TV Review – Sherlock ‘A Study in Pink’ (Spoiler Free)

A war hero, invalided home from Afghanistan, meets a strange but charismatic genius who is looking for a flatmate; it is London, 2010, and Dr Watson and Sherlock Holmes are meeting for the first time. A string of impossible suicides has Scotland Yard baffled – and only one man can help – BBC

“Mrs Hudson the game is on.”

If by the time you hear that line you’re not already hooked by this modern adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic character then you are one hell of a tough crowd to please.

Sherlock Holmes and his faithful friend Dr Watson are characters that have existed in our collective psyche forever. There is a timeless quality to their stories that has led them to be rebooted, adapted and given a flesh lick of paint to varying levels of success. Most of these adaptations  have rigidly keep this dynamic crime solving duo firmly planted in their Victorian roots but upstarts Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, both huge holmes fans, have decided to risk the wrath of the Holmes purists by introducing these beloved characters to the modern world.

This first adventure, A Study in Pink, is based on the first Holmes adventure, A Study in Scarlet. From the first scene featuring Watson through to the first meeting with Holmes the episode is faithful to the original story and yet takes several turns with the script to make this different enough to stand alone.

Moffat and Gattis with a combination of strong writing, great direction and clever cinematography are able to take  a modern London with all it’s trappings of the new millennium and create the illusion that we are but a stone’s throw away from Victorian England. Instead of Watson’s Journal we get a blog, Handsome cabs become Black cabs amd telegraphs become text messages. The famous 221B Baker Street at first glance looks like it belongs in the 1890’s but as your eye pans around the room you glimpse a flat screen TVand a netbook nestled atop a pile of books. The design choices feel organic and the blend between the modern and the past seems effortless.One brilliant example is in the fact that our duo much like their Victorian counterparts travel everywhere in black cabs. However when these scenes are shown the camera angle gives the illusion that they could be in  a handsome cab and it’s an effect that works brilliantly.

Of course the one thing that every Holmes story showcases is the amazing deductive skills of the world’s only consulting detective and this retelling is no exception. The makers attempt to bring the audience into Sherlock’s mind and give you a taste of what is it to always be the cleverest man in the room. Some of the methods used to accomplish this effect  are a little jarring to begin with but by the end of the episode you’re eager to see more.

Both Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and Martin Freeman as Watson leap into the title roles with passion and dedication and it shows on screen. The pair have a brilliant chemistry from the offset which I can only see becoming stronger as the series progresses. Cumberbatch gives us a fantastic performance as Holmes, a man very much ahead of his time. Unlike some of the previous incarnations this Holmes is arrogant, without being unlikable and injects some great humour into the role which never feels forced or out of character. His dialogue is razor sharp and it’s clear that when he speaks everyone listens.

The lump sum of my praise goes to Martin Freeman as Dr Watson who previously I was unsure of  in the role  but he was a great Watson and his portrayal seemed more in keeping with the books rather than the bumbling sidekick that some adaptations have given us. This Watson is a military man, a man of action and honour who, in his own way, is every bit as driven as his new and rather strange flatmate.

From the set design through to Sherlock’s attire and the brilliant soundtrack you can see every effort has been made to place the viewer in both past and present. It’s clear that Moffat and Gatiss are fans of Conan Doyle’s sleuthing duo and are trying to show a modern audience, especially those who are not familiar with Holmes and Watson, just how great these characters and stories are.

Sherlock is a perfect example of how to do a reboot. It is faithful to the source material without being slavish to it and knows when to put it’s own stamp on the story.

If the next two episodes are of the same quality of the first  then the cast and crew can rest easy as they have a winner on their hands.

Sherlock starts on Sunday 25th July at 9pm on BBC One

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15 comments

  1. Michael Compton /

    Thanks for the review :). Your insights are appreciated….Looking forward to checking it out!

    • geeksyndicate /

      no worries glad you enjoyed it check out the audio interviews I did with Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss the creators of the show.

  2. Charlie Boy /

    How can you say, once you have heard “The game is on”, that if you are not already hooked, you must be one hell of a tough crowd?
    You clearly have not seen the programme. You don’t mention any of the plot.
    Martin Freeman, was dreary and uninspiring as Dr Watson, and Mark Gatiss as Mycroft was just as bad.
    The plot was an original, so why bother having the characters Holmes and Watson. It could so easily have been an episode of Dalziel and Pascoe, Midsomers Murders or Jonathan Creek.
    The show was at least 30 minutes too long.
    There is not enough good tv on the BBC, and changes have to be made to the selection process that goes on. Just because an individual, or group, are involved with a successful tv show (DOCTOR WHO), does not mean they should get a budget to do another. Moffatt can’t even get DW right. Spend your time getting one show right, resign, then do something else. Don’t do two at the same time.

    • geeksyndicate /

      Fair enough mate you didn’t like that’s fine. I respect your opinion despite it being different from my own as I really enjoyed the episode.

      Actually I did watch the episode (I assuming you’re not accusing me of having made up the review?) and the fact that I didn’t mention any of the plot was simply because I did not want to spoil it for everyone. Also I wanted the review to be more about my thoughts on adapting such a beloved character and bringing him into the modern day.

    • Anonymous /

      I totaly agree with Geeksyndicate. Yes, you are entitled to your opinion, but don’t ruin it for everyone else.
      First of all, I do think the writer has seen the programme, otherwise they wouldn’t have written about it, and I don’t think that everyone would see everything the way you do. I mean, you’re not the only person in the world, and different people like different things. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean there won’t be someone who will. I’ve tried to understand your point of view, now try to understand mine. Don’t look at people who like things that you don’t as if they’re crazy.
      Second, I nearly laughed at your third statement. Haven’t you seen the title? It’s called “Sherlock ‘A Study in Pink'(Spoiler Free)” Seriously, have some common scence.
      Next, about the “dreary and uninspiering” Dr.Watson…well, again, that depends on the person. To some he may be a great character that was played by an amazing man and actor. To me, well, I just can’t think of another person who could play this role any better. I think Martin was perfect as him.
      Same thing with Mark/Mycroft.
      About the originality of the plot…well, I’m not going to even start on that one, as I will be here for hours ranting about it. Also, I have never heard about Dalziel and Pascoe, Midsomers Murders or Jonathan Creek, but if they are ANYTHING like Sherlock, I want to see them. At least an episode of each. Just to show my obsession.
      Further on, the length of the show is different for everybody. For you, someone who didn’t espetially like the show, it must have been long and even boring. For me, someone who LOVED the show and got hooked LONG before anyone said “The game, Mrs.Hudson, is ON!” the show was the exact right length and perhaps could have been even longer.
      Finally, the last paragraph. I have been very calm up to this point, but I really MUST show my disgust at this awfull criteria. First, again, don’t say that Steven couldn’t get DW
      right, as there are people (like me) who think that he was one of the best guys DW has ever seen. Even better than Russel T. Davies.(Sorry, Russel, you were awesome, too!) “Don’t do two at the same time” is probably the worst thing I ever heard said. If at all possible, ALWAYS do two things at the same time. Don’t hold back on something just because some idiot says something you love just as much can’t share. Time, care, and money are there for all to share. All I’m trying to sy is if you’ve got the energy, patience, and talent(at least in SOME peoples point of view)then by all means DO two things at the same time. Or even three.

  3. Davvo /

    There is a mystery and overriding fear in the original books that translates to some tv and film interpretations, and not to others.

    For me this latest version is aimed at people who like Dr. Who and/ or Torchwood. It might introduce Sherlock Holmes to a new audience, but there is a magic in nostalgia that is missing from this update.

    The story was, in my opinion, surprisingly weak. And Martin Freeman playing the same old doddery push-over; he must be getting tired of it, I know I am.

    My girlfriend loved it, but she loves Dr. Who and Torchwood and Britain’s Got Talent, Tonight’s the Night and lots of other programmes that have a high proportion of female viewers.

    So I can only assume it was not aimed at me. If it was, it missed.

    • vi_ka /

      You suggest that only girls who like BGT and Dr Who might like Sherlock.

      I AM a girl, and I’ve never seen one episode of Dr Who or BGT BUT I’ve read all the Holmes stories and I’ve seen almost all the previous adaptations. And I think Sherlock was just great, really enjoyable and refreshing.

      I hope the rest will be just as good as the first episode.

      • PP /

        You haven’t seen Doctor Who!?! *ghasps* Well, just want to tell you that if you like Sherlock, you’ll probably like DW as well. Seriously, I’m having trouble deciding which one I like more.

  4. NO, CHARLIE BOY IS RIGHT THIS SHOW WAS TOTAL FUCKING SHIT. AT LEAST IF IT HAD BEEN AN EPISODE OF DALZIEL AND PASCOE OR SOME SUCH OTHER SHIT IT WOULDN’T HAVE PISSED ALL OVER THE THE CHARACTERS CREATED BY CONAN-DOYLE WHO UNTIL NOW HAVE USUALLY BEEN TREATED WITH FONDNESS AND RESPECT BY FILM AND TV ADAPTATIONS. I THOUGHT I’D SEEN IT ALL WHEN GUY FUCKING RICHIE CAST ROBERT GODDAMN DOWNEY FUCKING JR AS HOLMES BUT EVEN THAT FILM GAVE THE IMPRESSION THAT IT WAS ADAPTED BY PEOPLE WHO HAD A GENUINE LOVE OF THE SOURCE MATERIAL.

    BBC NEEDS TO STOP PRODUCING ALL IT’S DRAMA AS IF IT’S MAKING KIDS TV. GROW THE FUCK UP AND MAYBE WATCH SOMETHING LIKE ‘THE WIRE’ OR ‘BREAKING BAD’ FOR INSPIRATION ON HOW TO MAKE QUALITY ADULT DRAMA.

    • geeksyndicate /

      You didn’t like the show as I said to Charlie boy that’s down to you. You did however imply that the people involved didn’t have a love for the source material and I’m sorry but that’s wrong go and listen to the two audio interviews I did with both co-creators and then tell me they A) didn’t have a love for the source material and B) didn’t have a knowledge of the source material they were adaptating. Now you may not have liked what they did with that knowledge but it was clear that it was there in the script.

      As for making quality adult drama did you ever watch Luther?

      • Charlie Boy /

        Its obvious that Moffatt and Gatiss love what they do (SHERLOCK and DOCTOR WHO), but there needs to be someone on the production team who can see when things are spirally out of control, and to ground everything. Moffatt is now cleaning up the mess that Russell T Davies made with Doctor Who, which caused continuity problems with Matt Smiths series. I would like to have known the reasons for the SHERLOCK pilot not being.

        I don’t watch much British tv. I prefer to watch classic Doctor Who, Quatermass, and The Goodies (all on DVD), and I enjoy NCIS, Numb3ers, The Mentalist, and a few other US shows. But, as a license fee payer, I should have a say.

    • vi_ka /

      Do you really think that we can call something a “quality adult drama” only if it’s full of swearing?

      That is ridiculous!

      First episode of Sherlock was QUALITY and HUMOUR and ADVANTURE and FUN.
      Best thing on television I’ve seen for years.

    • Someone /

      Know what I hate? People who type in all caps. Seriously, it’s annoying. You should really check you Caps lock button, it must be over-reacting.

  5. vi_ka /

    I’ve never left a comment before but i’m very excited about the new sherlock and totally agree with you: “Sherlock is a perfect example of how to do a reboot.”

    I enjoyed the first episode very much and can’t wait to see the rest.
    But I’m a bit worried; both the director Paul McGuigan and Benedict Cumberbatch said that there’d be a “gripping climax” and “exciting twist”. I hope it won’t be something stupid which will spoil the whole brilliant thing!

  6. Crystal /

    Excellent review.

    One nitpicky thing: it’s Hansom cab, not handsome.

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