock” starring Benedict Cumberbatch (does a more British-sounding name exist?) and the brilliant Martin Freeman, who most know better as Bilbo Baggins, as Watson. This series brings Sherlock into 21st century London, and the detective here is a borderline sociopath (I would argue borderline given his sentimentality around his friendship with Watson). Cumberbatch gives the detective a mesmerizing otherworldliness, a kind of vampire rock star vibe. Freeman does a great job of representing us slow viewers in the everyman role, while also gradually evolving the character to show that he’s in this friendship for the thrill he gets from it. He’s an adrenaline junky, which is why he’s a kindred spirit to Sherlock.
I think that’s what makes us like these characters: When Sherlock says, “The game is afoot,” there’s always this smile in his eyes telling us this is what he lives for. Enthusiasm and passion are contagious, so we will gladly follow this character anywhere.
I also love their little club house, the eclectic apartment at 221b Baker Street, decorated with Victorian wallpaper, a taxidermy bat and a painting of a skull. I want to hang out in that detective version of a man cave.
Like a pop culture baby duck, I have fixated on this particular Sherlock, even though I know over at CBS, they have another modern Sherlock (should I say contemporary? We’re post modern now, I suppose). This one has Jonny Lee Miller, who I always associate with Trainspotting, even 20 years later, and Lucy Liu as Watson. I haven’t given this one a fair chance, but I know Dagney Ernest of our arts section fame is a fan.
So, to make this interactive, I have included a little survey or poll: which Sherlock do you prefer?