“Sherlock” Season 1 Episode 1 “A Study in Pink” has the premise that Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson live in 21st Century London. This is not the result of time travel or any other science fiction premise. There was no Victorian Holmes and Watson.
Dr. John Watson has returned home from being shot at by Taliban in Afghanistan with a limp and what his therapist thinks is post traumatic stress. Needing someone to share the rent for a London flat, Watson is introduced to Holmes via an old Army buddy. The first time Holmes appears on the screen, he is beating a corpse with a riding crop to see when the bruises appear. That is just the sort of alarming behavior that he will exhibit throughout the episode. Holmes describes himself as a “high functioning sociopath,” whatever that means.
In the meantime a series of seemingly linked suicides are taking place with people ranging from a minor cabinet minister to a lady from Cardiff, Wales, taking poison in the same exact manner. Holmes does not buy the suicide story. Clearly it is murder.
And here, Holmes shines with his “science of deduction,” observing minor details, putting them together, and coming to some startling and-mostly-accurate conclusions. For example, Holmes knows of Watson’s entire history at just a glance. And he is able to deduce details from the lady from Cardiff that yields some valuable clues toward the solving of the case.
The 21st Century Holmes uses the latest technology. He has a web site, The Science of Deduction, and likes to text message (which he prefers to talking). He uses nicotine patches in lieu of a pipe (“This is a three patch problem”). Holmes may or may not be a drug addict, but he is too clever to leave whatever he takes for stimulation anywhere the police may find it.
Most of the police hate and fear him, but also know that they need him for cases like the one in the episode. Detective Lestrade, while not a fool, is sometimes clearly out of his depth and knows it.
The killer, by the way, is actually able to talk people into taking the pill, albeit with bluffs and threats. Holmes, in his final confrontation with the man, is not fooled for a moment.
Putting Holmes and Watson in modern times, while seeming like a gimmick, works really well in this episode. They are not Victorians transplanted to 2010, but actually modern men, albeit with the personalities of the classic characters.
Mind, morals change and with it the way people act. More than once, people assume that Holmes and Watson are gay lovers, “not that there is anything wrong with that.” Watson remains a lady’s man and Holmes asexual to a fault.
There are a number of in jokes, including an explanation about why Watson has a limp when he was really wounded in the shoulder. Watson does not write accounts of his and Holmes’ adventures in “The Strand,” but rather on his personal blog, which his therapist states he needs to work through his trauma (which, it turns out, he does not have).
Moriarty is referred to (“Holmes, people do not have ‘arch enemies'”). We also meet Brother Mycroft, though one gets the impression that he is called “M” at the office he works at.
It is strange to have Holmes and Watson not living in the London of yore, with the poisonous fog, the clop, clop of horses drawing handsome cabs in the days of Empire. But curiously they work just as well in the London of security cameras, auto mobiles, and political correctness. The game is on, and an enjoyable one it will be too.
Sources: Sherlock, A Study in Pink, TV.Rage
The Science of Deduction, Tie in site
John Watson’s Blog, Tie in site