BBC iPlayer: Sherlock Episode 1 - 'A Study In Pink'

on Wednesday, August 04, 2010
Words: Alicia McBride

'Sherlock' Episode 1: A Study In Pink' (2010)

SYNOPSIS: "A war hero, invalided home from Afghanistan, meets a strange but charismatic genius who is looking for a flatmate; it is London, 2010, and Dr Watson and Sherlock Holmes are meeting for the first time. A string of impossible suicides has Scotland Yard baffled - and only one man can help."

Let me start by saying that I do not welcome the comparisons between Sherlock (Holmes) and Doctor Who. Admittedly, I was excited to be getting a replacement (albeit for a brief three weeks) to fill the hole that Doctor Who and that hulking great TARDIS left, but that's as far as it goes. You really think the two figures are comparable? Apparently they are both brilliant and maddening. No no, you're wrong. You see, what has made the Doctor so popular is that he's charming, funny, likeable, kind, pretty and has even pulled off wearing a fez....I’d say the only thing that’s maddening about him is that he is unavailable for dates and marriage and stuff. As for this contemporary re-imagining of Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes? Primarily, he is BLOODY SCARY.

It’s the lack of any emotion whatsoever - Benedict Cumberbatch has perfected a cold, expressionless face. I can see the reasons for doing this, generally anyone with some kind of sociopathic disorder and as dazzlingly brilliant a mind as his is likely to have difficulty with social interaction and functioning on a ‘normal’ plane. But it does make him hard to like.

Further proof (if any is needed) that he is scary comes in the forms of Watson (Martin Freeman) and Moriarty. Firstly, the only person who seems to express any desire to be anywhere near Sherlock in the first episode is a man who fakes a war injury and shakes because he misses being in battle. Hmm. Secondly, there is the small matter of the archenemy. As Watson rightfully points out, no one has an archenemy in real life. The fact that Sherlock has accrued one is worrying, very worrying.

I am enjoying the characterisation of Watson so far and I think the dynamic between the two develops beautifully throughout the first episode but if the only person who likes you is a bit of a nutjob himself, it doesn’t do much to encourage others to get to know you, Sherlock.

Given how challenging it is to engage with the central character, writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, have done a fantastic job at making everything else in the programme so exhilarating and engrossing. It is staggering to watch Sherlock at work, which particularly benefits the first episode when it is new and unexpected. I’m still not quite sure if I like the annotations that appear onscreen to let the audience know what Sherlock is deducting silently and speedily, although this could just be a font issue. Overall, it works.

I enjoyed how the episode wasn’t too predictable, although towards the end I had figured out how the deaths must have happened, but certainly not who was responsible. It’s always good to have a few red herrings along the way and these were cleverly delivered in the shape of Watson’s abduction and the ‘suicide’ note left in the floor by the final victim.

The ending was suitably tense, although undermined by the knowledge that they were never going to kill off the protagonist in the first of three episodes. However, it was interesting to see the lengths Sherlock will go to, including gambling with his own life, to prove he’s right. I have a hopeful feeling that this is going to lead to some kind of mind-bendingly amazing super sleuthing in the final episode. Or future episodes, apparently it’s been left open for more. Because of this, I think it’s safe to predict that we’re not going to find out who Moriarty is. It will also be interesting to see how they integrate Mycroft, Sherlock’s brother, having introduced him quite elaborately.

The strength of this adaptation is that it is trying to do something different with the characters. There have been plenty of adaptations that stay true to the book but the modern update is stylish, complex, incredibly smart and sometimes very funny. It’s pretty much the only thing on television this summer worth watching.

[WATCH] until 10:29pm, Sunday 15th August 2010 (UK users only).

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