Guest Post: Sherlock's magic

.....or a journey back to Doyle's canon

At first a confession: I haven't read anything of Arthur Conan Doyle in my whole life. Not until BBC's Sherlock hit German telly – in a re run. First time I gave it a try was a very disturbing experience. I expected some of those Sherlock films I may or may have not watched when I was a child and had nothing else to do and which were anything but thrilling. This time however Sherlock's A Study in Pink started with war and shooting and a traumatised John Watson (of course I learnt this later) gasping for breath after a horrible nightmare. No old fashioned British flat, no deerstalker, no pipes as I always expected to be linked with Sherlock Holmes. I turned telly off and forgot about it.

Hooked at second try.

Then Sherlock made another effort. In fact it was a chat with a colleague about books as a whole and crime stories in particular. And somehow we ended up with Arthur Conan Doyle's work and my confession. Although I always have been reading a lot and all kind of topics, Sherlock Holmes never ended up on my pile. Maybe that's because those stories are not that popular here in Germany although there are good translations available. Knowing all this – and my habits – my colleague was even more baffled and insisted I had to watch Sherlock. “You'll love it”, she said. “It's brilliant, thrilling and funny. And it's on a re run on telly.”

So a few evenings later I gave it another try. And instead of enjoying a lovely summer's evening on my balcony, I stayed in a warm and sticky flat in front of my telly – and this time Sherlock did its magic. I was hooked for all parts of the first season, anxious not to miss a single second, setting my recorder for later re watches. But I wanted more. So when I finally got the DVDs, finally able to watch the series in English – of course Sherlock as all other films is dubbed here on German telly – I knew that I had found something very special, something I wanted to know more about. So I first watched all the extras on DVD and everything I could get my hands on, learning that the creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss are huge fans of the original Sherlock Holmes stories. “It's love. We love Sherlock Holmes so much. It's an exercise in love,” said Steven Moffat about their work (in Media Guardian Edinburgh International Television Festival 2012) trying to convince Holmes- and Doyle-fans that they never intended to handle their heroes with disrespect.

Beloved quotes in their original settings

Of course I had to find out for myself, bought the complete Sherlock Holmes-stories and found myself giggling about the quotes taken from the canon  in their original settings and terms I have learnt to love in their modern environment.  So as John for example rumbles over Sherlock’s ignorance about the solar system (“It's primary school stuff! How can you not know that?” Sherlock, “The Great Game”) Sherlock impatiently shouts that if he ever had known it, he deleted it. Because his brain is “my hard-drive, and it only makes sense to put things in there that are useful. Really useful. Ordinary people fill their heads with all kinds of rubbish, and that makes it hard to get at the stuff that matters!” (Sherlock, “The Great Game”) intending that only a sorted memory will be able to give him the information he needs when he needs it. Of course there are no hard-drives in Sherlock Holmes’ Victorian London and probably the word has not even been invented. But the original character considers “that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across. (...) Now the skilful workman is very careful indeed as to what he takes into his brain-attic.” (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “A Study in Scarlet”) - and he also doesn’t care if the earth goes around the sun.

Reading the originals, watching Sherlock, discovering the parallels and the references in the episodes which pay respect to Doyle’s work is part of the Sherlockian fandom which will never exist without the original and will bring more readers to the fantastic works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It seems that the latest episode An Abominable Bride only proves that fact.

Written by Petra Breunig - blog here


  1. And at some point, through appreciating both the original work and the fanfic "Sherlock", we get to say that Sherlock and Holmes 'ruined my life'. Knowing both works gives us more to share with each other no matter our age or the country we live in or hail from.