Sunday, January 20, 2013

BBC Sherlock - "A Study in Pink" - Revisited


Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman as Sherlock Holmes and John Watson
I have been revisiting the entire series and decided to post my thoughts about some of the finer points I liked about this episode. For an overview of the plot, click here.

Very few adaptations have filmed the first meeting of Holmes and Watson. The few exceptions are the Russian adaptation (Vasily Livanov and Vitaly Solomin) and the 1954 series (Ronald Howard and Howard Marion-Crawford).

This is one of the highlights in the entire Canon. Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss earn brownie points for filming this pivotal moment.

The plot is based on A Study in Scarlet and has some modern updates and significant changes to the killer’s motivation.

Martin Freeman as John Watson in BBC Sherlock A Study in Pink
Martin Freeman as John Watson
We meet John Watson as a depressed individual, still tortured by his war memories. John leads a very lonely existence and has taken course to blogging, as suggested by his therapist. He is just missing that one very important part to maintain a blog: interesting content.

Cue to Watson meeting the aforementioned interesting subject: Sherlock Holmes. I think this is a brilliant stroke from the writers, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss. In tune with the modern tone, Sherlock maintains his own blog appropriately titled “The Science of Deduction”.

Click on the link below to buy your copy of Season 1:


This episode is an excellent example of the all the strong points of this series:
  • Excellent writing replete with a bunch of Canonical references
  • Visual representation of Sherlock’s deductions
  • Superb acting, music, and cinematography.

Sherlock’s statement about the killer: “Appreciation. Applause. At long last, the spotlight. That’s the frailty of genius, John. It needs an audience.” applies equally well to himself. This ingenious way of referring to this trademark Sherlockian trait is just a knockout piece of writing by Moffat.

The taxi chase is another nice touch and is a nod to Holmes’ exact knowledge of London.

Mark Gatiss and Martin Freeman as Mycroft Holmes and John Watson in BBC Sherlock
Mark Gatiss and Martin Freeman as Mycroft Holmes and John Watson
Another of my favorite sections in this episode is the way Mycroft Holmes has been written and performed. Mycroft is one of my favorite characters in the Canon and Mark Gatiss’ version is my all-time favorite. Holmes likens Mycroft to being the British Government in The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans and this episode proves why this is the case.

Like the rest of the series, this episode had a lot of nods to Arthur Conan Doyle’s text. I have listed all the references to the other Canonical stories here.

There are some subtle nods to A Study in Scarlet as well:
  1. “If brother has green ladder, arrest brother” – A subtle reference to the way Stangerson is murdered and to one of the suspects, Arthur Charpentier.
  2. Watson here texts the murderer from his cell phone – In the original story, Holmes places an ad for the ring with Watson’s name and 221 B as the address.
Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Pink BBC Sherlock
Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes
As respectful as Gatiss and Moffat are to the Canon, they are not afraid of shaking things up:
  1. Anderson suggests the victim is German as RACHE (the word scribbled on the floor by the victim) is the German word for revenge. Sherlock is prompt to reject this theory. In the Canon, it is Lestrade who suggests looking for Rachel and Holmes suggests the aforementioned alternate theory.
  2. They also refer to one of the most famous inconsistencies in the Canon: the shifting nature of Watson’s war injury.
  3. In addition to being an expert in observation and deduction, Sherlock is a technical wizard as well. He is able to text everyone at the press briefing and Lestrade has no clue as to how Holmes is doing this.
This healthy mixture of reverence and the confidence to take a different approach has worked wonders. What we have here is a top-notch adaptation that stands head and shoulders above most of the adaptations out there.

Click here to read all my posts about BBC Sherlock.

If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to this blog by clicking here.

Image Source: Cumberbatchweb

© 2017 - www.buddy2blogger.blogspot.com. All rights reserved. No part of the content or the blog may be reproduced without prior written permission.

You might also like:


Sherlock
Canonical References in A Study in Pink

For instant updates,

20 comments:

  1. You and I are rewatching "Sherlock" at about the same time, although I'm on the second season. I really should rewatch the first, it's been awhile. The first season, particularly, was excellent. Although as much as I love Holmes, he's still not the Holmes of Doyle's stories. Holmes was never quite that anti-social, even on his worst days.

    Anyway, I've been meaning to ask you if you've ever read the Boy Sherlock series by Shane Peacock? It's a fascinating glimpse into the possibilities of Sherlock's youth, since we're given almost no information about his boyhood in the canon. If you ever do read off-canon materials, this is one series I would recommend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agree with you Carissa that Benedict's version is significantly different from the Canonical version with regards to his behaviour. The Canonical Holmes is eccentric and Bohemian, but not as rude and mean as Moffat and Gatiss have made their version to be.

      That is one of the advantages of being a non-canonical take. They can take as many liberties with the characters as they wish. Of course, it helps that Doyle made Holmes a public domain character.

      On the plus side, Benedict looks and acts the part really well!

      I enjoy reading pastiches. "Eye of the Crow" is on my to-read list. Thank you for the recommendation.

      B2B.

      Delete
    2. I disagree there...a lot of Sherlock's rudest remarks are actually straight from canon. He is more restrained when he is in public, yes, but I think that's mostly because he lives in a very restrained society. He would never get any cases if he didn't at least pretend to accept social norms, even though he tends to scoff about them privately. If you take the restrains away (our modern time is much more forgiving towards egoism and eccentric behaviour), it makes sense that Sherlock would act out much. Plus, it's not like he goes to a crime scene and starts to insult everyone, normally he is meet with hostility first before he starts to tear down everyone around him. In the Victorian time, this just wouldn't happen because nobody would show his hostility so open or call him a psychopath into his face.

      Delete
    3. Thanks again for the comment.

      Yes, the Canonical Sherlock Holmes was rude to Scotland Yard officers and occasionally, even to Watson and Mrs Hudson. But he also exhibited a strong sense of humor and a genuine concern for clients in many cases.

      I think Moffat and Gatiss only took the anti-social tendencies from the Canon and ignored the other characteristics I have mentioned above. I am sure you would have noticed too, that Benedict's version of Sherlock does not show much of humor or concern towards his clients. He dismisses them quite rudely, as seen in "A Scandal in Belgravia".

      Still, Benedict's performance as Sherlock Holmes is one of the best and I do enjoy it very much. His is the definitive modern version of the quintessential Victorian Era character.

      B2B.

      Delete
  2. I've said it multiple times: this is probably my all-time favorite episode of the show. ^_^

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is my favorite episode in the first season and definitely one of the best in the series.

      Delete
    2. A far superior show to Elementary and I'm glad I worked on the first season - I'm in the circus episode as a member of the crowd, got to stand next to Sherlock and Watson. The thing is when we were on set I thought this show was going to be terrible. I was annoyed they'd done away with the pipe...but ahh well this show will go onto classic status.

      Delete
    3. Agree with you Gary that Sherlock is way superior to Elementary. I am not sure if Elementary will ever reach the classic status that Sherlock is destined to achieve.

      I do recognize you in the circus scene in "The Blind Banker" episode.

      Interesting to know that you did not have high expectations for this show initially. I am sure this is one instance where you were happy to be proved wrong!

      B2B.

      Delete
  3. While I have not seen the episode since its first airing, I do agree that it was fantastic. The episode of the series I dislike is "Scandal in Belgravia", other than that it is one of my favorite series. Moffat is one of the best writers right now, considering his excellent Doctor Who episodes and this series, season 3 cannot come soon enough.

    -James

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well said James. "A Scandal in Belgravia" happens to be my least favorite episode in the series too. I think Moffat slipped up a little bit with that one.

      I am curious to know what parts of that episode make you unhappy.

      B2B.

      Delete
    2. The overall portrayal of Irene Adler in the episode. Lara Pulver's performance was fine but I didn't like how she was a "dominatrix" and all things about that in the story. While I have not read "A Scandal in Bohemia", I do know she was an Opera singer (sorry if I am wrong) or something to that effect and it should have been closer to that. The answer to Irene's code "Sher-Locked" was kind of clever, however Sherlock probably could have figured it out. In terms of general TV shows, the episode wasn
      t terrible by any means, just not up to par with the other episodes. Also on the series as a whole, and as you noted I enjoy how the series shows what Sherlock is thinking through the visual presentation.

      -James

      Delete
    3. James, you are right about Adler being an opera singer in the original story. Moffat would probably make an argument that an adventure seeking woman in the Victorian era would translate to a bisexual dominatrix in today's world. I guess he is entitled to his opinion!

      I agree that this episode was not on par with the other episodes from a mystery show perspective. Some of the scenes would fit a soap opera better than a Sherlock Holmes adaptation.

      B2B.

      Delete
    4. That is a great point about it being more a soap opera than mystery. Other than that, what exactly made you dislike the episode?

      -James

      Delete
    5. Sherlock Holmes, as written by Arthur Conan Doyle, never trusted or was even remotely interested in women. This episode has some scenes that directly contradicted this characteristic trait of Holmes. The worst example is Irene Adler's ringtone. That is just not Sherlock Holmes!

      Still, the show is enjoyable overall for Benedict's performance and the great writing in other episodes.

      B2B.

      Delete
    6. Thank you for elaborating. I did not know that about Sherlock, I have always thought Adler was the only woman he had interest. If you do not mind me asking, where should I start if I wanted to read some of the Sherlock stories? I downloaded the free collection on Kindle.

      -James

      Delete
    7. The Robert Downey Jr movies started this trend of Sherlock being involved with Adler. BBC Sherlock continued this and now Elementary is also doing the same thing.

      I would suggest that you start with A Study in Scarlet, followed by The Sign of the Four and then A Scandal in Bohemia. If you just want to get the Adler thing clarified, you can jump right into A Scandal in Bohemia.

      I hope you will enjoy reading the stories.

      B2B.

      Delete
    8. Thank you, that was very helpful.

      -James

      Delete
  4. You are missing a lot of references in you list...for example on the coffee cups John and Mike hold is the name of the bar where they meet in the original story. In fact, more or less all place (Lauristen garden, Northumberland street) mentioned are also in the original story. Sherlock sending out a text in order to lure the culprit out of the woodwork is very similar to him using the papers, searching for the owner of the ring. (There are more, those are just for starters).
    BTW, the trend of portraying Irene Adler as love interest is wayyyyy older. In "Sherlock Holmes in New York" (terrible movie) it's even suggested that they have a son together.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for the comment.

      I have already pointed out the text reference in the post.

      Being a modern update to A Study in Scarlet, this episode will obviously have a lot of nods to that story. I did not list them all out, as it would be redundant.

      I only pointed out a couple of them out, as I thought they were either very subtle (the ladder one) or impressively done (the text one).

      B2B.

      Delete