It was on my sixteenth birthday that my cousin gifted me a collection of short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The thick book with small text caught my attention, but it did not capture my attention as much as BBC’s series Sherlock did.
The dynamics were of course taken from the original series, of the iconic character Sherlock Holmes and his companion, Dr. Watson. Sherlock’s skills are something entirely else in the modern world, where the dangers are not merely tied to England but might have a global impact considering the globalization of the world and how interconnected the world has become due to the internet.
This is rather an analysis of the Holmes-Watson friendship and well, my thoughts on why we are in love with the self-proclaimed ‘high functioning sociopath’ aka Sherlock Holmes. But before we go further with my limited knowledge of Social Psychology, I insist we have a general idea of what I am talking about.
The series revolve around a 21st Century Sherlock, unless, you’re talking about this year’s holiday special, the Abominable Bride. Sherlock is a ‘consulting detective’, John Watson an army doctor, who returns to London after getting injured in Afghanistan, pretty much in lieu with the original story from the book.
Through Mike Stanford, an old college friend, he meets Sherlock Holmes, the mad man, as he describes him in the first blog and his soon to be flatmate and best friend. Oh, only if, Sherlock Holmes believed in friends.
The first night he moves in with Sherlock is the first night he goes on for an adventure since the thrill of the Afghan war. I wouldn’t go further into the details for the fear of more spoilers.
Let’s talk about characters now.
Sherlock Holmes is a sociopath, he has said so himself. From the weird experiments he undertakes in his house, to the frequent visits to the morgue, all scream his sociopathy.
Sociopath and Psychopath are different things, and violence or a streak of evil is not necessarily a symptom of a sociopath. Many successful people could be called as sociopaths for the way they strive for success, and even though Sherlock clearly shows signs of anti-sociality, fingers crossed, I am hoping he is not turning into a murderer. As much as Sally Donovan would like to swear on that, as she says, “he gets off on it”, it being the thrill and excitement of a mystery to solve.
A series of murders? Serial suicides? Wonderful!
At least, for Sherlock.
Dr. John Watson, is suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, the time he meets Sherlock. He also has psychosomatic pains in his leg. Both of which disappear the very night he moves in with Sherlock.
As Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s brother, had said in the show itself, “You’re not haunted by danger, you miss it.”
These two characters by Sir Doyle have been iconic, but I wanted to concentrate on the increasing popularity of the BBC Sherlock. It is not the first time an adaptation of Sherlock has been made. Even if we are talking about a modern adaptation of the story, we could also take into account CBS’ Elementary, albeit, it did premiere after BBC Sherlock.
But undoubtedly, Sherlock gathered more ‘fans’ than Elementary. Even though, the term, ‘Cumberbitch’ is wince-worthy in my opinion.
So, what made this series such a huge hit?
I think there are many factors that played a key role in the success of BBC Sherlock.
First of all, the characterization…
Kudos, to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle for creating Sherlock, but moreover, Dr. Watson, who is the sober companion to the genius, and made this eccentric genius seem like a hero in the eyes of the world. Otherwise, I think, that Sherlock could have easily become Moriarty.
As a fan myself, I think enough credit is not given to John Watson, who is more than a mere watcher and admirer of the great Sherlock Holmes.
The way I see it, the combination of the duo, is a blend of two extremes, a blend which has been made so seamlessly that it makes us want more and more of their dysfunctional friendship. Two dysfunctional people, forming an oddly functional team… You can call me a romantic.
Look at Sherlock, he has OCD, he is a druggie, he is anti-social, gets a thrill when crimes happen… But we do not see him as a villain, though the above characteristics could easily suit Moriarty.
Does Sherlock possess morals and ethics that Moriarty so very lacks?
I would like to think he does. Watson becomes a constant reminder of those morals and ethics that Sherlock completely overlooks as being unimportant.
Second, is Sherlock’s skills in the modern scenario
We get an insight on how he thinks, the Mind Palace technique, and how he stores files and deletes unimportant information… like the earth revolves around the sun. Knowing that Sherlock does not possess photographic memory also gives the viewers a spark of hope, “Hey maybe, I can master that mind palace technique.”
Yes, it can be done. I am working on it. But that’s not it. Sherlock’s deduction and observation skills of the many things we overlook nowadays, is more relatable than thinking about the scenario of Victorian England.
Kudos, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat!
I had read Sherlock before watching Sherlock, so, I find Cumberbatch, on point. From the aristocratic features, the large forehead and weirdly reptilian features, to the way of delivering dialogues with amused irritation, like Alan Rickman, as Severus Snape; he is Sherlock, at least, to me.
Frankly, while reading, I never paid much attention to Watson. He was my narrator. So, he basically became ‘me’ and I didn’t think about what he looked like, or what he did. But Freeman and Cumberbatch share this chemistry, which along with sparking many Fanfictions, adds to the previously described bond of Holmes and Watson.
The Bad Guys
It’s no fun when the hero has no villains to fight off.
My often quoted example of James Moriarty, is the iconic villain of Sherlock and they have engaged in war of wits, literally, war of wits, on many occasions.
I think Moriarty’s similarity to Sherlock is what makes him ever so appealing.
Also, the fact that the final blow to the villain is not as exciting as the journey of deducing the villain, just adds to the appeal.
Mycroft’s character, played to perfection by Mark Gatiss, and the sibling rivalry between him and Sherlock is also an intriguing factor of the show. It is amazing when one thinks about the little games they play, and the little competitions they have about huge things in life.
Mrs. Hudson might as well be the comic relief of the show, her iconic line, “I am your landlady, not your housekeeper” is quite opposite to the behavior she displays. Of course, any character that brings out the caring side of Sherlock is our favorite.
Along with that, we have many characters like, Detective Inspector Lestrade, Anderson, Donovan, Molly Hooper who add their own flair to the show making it what it is now.
As a joke, I would also like to add that the unavailability of more stories to the series also appealing. We want what we can’t have. Presently, it is the BBC Sherlock series 4, which have no broadcast dates so far. And hopefully, fingers crossed, they start filming it next month.
But in conclusion, I’d like to say that, I believe, the key reason behind the love for the shows like Sherlock, Game of Thrones, House MD, Castle, etc. is the fact that the protagonists are not heroes, no, they are not fighting for good. Yes, they fight evil, most of the times. But no one is inherently good here. They are flawed, they are miserable, they are alone, they mess up, they are a mess, and that makes them just like us.