A Russian TV series in 2012, a Belarusian movie in the 1970’s, the return of Holmes on British TV; and on public television, makes me wonder how come? I looked up the list of actors who have played the part and it is well over 50 in films, TV. and in the theater. Leonard Nimoy, and the Shakespeare Theater folks did in the 1990’s, William Gillette (great 19th century actor in the 1890’s on stage), Peter O’Toole, Robert Downey, Charlton Heston, Raymond Massey, John Barrymore, John Cleese (for fun), Roger Moore, Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and many others.
Why such interest in a late 19th century set of stories by a doctor? When Doyle killed off Holmes and his arch nemesis, Moriarty in the 1890’s over Reichenbach Falls, a clamor arose in Britain and elsewhere to resurrect the master sleuth and his companion Dr. Watson.
I have always thought that Dr. Watson was us. He was pretty smart ( he was a doctor). However, he could not follow Holmes’ logic. In any portrayal of Watson, even the newest one on PBS with Benedict Cumberbatch, he still is in awe of Holmes and follows him around.
For over 100 years, we have looked at Holmes as someone who is a real superman. He is however human at all times. He has magnificent character flaws, no social skills, kind of asexual, a dope fiend, a lack of respect for those without his intellect, a snobbish view of some segments of society. Yet he is bed with the lowest of the low and they help him during many cases. This is something that is a base contradiction in his character. There are others.
He does not seem to have compassion for others, yet he goes out of his way to help people in a jam. He puts himself in harm’s way many times to get to the solution of someone’s problems. Is this just a symptom of his never ending need to figure out puzzles, or something else?
Why has he endured in peoples’ minds for so long? Yes, he is a superman of a kind, but more than that, he projects fallibility along with his unending perfection. He has fears and he has uncertainties. He is a struggling soul like some of us, but he projects his life upon us in fiction. Benedict Cumberbatch does a superb job as the modern Holmes, with an I phone and computer. Yet, he is still the same.
The newest iteration will be on this Sunday at 9:00 p.m. on PBS.


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