Sunday, 11 October 2015

Conan Doyle v. Cumberbatch: A Comparison (Part One)

The first part of a series by Michaela Clancycomparing the way in which the character of Sherlock Holmes is portrayed in the original stories by Arthur Conan Doyle and the BBC Television Series 'Sherlock' starring Benedict Cumberbatch.



Illustration from the original series
In both the BBC series, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and the books written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock’s personality varies more noticeably as the reader gathers a greater understanding of how Sherlock functions as a person and the perils that he inevitably faces. In the current series, Sherlock is portrayed as a much younger individual than described in the books which could explain some of the behaviour that he displays which is not considered to be commonly used by an older person. Also, whilst the books are based in the 1890’s, the series is set in modern day London which allows for changes to be made, such as the way Sherlock communicates. He prefers to text his friends rather than contacting them by telegram, which is his favourite form of communicating in the books.

One of the most noticeable traits of Sherlock Holmes is his social skills. This is one of the largest differences between how his character is presented in the media, as the actor in the series plays a more un-sociable individual than how Holmes is presented by Conan Doyle. In the books, Watson mentions that Holmes ‘could talk exceedingly well when he chose,’ which is totally different from the series, where he is known to be rude, arrogant and generally obnoxious. In both of the medias Holmes is very cautious when he is introduced to John Watson, as he has never had many friends and friendship is a new concept to him. This is made obvious in the series when they visit the murder scene of ‘The Study in Scarlet’; Holmes becomes tied up with the case and leaves Watson behind; although not intentional it hurts Watson’s feelings. This could be because he doesn’t expect Watson to stay with him as a partner or as a friend. 
The Cumberbatch version


He later shows astonishment when Watson is keen to solve crimes with him and later announces that Sherlock is his best friend. In the books, Holmes is more formal; as he addresses Watson as ‘Doctor’; although this isn’t personal, by using his title it shows respect for him and his profession. Another favourite of Sherlock’s, in the series, is to shows off with his observatory skills: one of many examples is when he recites Watson’s life by merely studying his mobile phone. However, in the books Sherlock is more discreet and he doesn’t brag about his skills, but he does relish in the astonishment that other people display about him. The most similar thing about both of the Holmes characters is that he never reveals his theories about the case; he will only ever reveal the entire theory when he is certain that all facts are known and correct. Although, this is frustrating for people who are trying to help solve the crime or who don’t know Holmes and his peculiar ways, Watson realises that this is how Sherlock works and in return sometimes Holmes will confirm some of his suspicions in him. However, he does have some difficulty in understanding why people cannot always understand how he arrives at his theories, he often calls it stupidity.

Another of Sherlock’s un-sociable traits is when he goes into his own ‘world’, or in the series his ‘mind palace’.  This is the cause of much annoyance when people are talking to him and they receive no reply or occasionally he will tell people to leave the room as he finds their presence distracting. Although, this behaviour is strange, Sherlock has solved many cases using this method, so most usually forgive him for ignoring them or been generally unpleasant, as they care more about the rewards that they reap. Holmes is more apologetic in the books, as he often apologises to Watson after he may have said something that is unkind. However, in the series he is usually apologetic only when he requires someone’s assistance, but he does begin to become more in tune with other people’s feelings further on in the series, an example being when he says to John ‘I don’t have friends’, he soon detects that he has hurt John’s feelings and later comments ‘I only have one friend.’ Sherlock can appear to be careless with people’s emotions and his own social abilities, this is only because he chooses not to make people like him and that if he wanted, he could be a very kind and ‘likeable’ individual.

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