2. Doyle’s Classic Holmes
3. BBC’s Sherlock
“Well, Watson, what do you make of it?” (Doyle 1) – Or rather: What did, and does, the media make of Arthur Conan Doyle’s crime-solving character Sherlock Holmes? Without a doubt, Sherlock Holmes is one of the most famous literary figures, if not the most famous, at least in the genre of crime fiction.
Holmes had his first appearance in 1887 in A Study in Scarlett, which was published in Beeton’s Christmas Annual. In this story, he is introduced as the world’s first and only “consulting detective”. In other words: Sherlock Holmes starts investigating when the police fail in solving the crime. (Wilson) Since his introduction he has had other appearances in numerous stories of Doyle, countless pastiches and he has literally taken over the media landscape.
Among these appearances in the media, there are two TV shows contrasting from all the other Holmes adaptations. On the one hand, there is Elementary. It is set in New York and the American actress Lucy Liu plays Holmes’s assistant and friend, Dr Watson. Jonny Lee Miller plays Holmes. On the other Hand, there is the British series Sherlock. It is set in London and the role of Watson is portrayed by male actor Martin Freeman, which means that Sherlock is more oriented towards the original stories. However, both series have something in common: They transfer Doyle’s stories, which are set in Victorian and Edwardian times, into the present age.
In this paper, I want to compare the classic character Sherlock Holmes, as he appears in Doyle’s stories and Novels, with the main character Sherlock Holmes of BBC’s TV series Sherlock. The literary basis for my analysis will be the novel the Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and of course the TV series Sherlock. The first part of this paper will consist of a characterisation of the classic Sherlock Holmes. The second part will be an analysis of the main character of Sherlock. In the course of this paper, I want to provide the answer to the question: Who is the bigger freak, if any of them is one at all?
2. Doyle’s Classic Holmes
In most of Doyle’s stories, the character of Sherlock Holmes is described by his friend and assistant John Watson. This might give the reader a rather restricted and subjective view on Holmes. However, in The Hound of the Baskervilles, towards the end of the novel, Watson provides a brief description of Holmes’s character:
One of Sherlock Holmes’s defects […] was that he was has was exceedingly loth to communicate his full plans to any other person until the instant of their fulfilment. Partly it came no doubt from his own masterful nature, which loved to dominate and surprise those who were around him. Partly also from his professional caution, which urged him never to take any chances. The result […] was very trying for those who were acting as his agents and assistants. I had often suffered under it. (Doyle 186)
This passage tells the reader that Sherlock Holmes is an arrogant perfectionist in fulfilling his plans. He cannot afford having any risks in it, even if that means that his friends suffer because of it. It makes him appear cold blooded, rational and calculating. It almost seems as if Holmes had no emotions, if it wasn’t for another scene in the novel: “I could see as he looked down that he was repressing some internal emotion. His features were still composed, but his eyes shone with amused exultation.” (Doyle 175) Holmes is actually not emotionless. He supresses his emotions for the good of his perfectionism, his emotions must not disturb his plans. Hence, the reader can assume that Sherlock Holmes has emotions but one can only assume – like Watson- what they are.