Saturday, August 10, 2013

Passing of the Mantle

A few years ago, I extolled the brilliant performances of Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes. I proclaimed him the ultimate Holmes and, to this day, maintain that he is the standard bearer of all Sherlock Holmes portrayals...but now I must add the caveat... of any adaptation set in Victorian times.

Jeremy Brett

Basil Rathbone? Good, good, for sure. Robert Downey Jr? (To my taste) not so good but that might have more to do with the characterization of this particular Holmes than with his performance.  Downey Jr. is a pretty darn great actor.

Basil Rathbone

Robert Downey Jr

When I wrote that blog post years ago, I had no idea that brilliant minds would transport Sherlock Holmes into the 21st century, making him a modern day detective. There are currently two such adaptations, both of which are entertaining and enjoyable in their own rights. There is Elementary, starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu, as a female Dr. Watson, one of many twists on the traditional Sherlock Holmes universe.


Then there is Sherlock, the first of the two shows to modernize the popular detective, who is now tech savvy and just as brilliant as ever. Benedict Cumberbatch brings depth and complexity to the iconic role, and Jeremy Brett would have been ever so proud. In anticipation of the new season of Sherlock, let's take a quick look at the two main stars of the show, Cumberbatch and the ever-likable Martin Freeman, as John Watson.

I was thinking recently, while listening to an episode of Sherlock, that Cumberbatch resembles another contemporary actor who can be seen on Masterpiece Mystery, Laurence Fox. They are both tall, lanky and have deep voices with similar tones.

Benedict Cumberbatch

And although Fox comes from a more dynastic acting family, Cumberbatch also has actor parents, Timothy Carlton and Wanda Ventham, who I like to think of as that scary lady. Ventham doesn't look scary at all in real life, but as the Fendahl core in Doctor Who's Image of the Fendahl (1977), she was downright creepy.

Ventham in costume

Cumberbatch had a small role in the moving epic War Horse, and I also remember seeing him in the 2009 Miss Marple's Murder Is Easy. I have yet to see Star Trek Into Darkness, where he plays the "bad guy".

I am more familiar with Martin Freeman, having seen him in the original UK tv show The Office and the films Love Actually, Shaun of the Dead, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Hot Fuzz.

Martin Freeman

I am really looking forward to seeing him and his Sherlock buddy Benedict Cumberbatch make more magic together in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug later this year. And I am anxiously awaiting Season 3 of Sherlock, which I hope will also air this year.