This summer, many TV viewers were riveted by the new program “Sherlock”, a modern-day adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s crime-fighting duo of Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson. Created by Mark Gatiss (actor and “Doctor Who” writer) and Steven Moffat (lead writer and executive producer of “Doctor Who”), this series aired on the BBC, then came to America via PBS, and now it’s all available on DVD and Blu-Ray. So for those of you who have enjoyed this new take on the Great Detective of London but are curious about just how closely it ties to Doyle’s original tales, here are some in-depth annotations. Be warned though, these are full of spoilers so it’s important that you see the show before you read these.
THE BLIND BANKER
The episode opens up with Sherlock engaging in a martial arts battle in his home. There were a few stories by Doyle where a criminal or enemy came into Holmes’s apartment. Likewise, several stories by Doyle established that Holmes was a skilled boxer and had studied martial arts. In “The Adventure of the Empty House”, Holmes told Watson that he had studied a Japanese style of wrestling called baritsu. This martial art doesn’t actually exist, which has caused some to believe Doyle simply made it up while others believed that he meant to write bujutsu (which is a term referring to Japanese martial art styles in general) or jiujitsu which is a specific martial art meant for close combat against armed and/or armored opponents when you are unarmed or only have a small weapon. In fact, American editors substituted the word “baritsu” for “jiujitsu” in the U.S. editions of the story. The fictional heroes the Shadow and Doc Savage, both of whom were partially inspired by Sherlock Holmes, have also been said to be masters of baritsu and certain Victorian role playing games have borrowed it as a martial arts form that players can use.It’s mentioned by Sebastian Wilkes that Holmes used to startle university classmates with his powers of reasoning. A similar statement was made in Doyle’s story “The Adventure of the Gloria Scott” where Holmes revealed to Watson that the first time he’d used his skills to really solve a case was during his college days when he’d spent a vacation with his classmate Victor Trevor. In the story “The Musgrave Ritual”, Holmes told Watson about a case where an old classmate from university named Reginald Musgrave came to him asking for help, similar to how Sebastian Wilkes is contacting him here. Strange symbols are painted as a warning to those who know the code. This plot element was inspired by a similar act done in Doyle’s original story “The Adventure of the Dancing Men.”
Sherlock condemns the detective for drawing a conclusion immediately before all the facts have been discovered and considered, a practice he often warned Watson about in the original Doyle stories.Holmes explains that a suicide victim is actually a murder victim and says that the victim fired a bullet through the window at his attacker, a fact that will be proven when ballistics test show that the bullet in his head is not from his own gun. In “The Adventure of the Dancing Men”, Holmes proved that an extra person had been present at a murder scene by finding a tiny bullet hole in the window, indicating that the bullet in the victim’s brain had not been from his own gun but from an attacker at the window that he had shot at.
Sherlock consults an illegal street artist to help him on a case. In the original Doyle stories, Holmes occasionally consulted people with criminal ties, local experts, and a group of street kids known as “The Irregulars” to help him out. He even consulted the aid of a dog named Toby when he needed a scent tracked down.The plot of this episode revolves around a group of smugglers, two of whom are killed inside locked rooms. Elements of this case mirror the Doyle story “The Sign of the Four”, including a killer who seemingly scales up a building’s wall and enters through the window.
Sherlock tells Molly Hooper that he doesn’t eat when he’s working because digestion slows him down. In the original Doyle story “The Adventure of the Norwood Builder”, Watson remarked that Holmes would often ignore food when he was engaged in intense thought, explaining that when he had to focus, he “cannot spare energy and nerve force for digestion.”
Holmes and Watson’s realization that the code is based on a book that many people would own is very similar to a scene from Doyle’s novel “The Valley of Fear” where the two are trying to decode a message sent from a spy in Moriarty’s organization. At one point, Sherlock checks the Bible, but in “The Valley of Fear” he dismissed this idea from Watson due to the number of possible translations, versions and editions of the Bible that exist.
Speaking of books, you can see Dan Brown’s novel “The Lost Symbol” among the books seen when Sherlock has a flashback to the different crime scenes in this episode. Like many of Brown’s works, it deals with symbols and codes that need to be deciphered.
In this episode, John goes on a date with a woman named Sarah Sawyer. In the original stories, Watson did not date anyone by this name nor did we really see him engaged in romance, with the exception of when he met his wife Mary Morstan, who came to ask Holmes for help in “The Sign of the Four.” She evidently died later, as can be gathered from remarks Watson made in “The Adventure of the Empty House” and the fact that he moved back in with Holmes after the conclusion of that case. But Doyle referred to Watson having a wife in later stories, though he didn’t give any description or even a name for the woman. Some have taken this to mean that Watson was later remarried, some took it to mean that Watson was only separated from his wife for some time and that the death he was mourning in “The Adventure of the Empty House” was someone else, and some fans have theorized that Watson had as many as three wives during his life.What did you think of the second episode? Did it hit a slump?