Sherlock is a British television crime drama that presents a contemporary adaptation of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes detective stories. Created by Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, it stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as Doctor John Watson. Nine episodes have been produced, the first three of which aired in 2010. Series two aired in 2012, and a third series aired in the first quarter of 2014. The third series has become the UK's most watched drama series since 2001. Sherlock has been sold to over 200 territories.
Sherlock depicts "consulting detective" Holmes, assisting the Metropolitan Police Service, primarily Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade (Rupert Graves), in solving various crimes. Holmes is assisted by his flatmate, Dr John Watson, who has returned from military service in Afghanistan. Although the series depicts a variety of crimes and perpetrators, Holmes' conflict with his archnemesis Jim Moriarty (Andrew Scott) is a recurring feature. Molly Hooper (Louise Brealey), a pathologist at St. Bart's Hospital occasionally assists Holmes in his cases. Other recurring roles include Una Stubbs as Mrs Hudson, Holmes and Watson's landlady; and co-creator Mark Gatiss as Sherlock's brother, Mycroft Holmes.
Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, both Sherlock Holmes fans with experience of adapting or using Victorian literature for television, devised the concept of the series. Moffat had previously adapted the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde for the 2007 series Jekyll, while Gatiss had written the Dickensian Doctor Who episode "The Unquiet Dead".
Gatiss has criticised recent television adaptations of the Conan Doyle stories as "too reverential and too slow", aiming instead to be as irreverent to the canon as the 1930s and 1940s films starring Basil Rathbone, which were mostly set in the then-modern post WWII era. Benedict Cumberbatch's (staring Sherlock Holmes) Sherlock uses modern technology, such as texting, the internet, and GPS, to solve crimes. Paul McGuigan, who directed two episodes of Sherlock, says that this is in keeping with Conan Doyle's character, pointing out that "in the books he would use any device possible and he was always in the lab doing experiments. It's just a modern-day version of it. He will use the tools that are available to him today in order to find things out."
The update maintains some traditional elements of the stories, such as the Baker Street address and Holmes's adversary Moriarty.
Moffat and Vertue became interested in casting Cumberbatch as the title character after watching his performance in the 2007 drama/war film Atonement. The actor was cast after reading the script for the creative team. "Cumberbatch", says The Guardian, "has a reputation for playing odd, brilliant men very well, and his Holmes is cold, techie, slightly Aspergerish". Cumberbatch said, "There's a great charge you get from playing him, because of the volume of words in your head and the speed of thought—you really have to make your connections incredibly fast. He is one step ahead of the audience, and of anyone around him with normal intellect. They can't quite fathom where his leaps are taking him." Addressing changing social attitudes and broadcasting regulations, Cumberbatch's Holmes replaced the pipe with multiple nicotine patches.
In an interview with The Observer, co-creator Mark Gatiss says that they experienced more difficulty finding the right actor to play Dr John Watson than they had for the title character. Producer Sue Vertue said, "Benedict was the only person we actually saw for Sherlock. Once Benedict was there it was really just making sure we got the chemistry for John Watson—and I think you get it as soon as they come into the room, you can see that they work together". Several actors auditioned for the part of Watson, and Martin Freeman eventually took the role.
The show was produced by Hartswood Films for BBC Wales, while BBC Worldwide and PBS also provided co-production funding.
The location shots for 221B Baker Street were filmed at 187 North Gower Street – Baker Street was impractical because of heavy traffic, and the number of things labelled "Sherlock Holmes", which would need to be disguised. Executive producer Beryl Vertue explains how it was important to design the entirety of Sherlock's flat as a contemporary set, yet still convey his eccentricity. He would not, she says, live somewhere "too suburban" or "too modern".
The writers say that they did not want to force modernity onto the story. There were some creative challenges, such as the decision to include the sign "221B" on Holmes' front door. Gatiss and Moffat reflect that in the modern world the door would only display the number of the house, and there would be doorbells for each flat. The full house number is so iconic that they felt unable to change it. The writers also decided that the lead characters would address each other by their first names, rather than the traditional Holmes and Watson. This was also reflected in the title of the series.
The theme and incidental music was composed by David Arnold and Michael Price. Arnold explains that he and Price worked with the producers to "come up with a central theme and character" for the series, then found what was "going to be the defining sound of this show". Pieces were often constructed using synthesizers, but the tracks used for the show were recorded using real musicians, Arnold says, to bring the music "to life". Similarly, Price comments that the musicians can adapt their performance of a score by responding to footage from the show.
Critical reception was extremely positive, with many reviews commending the quality of the writing, performances and direction. Sherlock has been nominated for numerous awards, including Baftas, Emmys and Golden Globe, winning several across a variety of categories. All of the series have been released on DVD and Blu-ray, alongside tie-in editions of selected original Conan Doyle stories and original soundtrack composed by David Arnold and Michael Price. In January 2013, the show launched its official mobile app called Sherlock: The Network which was created by The Project Factory in association with Hartswood Films.
The second series (2012) obtained consistently higher audience figures than the first (2010). According to overnight data provided by the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board (BARB), the highest overnight figure from the first series of Sherlock was 7.5 million for the opening episode, "A Study in Pink", whereas the second series averaged over 8 million viewers.
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