Thursday, February 20, 2014
Addicted To Sherlock Holmes
A while ago, I had a pastor who was a Sherlock Holmes buff. Not only did he know the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories inside-and-out, but he read novels written by other authors, including ones in which the famous detective moves to America, or investigates crimes in the present era. At the time, I found this odd: Sherlock Holmes resettles in the United States? A Sherlock Holmes that works in the present, using a computer and cell phone? But back then, Sherlock Holmes began and ended for me with the TV series starring Jeremy Brett, which seemed like faithful dramatizations of the original Doyle stories.
For whatever reason, every time I sat down to read Doyle's stories, I had trouble doing so. But I enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes TV and movie adaptations, so I sought more out. While I liked the recent Guy Richie films, my favorite adaptations were the faithful ones, such as the old TV series starring Peter Cushing. But then I discovered the Basil Rathbone movies, which had Sherlock Holmes uncovering plots involving Nazis during the World War II era. And then there was the Herbert Ross film "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution." That movie, while rich in humor, also tackled the issue of Sherlock Holmes' drug-use head-on. Holmes is so addled by drugs that Watson eventually takes him to see Sigmund Freud, so that the famous psychoanalyst can help cure his addiction.
When I heard about "Elementary" being set in modern-day New York, with a woman playing Watson, I didn't believe it could work. Yet the series gradually sucked me in, and as the first season rolled along, I grew so enamored that I wrote a few blog posts about it. Now, well into the second season, my fervor for the show is no less strong. In fact, I recently started watching the first season on DVD, and watching the episodes quickly became compulsive activity. One episode just wasn't enough!
Like "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution," the series delves into the topic of Sherlock Holmes' drug use. In London, Sherlock helps Scotland Yard investigate a string of bizarre serial murders. The killer strings his victims up in their homes, drains them of blood, and then disposes of their bodies elsewhere. One day he meets Irene Adler. Her intelligence, personality, and capabilities astound him. He never believed that he could meet a woman that fulfilled him so completely, and his love for her grows by the hour. Irene seems to share his feelings, and find more in common with him than any other person she has ever met. Day passes after blissful day, until one evening Sherlock arrives at her apartment to find a letter from the serial killer he's been pursuing, and a pool of blood. Heart-broken, blaming himself for her death, an occasional experimentation with drugs grows into something more. As a result, Scotland Yard refuses to allow him to assist in that or any other investigation. Traumatized and isolated by his emotions, his career in tatters, and robbed of the woman who once fulfilled him, his descent into drugs becomes total.
Eventually, he washes up in New York City.
There he meets Watson. She recently gave up her career as a surgeon, because she blamed herself for the death of one of her patients. She now works as a sober companion, and Holmes' father back in England engages her services. So she moves into Sherlock's brownstone, periodically tests his blood, counsels him on how to handle situations that might trigger drug use, and accompanies him as he consults on cases for the NYPD. Up until now, she has found her new occupation unfulfilling. But Sherlock Holmes' unique view of the world, and his capabilities as an investigator, confound her. She rises to this challenge, and offers him advice and suggestions based on her extensive medical knowledge.
Sherlock's resistance to her constant presence (and unwanted counsel) lessens as he finds his powers of deduction strengthened by her insights, and their investigations fill the void created when she abandoned her medical career. Her assistance increases as she begins to think like him, extending beyond sheer medical areas, and her ways of reacting to the world rub off on him. When her period of being a sober companion ends, she finds herself reluctant to move on and care for the next recovering addict, and Sherlock invites her to stay on as his assistant. Under his tutelage, she becomes a competent detective in her own right, whose aid is likewise valued by the police. Ultimately, as Season One winds down, summoning up with it the ghost of Irene Adler, it is a suggestion from Watson that allows Sherlock to help the NYPD capture his old nemesis Moriarty.
Suddenly reality intrudes, and I realize that I've watched all the episodes of Season One. Now I must sustain myself on the occasional new broadcast episode until Season Two is released. If only I could fast-forward in time, and receive that DVD set tomorrow. For despite being set in contemporary New York, with Sherlock Holmes a tech-savvy recovering drug addict, and accompanied by a female Watson, "Elementary" seems to have become the best TV adaptation of Sherlock Holmes I've ever seen!
Maybe I'd better give those Arthur Conan Doyle stories another try.
Related Dragon Cache entries
John Hannah and Sherlock Holmes Play With Drugs
Sherlock Holmes Plays With Sticks