Magazine article The Christian Century


Magazine article The Christian Century


Article excerpt

Sherlock Created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, based on the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Directed by Toby Haynes, Euros Lyn and Paul McGuigan

Theologians have long posited a God who is omniscient. The British television show Sherlock (six episodes have been produced, with more planned for 2013) delights us with a human being who is omniscient. This spiffed-up version of Arthur Conan Doyle's detective series about Sherlock Holmes has a recurring motif: Holmes, played by the spot-on (as the Brits say) and impossibly named Benedict Cumberbatch, tells us everything he can see that other mortals cannot.

For example, Holmes immediately spots that his future colleague, Doc Watson (Martin Freeman), is a war veteran and so asks, without introduction, "Afghanistan or Iraq?" " Sorry, how did you ..."

That's not all he knows. Holmes notices that Watson's therapist thinks his injury is psychosomatic: "Quite correctly, I'm afraid." Holmes always explains things later through ultrafast editing, wooshing close-ups and Cumberbatch's voiceover. It never fails to thrill. Freeman's Watson regularly sits back in awe, exclaiming, "That's amazing." Such self-congratulation in the script shouldn't work, but here it does.

Sherlock circa 2011 is a different animal from the Victorian stories created by Doyle, but it constantly tips its hat to its predecessors. Holmes and Watson live and work, like the original characters, at 221B Baker Street--but this pair must regularly explain to outsiders and each other that they are not gay (with even more nonchalance than Jerry Seinfeld's line "not that there's anything wrong with that"). This Holmes has the same nicotine addiction as the original, but he satisfies it with patches rather than a pipe. He pairs with detective Lestrade again, but now the tools of their trade include text messaging and a blog that details the exploits that have made Holmes famous. A literal hat tip to tradition comes when Sherlock wears a deerstalker hat like his 19th-century predecessor--only here it is in a failed attempt to hide from paparazzi.


The ultimate update is Cumberbatch's portrayal of Holmes as a genius on the Asperger spectrum. A jealous detective at one point denounces Holmes as a psychopath, to which Holmes replies: "I'm a high-functioning sociopath. Do your homework."

A sensational character in the story is the city of London itself, which appears in full glory--cabs, phone booths, cobblestones and narrow streets, the London Eye and Buckingham Palace. …

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