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Would Conan Doyle like 'Sherlock' ?

I came across a Tweet yesterday which linked to a short video in which Steven Moffat responded to the question 'what would Conan Doyle have thought of Sherlock?'

Moffat's answer was good. He did not presume that he would enjoy Conan Doyle's seal of approval and gave sound reasons why. This was refreshing.


Too often, people who create variations of Sherlock Holmes (through whatever medium) claim that Conan Doyle would not have minded (or cared) what they did with the characters. This is often justified by quoting Conan Doyle's telegram to William Gillette 'You may marry or murder or do what you like with him'.

The more 'out there' (and usually poorer) writers point to this as some kind of carte blanche from Conan Doyle when it never was. It was carte blanche from Conan Doyle to William Gillette not to the world at large. When the writer Arthur Whittaker wrote a Sherlock Holmes story and sent it to Conan Doyle suggesting collaboration he was rebuffed. No carte blanche to do what you like there.

In his autobiography Conan Doyle made it clear that he didn't like the contemporary elements of the 1920s silent Holmes films. He did not dismiss the films altogether, and thought them good in many respects, but he made it clear that he felt certain elements such as cars and telephones were out of place.

The bottom line is that no one can say one way or the other that Conan Doyle would have disapproved or approved of any adaptation of his work/characters. Any attempt to do so is pure speculation.

Watch the interview here.


Written by Alistair Duncan
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1 comment:

  1. A very good question. My vote would be that after some time, he would have liked it.

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