Sherlock Holmes was born in 1880, brought into the world with the logical, calculating, but truly wonderful flourish of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s pen. There was even a little Edgar Allan Poe mixed in with the ink; Doyle likely based his character on a piece written by Poe. Since then, the many books and stories chronicling the deductive sleuth’s adventures have jumped onto theater and television screens. Now, as the BBC’s Sherlock starts up its third season, it seems like the perfect time to reflect on the many TV and film adaptions available for fans of Watson and Holmes.
1. Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes Films
Warner Bros. (NYSE:TWX) produced the highly successful Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows in 2009 and 2011. With Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as his trusty Watson, the first film made upwards of $200 million over the course of its lifetime — according to Box Office Mojo.
While the movies faded in and out of cannon loyalty — mostly out — they still managed to make references to the literature that fans could recognize and appreciate. This includes small details from the books beyond just the oft-used appearances of Moriarty and Irene Adler. Considering the nice revenue Warner Bros. made off the first two films, it’s unsurprising that plans are in the works for a third installation. “We want to make the right movie,” Jude Law told Entertainment Wise. “We got a great response to the second movie, and frankly the Moriarty character sets such a high bar that we want to make sure we’re telling the right story for the third.”
2. BBC’s Sherlock
Sherlock‘s third season premiered Wednesday, bringing the growing fan base for Benedict Cumberbatch to their feet in a standing ovation — as if we need an excuse for celebrating the BBC’s return to 221B Baker Street — texting included.
At the end of the second season of Sherlock, we are left hanging with Holmes’ classic fake death scenario, while Mrs. Hudson and John mourn his passing unawares. That’s a pretty sweet set up for the newest episode — with the big “I’m not dead” reveal and the Watson/Holmes reunion.
Elementary is a unique take on the Sherlock Holmes story, made novel by taking a serious look at the drug angle, and by throwing in a female Watson to boot. The show, slated to come back this week with the second half of its second season, has a Sherlock-esque focus on modernity, texting, and eccentricities gone the way of the 21st century.
The books made mention of Holmes’s dabbling with a 7 percent solution of cocaine, and morphine was also referenced. True, his drug use wasn’t really a focus until The Seven-Percent Solution was published after Doyle’s time. Even so, there were a number of powerful passages in the books that discussed addiction and Sherlock’s drug dependency. Elementary is absolutely working from canon — even if it places new emphasis on the issue.
Most other adaptions of the stories have made mention of the famous detective’s drug use — and Sherlock moreso than most. Elementary is the first to go so far as to address narcotic anonymous meetings, sponsors, rehab, and sober companions.
5. “Granada” Holmes Series
Back in 1984, Jeremy Brett starred as Sherlock Holmes in a television series adaption that lasted 41 episodes with a couple of special extended episodes that were more like films. The show, produced by Granada Television, had David Burke cast in the roll of Watson.
More in keeping with the books, the series briefly touches on Holmes’ problem with drugs, and covers a lot of ground in terms of the many stories written by Doyle. The series is a perfect fit for the saying “an oldie but a goodie,” and any big fan of the books would appreciate the more conservative take on the original — with far fewer liberties taken.
6. Sherlock Hound
What do you get when you cross Arthur Conan Doyle with Hayao Miyazaki and stick a collar on the whole thing? You guessed it — Sherlock Hound. While short lived, the series is both child-friendly and a little strange, a nice combination.
Miyazaki, better known for movies like Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle, directed the beginning episodes of the series. In this cartoon dog adaption, Watson bears a pretty clear resemblance to a terrier, while Sherlock’s breed is a bit harder to tell. Moriarty is a big character in the show, as is Mrs. Hudson and Inspector Lestrade.
7. House M.D.
I would be amiss not to mention the indirect — but still quite clear — adaption of the Sherlock Holmes that is found in the medical drama, House M.D. Perhaps it would be more appropriate to label it a homage or a reference — but whatever you call it, Dr. Gregory House, played by Hugh Laurie, is clearly Holmes, and Dr. James Wilson, played by Robert Sean Leonard, is clearly Watson.
At times the connection becomes less relevant, but the basic brilliant medical detective with little regard for human emotion and a love of puzzles rings true. Drug abuse and a propensity for solving the unsolvable is also a commonality.