Saturday, 12 December 2015

Sherlock Scribbles: A Study in Pink

As a new episode of Sherlock - a Victorian-set special titled 'The Abominable Bride' - will arrive this New Year's Day, now seems a good time to revisit the mini-movie which started it all, in our on-going series of 'Sherlock Scribbles'...

Starring: Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes), Martin Freeman (John Watson), Mark Gatiss (Mycroft Holmes), Phil Davis (Jeff Hope) and Rupert Graves (Lestrade) with Una Sutbbs (Mrs Hudson)

Synopsis: It's the 21st century and invalided army doctor, John Watson, has his life turned upside down for the better when he encounters the eccentric Sherlock Holmes, a self-proclaimed 'consulting detective' with amazing powers of observation, who is investigating the impenetrable mystery of the so-called 'serial suicides.'

Doyled or Spoiled?: As if to apologise for updating Sherlock Holmes to the modern day, massive Holmesians Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss provide the most faithful adaptation of the rarely-filmed adventure A Study in Scarlet. Everything from Sherlock's introduction (whipping a corpse with a riding crop) to the MO of the villainous cabbie is lifted from Doyle with few tweaks. There are also elements borrowed from other stories (this 'grab-bag' approach to the canon would be continued throughout Sherlock). These include Sherlock analysing John from his phone, which Holmes does from his watch in The Sign of Four. Lestrade also mentions that Sherlock helped the police capture Peter Ricoletti. This refers to 'Ricoletti of the club foot and his abominable wife' - a case mentioned in 'The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual' which is never detailed. Interestingly, this will also form the basis of the upcoming special.

Highlight: Everything is so finely-tuned here it is hard to say but as the biggest praise for this episode tends to go to the script or the direction or Benedict Cumberbatch I'll pick the slightly overlooked brilliance of Martin Freeman. While it is still a matter of contention to say Cumberbatch is the greatest Holmes, Freeman is unquestionably the best Watson we have ever had. His John is a completely rounded person who guides us through the weird and wonderful world and character of Sherlock Holmes. Without him, none of it would be as immersive and enjoyable.

Verdict: One of the best Sherlock episodes in its, um, nine episode history, 'A Study in Pink' is a tremendous opener that introduces everything the series does so well - the intelligent writing, the innovative visual style, the subtle nods to the canon and, most importantly, the relationship between Sherlock and John. I've heard some complain about outwitting Sherlock at certain points - which is something the audience should never do - but I see that as a forgiveable knock-on effect of the episode undergoing a change from an hour to 90 minutes (naturally, Sherlock would have to be a bit slower). The original unaired pilot is also recommended as, although it is basically a less-polished version of the same story, it differs in some interesting respects e.g. Sherlock is much friendlier.

'Afghanistan or Iraq?' - Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson reunited in the 21st century.

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