Sherlock Holmes is the character created by author Arthur Conan Doyle, first introduced in 1890 Doyle’s novel, A Study in Scarlett. Since Doyle’s introduction of this wildly intelligent and outrageously attentive detective and his sidekick, John Watson, Sherlock has gone many reiterations that continue to unfold. The BBC show Sherlock has been incredibly popular and put its star, Benedict Cumberbatch, in the limelight as a much desired man. Let’s take a look at the versions of Sherlock on screen and on the page.
Arthur Conan Doyle Creates Sherlock
In 1986, Arthur Conan Doyle was newly married and a struggling author. Doyle was working on his mystery novel A Tangled Skein, which he later renamed A Study in Scarlet. A Study in Scarlet was the first introduction to the famous characters Detective Sherlock Holmes and his assistant, Watson.
This novel finally earned Doyle the respect and visibility as a novelist that he sought. It was the first of 60 stories that Doyle wrote about Sherlock Holmes over the prolific course of his career as a writer. Doyle died of a heart attack July 7, 1930, while walking in his garden while clutching his heart with one hand as he held a flower in the other.
The BBC Show, Sherlock
The BBC show Sherlock was Created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. It stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes with the wonderful Martin Freeman as Sherlock’s partner, Watson. The show takes place in present day with an occasional setting in the Victorian age, such as one show that takes place completely in a Victorian flashback, with Sherlock taking on his original space in time.
The show has won many awards, including an Emmy, and Benedict Cumberbatch won for best lead actor. It has also received a Peabody Award. The show has been wildly successful and spawned an entire fanbase around Benedict Cumberbatch, who has many web pages and internet groups devoted to him.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock
Benedict Cumberbatch is a British actor who was thrown into stardom across the world by taking on the role in BBC’s Sherlock, as the man himself. Before this role, Cumberbatch was a respected actor, especially on stage, but not well-known.
Cumberbatch told The Guardian, “Sherlock Holmes,” Cumberbatch says, “makes you look at the world in the way you do anyway as an actor – as a rich canvas for observation. One of the fears of having too much work is not having time to observe. And once you get recognized, there is nowhere for you to look anymore. You can’t sit on a night bus and watch it all happen.”
The Original Sherlock Hat
The famous images which accompanied Doyle’s original short Sherlock stories appeared in the Strand magazine from 1891. It was these stories and images that catapulted Sherlock Holmes into worldwide fame. Sidney Paget, who drew the illustrations, illustrated Holmes wearing a deerstalker for stories where the detective went into the country to investigate mysteries at country houses or small rural villages.
Although the hat was originally drawn for just these specific types of visits, people think of Sherlock as wearing a deerstalker at all times on all occasions. In fact, Doyle never mentions Sherlock wearing the hat in his work; the illustrator took it on himself to draw Sherlock wearing the deerstalker.
The Hats on BBC’s Sherlock
In the BBC show, the deerstalker hat, The Atlantic writes, “makes an ironic appearance in Sherlock; Cumberbatch impulsively dons one to hide his face from the paparazzi, only to have it become his trademark. (His humiliating nom de tabloid is Hat Detective.)”
In illustrations and on the show, many hats of the time are worn by Sherlock, as well as Watson. Hats such as the top hat, and the boater, or skimmer, which is a wide, flat, staw hat. Victorian age men frequently (daily) wore a various array of gentleman’s hats, and the top hat might be the most recognizable of these, with it’s long elegant lines and association with men holding a can, or wearing spectacles.
The Clothing of Sherlock Then and Now
Holmes had Sherlock dressed as a proper, modern (for those times) English gentleman. That meant an Ulster coat, and the deerstalker, smoking jackets, and top hats. Doyle wrote about Sherlock’s clothes much more than he wrote about his accessories, although he definitely included them on occasion. The illustrations were by nature more packed with those details.
On the show, Sherlock, Cumberbatch as Holmes wears a coat modeled on the 18th-century greatcoat, with high, stiffened collar and wide lapels. Without a cape, it has double-breasted front and pleated, belted back which provide plenty of motion. In the book, Holmes wore a cravat. In the show, Holmes wears a scarf.
The Setting of Sherlock Then and Now
Sherlock Holmes was written as alive in Doyle’s times. The horse-drawn carriages, old-fashioned clothes and hats were part of Doyle’s London. Sherlock places Holmes in the very alive and modern London of 2012. The characters travel in taxis, wear jeans talk on their iPhones.
As Doyle wrote his Sherlock Holmes stories, he meant for Holmes to be utilizing all modern technology and assistance in solving mysteries, so it works perfectly for the show to be built on modern times, where Sherlock can use NASA, cells, wire taps, and all other kinds of inventions in order to scope out and defeat his foes.
Sherlock Holmes The Character, Then and Now
Many believe Benedict Cumberbatch to best embody the Sherlock Holmes of the original series as written by Arthur Doyle. His Holmes was not comedic per-say, (such as Robert Downey Jr. plays him in his movies) although he could have an accidental comedic effect.
The original Sherlock was serious, tall, intensely focused, brilliant, and with a secretive, even at times dangerous feeling to him- very close if not exactly on the spot to how Benedict Cumberbatch plays the brooding detective. Even his physicality suits the character very well, with his oversized forehead and long limbs.
The Character of Watson, Then and Now
On the show, Sherlock, the updated character of John Watson has recently returned from the war in Afghanistan and walks with a cane due to an injury. Watson is introduced to Sherlock Holmes through a mutual friend because he is looking for a flat. John begins assisting Sherlock on cases and ends up moving in with him. At the beginning of the series, John is made to appear as if he has PTSD, and is seeing a psychologist. Making friends with Sherlock helps Holmes mental health.
The original character of Watson was portrayed very closely to the way he is played on the show, but the show’s Watson has more verve. The original Watson was described as an average Victorian gentleman, who is very observant and interested in Holmes’ abilities. He is Holmes biographer, ie he writes a blog on the show.
The Character of Moriarty, Then and Now
In Arthur Conan Doyle’s original stories, Moriarty is only brought into light during two storylines. It is made clear that Sherlock Holmes has great respect and fear for him and that Moriarty is Holmes greatest opponent. In the books, as in the show, Moriarty commands total power in a terrifying criminal underworld.
Moriarty was written as an equal of intellect to Sherlock, and on the show he comes across as such, while also being portrayed as a complete psychopath, with no remorse, empathy or connection to other human beings. All he cares for are games and power, which is played incredibly well by the actor Andrew Scott. His appearance as described in the book also matches fairly well- the pale skin, drawn features, intense gaze.
The Character of Irene Adler, Then and Now
One striking difference from Conan Arthur’s books to the show, Sherlock, is in the character of Irene Adler. In Doyle’s stories, Irene Adler had no criminal connections (she’s linked to Moriarty in the show) and Sherlock had no obvious romantic interest in her.
In Doyle’s work, she appears in the shortest of Sherlock Holmes short stories, and is more of a prop than a fully fleshed out character as she is becoming in the show. In the show she is shown to be Sherlock’s female equivalent, with unabashed intellectual prowess and the addition of an awareness of her charms, which Sherlock may have but remains unaware or uninterested in.
The Character of Mycroft Holmes, Then and Now
Mycroft Holmes was written by Arthur Conan Boyle as possessing great claims to deduction and knowledge exceeding even Sherlock Holmes, though he isn’t as effective as his brother, being limited by his poor physique and dislike of fieldwork.
On the show, Sherlocks’ big brother is portrayed to be “smarter” than his competitive brother, but with a poor physique. The difference on the show is more that Mycroft works within the system, the government, while Sherlock works outside of it. The two collaborate as they also argue and annoy each other, with love.
The Character of Mary Watson, Then and Now
Mary Watson as presented by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle as a minor character, introduced in “The Sign of the Four” story, where she and Watson are attracted to each other, and he proposes when the case is resolved. She is described as blonde with pale skin.
On the show Sherlock, Mary Watson takes on an entirely new and three-dimensional life, which annoys some die hard fans who resent her role which essentially adds a third person to what was a very two person dynamic. On the show, Mary is given a mysterious past that is slowly revealed, and she becomes a part of the team, as well as having a child with Watson.
The Character of Mrs. Hudson, Then and Now
Conan Doyle described Mrs. Hudson as such, “landlady of Sherlock Holmes, was a long-suffering woman. His [Sherlock’s] incredible untidiness, his addiction to music at strange hours, his occasional revolver practice within doors, his weird and often malodorous scientific experiments, and the atmosphere of violence and danger which hung around him made him the very worst tenant in London. On the other hand, his payments were princely. The landlady stood in the deepest awe of him and never dared to interfere with him, however outrageous his proceedings might seem. She was fond of him, too, for he had a remarkable gentleness and courtesy in his dealings with women.”
On the show, Mrs. Hudson is presented very faithfully in this manner, as a very side character, but beloved by Holmes and also Watson.
The Character of Molly Hooper, Then and Now
Well! Apparently, Molly Hooper, the character, breaks the mold. Show creator and writer Moffat told Digital Spy, “”We went against our first decision which was ‘We will not add a regular that’s not from Doyle’. The first thing we did was add a regular character that’s not from Doyle!”
So of all the regular, appearing characters, Molly doesn’t have a before and after. She exists only now, in the modern adaptation. Her character is described on the BBC website in relation to Sherlock like this, “She likes Sherlock, especially when he notices she’s changed her hair. It’s usually parted in the middle you see and she has changed it to the side. He said this was good and suits her better this way, which was nice. Although, sometimes she doesn’t like him so much, as he always has to spoil things. Like that time when she started seeing Jim from I.T. and Sherlock said he was gay. He’s not gay, he’s not!”
The Character of Detective Lestrade, Then and Now
Detective Greg Lestrade is Doyle’s creation with a reluctant respect for Sherlock. Lestrade is often put in the position defending Sherlock from the other police officers who don’t like him. He is often frustrated by Sherlock’s cryptic deductions and evidence withholding but believes that Sherlock is indeed exceptional.
The character on the show, played by Rupert Graves, is very faithful to the original creation, as is the dynamic between him and Sherlock. Sherlock and Lestrade’s relationship improves over the series seasons and they have a distinct respect for the work the other man does, as well as gratitude for their uneasy quasi-partnership.
The Character of Sergeant Donovan, Then and Now
Sergeant Donovan was written by Doyle as resentful of Sherlock’s presence at crime scenes, which is just how we meet her on the show. She treats him with disrespect and outright rudeness, calling him a “freak” and warning Watson that Sherlock is a psychopath.
She is described on BBC’s website as such: “You know what she thinks? One day they’ll be standing around a body and Sherlock Holmes will be the one who put it there. After all he’s a psychopath, and psychopaths get bored. If she were to give anyone a bit of advice, it would be to stay away from Sherlock Holmes.”
Elementary, the Show
Elementary stars Lucy Lui as John Watson, so right away you know it’s not going to be the Arthur Conan Doyle version of Sherlock. Elementary is an American series that presents a very updated update of the famous characters. The series was created by Robert Doherty, with Jonny Lee Miller starring as Sherlock.
The show is set in New York City and filmed primarily there. It runs on NBC network. In this version, Holmes has just gotten out of drug addiction rehabilitation and is placed, by his wealthy father, to live with Joan Watson as a sober companion. Elementary, my dear!
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Movies
The Sherlock Holmes Movies were a series of fourteen movies released between 1939 and 1946. British actors Basil Rathborn and Nigel Bruce played Holmes and Dr. John Watson.
IMDB says of the films, “Although the films from 20th Century Fox had large budgets, high production values and were set in the Victorian era, Universal Studios updated the films to have Holmes fighting the Nazis, and produced them as B pictures with lower budgets. Both Rathbone and Bruce continued their roles when the series changed studios, as did Mary Gordon, who played the recurring character Mrs. Hudson.”
Sherlock Holmes The Modern Movie
Robert Downey Jr., the well-known and loved actor, plays Sherlock Holmes in the modern 2009 adaptation of the character, with Jude Law as Dr. John Watson. The movie depends on a classic battle of wits with a nemesis who has a plot to destroy all of England.
The movie was mostly liked and well-received by critics and audiences both, and Robert Downey Jr. won a Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy or drama movie. The sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, was released in 2011 and although not a massive hit did fairly well in the box office. This was less critically acclaimed than the original.