Sink or Ship - Baby Holmes (Nicholas Rowe & Alan Cox)
to part two of my many-part quest to discuss and give stupid nicknames to every single version of Sherlock
Holmes I’ve seen/read/played, and my personal thoughts on whether or not I ship
each Holmes and Watson in question. Today’s
target is the 1985 film Young Sherlock
Holmes, a.k.a. the Harry Potter Beta Test, a.k.a. Sherlock Holmes and the
Temple of Doom, a.k.a. the movie version of all those high school/boarding
school AUs but with fewer experimental handjobs in the bathroom (that we saw).
**Spoilers everywhere, but none for the main plot**
This movie made me deeply uncomfortable as a kid, mainly due to the hallucination sequences, but as an adult, it makes me uncomfortable because of the shoehorned-in and subsequently refrigerated not-girlfriend.
Yeah, apparently Holmes is so aloof as an adult because he lost his crush, a girl named Elizabeth Hardy, as a teen. LOL ok sure movie. Keep trying to convince us that men who don’t pursue women or who don’t socialize much only do so because they’ve been traumatized or something’s “wrong” with them. It can’t possibly be because he just doesn’t like women that way or prefers solitude to making tons of friends, right? Clearly everyone like that has to have a HORRIBLE REASON FOR IT RIGHT
I could complain about this further, but I’d much prefer to focus on the rest of the movie. Again, there is quite literally no reason for the Elizabeth character beyond heteronormativity, but I do think it’s possible to interpret Holmes and Watson’s relationship as the beginnings of puppy love, though personally I wouldn’t go so far as to say they actually do anything about. They might not even realize they feel that way (or have the potential to feel that way) about each other.
Holmes basically adopts Watson right off the bat, describing Watson as “my friend” within hours of their first meeting, even though all Holmes has done with him so far is deduce him, sit next to him in a class and give him a riddle that Watson utterly fails to solve. This is unsurprising given that Holmes must have had a very lonely childhood, as evidenced by the scene in the dining room where all the boys are saying what they want to be when they grow up and Holmes just says he doesn’t ever want to be alone. Like damn, movie, rip my heart out why dontcha.
Watson, as always, is very impressed by Holmes, though maybe not quite to the same degree as in other versions because the movie goes out of its way to humanize Holmes much earlier than in the original story. When Holmes and Watson first meet in A Study in Scarlet, Holmes is presented to Watson and the reader as a genius first, via his deductions and experiments and Stamford’s description of him as a cold-blooded scientist, and only later are we shown his squishy side, e.g. that scene where Holmes starts blushing when Watson compliments him.
In Young Sherlock Holmes, Holmes is shown as both ordinary and extraordinary at the same time, possibly because he’s supposed to be about 16 (though the actor was like 20, and it shows) and therefore less mature. His very first conversation with Watson is about whether or not he should smash his violin to pieces because he isn’t good at it after three whole days of trying to learn. (Watson’s reaction is a very sensible well maybe you should be more patient, drama queen). Only after this bit do we get the Sherlock Scan, but even then, one of Holmes’ deductions is wrong. It’s still impressive, of course, but not superhuman.
Not only is this all entertaining, it also levels the playing field a bit; Watson is, more than ever, the much-needed voice of reason. While he certainly has the utmost respect and admiration for Holmes’ abilities, he isn’t allowed to regard Holmes as some mysterious untouchable robot, thus allowing the characters to bond quickly in a believable way. Watson happily follows him around and even defends him, despite the (playful) insults Holmes constantly throws his way. Even when Watson comes this close to throwing in the towel, all Holmes has to do is explain how much he needs him/offer a few of his patent pending Backhanded Compliments and off they go again.
Honestly, watching this kinda feels like the first few minutes of Up—you know, the happy parts before they stab your soul in the gut and leave it to die in a ditch. We all knew that Carl and Ellie would get together eventually, but for now they’re just friendly kids who like having adventures together.
SINK OR SHIP?: The ship is half-built, but she’ll be real seaworthy in a few years.