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Sherlock - A Study in Pink

episode 1.1

UK 2010
produced by
Sue Vertue, Mark Gatiss (executive), Steven Moffat (executive), Beryl Vertue (executive), Rebecca Eaton (executive), Bethan Jones (executive) for Hartswood Films, Masterpiece Theatre, BBC (BBC Wales)
directed by Paul McGuigan
starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, Rupert Graves, Philip Davis, Mark Gatiss, Una Stubbs, Lisa McAllister, Vinette Robinson, Jonathan Aris, Loo Brealey, Tanya Moodie, Siobhan Hewlett, Stanley Townsend, William Scott-Masson, Victoria Wicks, Sean Young, James Duncan, Katy Maw, David Nellist, Louise Breckon-Richards, Alison Egan
screenplay by Steven Moffat, based on characters by Arthur Conan Doyle, series developed by Mark Gatiss, Steven Moffat, music by David Arnold, Michael Price

TV-series
Sherlock, Sherlock Holmes

review by
Mike Haberfelner

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Contemporary London: Army doctor John Watson (Martin Freeman) has returned from Afghanistan. Physically, he was only slightly injured in the war, but what he has seen and endured have wrecked him for a lifetime. Unable to afford an apartment of his own, he decides to move in with a certain Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch), an arrogant know-it-all Watson has met through a mutual friend, but while everyone else seems to shun Holmes because his way to deduce everything, even one's darkest secrets, from little seemingly unimportant details, Watson is somehow fascinated by him, and the simkple fact that Watson doesn't turn his back on him makes him the first person Holmes can trust and open up to in a very long time.

Holmes works as an advisor for Scotland Yard's detective inspector Lestrade (Rupert Graves), and presently, Lestrade has a case on hand that deserves Holmes' attention, a series of suicides that are linked not only by method (a poisoned pill) but also the fact that all victims are found in pretty unlikely places.

Since he trusts noone else, Holmes takes Watson along for the investigations, and Holmes soon enough is able to find clue after clue, but eventually, his investigations hit a dead end ... when out of the blue a cabbie (Philip Davis) shows up to pick him up - and then it hits Holmes: The killer of course has to be a cabbie, that would explain his preying methods (picking people out of the crowd), his relative invisibility, and his knowledge about public places and when to enter them to have the victims commit suicide. Of course, when he has deduced all of this, he also has to realize he is sitting in the cab of the killer, who takes him to a museum after hours whichis still open because the cleaning personnel is there and demonstrates his method: He is letting his victim choose between two pills - one poison, one harmless - and he promises to take the other pill himself, and it's only a game of wits to choose the right pill. Now he challenges Holmes, knowing what a sucker he is for games of wits. Until the very last moment, Holmes is unsure whether to accept the challenge or not, but then out of the blue, the killer is shot dead by Watson, who has only now caught up with Holmes. With his dying breath, the killler confesses why he has done it: He is terminally ill, but someone has offered his estranged kids he leaves behind a considerable amount of money for every person he kills, and that someone is a certain Moriarty ...

Mark Gatiss makes two short appearances as Holmes' brother Mycroft.

 

Plucking Sherlock Holmes out of his familiar Victorian backdrops and moving him to contemporary settings is always a dangerous task, inasmuch as the character with all his quirks and traits works best in an age before mass communication, the cellphone, the internet and whatnot. Sherlock however does fairly well in translating Holmes into the information age without losing the character's main core, and Benedict Cumberbatch does his best to not give Holmes too much of a modern spin but play him in the traditional way - one might even go so far and to say his performance is formulaic, but then again the character himself is slighty formulaic to begin with. The one real asset of the series though is Martin Freeman as Watson, who gives his role depth virtually unheard of until now - granted though, Watson only rarely gets as much screentime as he does in this film.

This all though says very little about the episode as such, which is an ok but a bit over-constructed murder mystery (though one expects the over-constructed bit from Sherlock Holmes-films, doesn't one). Despite frequen use of laptops and cellphones though, there is no real need to have moved Holmes to modern times, as the story would have worked in the Victorian age just as well - but then again it would have been just one Sherlock Holmes-film of many (apart from Freeman's Watson of course). Be that as it may, this (feature-length) first episode of Sherlock is watchable and entertaining, if not exactly a masterpiece in any sense of the word.

 

review © by Mike Haberfelner

 

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