Sherlock: 'Think! It's the new sexy'
As Toby Lichtig puts it in this week’s TLS, “Midwinter is a potent time for fans of Sherlock Holmes. . . . Only Charles Dickens has greater seasonal appeal and this winter, despite a bicentenary, even he can barely compete”.
Lichtig reviews a host of fiction, biography and essay based on Holmes or his creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. He says of Anthony Horowitz’s The House of Silk, the first “official” Sherlock Holmes book since 1930: “Like the best Holmes stories, it treads the line, in both narrative and language, between cliché and creativity”.
The same might be said of the second series of the BBC’s Sherlock, written by Steven Moffat. Clichés such as Holmes’s deer-stalker are certainly put to creative use. There are cunning plot lines, cool editing, that sort of thing.
Episode one, "A Scandal in Belgravia" is based on the Conan Doyle short story "A Scandal in Bohemia", the one in which Sherlock meets “the woman”, Irene Adler. In the BBC’s version, Adler, wearing nothing but Sherlock’s overcoat, declares “Brainy is the new sexy”. (The show had nearly 9 million viewers - more than a Downton Abbey Christmas special, but not as many as Eastenders). Sherlock is confounded.
In the original story, Watson concludes that “The best plans of Mr. Sherlock Holmes were beaten by a woman’s wit”. Whether the same can be said by the end of the Beeb's show has been called into question in the Guardian, where Jane Clare Jones found the whole thing sexist. “Granted, [Moffat] allowed [Adler] to keep her smarts. But, at the same time, her acumen and agency were undermined every which way.” In Moffat’s rewrite, Adler no longer beats Holmes, but must be rescued by him.
Another problem was thrown up by “a full 25 minutes” of pre-watershed nudity (Adler’s – pointed out in the Mail), and a grammatical error, (Sherlock’s – pointed out in the Guardian) “Did you know there were other people after her, Mycroft? Before you sent John and I in there?"
Nit-picking? It’s in the spirit of Sherlock. And until the Dickens bicentenary gets into its full stride, it’s the spirit of the day, or – as Moffat might have it – the new sexy.