A Top Five of Famous Sherlocks

I love Sherlock Holmes. That’s not even a secret. I have loved Sherlock Holmes, both as a character and as a series, since I was fourteen. In the weltering mess of adolescence, dealing with girls and spots and gusts of hormones, the world of Holmes where
problems were solved with calm, unemotional analysis and rigorous thinking was overwhelmingly appealing. No other character (scratch that, no other person)
has influenced me as much. Most of my life’s decisions have been based around a rough “What Would Sherlock Do?”. Other people have Jesus or Mohammed or Brahma –
when I need spiritual guidance I refer to the holy trinity of induction, deduction and tobacco. The father, the son and the Holy Smoke! as it were.
And as long as there’s been a Holmes there have been actors playing him. So, for your edification, I’ve prepared an instructive top five. For this, I’ve spent many hours
in the shed constructing a Rube Goldberg machine powered by lamps, diodes, mice on treadmills, falling anvils and cigarette ash. This device I call the Sherlockometer.

5 – Rupert Everett – The Case of The Silk Stocking, BBC (2004)

In a story penned specially for the BBC, Rupert Everett does a passable job of playing the detective. He certainly has the profile and his face, at least, fits the description
of Holmes. This story also features repeated references to Richard von Krafft-Ebing, the father of criminal and sexual psychology. Krafft-Ebing was miles ahead of Freud, but here’s not the place to talk about him. Rupert Everett makes a good stab at being Holmes, and his drawling speech captures the certain kind of malaise you’d expect.
A major failing – Rupert Everett is too arrogant, too sure of himself, to qualify as a true Holmes. Also, not enough drug references.
Sherlockometer rating: Three Calabash and a Graham Norton making a face.


4 – Jonny Lee Miller – Elementary, ABC (2012)


Jonny Lee Miller wins majorly for being a) a badass who was in Trainspotting, where his Scottish accent was good enough to match Ewan McGregor’s, and b) good enough to move a program that’s basically a thinly-veiled House clone. That’s not saying Elementary is bad – it’s very good and it keeps me hooked – but that the premise is copied almost exactly from House, which (lest we forget) was massively influenced by Sherlock Holmes. So the premise that Sherlock is a recovering drug addict is both brilliantly original and immensely overused. Elementary’s brilliance lies in being almost as good a House as House was, and that’s thanks largely to Jonny Lee Miller. And Lucy Liu, who is adorable.

In fact, here’s a picture of Lucy Liu to break the monotony.

Oh right, the Sherlockometer rating. I give it three calabashes, two Trainspottings and a House to take after meals.

3 – Benedict Cumberbatch – Sherlock, BBC (2011)

My sister thinks Cumberbatch is the best Holmes, but that’s just because he’s fanciable. And yeah, he is, even if he looks like somebody trying to escape from a clingfilm prison. He brings a certain effete cleverness to Sherlock, and it remains the best Tv adaptation. Cumberbatch’s performance is pretty much spot on, and only suffers really from Steven Moffat’s writing. Like most people I was a big fan of Moffat when he was writing single episodes for Doctor Who. Now he’s in everything and I find his clever-clever-plot-twist-sad-ending a little tedious these days, but that’s just my opinion. Reams of adoring fangirls have written thousands of words about Cumberbatch and how lovely he is, so I’ll let the Sherlockometer take over.
Sherlockometer rating : two calabashes, a Doctor Who and two pictures of Cumberbatch smoking a cigarette to satisfy the fangirls.

2 – Robert Downey Jr. – Sherlock Holmes (2010)

How did these movies get made? “Hey, movie pitch – Indiana Jones, but in the Victorian era, directed by that guy who did Snatch.”
“Sorry, we’ll pass.”
“We’ve got Robert Downey Jr in it.”
I love RDJ and everybody should. He’s a truly great actor, having salvaged Chaplin and Less Than Zero from being the truly appalling movies they were. Then he went through the Hollywood mill of drugs and freebie sex AND SURVIVED. And then was in A Scanner Darkly. Then he was Tony Stark. And then he was Sherlock Holmes. The guy’s a badass, the coolest guy in hollywood, and if I wasn’t avowedly heterosexual I’d lust after him more than…insert a similie.
And while Sherlock Holmes isn’t even truly Sherlock Holmes, he’s an adventurer. That doesn’t make him less brilliant though. RDJ makes it a role. Can you imagine anybody else doing it?
Also, he smokes in a Hollywood movie! HE SMOKES! IN AMERICA! AND IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL! WOW!
Sherlockometer rating : two calabashes, four Indiana Jones and all my love, forever.


1 – Jeremy Brett, Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Granada TV (1986-88)


Jeremy Brett is the man of men and the Sherlock of Sherlocks. He beats Basil Rathbone to the top spot by sheer quality alone. He made the role his own and it’s thoroughly recorded that, in becoming the part, he destroyed his sanity and his health. His portrayal stands alone as being the best and truest, from the slightly asthmatic gasping that would mark a heavy a smoker, to the short barking laugh, the ability to give commands emotionlessly and to be the first to comment sorrowfully on the spirit of man. He is long gone, yet he lives forever in celluloid.
Sherlockometer rating : it burnt down. This man was gold.


7 responses to “A Top Five of Famous Sherlocks

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