March 8, 2013

Sherlock Holmes and the Unaired Pilot

Sherlock is a consulting detective who lives at 221B Baker Street in modern day London. He's a mass-texter with an addiction to nicotine patches, because "It's impossible to sustain a smoking habit in London these days", and he solves crime using what he calls The Science of Deduction on his personal website.

Translating a myth like that of detective Sherlock Holmes into modern life is a very dangerous task.

If you're going to take the most beloved of crime fiction stories and translate it to a contemporary setting, you had better do a damn good job of it. Everyone knows that you should never mess with a classic, and Sherlock Holmes has come to be a great literary figure period, not just the greatest of formula detective fiction.
Luckily, BBC's Sherlock has the production value, writing and pitch-perfect cast to keep the show from being an utter disaster. In fact, it's really quite good.

Casting Martin Freeman (as Doctor Watson) and Benedict Cumberbatch (as Holmes) was probably the first step to success. The second probably had to be the re-shooting of the entire pilot with better cinematography, a faster pace, and yet the length of a short movie.

The pilot you will encounter on Netflix is entitled A Study in Pink, a nod to the first Sherlock Holmes novel A Study in Scarlet. It's 90 minutes of a good old fashioned Conan Doyle-esque mystery, except that Sherlock sends tactical texts and hacks e-mail accounts to draw out the serial murderer.
The unbroadcast pilot is worth a watch, but only if you're really curious. It's the same story. Oh, the work they must have put that cast and crew through to re-shoot the entire episode, with most of the scenes matching up with little more tweeking than costume design and a tightening up of the acting, but some being almost completely re-written. It is, however, a very good thing they re-worked the script and shot the whole thing over - this time looking much prettier.

Another change, beyond the drastic diference in length, is that the premiere, broadcast in 2010, manages to actually establish a longer term plot line by having a vague hinting toward a certain Moriarty. Of all the shows I'm examining, Sherlock might be the last I expected to resist that episodicness I was complaining about earlier.
You know how much I love a show that doesn't treat me like an idiot. In fact, sometimes Sherlock makes me feel like maybe I am an idiot - as authentic an experience of watching Sherlock Holmes solve mysteries as you can ask for. I mean, he is a genius.

If he wasn't smarter than the audience, the show wouldn't be worth watching.

The dialogue does go a little fast so you might want to have a cuppa before watching and prepare yourself to keep up. Or maybe it's just the British accent (but it seems like they talk really fast).

Created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, both writers for Doctor Who.
To some, a modern Sherlock who relies on his cell (or those of the people around him) and the internet to solve mysteries might sound hokey and not worth the watch. Paul McGuigan defends the use of modern technology in Sherlock: "In the books he would use any device possible... He will use the tools that are available to him today in order to find things out." The defence seems kind of unnecessary - I think the main problem is that we just don't really know how to deal with the new world of tablets, apps, GPS and facebook messaging on the screen yet, big or little.

If you have watched Sherlock already, what did you think of all that texting? And the way the information was displayed for us? Was it all too heavy-handed, or is it the right direction for modern storytelling?

And if this review has not convinced you yet to sit down for 90 minutes of A Study in Pink, consider the banter.

Watson: Why didn't I think of that.
Sherlock: Because you're an idiot. No no no, don't be like that. Practically everyone is.

And that most everyone the show throws at us assumes the flatmates are a couple. Good time to be alive and watching television!

1 comment:

  1. I don't think I could take an entire episode of Sherlock the hacker, but the part near the start was good as a bit on it's own. Texting in shows only bothers me when they do a poor job of displaying it so either myself or someone in the room has to ask or track back to figure out what it said. Sherlock doesn't have this problem.