Right now we are living through a period where we have three parallel Sherlocks. We have the RDJ incarnation, that of Mr Cumberbatch and, most recently, that of Mr Miller.
The question I want to ask is what influence do they have on each other and is it good or bad?
Before we look at this, let’s go back to the 1980s. They opened with two television movies starring Ian Richardson. For reasons we need not re-cover he gave way to the
series starring the great Jeremy Brett. Now, before anyone screams “what about
the Russian series?” - I’m confining myself to what was broadcast in the Granada . UK
series proceeded basically unchallenged. There was nothing for it to be
judged against – at least, not in parallel. Of course the series was judged
against those that had come before it but it had no direct rivals. In the
beginning this clearly did not matter as the quality was first-rate but, as
time went by, the standard dropped. This was caused, in part, by budget cuts
and Brett’s declining health. However, if a rival series had started up would Granada have raised its
Of the three Sherlocks we have now, only one (RDJ) is in the Victorian period so the influence he has on the others is probably relatively minor. However, the Cumberbatch and Miller incarnations, despite being apart geographically, are together chronologically and therefore are subjected to constant comparison.
|Freeman and Cumberbatch|
BBC Sherlock undeniably set the standard with its canon adherence and characterisations. Elementary has changed an awful lot of the Holmes world and one has to ask whether this was done purely to distance itself from the British outing or whether it was done because its writers simply thought they could do it better their own way (or both).
It is clear that, at the present time, the British Sherlock is the most powerful (or influential). To what extent this is due to it being the first or more canonical is open to question. What is, I think, beyond debate is the fact that while Miller’s series is repeatedly judged against Sherlock it is rare that it is the other way round. Sherlock is still seen as how it should be done.
|Miller and Liu|
When Elementary has broadcast a little longer Miller will have spent more screen time as Sherlock than Cumberbatch. Will this change things with regards to influence? Will Sherlock start being measured against Elementary? Personally I don’t think so. Sherlock casts a long shadow and Elementary will have to work a lot harder before it can escape that shadow. If you doubt that, ask yourself this simple question – if the next series of Sherlock and that of Elementary began at the same time, on the same day which would you watch at broadcast time and which would you record for later?
Sherlock series three will be interesting. It will be the first series filmed and shown since Elementary hit the screens. Will it change or will it stay the same? In my opinion it should not change but the presence of Elementary is bound to have some effect on it even if it is only minor or subconscious. This is something we will all have to look out for.
I think the presence of Elementary is good for Sherlock as a reminder, if it were needed, that there are pretenders to the throne. For Elementary its rival’s presence is not so good. It is a reminder that there is something it will always be measured against and because of its efforts to be different and the resultant drift from the canon it will always be found wanting even if only to a minor extent.
For more information on Arthur Conan Doyle and his time at Undershaw please refer to my book, An Entirely New Country which is available through all good bookstores including Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Classic Specialities, and in all electronic formats including iTunes, Kobo, Nook and Kindle .
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