Here be SPOILERS for Sherlock series 2 episode 2!
What’s the difference between a reboot and a remake, a re-imagining and a retelling? Star Trek (2009) gave us a clear reboot. Battlestar Galactica (2003, etc.) gave us a re-imagining. Life on Mars (UK, 2006) was the victim of a remake in 2008 as it went across the pond and ended up getting only one series in the US.
So what is Sherlock? Thus far, it’s been mostly a retelling. The short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle have been trawled and shaped into modern-day versions - complete with chunks of dialogue taken straight from them. However, it’s been a straight-laced retelling of the main points of the stories brought to the screen in a way that means it happens pretty much as the originals went, but with some new flourish on top. A Study In Pink is a good example - right up until the cabbie is recognised, it’s all as it should be, apart from adding in Mycroft and his meddling.
Then we get to series two, and The Hounds of Baskerville.
Derren Brown’d into accepting the otherwise unappealing work. (And a word about Russell Tovey here - he’s ace, as always. A perfect trodden-down wee man in need of help, so helpless and harmless and endearing.) This taking of the case was interesting; it was the words, the description that piqued Sherlock’s interest, not the idea of the case itself. Off they go to Dartmoor, Sherlock driving the Land Rover in a way that made me giggle as I thought that the only time I saw Holmes drive the trap was during The Hound of the Baskervilles (1988). Upon arriving, they find a glow-in-the-dark rabbit that ties in with earlier thrown-away cases in the episode. As usual, Sherlock has failed to make a connection between the trivia he tosses away because he finds it boring and the main case. It’s easy for us, the audience, to put it all together because one, we already know huge dogs covered in phosphorous appeared in the original, and two, we’ve been trained by the last four episodes to expect the trivial cases he discards in the opening moments of the episodes to ofttimes come back and bite him in the arse.
John: [pointedly] Why would you listen to me? I’m just your friend.
Sherlock: [angrily] I don’t have ‘friends’.
John: [Gets up to leave] I wonder why.
I did like John calling him Spock, especially after Spock in the Star Trek (2009) film directly quoted Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth’. Touché, Mark Gatiss.
Then, as this retelling confirms itself to be a re-imagining, we get John trailing the nightly Morse code lights to find not a hidden escaped convict, but a kind of Lover’s Lane spot with some inadvertent headlight-stalk malfunctions. At first I was not a fan of this departure from the original - no convict brother of a character? But then I realised; it’s a red herring. Mark Gatiss does like to remind us that this is the new series, doesn’t he? The fact that Sherlock then seems to have recovered some equilibrium and manages to get John to ‘interview’ Dr Mortimer (not the dog-keeper from the original, but a nice young lady who also happens to be Henry’s shrink) by showing him her picture made me giggle - John seems to have decided there’s nothing to forgive in Sherlock’s pissy remark about not being his friend. It’s Sherlock, after all - understanding the concept of friends is one thing, but actually experiencing it and seeing it for what it is is something completely different. To me, this moment shows how much John understands Sherlock more than probably anyone else on the face of the planet - including his own brother.
Sherlock pays a call on Henry and he’s checking his pupils whilst pretending to be concerned about him - checking for signs of being drugged? It seems Sherlock already has it figured out - it’s in the sugar, and everyone taking it is made very susceptible to believing rumours about gigantic hounds - and then seeing one. A great scene follows - which, again, could only work between those two actors. Sherlock looks to be making some kind of apology to John; it’s obvious Sherlock is troubled, or even uncomfortable by the effort he’s making, but he still needs to make things clear. But then Sherlock, being Sherlock, brings it back round to himself: he’s admitting he has doubt in his own perceptive abilities, and to him, that might as well be the end of him. John takes the opportunity to give him the cold shoulder, apparently unwilling to let Sherlock walk all over him. The viewers are treated to Sherlock trying to make amends - Benedict Cumberbatch may not have the heart-breakingly apologetic eyebrows of Jeremy Brett, but he manages to make you feel like you not only want to forgive him for his childish fear, but also his bipolar disorder lash-outs.
And then it goes all-out with dialogue adapted straight from the original book:
Sherlock: John! You are
John: Yes, alright. You don’t have to overdo it.
Sherlock: You may not be the most luminous of people but as a conductor of light you are unbeatable.
John: Cheers. --What?
Sherlock: Some people who aren’t geniuses have an amazing ability to stimulate it in others.
John: Hang on - you were saying ‘sorry’ a minute ago. Don’t spoil it.
Holmes: It may be that you yourself are not luminous, but you are a conductor of light. Some people, without possessing genius, have a remarkable power for stimulating it in others. I confess, my dear fellow, that I am very much in your debt.
You’d think that this run-in with emotions might somehow change Sherlock, but thankfully, it does nothing of the kind. Putting sugar in John’s coffee to test the theory that it’s the agent used to drug people, and then locking him in the lab to see what nightmares John experiences only go to show how unbending Sherlock can be - it’s going to take a lot more than Mark Gatiss and Stephen Moffat to turn him soft, and aren’t we bloody glad.
Things come to a head and we all end up back where we started - in Dewer’s Hollow, the hound is supposed to be have been seen. Purr wee Henry is suicidal and it’s Sherlock that talks him down with cold, clear logic. The consulting detective spells out the ending for us, but I was a little disappointed that it took the entrance of the the actual ‘hound’ for him to realise it was the mist. But then, he had had a hard time of it this episode. I liked the moment when Sherlock believes he’s seeing Jim the fish Moriarty due to the mist - is he a nightmare then? Or someone that preys on his mind? Then we get Franklin dying the same kind of way as Mr Frankland - on the moor, hoist by his own petard. All that remains is for Sherlock to admit to John that he used him as a guinea pig to aid his investigation into the hallucinogen and for John to force Sherlock to admit that he was wrong about the sugar. Class.
The fact that we then get Moriarty let out of some kind of government facility by none other than Mycroft Holmes should tell us what’s to come. As a warning, or a dangling worm on a hook, it’s great. We hope to be rewarded with an explanation during the next part, and it doesn’t disappoint - but that’s a story for another post.
Peach and lube, people. Until I get round to blogging about the final act.
~ BBC ~ Sherlock ~ Benedict Cumberbatch ~ Martin Freeman ~ Jeremy Brett ~ Russell Tovey