Is the BBC ruining Sherlock Holmes?

As yesterday marked the day I got up-to-date with the critically acclaimed BBC TV series Sherlock, I felt that it was finally appropriate for me to jot down a few words expressing my sentiments towards the show. Instead of writing a review of individual episodes, an assignment I feel would be much too lengthy and outside my realm of interest, I’ll simply talk about the general feeling I have towards the show after watching the three seasons that are currently out, each one consisting of three one hour-and-a-half long episodes.

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Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes

As a few of my friends know, I’ve been an avid Sherlock Holmes fan since my childhood. I’ve been reading and rereading Sir Conan Doyle’s novels and shorts for as long as I can remember, getting awestruck with every page I flipped through and amazed at how capable and resourceful the character of Sherlock Holmes was. A long, bony-faced Londoner who lived in relative seclusion, a violin amateur with a hundred idiosyncrasies including tobacco and opium. A man whom, while oblivious to basic common knowledge about politics, astronomy or literature, could easily recite each one of London’s major murders and crimes in the past thirty years. Basically, Sherlock Holmes was one of my childhood heroes, and I daresay he still is. Watching his character get defiled by cheap animated series (some BS with him in the future and Watson as a cyborg) (no I don’t care if it’s a kid’s show it’s still an outrage), live action series (Without being sexist, Watson’s character was created as a man for a reason), or Hollywood blockbuster movies (Robert Downey Jr. I’m looking at you) would sometimes lead me into passionate rants about how people should stop desecrating Sherlock Holmes just to make some easy cash using such a sophisticated character. Seriously, just watching the trailer for the first Sherlock Holmes movie made my face wince and my stomach lurch at its atrocity.

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Yes. This is Watson with a bowler hat and mechanical body riding a mutant rat.

But I got a bit carried away; let’s get back to Sherlock, created by Mark Gattis and Steve Moffat. There were two reason why I started watching this show; one, it looked like it did more than just borrow the name “Sherlock Holmes” and take every liberty it could possibly take with the story, and two, my Facebook timeline regularly featured a few people gushing about how amazing the last Sherlock episode was and swooning whenever his name came up.

A brief Sherlock synopsis: Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch) is a self-taught private detective living in modern day London (221b Baker Street) with his friend and assistant Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman), an Afghanistan war veteran (medic), solving the crimes Scotland Yard wasn’t Sherlock-y enough to resolve. Occasionally, Sherlock would stumble upon a villain that’s smarter than the bunch and there everything becomes a bit dramatic (in a good way). The protagonist’s character, although very similar to the original Sherlock Holmes in many areas, can also be quite different; unlike original Shelrock, whom shared the following attributes only in an ingenuously subtle way, BBC Sherlock is blatantly childish, frustratingly stubborn, openly competitive, and shamelessly arrogant. However I won’t hold anything against Moffat’s version of the character, as one can’t expect the same interpretation of a character shared between the 19th and 21st century. I can also reasonably get over how heroic and selfless Shelrock can be, all for the sake of his friends his pretends not to like; a bit cliché, but why not. All in all, it’s a very entertaining show that I would recommend to most of my friends.

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Spoilers from this point on.

My only problem with the show is how Sherlock is portrayed in terms of his abilities. In the first few episodes, Sherlock is a man that uses deduction and logical reasoning to achieve his goals. His cold, calculating approach to crimes may piss off some of the people that work with him, but it eventually gets the job done. Although Sherlock is clearly smarter than most people around him, he is still human, with a human’s level of cognitive abilities; smart but not too smart. As the series progressed, all of that changed. Sherlock became some sort of superhuman cross breed of James Bond, Rambo, Bruce Lee and Professor X. He’s not just smart, he can survive in Eastern Europe on his own for a whole two years and dismantle a whole terrorist network all by himself. He can go to the most isolated mountains of Afghanistan, infiltrate some other terrorist network, and single-handedly save some woman he knew over the course of a week or so. In under five seconds, Sherlock can decrypt a series of seemingly random numbers to deduce that it was actually a plane ticket, as well as its departure and arrival time and location, and a few other details because he wanted to show off.

End of spoilers

The major flaw of this show is that the directors try too hard to turn Sherlock Holmes from the smart Londoner he’s supposed to be into a computer-for-brain super soldier who can defy all odds just because…well, just because he’s Sherlock. Everyone else around him starts looking pretty useless and stupid, and Watson’s role of resourceful assistant has been lowered to crying damsel in distress. It would be a shame if Sherlock, despite the irony linked to the show’s name, becomes all about Sherlock and ignores everyone else. The books may have been concentrating mainly on Sherlock Holmes’ character, yet I feel, for once, that the series shouldn’t take the same path and give more focus – and more credit- to the other characters present in the series. Despite my criticism, I don’t think Sherlock is in no way a shoddy series. In the contrary, I think it’s interesting, captivating, and funny. The acting is sublime, it is well directed, soundtrack is fitting and the villains are (mostly) unusual and engaging. Even though it doesn’t follow the book series by the letter, BBC Sherlock does a really good job balancing the original story’s authenticity with a new and more modern feel, including some refitted main characters and some new ones, new concepts and new stories. Even though I’m looking forward to watching season 4, which is set to air on December 2015, I really hope Sherlock’s character gets a serious review and possibly an overhaul.

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