It’s easy to forget that it has already been a decade since the BBC adapted the tale of the world-famous fictional detective for the modern age. So, after ten years we look back on the international smash hit that was Sherlock.
The BBC’s adaptation of Sherlock was first introduced to audience’s back in 2010 (Yes, it feels like a lifetime ago.). Esteemed writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss carried the mantle as showrunners, the former just before he was about to take over the reins of BBC cult hit Doctor Who.
This adaptation was to be darker, sleeker and grittier. A Sherlock for the 21st century who was accustomed to dealing with terrorists, cyber attacks and social media.
This premise certainly made Sherlock accessible to new and younger audiences, giving the historic tale a breath of new life. This new era brought with it interesting iterations of characters, villains and dilemmas. And one of the strongest elements to carry this risk-taking show was the cast.
Lead actor, Benedict Cumberbatch, was pretty much an unknown to British audiences when he first donned the heavy trench coat of the peculiar detective. Of course, since then the actor has gone on to have an extremely successful career. Perhaps most notably as Doctor Strange in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since 2016.
The two have amazing chemistry from the very beginning of the series. It’s wonderful to see these two unlikely (and sometimes unlikeable) heroes form such a strong friendship, which can be equally heartfelt, entertaining and hilarious.
The supporting cast of Lestrade (Rupert Graves), Mycroft (Mark Gatiss), Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs) and long-suffering Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey) are also outstanding in helping to establish this unique world.
Interestingly, a delayed rewatch also allows audiences to spot guest appearances from actors who have since gone on to find success themselves. Gemma Chan, who will soon appear as a lead in Marvel’s upcoming Eternals, has a minor role in the second episode of the first season.
Additionally, the latest incarnation of Doctor Who’s Master, Sacha Dhawan, also makes a brief appearance in the final season’s premiere episode.
Many criticism from fandom and critics alike unfortunately plagued the show from its third season onwards. Upon rewatch, it’s easy to understand how the messy storylines and unsatisfactory payoffs can be bothersome.
However, a few sleepy moments or dud episodes shouldn’t take away from the show’s achievements. This show managed to bring a famous Victorian tale, successfully adapt the genre, the stories and its characters into 2010s London.
There are enough parallels still present to make the show its own entity whilst also keeping true to the original source material. Something which is explicitly explored in the 2016 New Years’ special, “The Abominable Bride.”
As I was carrying out my own rewatch, I was actually surprised by how many aspects of this show’s iconography and cinematography I vividly remember. Now, that may have more to do with certain screenshots and scenes being splashed all over Tumblr circa 2012, but nevertheless any Sherlock fan remembers the yellow spray-painted smile on the living room wall.
Or what about Moriarty’s (Andrew Scott) unsettling message of “IOU” carved into an apple? Or that funny little call-back to the original depiction of Sherlock with the modern-day sleuth donning his famous deerstalker hat, all because he nabbed it whilst walking through the backstage area of the theatre?
Diversity and Representation
Perhaps one glaringly obvious way in which Sherlock has not aged particularly well (Besides making a big deal about one lady’s phone being able to connect to the internet, wow!), is the lack of representation, especially for non-white characters.
If this is to be a modern-day adaptation of Sherlock, set in the heart of London, then surely it should represent London as the diverse, multicultural city it is? All of the show’s core characters are white. It would have been nice if this adaptation had been used as an opportunity to diversify a story from a different era.
Season One also includes an uncomfortable deduction from Sherlock about how he can tell that someone is gay by the way they dress, which probably wouldn’t go down so well today. Though, fortunately such comments are contained to the first season only.
The depiction of female characters is also a tricky one. Whilst Mrs. Hudson is a refreshing take on an older single lady, I still can’t help but feel sorry for what a pathetic character they made Molly (You deserved better writing!). At the least the introduction, and intriguing backstory, of Mary Morstan (Amanda Abbington) feels like the show is turning over a new leaf.
One of the most fun aspects of experiencing Sherlock was the fandom — the theories, the fanart, the excitement! Sherlock’s popularity, especially amongst younger audiences, was expressed across the corners of the internet. Though I personally would rather go forward forgetting that “Superwholock” was ever a thing.
The BBC’s adaptation of the Victorian detective still holds its own years on with superb acting and cinematography. It’s not without its demerits. There are certainly indicators through aspects of the storytelling and lack of representation that show it is a product of its time. It’s indicative of how much audience’s desires and needs have changed in just a few short years.
All seasons of Sherlock are now streaming on Netflix.