A Treat for Holmes Fans Who Are Young at Heart

*Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd century*, hereafter referred to as SH22nd, is a delightful cartoon series which airs on the Fox network. Serious Sherlockians may doubt and sneer at Holmes in animated form, but this Scottish-made TV series is a true gem worthy of praise and support. Unlike much of the current children's cartoon fare on network television these days, SH22nd is not nonsensical, overhyped, nor choked with fantasy violence. [Fantasy violence! --Silly, aggressive stuff, which, because it involves robots, monsters, or superhero mutants, is supposedly appropriate for elementary school children! But I digress...] SH22nd is an intelligent show with real mysteries, great graphics, and a number of *adult* Sherlockian fans.

On a visit to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) website, I found a brief entry about SH22nd, plus a very arrogant review of the show by someone known as "RealmMan", who warns all Holmes fans to stay away from such a "travesty." RealmMan is entitled to his own opinion, but if he thinks that he speaks for all devoted Sherlockians with his harsh assessment, he is wrong.

SH22nd is certainly not for all people; while it does feature a proper Baker Street residence for Holmes and Watson, courtesy of the Sherlock Holmes Museum, this show is set firmly within its the time period. Remember, the show's name is "Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century", not "Holmes in Victorian London, circa 1881-1914"! SH22nd was never meant to be, nor envisioned by its makers as, a period re-creation of Holmes's original adventures. See recent adaptations of the canon, such as the Granada Television series or the BBC Radio series, if that's the kind of show you want, but don't go to SH22nd with the same expectations. Neither does SH22nd create a series of totally new stories that are not based on Conan Doyle's original stories, as does the Canadian (live-action) children's TV series *The Adventures of Shirley Holmes*. SH22nd is an extra-canonical work that is best described not as a set of freely invented pastiches, but rather as a set of modern renditions of the originals. It is much like watching the latest experimental interpretation of Shakespeare on the stage, where one sees familiar characters in strange costumes, sets, accents, and more, but finds the meat of the play still present, behind the current, particular vision being applied. In this same way, the essential heart and core of the Sherlock Holmes canon remain just as intact in SH22nd.

SH22nd is meant to be a bridge between children and the unfamiliar world of Sherlock Holmes. Most children will not know much about the Victorian age, and may find a Victorian world difficult to understand, thus SH22nd shifts the setting to a more casual future age and simplifies Holmes's language and deductions, to reach an audience of children. Lest one protest that any such alterations are detestable corruptions to the canon, let me point out that people did not complain when Eve Titus created her charming *Basil of Baker Street* children's books, featuring a mouse detective whose skills and exploits were modeled on those of Sherlock Holmes. Titus made the adaptations that she felt were necessary to provide children a reasonable entry into Holmes's world. Did people complain when the PBS series *Wishbone* adapted classic novels and folklore (including two Holmes stories) for children, while simultaneously supplying a related modern-day storyline, to reinforce the classic tale? Should Holmes fans consider it a despicable crime that *Wishbone*'s adaptation of "Scandal in Bohemia" included a parallel plot about a teen girl foiling a boy's scheme to publish embarrassing pictures of people in a gazette? Of course not! SH22nd's makers merely follow in a respectable tradition of writers who wish to share the vitality and charm of the original canon with a young generation, and who also wish to give a nudge of help to the youngsters. What true difference in spirit is there, really, in the original Holmes talking about observation and deduction, versus the SH22nd Holmes using the axiom "eyes and brains"?

RealmMan complains that all the SH22nd plots are stolen from Conan Doyle, without any originality to them. Each show *does* generally follow a canon story and display a subtitle of "based on" or "inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle," but these phrases do not equate to "exactly transcribed and plagiarized from, word for word and event for event." It seems to me that SH22nd's writers are just giving the proper respect due to Conan Doyle. How many Holmes representations and even non-Holmes works made through the years were "inspired by" one or more of the canon stories, but not properly credited? I think I've seen at least the skeletons of "Speckled Band", "Scandal in Bohemia", and "Hound" in varying places, and there was even a Christmas episode of CBS's *Martial Law* whose plot was basically "The Six Napoleons" with extra holiday content.

SH22nd recognizes the heritage which it draws on, but adds to it too with some quite imaginative updates to the canon plots. As I said earlier, SH22nd is set in the future, not in Victorian London, and as such, must adapt to its setting. A mystery about soldiers who went to war in India, about Mormon villains who are hunted by a silver prospector, or about criminals who escaped a transport ship bound for Australia--all these events occurring in the mid- to late-1800s--will surely not work for the 22nd century. In particular, SH22nd's adaptation of *Hound of the Baskervilles* cleverly replaced the hound on the moor with wolfish apparitions on the moon. The original *Hound* mystery depended upon the superstition and fear that people in a remote area had, based upon local legends and the manipulations of a conniving villain. SH22nd's version of *Hound* merely translates these elements to a different location, villain, and technological method. The spirit of the story is still intact; the details don't change that. Another reason for certain alterations to the canonical plots is SH22nd's apparent policy against having murders occur. Most murder plots are changed to some kind of injury, disappearance, or other temporary impairment of a character. So, we can probably be certain that SH22nd would probably adapt "Five Orange Pips" without having poor John Openshaw die.

The SH22nd writers are also inventive and amusing in the way that they handle the character relationships on the show. Inspector Beth Lestrade is an active, headstrong female who is clever in her own right and makes for a great foil against Holmes. The compudroid Watson is a believable and useful assistant, not at all like the usual bumbling sidekick role that is given to Watson in many film and television productions. It is fun to watch in the first few episodes of SH22nd how Holmes grudgingly comes to accept Watson for a friend, and how Watson seeks to be more like his admirable predecessor Dr. John H. Watson. There's a playful, sparkling dynamic among these three main characters which works well and evolves with the show. A great example of their interaction is in "The Crime Machine" episode where Lestrade, Holmes, and Watson meet some young punks in the old Underground tunnels. The punks become particularly nasty on learning that Lestrade is from Scotland Yard, and they attack her. She capably fights the punks away by herself, while Watson and Holmes look on. Watson asks in a genteel tone whether they should assist her as gentlemen would, and Holmes responds that clearly "the lady can take care of herself." Watson proves just as capable of defending himself and Holmes later, receiving grateful thanks and sincere concern from Holmes, despite Watson being "only metal."

As for the believability and personality of Holmes himself, RealmMan for one scoffs and complains that SH22nd's Holmes character is just not the canonical Holmes character. I have heard similar complaints raised against the Jeremy Brett's portrayal of Holmes and Laurie R. King's version of Holmes in her Mary Russell books; I think it's safe to say that every single Sherlockian has a unique idea of exactly what Sherlock Holmes's character *really* is as shown by the canon, so there simply cannot be an interpretation of Holmes that will subjectively please everyone. I would like to argue that SH22nd's Holmes is a fairly good interpretation, at least, and is not at all deserving of blanket scorn from *all* Sherlockians, without even seeing it once. This Holmes is still arrogant and sarcastic as ever, but perhaps keeps overtly barbed insults infrequent so as to not seem mean-spirited and ungrateful to the people responsible for bringing him back to life. Holmes is very youthful and energetic in SH22nd, showing no traces of the listlessness and depression of old. (Perhaps one may theorize that this is due to lack of drugs in his newly restored system?) Holmes adapts fairly well to life in the 22nd century, but I am happy to say that SH22nd's writers do not surrender to the temptation of making Holmes completely rely on flashy new technology. Holmes remains very much a creature of his wits. During "The Crime Machine," Holmes, Watson, and Lestrade are trapped within a subway car. Lestrade's instinct is to try breaking down the door, but Holmes instead asks Watson for a laser gun, which Holmes shoots toward the sprinklers above. This sets off the fire alarm and opens the emergency doors. Quick thinking prevails over action-hero stunts. Now *this* is an admirable children's show philosophy! Holmes's occasional use of his cane for self-defense or other purposes is deft and skilled, not gratuitous.

One need not be a child, nor an adult suffering from "softening of the brain" to respect and enjoy the great entertainment and intellectual treat provided by SH22nd.

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