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Sherlock Holmes’ 21st Century Incarnation


Benedict Cumberbatch (left) and Martin Freeman (right) play Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in modern day interpretation "Sherlock".

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s archetypal detective Sherlock Holmes has been portrayed countless time on the small and big screen, most notably by Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett. But the new television series with a minimalist title, Sherlock, trades in the lace curtains of Victorian drawing rooms for the gritty streets of modern day London and puts a 21st Century spin on the beloved character. “It seemed to somehow make it a bit less reverent and a bit more fun,” show co-creator Steven Moffat tells NPR. “Much as we love Sherlock Holmes, we love Victoriana. Many of the adaptations become about the period as opposed to about the story.” The BBC show, which has been building quite a buzz in Britain, will begin airing in the U.S. on PBS’s Masterpiece on Sunday, October 24.

Moffat feels Holmes’ quick-witted and voraciously curious character is especially well suited to a modern adaptation. “He was born for the Internet and for the chat room and for forums,” explains Moffat. “I think he’d love it. It would finally be the speed and the intensity of information that that demented man craves.”

Watson’s stalwart presence and deep loyalty also translate well in a modern setting. The doctor, this time a wounded vet from Afghanistan, is drawn to Holmes and his adventures because the rush of the hunt is similar to that which he experienced on the battlefield. Unlike previous interpretations, Watson’s intelligence and stability are very apparent. “I think the defining thing about Dr. Watson in all his incarnations is that he’s the first man a genius would trust,” Moffat states. “Sherlock sees a reliability and a complete trustworthiness in this honest, good man.”

However, this modern Sherlock Holmes, is not without critics who argue the original material should not be altered. “While [Jeremy Brett] and Basil Rathbone have my vote as the all-time greatest late Victorian Holmes,” responds Moffat, “there’s enough originality in what I give and what Stephen [Thompson] and Mark [Gatiss] have written for it not to tread on the hallowed turf that is Jeremy Brett.”

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