Their review of Elementary was eloquent, studied, and ambivalent—being careful to praise a few aspects of the show while still being faintly damning of the overall concept—and thus legitimized the smug opinions held by pissy sherlock stans that the show was going to be terrible.
For God’s sake, they even said that
It’s also rather interesting that in the end, everything required to solve the mystery hinges on the presence of a phone… and we’ll say nothing more about that.
because obviously a ubiquitous technological gadget can only be used in ONE SHOW AND ONE SHOW ALONE.
They also have next to no understanding of ACD canon, which wouldn’t bother me if they didn’t lay claim to such an understanding in the first place.
Likewise, and possibly more glaringly, those changes are in full evidence with Lucy Liu as Joan Watson. Ignoring the obvious gender change, something that has already made purists baulk in horror, the numerous changes to Conan Doyle’s original characterisation render Joan oddly misplaced here. By removing the fact that Watson was a soldier, you remove a huge element of the character’s skill set and usefulness to Holmes – is this person a crack shot with a pistol? Someone you could count on in a fight? Most critically, someone who wouldn’t flinch? A surgeon traumatised by the loss of a patient on the operating table is oddly unconditioned to the violence that Conan Doyle would expose his characters to, as demonstrated by Joan’s shocked reaction and instant exit when Holmes discovers a body at a crime scene in this pilot.
ACD’s choice to write Doctor Watson as a veteran was really just handy as a plot device. His injury and lack of funds—army pension being small and all that—make finding affordable and accessible housing difficult. It’s therefore logical to match him up with Holmes, who is also short of money and friends.
Joan Watson may not be a crack shot, but to say that taking the character out of the military removes the essence of Watson is laughably inaccurate. Watson got as far as Kandahar before getting shot in the shoulder, forcing him to bed for six months—during which his life is at risk when he catches fever—and sent home. That’s it. That’s his brilliant military career. He says it himself on the very first page of A Study in Scarlet
The campaign brought honours and promotion to many, but for me it had nothing but misfortune and disaster.
And in regards to comparing a patient’s death during surgery to a violently murdered woman lying unexpectedly in a hidden room, as Watson herself says in Episode Two of Elementary—While You Were Sleeping—“yeah, because that’s exactly the same thing.”
The review closes with
Desperation to avoid issues with the modern British version seems to have made many changes necessary, and that willingness to make these rather dramatic amendments could be construed as a betrayal of the characters themselves, making them almost unrecognisable from those that we know so well from the pages of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
If Sherlockology wants to play that game, so can I.
While clearly entertaining and enjoyable, Sherlock ultimately suffers from its decision to use the names of Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved characters rather than simply allowing them to grow as new creations, albeit with the odd homage, in the vein of House MD.
Mycroft Holmes is neither fat nor harmless, and while he disdains legwork he is clearly ambitious, a far cry from the kindly man who actually got on rather well with his younger brother.
Irene Adler represents another clear departure from canon. Neither a villain nor a woman beaten in A Scandal in Bohemia, in Sherlock Miss Adler finds herself in the unenviable position of being stripped of her dignity and her happy ending. Such a drastic change is surely a betrayal of the character herself.
As for John Watson and Sherlock Holmes, their mutual abuse—exemplified by Sherlock’s exposure of his flatmate to laboratory testing that would most likely trigger his PTSD without his consent, and by John’s cruel behavior towards Sherlock when the latter is having a meltdown because he cannot reconcile what he saw with what he knows to be true—is certainly uncharacteristic of the two men as envisioned by Arthur Conan Doyle, as is Sherlock’s lavish lifestyle and predilection for watches that cost well over £7,000 pounds as compared with his canonical “homely ways” (A Case of Identity, 1891) and his impolite and often cruel behavior towards others in contrast with ACD’s Holmes treating people “with the easy courtesy for which he was remarkable” (A Case of Identity).