Let’s cut to the chase. Sherlock is a treat.
But would we really expect anything less?
After all this has Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss as creators, both Doctor Who writers as well as Sue Vertue as Executive Producer for the BBC.
With such quality creatives you can breathe easy that such a bold premise as Sherlock is in good hands. This is a seriously concept drama, not simply for the fact that Sherlock Holmes is set in a modern era, but because it opens in Afghanistan. You could be mistaken for thinking you had switched on the wrong channel.
It opens on Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman), an army doctor who returns home from the frontline shattered, and counselled by a psychologist. Concurrently we see a Media Conference in which Police are struggling to explain a series of suicides that are inexplicably linked. Throughout the Conference everyone attending receives identical SMS messages. On the screen are texts “Wrong!” bringing a playful sense of storytelling to the telemovie.
When we meet Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) he is found working studiously in a laboratory. He is driven, focussed, deducing facts about those he meets with lightning speed. No thoughtful Mentalist pace here, he’s closer to Dr. House.
He is introduced to the aimless Watson by a mutual friend under the guise of flatsharing 221B Baker Street. The first meeting between the two is amusingly awkward. It becomes even more awkward when we meet landlady Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs). Watson has to keep denying any romantic liaison with his new friend, despite her insistence that in her most-accepting neighbourhood “it takes all kinds.”
When Holmes encounters his first victim (after all that’s what we’re here for) his analytic skills are dynamite. So much is cleverly related by use of thought processes superimposed on the screen, which to explain as dialogue would take an entire scene. This helps give Sherlock a most contemporary edge.
But it is the performances that draw us in.
Cumberbatch is pitch perfect as a youthful Holmes -as commanding as any Time Lord in Doctor Who (was he ever considered for the role?). Freeman looks like he is just warming up as Watson, the rock to the partnership.
The first episode is all about establishing the credentials of Holmes with the audience and the leap of faith with the modern world. It achieves this in spades.
You’ll need to buy into the rules of this world from the get go. Nowhere is there any reference to the fictional character of Holmes. There is no explanation as to why a character who first appeared in 1887 is suddenly in London in 2010. But who cares? This is a spirited, inventive take. It’s elementary.
Sherlock airs Sunday and Monday at 8:30pm on Nine.