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Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Sherlock: a review

I've been really enjoying Sherlock on BBC1. Actually, to be pedantic, I've been enjoying it on iPlayer; the future is here and I am no longer shackled to one time and channel (a fact that's led me to bid a tearful farewell to the Radio Times, despite its obvious worth as a media magazine). In fact, our television doesn’t receive any channels, so instead I wait until a convenient moment and watch it online. SCIENCE!

It’s a testament to the show’s excellence that the ‘convenient moment’ is never too long after its airing time. I confess to not being one of the first on board the bandwagon; I only watched it because everyone was talking about it on Twitter, and because @Steven_Moffat (who co-created it with @MarkGatiss) had just signed up himself. That’s the wonderful thing about peer pressure; sometimes everybody’s telling you to try something because it’s actually really rather good.

Really rather good. Also: nom.

I haven’t yet seen the inevitable “if you like X, you’ll love Y” review, so I’ll be the unimaginative chump who says it: Sherlock is in much the same vein as Doctor Who. You’ve got the brilliant, wild, unpredictable lead character legging it around the place, with his faithful companion in tow (who’s picking it up as he goes along, and learning a lot about Life, the Universe, and Everything). It’s only through Benedict Cumberbatch’s enthralling performance that this never feels old. There’s a wonderful moment in the second episode (out of three, mind, so you don’t have long to get on board) when Holmes does an impression of a ‘normal person’ in order to get his way. The social skills and charm are switched on, and Cumberbatch transforms himself again. I’ve not seen him in anything else, I don’t think, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see incredible character range from him in coming years. As for Martin Freeman: he is exactly what Doctor Watson (or, for that matter, a TARDIS-travelling companion) should be. Interesting, active (as opposed to passive), and learning about Holmes as the audience’s eyes and ears. My only criticism would be that we haven’t seen much emotional intensity from him, not even at times that would have demanded it; but his character’s time spent in Afghanistan probably mitigates that accusation.

There's always an awful lot of running to do!

Another thing I’ve loved about this miniseries is the accompanying web presence. The first episode mentioned John Watson’s blog and Holmes’ site “The Science of Deduction.” In addition to these, Molly Hooper’s blog and Connie Prince's website fill out the universe; giving me things to read and puzzle over in the time between episodes. Sites like this really help to bring characters to life for someone as web-obsessed as me, and although I would have preferred in-character twitter accounts, I understand the problems that would present regarding timing, interaction etc.

The plots themselves are convoluted, well-structured, and cleverly untangled by the dynamic duo. The use of text overlay is sheer genius; it’s 2010, yet most programmes are content to narrate every text they receive and letter they read. Leave unwieldy exposition to lesser mortals; with Holmes, it’s all internal. As it should be. So, in conclusion: I’m very much looking forward to the finale; and not just so that I can stare at Benedict and Martin’s lovely lovely faces.

The third episode will air Sunday, 9pm, BBC1; or watch it at for a week after. There's a good interview with Cumberbatch here if you're interested, but you can't have him.

P.S. my lovely friend Katie has updated her blog with her own Sherlock review! Do check it out.


  1. Lovely review and I concur almost unreservedly.

    The one pickable bone I've found in the miniseries is that while I'm not as knowledgeable or observant as the great detective, I'm as facile or faster in unraveling the mysteries.

    I shouldn't have said, "It's a cabbie!" or "Through the window!" before it was even hinted by the characters on screen, yet I did. If we can accept Holmes deducing 2 world-traversing trips in a month from a glance at someone's watch, we shouldn't be able to accept that we figure out the solutions to the plot point mysteries first.

    It's those contradictory extremes to the detective's detecting that bother me. Otherwise, tally ho and bring on more, please!

  2. I didn't know the blog and website actually existed!? Cheers for the tip! And I am loving the Sherlockness, despite never being caught up in Doctor Who fever.

  3. Oh it's amazing! Have written my own review on my non-book blog (hint, hint.) Cannot wait for the finale.

  4. Yays. Glad you blogged about this!
    I too finally succumbed to the hype and was pleasantly surprised to find it a rare UK prime-time show that doesn't make me want to rip off my own face.
    And it's the best incarnation of The Doctor yet!
    Well, it is, isn't it? You're spot on there, Anna. Intense, eccentric hero who knows everything in the history of ever and leaves the sidekick to gawp in confused awe.
    I'm not too keen on the infallible, indestructible factor, where whatever the scenario you're in absolutely no doubt that he'll turn up and get everything 100% correct, prove everyone else to be buffoons, never get harmed and rescue the helpless ex-military man in distress.
    And it still shows UK TV is terrified of considering the concept of an attention span, but then thingsaresomuchmoreexcitingifeveryoneisrunning!!

    But it's ace, just like his taking the reigns of DR Who, Moffat has actually allowed some breathing room for such crazy notions as characterisation. Granted, it's about three seconds, but it's enough to get attached, else you just think Watson a helpless fool and Sherlock an arrogant arse. Well, he is, but a few seconds breathing room means he becomes an arrogant arse you want to succeed.

    And OHMYGOD how much ham did we get from Gatiss?! Hilarious.

    Most of all, I too was impressed with the media integration; the texts and online presence are a fantastic touch. 'Show don't tell' and all that.

    Silly as it is at times, it's a great improvement on a lot of British TV, and while it still needs to slow down, and while I still feel there's a bloody Slitheen just round the corner, I really hope it gets a full series.

    And bigup respec' for the iplayer. It and its sky and 4OD counterparts are becoming my viewing medium of choice, leaving the TV mostly for watching dvds (and that's only because I configured my pc drive for region one to watch imported Venture Brothers, which you must watch as its awesome!)

  5. Suffice, I get what you mean about the high pace, but I don't think that reflects badly on anyone's attention spans, or expectations thereof. I'm delighted that each installment was an hour and a half; a twenty-minute episode just wouldn't have done it justice. If it's renewed (and pretty much everyone wants it to be, including its creators), I do hope they don't cut the length down below an hour or so.

    I've been watching a lot of tv online too, as you must know. Haven't seen Venture Brothers yet though. I'm not even clear what it's about, to be honest, what am I missing? x

  6. Venture Bros is a sarcastic cartoon comedy that's a skewed parody of Jonny Quest;
    two idiot boy adventurers who assume every mystery they encounter has something to do with ghost pirates, a scientist father who's a snivelling coward, Bodyguard Brock Samson who's an unstoppable killing machine. It's ace. Lots of skewed parodies of cult/comic/cartoon characters including The fantastic four, the Scooby Doo gang (Fred is Teddy - Ted Bundy, Velma is Val - Valerie Solanas and Shaggy is Sonny - Son Of Sam, who thought his orders to kill came from a possessed dog...) as well as, er, David Bowie and Keith Flint...
    ahem. It's part of Adult Swim. Recommended.

    But wikipedia-like-waffle aside....

    Leap and a bound above the previous two. Great ending. You want to punch Moriarty in the face even more that Sherlock. (well, I do, the fairer sex who are fans have other ideas) How annoying was his voice?!

    Agreed on the duration. An hour and a half works well. I foresee it being cut back to an hour, but hopefully that will lead to mostly two-parters, giving it a rare similarity to that other show Moffat works on :D

    Great to see more depth in the characters, going into why he seems so heartless, but - of course - getting all wobbly when Watson was in danger. I thought he was going to hug him at the end. Though it could be he knows no one else could put up with him being such a knob for as long as Watson has :)

    blah blah. Do excuse the length of these things, I haven't quite grasped the concept of concise blog comments.

  7. I am fed up no longer having Benedict Cumberbatch in my life. The three Sherlock episodes were fantastic, and the actor who played Moriarty did it really well in my opinion - a complete lunatic and evil genius.

    I miss it though. I want it back.


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