Studying Sherlock: “A Study in Pink”


Yes, you heard me correctly, I have never watched Sherlock. Shocking, isn’t it? For someone who is very fond of detective stories and the writing of Steven Moffat in general, Sherlock sounds like it would be right up my street. And it is, the idea and concept behind the series, plus the stellar cast and familiarity of the writers, interests me greatly. So, why haven’t I ever watched the series before? Well, that’s a mystery I don’t think even the eponymous consulting detective could solve. But as they say, it’s better late than never, and in this series, I will be finally getting off my backside and watching each episode of the hit BBC Series. Don’t expect any degree level analysis, instead, my honest and first thoughts about this series.

A Study in Pink is pretty much the perfect opener. In terms of an introduction to a TV series you probably couldn’t get much better than this. I’m not the most familiar with the works of Arthur Conan Doyle, or the character himself, so this series is probably only my second proper introduction to the world of Sherlock Holmes (after the good, but unremarkable, Robert Downey Jr Film). Within a space of 90 minutes, the characters, setting, and concepts have been established so well that I already feel comfortable around them. A Study in Pink already proves that Sherlock is going to be a fantastic ride, and I certainly don’t want to get off yet.

Let’s start with the establishment of the characters. Sherlock focuses prominently on two, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. What’s interesting about this episode is that it’s told through the eyes of Watson. Like Doctor Who is often told through the companion, this story is Watsons. The experiences he takes part in and the relationships he builds is shared by the viewer. Watson is the audience identification figure, this is why he’s the first character you see, and you’re with him for a good 5 or so minutes before Sherlock first appears. Sherlock Holmes is what makes this exciting. The kick of escapism and madness compared to a more down-to-earth persona of Watson. Holmes is portrayed as an eccentric, ingenious, potentially Asperger’s detective. He’s not particularly developed yet, and doesn’t really go beyond being either incredibly clever or brilliantly mad, though this is episode 1, he doesn’t need to be. And in all honesty, he feels like a believable, three-dimensional character, which is the main thing. Moffat writes both characters extremely well, Holmes allowing him to portray his outrageous, but effectively inoffensive, sense of humour, while Watson allowing him to portray his understanding of real people. This is helped by two fabulous performances from Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Cumberbatch is my favourite at the moment, as I find his performance more engaging and his comic timing stellar, but both have fantastic screen presence and are a joy to watch.

This story is very good at establishing it’s setting. The story is set in 2010s London, unlike the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories, and the story makes very prominent use of the culture and lifestyle of both the city and the time period. Modern technology, such as the internet and mobiles, are used frequently in the quest to solve the case, which makes the series both more relatable and more interesting. I love the little graphics which come up on the screen when someone is sending a text, and I love how the characters speak in very modern dialects, even Sherlock. It makes the characters seem more three dimensional than to have them go “elementary, my dear Watson” all the time, and makes the series feel fresh compared to the stereotypical Victorian portrayal of the character. This series is also set in London, as told by the lovely establishing shots in the title sequence, and the script makes very good use of this. This story is focused around a cab driver, something you will almost certainly see if you take a walk or a drive in the city, and the speech about how they go around unnoticed added to the tension of Phil Davis’ character, as it was true.

As well as being a perfect establishing piece, A Study in Pink is also a damn good story in its own right. Steven Moffat certainly plays to his strengths as a writer here, which in my opinion are his complex (though not confusing) plots, his skill and creating tension through dialogue, and his character work (which we have already talked about). A Study in Pink definitely throws you and keeps you on the edge of your seat while watching. The standoff between Sherlock and the Taxi Driver are my favourite. Combined with great dialogue, stunning direction, and quick editing, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. The best thing about Sherlock is definitely that it keeps you on the edge of your seat, eyes glued to the screen to find out what happens next.

Production wise, just wow. Paul McGuigan’s direction is stellar, a real shame he hasn’t done anything for Who yet. The music is fabulous, and the pacing is absolutely stellar. The 90 minutes run time did scare me, as most people who know me wills at my ability to concentrate is atrocious, but I was glued throughout.

Overall: That’s how you kick off a TV series. Absolutely fantastic stuff, the bar is incredibly high.


Episode Ranking

1. A Study in Pink



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