5 Sherlock Holmes Stories to Adapt in the New Series of Elementary

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Jeffrey Paul King, the head writer and producer of Elementary, recently teased on his twitter account that we’d see an adaptation of The Speckled Band, a rather well known Sherlock Holmes story. It got me thinking, then: what if the entirety of Elementary series 5 was built of adaptations from Holmes stories?

Personally speaking, I’d love it. To be honest, I’ve always thought that Elementary missed the boat by not using more of Conan Doyle’s original stories in the first place; while there’s nothing wrong with creating your own stories, when you’ve got a property like Sherlock Holmes, it does feel like a little bit of a waste of potential not to fully avail yourself of all the material available. I would particularly have liked to see Elementary reinvent much of the Holmes canon in the same manner in which it did Watson and Moriarty – that sort of fresh and transformative approach is something I’d quite like to see.

So – which stories, in particular, would I like to see adapted?

I’m quite fond of Elementary – always have been, really. One of my first proper posts on this blog – as in, one of the more analytical, long form, “intelligent” posts – was a comparison between Elementary and Sherlock. (I’m thinking of returning to that idea, actually, and maybe writing about it some more.)

Even though I’ve fallen behind on the show, it’s still something I really enjoy – and something I’m meaning to catch up on!

Interestingly, I did plan this originally as a Sherlock article, and they ended up using bits of The Gloria Scott in Sherlock series 4.

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Sherlock vs Elementary

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Elementary is better than Sherlock.

It’s kinda weird to be saying that, especially considering what pretty much everyone thought when it was announced.

Sherlock had had a very successful first season, everyone was amazed at how brilliant it was, and everyone was applauding Steven Moffat, Mark Gatiss, Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman – pretty much everyone who was connected to the production really. “Why, it’s so original and innovative to have Sherlock Holmes set in the modern day!” the people would say.

And then along comes the announcement that an American network is going to be making their own version. Sherlock Holmes in modern-day New York. With a female Watson. “Probably so they can sleep together” the people would say. The whole thing does sound a lot like gimmicky plagiarism really, doesn’t it?  At least at first.

So when I saw Elementary was on, I decided to watch it, mostly out of curiosity. To see how bad it would be, really.

And I was amazed at what I saw. At the minute, I’m about halfway through the first season – I think I’ve reached episode 14 by now? I am totally and completely convinced that Elementary is better than Sherlock. 

A big part of it is probably due to the format of it – half a season of Elementary is equivalent to all of the Sherlock we have at the minute, meaning Elementary has quantity on its side. But it’s also been quite intricately plotted – over just 12 episodes, the Holmes and Watson from Elementary have developed more than their Sherlock counterparts had in the same amount of time. And I have no doubt the Elementary characters are going to develop even more.

I’d also argue that Johnny Lee Miller’s interpretation of Holmes is much more faithful to the Doyle books than Benedict Cumberbatch’s ever has been – whilst that’s not to say that Cumberbatch doesn’t always do brilliantly, Miller is more of a Sherlock Holmes than he is. (That’s probably worth another post someday)

I also think that Elementary has actually been able to perform better than Sherlock because of the different approach to the source material which it took. Rather than adapting famous Holmes stories, Elementary has taken the characters – pretty much as they were, albeit with a few changes to their backstory, and, indeed, gender – and placed them into new settings. This gives it all of that innovation and originality than people lauded Sherlock for, and expected Elementary to lack. (It’s also probably worth noting that Sherlock has only really adapted three of the original stories, meaning that what Elementary does isn’t all that different)

So, that’s why I prefer Elementary over Sherlock. I’ll probably write another post about how the Holmes (and maybe Watson) from Elementary are more faithful to the original stories… sometime next week. And maybe even individual episode reviews, I don’t know.

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