Philip Reeve salutes the definitive Dr Watson.
Everybody seems to like the BBC's new, modernised Sherlock Holmes, although I have to admit I haven't yet watched it. I don't have any problem with up-dating the stories to a modern setting - Holmes is a character strong enough to hold his own in any era, and I'm rather fond of the other current up-dating of him, House. Much as I like the foggy late-Victorian settings of the original stories there would be little point in another period-detail-heavy dramatisation of them (there is none at all in the steampunk funfair-ride of the recent Hollywood version.)
No, what stopped me watching the new Holmes was those three dread letters BB and C. I've sat down so often in the past to watch their much-hyped and/or much-praised new shows, and ended up enduring whole episodes of Spooks, Survivors, Merlin, Torchwood, Robin Hood, sundry ham-stuffed re-imaginings of Dickens and Austen, and that poisonously stupid thing about the Pre-Raphaelites that was on last summer. It's reached a point where the BBC logo that appears on screen at the start of their dramas seems to serve the same purpose as the warning symbol on a container of toxic waste.
Still, as I say, everybody seems to like Sherlock, and I've not seen it yet, so I must give it the benefit of the doubt and assume that the Beeb has done something decent for once. The only reason I mention it at all is because, in the pre-publicity interviews and write-ups that have been circulating this past week, the writer and producer of the new show have been keen to explain that they are setting out to portray Dr Watson as the brave, resourceful, intelligent chap he was in Conan Doyle's stories and not the bumbling old duffer played by Nigel Bruce in the Basil Rathbone Holmes movies of the 1930s and '40s (which were also mostly up-dated, of course).
This is a complaint that you hear repeatedly from serious Sherlock Holmes afficionados (I expect they're called Holmesians, or Holmies, or Holmesosexuals or something). Somehow, the image of Nigel Bruce's Watson clowning around and blustering "Good Lord Holmes!" in a bunch of slightly ropey black and white films has seeped into the public consciousness and eclipsed the Dr Watson of the stories so completely that even people who have never seen the films themselves assume that Watson was, well, a bit of a twit.
|"Great Scott, Holmes, you don't mean...!"|
The Bee says: Well played, sir!
Next time: Why Roger Moore was the best James Bond.