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A Study in Pink   * S1E1

 
Directed By
 
Running Time
90 minutes
 
 
Written By
 
First UK Broadcast
25 July 2010
(7.5 million viewers)
 
 
 
 

London, 2010: A series of mysterious suicides have struck the English capital. Nothing links the victims, bar the manner of death. The Police investigation, led by DI Lestrade, is baffled. Meanwhile, Dr John Watson, recently invalided home from the war in Afghanistan, finds his existence now without direction. The solution for both parties lies with a single man: Sherlock Holmes. Drawn into a mysterious and shadowy world where the city of London becomes a battlefield, John joins Sherlock in a hunt for the ultimate predator, while trying to rediscover his purpose in life..

 

With the benefit of hindsight, its easy to forget how odd a prospect that first trailer seemed.

“No pipe? No deerstalker? Set in the modern day? Really? This is a Sherlock Holmes story? Set in the modern day? REALLY?”

But what we couldn’t predict was how true to the source it was, how vibrant the characters, and how simply right it all felt. With peerless wit, style and performance, Sherlock appeared in the July of 2010 as perfect, intelligent, prestige drama for a British Sunday night, eventually capturing the attention of not just the UK, but the world.

Filmed a year after the initial Pilot of the series, the final version of 'A Study in Pink' layers fat onto the bones, the revisiting and expansion of the original script allowing Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman to refine their original performances. A stronger, brasher and more arrogant Holmes, and a softer, yet somehow flintier John Watson meet us here. From Cumberbatch’s extraordinary entrance, famously finally fulfilling one of Holmes’ mentioned but never before filmed forensic uses of a riding crop, to Freeman’s shattered, shuttered and weary first appearance, the pair bring both characters off the page and into vividly curious life in this modern day setting. What is also apparent is the total need for Watson in Holmes’ life. Not just a note taking sidekick, John is the human side of the coin to the superhuman Sherlock, tempering him and ending up a necessity to save Sherlock from himself – unlike the Pilot, where it hangs as quite grey, the pill roulette scene at the conclusion of the episode proceeds completely, utterly under Sherlock’s will. Its made extremely clear that Sherlock may not have survived without his Blogger.

The addition of Mark Gatiss to the cast as Mycroft Holmes is a masterstroke, immediately introducing an undercurrent to the series as a whole. As intended through both the writing and the performance, we instantly think that Mycroft is in fact Holmes’ ultimate nemesis, Moriarty. Gatiss plays the part with delicious smarm, lacking only a moustache to twirl, and thus leads us to the total and incorruptible conclusion of his identity, before completely wrong footing us in the final scene. Plus, he made umbrellas incredibly cool again.

Another tremendous boon is the direction of Paul McGuigan. Visually transforming the episode from the pilot, McGuigan treats this less like television, more cinema, throwing a vast amount of tricks at us, from Holmes’ thought process writ large onscreen to those iconic tilt shifts of the London scenery. Sherlock looks utterly unique, giving us a city that bustles with life and grime, all slightly off tangent from reality but completely recognisable.

The strongest element of Sherlock as a series however, is the cunning reconfiguring of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s material in new surprising ways. There is obvious glee in Steven Moffat’s script at flipping the original clue that the narrative hinges upon – ‘RACHE’ – into not just its prose opposite, but also a further link deeper along into the plot that also ties into the new modern day setting, and the resulting technology that this entails.

This is perhaps the ultimate achievement of the 'Sherlock' as a television series – the proof that with incredible care, skill and devotion from those on both sides of the camera, classic characters can endure, whatever location, time and situation you place them in.