Which period?

When BBC Sherlock was first announced, and it was known that it would be set in the modern world, there was a flurry of debate on the subject.

Some people were horrified at the idea, others were enthusiastic and some were not moved either way. However, I recall more than one internet commentator suggesting that the Victorian era had been done to death and that a modern setting was the best way of grabbing the attention of the "youth" who were, supposedly, less keen on period offerings. Steven Moffat's " hell with the crinoline." remark also suggested that he felt similarly towards the Victorian adaptation.

Yet we have seen all this exposed as a nonsense. Firstly, if my Twitter observations are anything to go by, the aforementioned youth (well a good chunk of them) went positively gaga over Downton Abbey and now they are in a similar state over the Victorian Sherlock special (check out some of the trailer reaction videos on YouTube). Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss ultimately could not resist the pull of the Victorian setting either ("on with the crinoline!" perhaps?).

New and Old
However, when it comes to the special, is the excitement over the Victorian setting only there because these people were first engaged by the contemporary Sherlock? If the BBC series had been in period all along would it have captured the young vote to the same extent? The fascination with Downton Abbey suggests that it might.

It's amusing to imagine what it would have been like if Sherlock had always been in period and the special had been made contemporary...

Written by Alistair Duncan
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  1. It is always easier and cheaper for producers to shoot a TV series in modern times. Even Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce film series was shot in their contemporary age to save money. But now that 'Sherlock' has become a huge success and it's clear that they can spend a lot of money, I think we all like the idea of a Victorian Sherlock. Moreover, it gives us the chance to see characters as Molly in this nearly cannonical episode. I'm really willing to see this special, and hope it is not the last... :)

  2. I doubt that I had bothered with another period SH. *Because* of the period pieces I knew (which weren't too many) I wasn't even willing to try the modern version! Sherlock Holmes? Boring. Had I not stumbled upon Sherlock accidentally late one night while channel zapping I still would be peacefully engaged with my orchids instead of wasting lots of my time on the internet.

  3. I'm 60, my best Holmesian friend is 25, we have both been keen on Holmes since we were about 10 years old and we are both Brits in UK. Watching or reading contemporary or period is fine by us, we both have Holmes works in progress too. My guess is that "Sherlock" will have introduced a version of Holmes and Watson to a portion of younger people who might not have been as immediately interested in a Victorian adaptation and certainly not one of the 'wash, rinse, repeat' variety with plot holes that one could drive a London omnibus through.

    I think it is quality of plot, production, writing and, in part, the glamour and a strangely familiar 'otherworldliness' of period that attracts. Also Doyle's work contains humour which, I find, is somewhat lacking in a number of period adaptations. Those qualities are what I hope for from the "Sherlock" Special. I'd relish a series of Victorian Sherlock if it does.

    Morton Duffy