Monday, 2 August 2010


The BBC broadcast the second in the promising Sherlock series last night. The story of 'The Blind Banker' - involving murder and smuggled artefacts - was obviously based on the Sherlock Holmes book, "The sign of the Four".

First, the positives: the series so far has been very good. True, it has been updated to take place in contemporary instead of Victorian London, but the writers have given more than a quick nod to the original material. The first episode was excellent, with the introduction of Holmes and Watson deftly handled.

Whilst good, last night's episode was slightly disappointing. There were a few unnecessary get-out-of-jail free cards; for instance a struggling Watson knocks an automated crossbow that is aimed at his girlfriend, making the bolt miss her and hit the man who is fighting Holmes. Such a shot has to be a million to one, and was lazy writing.

The biggest problem, however, was Sarah, Watson's love interest. Although ably-played by Zoe Telford, the character's actions made little sense. First of all, some background. In 'The Sign of the Four', Arthur Conan Doyle introduces Miss Morstan, who later becomes Watson's wife. Therefore there has to be an assumption that Watson and Sarah will become an item in later stories.

In this adaptation, they meet as Watson applies for a job as a locum in a surgery run by Sarah. She hires him, but he falls asleep during a surgery, causing a queue of patients to build up. A normal reaction would be for her to reprimand him; instead she takes over his patients and does not seem to mind. Shortly after, she agrees to go out on a date with him. Her reactions were nonsensical and made her seem unprofessional.

It would have been easy for he plot-line to have been more deftly handled. For instance, she could have noticed that Watson was tired, but that he worked diligently through his line of patients. As a thank you, she invites him out. With a small change you have improved Watson's character (he is a diligent worker) and hers (her actions make sense).

Whilst on their date at a Chinese circus, Holmes gets attacked. Watson runs to his aid, as does Sarah. I would really wonder whether any woman would run up into a fight with two people she hardly knew - she had only just met Sherlock that evening. More likely that she would stand back or call the police. Again, it was sloppy writing - there needed to be a reason for her to risk her own safety by going to their aid.

This sort of thing happens all the time in TV dramas, but it stood out in last night's episode due to the brilliance of the rest of the plot. These are, however, minor foibles in what could well become a classic retelling of familiar tales.

1 comment:

rfwitch said...

Even though I do like the series so far, I have to agree with you. I suspect the writers wanted to avoid the usual complaint from women viewers: How come you always get the female character standing helplessly by, as the menfolk do the manly fighting? So they have her join in, just at the wrong time. As you say, why should she rush to the defense of a man she met just ten minutes ago, a man who has been rummaging around backstage and is now attacking a performer? I'd probably join the other side in that particular quarrel!

Not to mention that the writers could not resist the old damsel-in-distress ending anyway. :-)