Benedict Cumberbatch, A Sherlock for Today
The creators of BBC's Sherlock, Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, have long been fans of Sherlock Holmes and were the first to bring our hero into the 21st Century. Their stories have seamlessly made the leap through time while treating fellow Sherlockians to Easter eggs from Conan Doyle's original tales and maintaining Sherlock's eccentric character.
Benedict Cumberbatch, the only one to read for the lead role, brings youth, vitality and a focused energy to Sherlock. Only thirty-four when the series began, his Sherlock is one of the youngest, followed by Jonny Lee Miller's at forty, Robert Downey, Jr's. at forty-four, and Basil Rathbone's and Jeremy Brett's portrayals at fifty-one. Benedict's approach to any role begins with research and a masterful discernment of what physical and mental characteristics will bring that character to life for viewers. Mastering the role at once, it's as though we've been treated to watching the detective mature in the past six years.
A chameleon with a voice described as a "jaguar hiding in a cello" (by journalist Caitlin Moran), Benedict has achieved international acclaim. Recognized for his services to the performing arts and charities, he was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in 2015. I was fortunate enough to witness his London performance onstage as Hamlet the same year. He's delighted us with his many film roles and his portrayal of Sherlock Holmes and I say "Bravo! Well deserved!"
Balancing Benedict's Sherlock, Martin Freeman has been cast perfectly as Dr. John Watson. At first incredulous at Sherlock's deductive capabilities, John takes on the job of humanizing Conan Doyle's brilliant loner and grounding him in human niceties. The writers have Sherlock looking to his friend during awkward situations of his own making and asking, "Not good?" John's usual answer is, "A bit not good, yeah." Martin is the master of "the look", often expressing what words cannot and Benedict's Sherlock reads him perfectly. The entire cast is the best I've seen in any version, including Mark Gatiss as Sherlock's older brother, Mycroft. At this point it's hard to imagine anyone else in the role. Mark's Mycroft is perfectly British, proper and often exasperated with Sherlock but we definitely sense his underlying concern, even love for his little brother .
Running from 2010 to 2017, Sherlock has had four seasons (three 90-minute episodes in each) and one Victorian special. As far as I know, Benedict is the only actor to play a Victorian and a contemporary Sherlock in the same series. After the first season in 2010, both Benedict and Martin found themselves very much in demand and their film careers skyrocketing. This phenomenon has been bittersweet. Although it's right that they are being recognized for their acting capabilities, their overloaded filming schedules have made it harder to schedule the production of each successive season of Sherlock. Fans have found themselves wondering if Season Four will be the last.
Many thanks to Benedict, Martin, Mark and Steven for bringing Sherlock back into our lives and making him relevant to today. We look forward to your next adventures.
The Game is never over!