YMMV / Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes (the original stories)

  • Acceptable Religious Targets: Mormons are given a bad rap in "A Study in Scarlet". The story even indicates that Young has a group of secret killers who murder other Mormons for any act they deem religiously wrong or just speaking out against their faith in any way. In Doyle's defense, though, only Brigham Young's original polygamist followers get this treatment, not every Average Joe on the street who follows the religion. He also apologized for that portrayal.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Nearly every interpretation of Sherlock Holmes is different from the last. The base character seems to be as a cool, brilliant, straight-laced and classy hero-for-hire (sort of like the Basil Rathbone version), but later adaptations have branched into two (equally accurate but not mutually exclusive) interpretations: the Bunny-Ears Lawyer Sherlock Holmes, who is a Cloudcuckoolander while being disturbingly competent (see the Guy Ritchie/Robert Downey Jr. version or Disney's animated The Great Mouse Detective) or an anti-social Jerkass who is highly manipulative and insensitive, often out of lack of understanding rather than malice (see Sherlock and Elementary). Naturally, expect a great deal of overlap within these two fields, but most interpretations will lean towards one or the other.
    • Watson's portrayal varies a great deal between adaptations. Apart from the fact that they portray him on a sliding scale of both competence and assertiveness, his original characterization can be interpreted in many different ways due to the fact that while Watson's narration often uses descriptors and adjectives and explanations to color the readers' view of Holmes or of events where Watson is more of a passive observer, he usually simply reports his own actions with very little elaboration or descriptive flair, simply letting the actions stand on their own. Therefore, the exact flavor of his behavior is in many scenes a mystery — see his very short, prosaic descriptions of actions that could easily have been highly charged if he had phrased them differently, like responding to a villain's casual warning that he's armed by seizing a chair in order to beat him up, or dashing up to blow out an attacking dog's brains at close range without hesitation. People can (and have) characterized Watson's demeanor as anything from a quiet observer on the sidelines simply taking note of Holmes's actions, to an impulsive and hotheaded semi-bodyguard who enthusiastically sticks his nose into everything while taking stock.
      • Tying into this, some may question whether the bumbling renditions of Watson such as that of Nigel Bruce are the most incompetent or the sanest. While more cerebral renditions of Watson are quicker to lose patience or judge Holmes and his eccentric methods, the more buffoonish ones are more passive, smart enough to know Holmes will figure everything out and usually playing Only Sane Man while the more skeptical cast question or try to intervene.
    • Mycroft Holmes. Holmes scholar Ronald A. Knox takes his blundering in "The Greek Interpreter," despite his intelligence, as proof that Mycroft was secretly a criminal in league with not only the villains of "The Greek Interpreter'' but with Moriarty as well, and that he acted as a double-agent on behalf of his brother.
    • Holmes' stated disinterest in women: is he gay, asexual, or simply straight but very repressed?
  • Author's Saving Throw: Holmes's return in "The Empty House", and the revelation that he'd survived Moriarty's attack in "The Final Problem" and just gone into hiding for a while.
  • Awesome Ego: Sherlock Holmes is very sure of his own superior intellect, and loves flattery — and the readers tend to love him for it.
  • Ensemble Darkhorse:
    • Irene Adler, who only appeared in one story of the original tales, but is popular among those who wrote Holmes-based novels, TV, and movies, especially for a Promotion To Love Interest.
    • Moriarty is another example, being a Breakout Villain.
    • Watson's first wife, Mary, often gets given a bigger and more assertive role than in the original canon; like Irene Adler, she's popular with modern writers looking to add more prominent female roles and/or expand her role as Watson's love interest. Tied into this, newer adaptations often spare her the Bus Crash fate from the books and have her be more actively involved in Holmes's investigations.
    • There are many others. Some include Shinwell Johnson and Kitty Winters, the supporting characters from The Illustrious Client, or even Mr. Barker, Holmes's mysterious one-time rival from The Retired Colourman.
    • Let's not forget the Yarders, who unfortunately get flanderized fairly often in published pastiches, but who can also get a lot of screentime and downright magnificent characterization in Fanfiction.
    • The most prestigious Holmes fan club is named for the Baker Street Irregulars.
    • Yet another example is Colonel Sebastian Moran. He appears in only one story (The Adventure of the Empty House), some occasional mention here and there and a play, but thanks to some fairly badass background details and actions, he really struck a chord with readers. While little more than a Villain of the Week in the story, he has since grown to a far larger character in other Sherlock Holmes works, often serving as the Evil Counterpart to Watson (such as in A Game of Shadows).
  • Fair for Its Day: Although Doyle often reflected the prejudices of his day, he nevertheless occasionally displayed ridiculously liberal values, as in "The Adventure of the Yellow Face", in which a husband immediately and without reservation accepts and loves his wife's mixed-race child from a previous relationship.
  • Fan Wank: One of the older, best-established, and most erudite examples, and still going strong. People have written dissertations that are, essentially, Holmes Fan Wank that's Shown Their Work. Trying to work out inconsistencies in the canon is known within the fandom as the Sherlockian Game, among other names. The less intrusive and more elegant a proposed fix is, the better regarded it is.
  • Genius Bonus: Holmes calling Maths Professor Moriarty "The Napoleon of Crime" gets a whole new dimension when you know that the original Napoleon Bonaparte's second career choice was mathematician. So in a way, he was the Moriarty of world leaders as well.
  • Genre Popularizer: Arguably the character that jumpstarted the detective story.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: It's much harder to enjoy "The Adventure of the Retired Colourman" after Auschwitz...
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: In "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor," Holmes expresses a hope that the U.S. would rejoin the U.K. An...eccentric position when the story was written, but with the popularity of USUK, he has plenty of support on that, albeit in a different sense. An additional layer of hilarity is that this is one of the goals of the villain in the 2009 Holmes film.
    • The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax.
  • Ho Yay: So much we had to give it its own page. Someone involved here knew which side their fandom is buttered on...
  • Iconic Character, Forgotten Title: Most of the novels did not have Sherlock Holmes in the title.
  • Magnificent Bastard:
  • Memetic Badass:
    • Irene Adler, the woman who went up against the best detective in London, if not the world, and managed to outsmart him.
    • Watson himself, with Three Continents, a Mustache, and a Handgun.
    • Sebastian Moran. The exact point where this was established is when Holmes mentioned he once crawled up a drainpipe to kill a cornered, wounded, man-eating tiger, just one of a number of exploits.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Now with its very own page, again!
  • Paranoia Fuel:
    • The Mormons in A Study in Scarlet, able to make Un-People at will, and get past every barrier you can put between them and you.
    • Likewise, the Ku Klux Klan from The Five Orange Pips.
    • A less sinister example: Holmes' deductive abilities arguably go from "cool" to "creepy" in the first chapter of The Sign of Four (that is, the second novel) when he studies Watson's watch for a minute, then proceeds to give a summarized biography of Watson's elder brother, whom he hadn't known existed before he started.
  • Saved by the Fans: Doyle tried to kill off Holmes when he got tired of the character. People didn't take it well, so he was brought back. Although it wasn't the complaints that led him to bring Holmes back...
  • Values Dissonance: Sir Arthur's depiction of the Mormons as a Religion of Evil in A Study in Scarlet was completely uncontroversial at the time (Jules Verne also did it in Around the World in 80 days), whereas his portrayal of the KKK as a murderous secret society in "The Five Orange Pips" was not. Nowadays, it's the opposite.
    • One sailor is prepared to accept that Holmes is really being honest with him... because he's white.
  • Values Resonance: The last few paragraphs of "The Yellow Face". To clarify, Effie Munro had married a black man in America and had a child with him before he died of disease. Considering the time period, this is quite remarkable. Then her husband (Grant Munro) quietly tells her that she could have just confided in him from the start, picks up the girl and kisses her affectionately and tells his wife that he would find a way to make it work out for all if them.
    "I am not a very good man, Effie, but I think I am a better one than you have given me credit for being."
    • Watson himself lampshades it by saying that the moment was one that he loves to remember.
    • Especially poignant when one considers the prejudice towards non-whites during the time.
  • The Woobie: Watson in A Study in Scarlet is a wounded war vet with possible PTSD living a "comfortless, meaningless existence" before Holmes comes into his life. In The Sign of the Four Holmes picks up the Woobie Ball by gaining a depressive streak and a drug addiction. Of the two of them, Holmes with his grim and solitary nature is the one more often portrayed as a woobie in adaptations and pastiches.

Sherlock Holmes (The TV series starring Jeremy Brett)

  • Character Rerailment: The series rescued Watson from the "fat bumbling idiot" depiction of many previous adaptations.
  • Dork Age: Briefly, when the production team decided to retool the series from hour-long episodes to feature-length ones: "The Master Blackmailer", "The Last Vampyre" and "The Eligible Bachelor", the latter two bearing absolutely no resemblance to anything Conan Doyle ever wrote.
  • Periphery Demographic: Both the producers and the star, Jeremy Brett, were surprised to learn that their TV series was very popular with kids, who seemed to see the lead character as a Super Hero. As such, Brett got permission from the granddaughter of Arthur Conan Doyle to have Holmes beat his cocaine addiction and bury his needle.
  • Retroactive Recognition:
  • Seasonal Rot: Beginning with "The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes" the series began to decline. For the first few seasons, the production team had cherry-picked the best and most well-known stories to adapt, now they were left with average to mediocre ones, and some of the episodes began to derail from their source material. Special mention goes to "The Last Vampyre" and "The Eligible Bachelor" which were the final feature length episodes which bear no resemblance to the short stories they were supposed to be based on.
  • Tear Jerker: The ending of "The Adventure of the Crooked Man". While Nancy and Henry are cleared of any wrongdoing in the Colonel's death, it's hinted that Henry is dying...so even though the former lovers are now free to be together, Henry's holding the locket with their silhouettes with a saddened expression implies that they won't be together..
    • Much like the original version, the adaptation of "The Cardboard Box" is hard to get through. Ciaran Hinds' performance is a major reason for this.


http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/YMMV/SherlockHolmes