Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes has seen numerous amounts of adaptations over the last century. The two current adaptations which I will focus on are the popular British TV show ‘Sherlock’ and the American adaptation ‘Elementary’. Both shows bring their own adaptation to the character of Sherlock Holmes, however the true nature of ‘Englishness’ in both shows is not forgotten.

In the BBC’s Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch plays Sherlock Holmes, and Martin Freeman portrays Watson. Sherlock is a modernised show that follows closely to Conan Doyle’s books on the well-loved detective. The modern interpretation of the show finds Holmes in the 21st century with his companion Watson.

The US adaptation named Elementary differs from the BBC production because Holmes and other characters are portrayed very differently. The adaptation of the show challenges the discourse of Conan Doyle’s stories which therefore Americanised the show. The show is set in New York, with Holmes portrayed as a consultant and recovering addict with Joan Watson as his sober companion and an ex surgeon. Together they help Captain Gregson solve crimes. The main plot twist to the American version is that Moriarty, Sherlock’s enemy is a female as well.

The representation of ‘Englishness’ in the American series is definitely stronger than the BBC version because the American version creates a more unconventional Sherlock in New York, where he is the only characters that speaks in a British accent.

There is a general difference between American detective shows and British detective shows. American detectives are often hard characters who are no strangers to violence, attracts women and is often portrayed as damaged or broken usually by drugs and/or alcohol. They work alone the majority of the time and are separated from their criminals by a moral code. In contrary the British detectives are more civilized and often are quirky. They are generally non-violent with little to none sexual activity.

Reference List:

Asher-Perrin, E (2014) ‘Battling Super Sleuths: The Awkward Case of Elementary, Sherlock, and Building the Better Adaptation’, available online at Penny, L (2014) ‘Sherlock and the Adventure of the Overzealous Fanbase’ New Statesman, available online at


One thought on “Sherlock Holmes

  1. Really good article! I’ve never even thought about the ‘britishness’ of Sherlock Holmes being an influential factor.
    I think that one of the most important parts of Sherlock Holmes is the way in which he interacts with members of society. A commonality between the two adaptations is the way in which Sherlock grows as a person and becomes more involved with other people. This is not necessarily ‘true’ to the original books but definitely makes him relatable rather than admirable.

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