The famous detective who was invented by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the 1880s has been reinvented for 2010 by Scots film director Paul McGuigan in the BBC series that begins on Sunday.
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The new mini-series Sherlock presents the famous detective as audiences have never seen him before but he still has the same, cold calculating mind.
However, this latest incarnation has him as an ubergeek who has embraced 21st-century technology, compulsively firing off texts and hoping to track down a killer via a missing mobile phone.
“I am sure he would have loved to have had the technology we have now,” said McGuigan. “In the books he would use any device possible and he was always in the lab doing experiments.
“It’s just a modern-day version of it. He will use the tools that are available to him today in order to find things out.”
Edinburgh-born Conan Doyle introduced Holmes in A Study in Scarlet in 1887. Basil Rathbone provided the definitive image of him, with his deerstalker, pipe and magnifying glass, on the big screen in the 1940s. And Robert Downey Jr proved he was still big box-office in a recent Hollywood blockbuster.
But relocating him in 2010 was a different challenge. McGuigan said: “The attraction of Sherlock Holmes has always been that he is not superhuman, he’s just very observant and can deduce things from the smallest clues. What really attracted me was how we would put over this superbrain today.”
Holmes always seemed a little odd, with his pipe and deerstalker, violin and taste for cocaine. In a 21st-century setting, he seems even stranger.
Benedict Cumberbatch, who has played a series of aristocratic and academic roles, sometimes with sinister overtones, maintains the aura of a social oddball. The police are quite prepared to call on Holmes’s expertise, but one officer calls him a psychopath and claims he gets a perverse kick out of being involved in murder investigations.
“He’s totally a misfit,” McGuigan admits. “He’s very insensitive when there is death and murder. He gets excited by it. He’s rude and he says what he thinks... like Basil Fawlty or the man from House.”
In a nod towards changing social attitudes Holmes has given up his pipe, making do with multiple nicotine patches instead.
And he is even the target of a drugs raid when the police feel he is giving them less than full co-operation.
“Hopefully it will come over as being quite organic and it doesn’t feel like we’re trying to push Sherlock Holmes through a time portal,” McGuigan added.
Doctor Watson, who is played by Martin Freeman from The Office, seems brighter than the version portrayed by Nigel Bruce in the 1940s.