I have been very impressed with the new version of Sherlock Holmes that has been showing on Channel Nine (BBC One “Sherlock”). I caught only the last one on the telly on Sunday night, and have watched the first episode on the catchup channel on the internet.

A review in The Sunday Age accurately called Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal of the title role as Holmes a mixture of Hornblower, Dr Who and House. He is a thoroughly interesting and engaging character. Martin Freeman does an excellent Dr Watson. The relationship between the two is filled with good humour and warmth – odd given how cold Holmes is supposed to be.

Clearly this series owes something to the recent Sherlock Holmes film – many of the usual cliches such as the deerstalker are abandoned, and the theme music is very similar – but they go one step further in placing Holmes in modern day London rather than in Victorian England. This has been done before, of course. The Basil Rathbone series was in a contemporary (1930’s) setting, if I remember correctly.

A striking feature of the modern Sherlock is his use of the modern mobile phone to instantly access data from the internet. He also texts. He doesn’t smoke – but clearly he once did as he is using nicotine patches to overcome his addiction and help him think. The drugs are there too (somewhere), and he has a go (unsuccessful) at boxing in the third episode. Mrs Hudson, 221B Baker Street, even the Irregulars are all there in an updated manner.

Really this is very good television.

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