5 years on, can we settle the question – is Elementary better than Sherlock?

elementary sherlock jonny lee miller lucy liu benedict cumberbatch martin freeman steven moffat which is better elementary vs sherlock

Today marks five years since the first episode of Elementary – the American retelling of Sherlock Holmes, set in the modern day and starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu. 

Since that first episode, it’s been repeatedly compared to Sherlock – the British retelling of Sherlock Holmes, set in the modern day, and starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. It also first aired a few years before Elementary, leading to more than one accusation of copying. 

So, with Elementary about to enter its sixth season, and Sherlock seemingly finished for the time being, can we finally settle the question – which is better?

Something of a repeat from me today, actually; the first ‘proper’ blog post I wrote on tumblr was on a similar topic, and it was also the first to pick up much traction. I don’t think, back then, I ever dreamed I’d be in the position I’m in now – so it’s nice to return to this!

To hedge against the obvious: I don’t actually think Elementary is better than Sherlock. I also, however, don’t think Sherlock is better than Elementary. They’re both such different beasts, with different strengths and more importantly different aims, it’s difficult to compare the two – to attempt to seriously is a folly, really. Essentially, then, I like them both a lot, albeit for different reasons, and in different ways.

And, in response to the other obvious question: No, I didn’t make this image, no, I don’t know who did, no, I don’t know what they were thinking.

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4 Sherlock easter eggs you may not have spotted in The Six Thatchers

sherlock series 4 the six thatchers easter eggs benedict cumberbatch martin freeman steven moffat mark gatiss

Sherlock has a history of rewarding the dedicated viewer with references, easter eggs, hints and in-jokes, and The Six Thatchers was no exception.

Season four got off to a bang, driving a wedge between John and Sherlock and delivering a shocking ending that will no doubt continue to be felt across the rest of the series.

But in among all the excitement, did you manage to keep up your observational skills, like the great man himself? Did you spot these clues and references in last night’s Sherlock?

An article I’m quite proud of – it’s my first for the Metro! (Perhaps somewhat amusingly, though, the above text I’ve copied isn’t actually written by me. Whoops.)

Regardless, I think this is pretty cool.

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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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Making a House a Holmes

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Of course, though, House is also a riff on Sherlock Holmes. Consider his impressive deductive powers; where Holmes applies this skill to catching criminals, House applies it to diagnosing diseases. House’s entire process of a differential diagnoses is quite similar to Holmes’ famous method of deduction – once you have ruled out the impossible, whatever remains, however improbably, must be the truth.

There’s plenty of little links and references dotted throughout the series, though; our good doctor in House also lives at 221B, after all – the infamous address of the world’s most famous consulting detective. Further, when House is shot at the end of the second series, the shooter is named in the credits as “Moriarty”; the Napoleon of crime who was involved in the almost death of Sherlock Holmes at the Reichenbach Falls, now immortalised forever as Holmes’ greatest enemy. Even Irene Adler gets a namecheck in the fourth season’s Christmas episode, and in another yuletide special, we see Wilson gift House a “first edition Conan Doyle” book.

My latest post for Yahoo TV, discussing the links between the good detective, and the good Doctor as well.

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Book Review | Elementary: The Ghost Line (by Adam Christopher)

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I really love Elementary. So, when I found out that there was an Elementary tie-in novel, I bought it pretty much straight away. I think maybe there was about 5 minutes between reading about it on reddit (“Cover for second Elementary tie in novel… wait… that means there’s a first…”) and then opening up my amazon account and placing an order.

Cut to several weeks later, and I’ve finally managed to start reading The Ghost Line, by Adam Christopher. I finished it yesterday, in fact, and it’s a very, very good book. Here’s the synopsis:

A summons to a bullet-riddled body in a Hell’s Kitchen apartment marks the start of a new case for consulting detectives Sherlock Holmes and Joan Watson. The victim is a subway train driver with a hidden stash of money and a strange Colombian connection, but why would someone kill him and leave a fortune behind?

The search for the truth will lead the sleuths deep into the hidden underground tunnels beneath New York City, where answers — and more bodies — may well await them…

It is, perhaps, a bit of an odd sounding idea – a tie-in novel based on a TV show that is based on a character who originally comes from a series of novels. I did at first wonder if maybe this would be structured as though it were a Conan Doyle novel – first person from Watson’s perspective – but it is in fact, quite rightly, Elementary to a tee.

The Ghost Line genuinely feels like an episode of Elementary we never saw; it follows all the structural cues of the episodes, with the pre-titles murder, an unceremonious wake up from Sherlock, and a simple homicide that leads to a much larger plot. The portrayals of all the characters are dead on (Gregson, Bell, and Alfredo all appear), but I feel the need to single out Sherlock and Joan, because the writing here absolutely matches the performance of Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu. You can genuinely hear them saying the dialogue throughout – I would go as far as to say that of all the tie-in fiction I’ve read (which is a not inconsiderable amount, with Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, Primeval amongst them) that Adam Christopher captured the characters he was writing better than anyone else. Or I got a very strange case of Elementary specific tinnitus while I was reading the book.

Something I particularly enjoyed was a focus on Watson’s, rather than Holmes’, deductions. Often it’s difficult to get Sherlock’s deductions right (even Conan Doyle had trouble!) and although we do see a few of those here, much of the deductions come from Watson – something I really enjoyed, because it fits in with Elementary’s general theme of Watson learning to become a consulting detective, and indeed becoming one. It’s great stuff.

There’s plenty of references to the Conan Doyle novels throughout – there’s Sherlock shooting, rather than stabbing, a pig to conduct an experiment, as well as a reappearance of the Blue Carbuncle itself. It also builds on some things that have already been established in Elementary, like Sherlock’s interest in the tunnels beneath London, and the fact that Sherlock has already been involved in the recovery of the Blue Carbuncle before. It is very clear, throughout, that Adam Christopher really loves Elementary.

(Rather fantastically, there’s also references to Batman, and to Doctor Who. I shan’t point them out, because part of the fun was spotting them, but I will say that I was genuinely pretty surprised by one of the most obscure Doctor Who references I’ve ever seen; Sherlock appears to have worked for a particular organisation who were part of the Virgin New Adventures! [And also Time Flight, I’ve since learned] That’s so obscure I was tempted to write it off as me picking up on things that weren’t there, but Adam Christopher is a fan, so…)

All in all, then, this is a fantastic book. There’s very strong prose throughout, an inventive plot, wonderfully drawn characters, and I learned quite a lot about the tunnels beneath New York.

I’d definitely recommend this for fans of Elementary, and I’m really looking forward to the next novel, Blood and Ink.

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